Curious City joins Chris Lenois of WKVT in Vermont every month for a KidLit Podcast!  LISTEN to all on Soundcloud.


Going Underground: KidLit in the Labyrinth
Spring is the time of year that we are most conscious that things lie beneath the surface. Green is unfurling out of the earth, beauty is pushing its way to the surface.

But, all that lies beneath is not beautiful. Whether it is the torrents of the London sewer or the dark labyrinth of Greek myth, children’s literature gives us the cross-section of the “secrets beneath.”

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Big Book Love for the Coretta Scott King Awards
In honor of Valentine’s Day we are going to talk about the BIG LOVE librarians show kidlit each year at the annual Youth Media Awards. Every January clever librarians gather to choose and announce medals and honors for 18 individual awards. The award that keeps Curious City on the edge of our seats is the Coretta Scott King Awards.

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John Lewis & Civil Rights KidLit: Read & Do
John Lewis not only has a legacy in the Civil Right Movement and the Congress, but now has had that legacy cemented in the minds of educators and young people with the release of a graphic novel series and a picture book.

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Harry Potter Influences the Muggle Election

Professor Diana C. Mutz, the author of the study and paper, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Donald” said her study showed evidence of  a “Harry Potter legacy of tolerance.”  Will this legacy defeat the rise of Trumdemort?  Like awaiting the release of the next Harry Potter book, we have to wait to find out how this story ends…

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Give Pride, Read Pride

One weekend the horror of the Pulse attack.  The next weekend LGBTQIA communities all over the country celebrating PRIDE week.  Even as a straight ally, I cannot begin to touch the pain of the seven days between these events.  What can one DO to help?  My only answer is (my only answer ever is) to give and read stories.

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There MIGHT Be Giants (In KidLit)
There was a time when there MIGHT have been giants.  The existence of giant, ill-tempered men could explain thunderstorms, volcanoes, mountain ranges and people that disappeared in the night.  But as the world was explored and explained, giants fell into myth.  But all things that have sifted into myth live on in children’s stories…
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Keep Calm & Read On: WWII KidLit
Operation Pied Piper relocated more than 3.5 million people from London and the coast on England during WWII.  The evacuation has inspired many a novel for children.  Children sent away to places unknown while leaving their parents in peril is, of course, the perfect set-up for adventure…
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An Unhappy Birthday for the President
With President’s Day sitting in the middle of African American History Month, we review four children’s books that integrate the lives of Washington and Lincoln with accounts of the lives of African Americans of the time.  We include the controversial, A Birthday Cake for George Washington.
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Curious City Besties 2015
What book will be your child’s “bestie”?   What 2015 book will be your child’s favorite companion?  Kirsten Cappy of Curious City outlines the books that have been her favs or “best friends” in 2015.
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KidLit Left Out in the Elements

Preschoolers must learn their seasons, but as they grow they will find storms and changes in the weather an ever increasing metaphor for change in their lives and the outside world.  From Madeleine L’Engle’s famous and cliché opening to A Wrinkle in Time, we remember the great storm of adolescence.
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Fractured Fairy Tales, Shattered Slippers

Children’s literature has been feverishly fracturing fairy tales since Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith released the The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales in 1992.  Do the princess fairy tales featuring girls only made powerful by their beauty (and sometimes kindness) need to be especially fractured?  Do we need to smash the glass slippers for girls and women to smash the glass ceiling?  Is it time to encourage your child to leave behind the Disney Princess Halloween costume?  Look to A Mighty Girl for a “Girl Empowerment Costume Guide.”
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Lost & Found At Sea
Curious City has an ocean view.  Or at least, if we walk out our doors and down a steep hill we found ourselves on a sheltered bay of the Atlantic.  From the beach these last weeks, you can watch people squeezing the last sails of the season before high winds and cold settle in.

As the refugee crisis continues to play out on the beaches of the Middle East, Northern Africa and Europe, those images screen in over my idyllic Maine view.  And, of course, the image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed ashore is there.  That is an image of lost childhood that we can never unsee.

Kevin Sherry’s picture book Turtle Island may be a balm for those images of Aylan.  If I were a millionaire, I would ship Turtle Island by the caseloads to those families lost at sea and the families on land that need to take them in.

Children have been sailing the perilous sea since the beginning of time and “going to sea” has been a beloved theme of children’s literature from Treasure Island to Barry Wolverton’s Vanishing Island.  Reading these tales may give our minds an imaginative respite.  And imagination is the BEST tool for problem solving.  And we have some problems to solve…
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Who Made You King of the Beasts?
World Lion Day 2015 comes in with a roar and a continued uproar about Zimbabwe’s Cecil the Lion being illegally killed by an American.  Like all such things, America’s reaction (by animal rights activists, conservationists, hunters, cat lovers, children, and the mighty media) says more about our culture than it says about one dentist (with too much money and too little respect).  And like all such things, it reveals the cultural isolation that is America – living apart from countries like Zimbabwe where lions are a complicated and dangerous affair.

And who made the lion the King of the Beasts anyway??  Oh, right, us.  In countless stories of his irrefutable majesty, children’s literature and stories throughout the ages gives the big cat reign.
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Books to Bring Spring Out of Hiding
Let’s admit it.  This Winter is a guest that has stayed far too long.  We stand in our lawns waiting for him to pack up, shake hands with us and head down the road in a big rusty snowplow.  He is supposed to be gone by Easter (if not sooner).  But here we are at Easter weekend and we have not seen more than a glimpse of Spring.  She is being shy this year.   Spring does not want to come into New England until Winter he’s reeved up his old truck and started backing out of the driveway.

It is time to start dropping some serious hints with Winter.  I charge you to head to your bookstore or library and bring home armloads of books with warm sunshine, blooming flowers, bears, bunnies, and bicycles.
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Asking, “But Why”: Girls & Economic Justice
Naima asks, “But why?” when reminded she cannot drive her father’s rickshaw to help her family because she is a girl.  Gender inequality in labor is just one of the beautifully handled international issues in Mitali Perkin’s slim novel, Rickshaw Girl.

Days after the 2015 International Women’s Day rallying cry of, “”Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!,” Curious City features five books where girls asked, “but why?” when faced with economic and social injustices.
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Reaping Frustration: YA & Diversity in Awards Season
A children’s book award season that began in November with a racist joke by National Book Award host Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events) minutes after Jacqueline Woodson accepted her National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming ended with resounding support for diverse books at the 2015 ALA Youth Media Awards on February 2nd.

Daniel Handler’s tasteless remarks were followed by a tasteful donation of $10,000 to We Need Diverse books and a pledge to match donations up to $100,000.  Before the 24 hours were out, close to 1/4 million dollars were raised for We Need Diverse Books.  The organization is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. They are committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.

Librarians on awards committees stepped into this season’s book deliberations with their sleeves rolled up and ready to make a difference and with a deeper understanding of why we need diverse books, books that reflect ALL the kids in their communities.

“It is my theory that all the things we can’t take for granted, like race, like gender, like sexuality, become ripe subjects for art in later years. It is the benefit we reap from years of frustration.” —Mariko Tamaki, This One Summer in interview on Diversity in YA blog

Having just a few minutes on the radio/podcast on Green Mountain Mornings to review award-winning books (and having previously discussed many of the diverse award-winning books), I kept Caldecott and Printz award honoree Mariko Tamaki’s words in mind.  I talked about three books where gender and sexuality (and more) were presented with an honesty and courage that will be a revelation to kids and (perhaps) a ground-shaker for adults.

As Tamaki says, the teen years are “ripe subjects for art.” Let’s all welcome these authors who allow all of us to “benefit…from years of frustration.”
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Proud & Peaceful Inside: Muslim Families in KidLit

With the headlines screaming “Muslim Extremists” and “Muslim Terrorists” in wake of attacks in Paris, it is good time to feed your children a good diet of books featuring Muslim families from around the world and from our very own neighborhoods.

After 9/11, many looked to the bookshelves in the United States and found them bereft of stories about Muslim children and families. Children’s book authors, illustrators and publishers sought to quickly fill the gap in our literature.  We still have so far to go, but there are now so many wonderful stories—including the ones below.

You can explore stories of your neighbors (Muslim and otherwise) on our resource website, I’m Your Neighbor.

“Aref knew how people moved, crossing a street, how they wrapped their scarves, how the call to prayer echoed across the city and made everyone feel peaceful and proud inside.” —The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

In the wake of tragedy, respond with stories and balance.  Why not donate these books to your local school or public library?
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Curious City Besties
What book will be a child’s “bestie”?   What 2014 book will be your child’s favorite companion?

Everyone in the book review press is lining up to declare the Best Children’s Books of 2014.  They are, indeed, astounding reads all.

If you are buying books for children, though, the best route is to approach a bookseller or librarian and describe your young reader by personality and (if you know) by their favorite books.  Those booksellers and librarians are magic at making book matches.  Let them give you a unique idea for a book gift.

If you’re buying gifts for a teacher, consider buying the teacher a small gift certificate to a local bookstore.  While you’re at it, buy a bookstore gift card for your school librarian.  Books bought for your school’s classrooms or libraries will not only benefit your child’s educational experience, but the entire school community.  Not to mention driving traffic to a local business…
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Books of Power, Power to Offend
With Halloween approaching, we could consider the connection between fear and KitLit.  No, not spooky books, but people who have been spooked by books and have sought to challenge or ban them.

“I suggest that parents read these challenging (and challenged) books and use them for opportunities to talk about difficult subjects with their child. We need to remind ourselves that any book that has power also has the power to offend.” —Children’s Book Author, Katherine Paterson

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