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    Entries in YA Literature (4)


    Speaking on children's book censorship on WTVP's "At Issue"

    I will be discussing children's book censorship on the Peoria PBS roundtable discussion show, "At Issue."  The show will air tonight (Thurs, Jan 10) at 8:30 pm on WTVP-HD, on FridaJan Susina speaking on WTVP's "At Issue"y at 8:30 pm on WTVP-World and Sunday at 4:30 pm on WTVP-HD.  Click here for a link to the show information.

    Moderator H Wayne Wilson asked me to participate in the discussion about issues concerning censorship and banning of children's and young adult books.  Since I talk about this often in class, I was glad to contribute.  While book censorship may be somewhat on the decline, choosing which books to teach in a class is a difficult challenge for all teachers.  So in my classes I focus on helping education majors understand how and why they choose books and to be able to defend them as appropriate for the classroom.  Two librarians discussed issues of censorship by their patrons.  They noted that censorship is not too prevalent in the Peoria region.  However, challenges to books by parents continues throughout the country, including Illinois.

    Thanks to H for inviting me.  He was a very thoughtful leader, just like Charlie Rose.  The other panelists -- Genna Buhr of the Fondulac District Library and Robert Koscielski who is the Associate Director of the Peoria Public Library -- were also engaging and had good perspectives on the topic as well.


    Fall 2012: Adolescent Literature

    Welcome back to ISU!  Syllabi for Adolescent Literature, sections 1 and 2, are now availble on my website.  Here's a link.  Looking forward to a great semester learning about great books, films, plays, poems, graphic novels, and multimedia for teens.


    Katnis links with independent girl characters in books

    The Hunger Games pulls together many threads in contemporary culture and literature -- including the appeal of the strongKatnis in The Hunger Games young woman character of Katnis. She's clearly linked to similar protagonists in earlier popular books for YA readers, such as Jo March in Little Women, Julie in Julie of the Wolves, and Pippi Longstocking.

    Thanks to Monica Hesse, of The Washington Post, for interviewing me for her article "There’s room for both Katniss and Bella as heroines, but who’ll be remembered?"

    There are many types of female protagonists.  Katniss is certainly a strong, independent, spunky, non-conformist girl.  This type of character has always appealed to many female readers.  Girls like to read, and watch films, about characters who break the mold, or stretch beyond their cultural construction.  Katnis is part Buffy the Vampire Slayer and part Xena: Warrior Princess.  She's also has some similarity to Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. There's also the element of a Cinderella-style makeover, too.Katnis restyled by the Capital

    But the book, and perhaps the film, raises interesting questions about how American culture deals with violence.  Do we justify violence when it's done by a strong, spunky girl who is following her own path?  Does that make it more allowable?  It's pretty clear that the book is a critique of violence as entertainment.  But can the film carry out that message as well?  It will be interesting to see how the film is able to visually portray the violence, yet at the same time critique it. Is it okay for a young woman to be intelligent, independent, and have desire to kill people?

    According to Roger Ebert's review of The Hunger Games, the film has more violence than thoughtful introspection, which is unfortunate since reading about how the characters think about their predicament was what made the books so compelling. Ebert writes that "the film leapfrogs obvious questions in its path, and avoids the opportunities sci-fi provides for social criticism."

    Suzanne Collins has made Katnis an interesting, but deeply flawed, character.  Perhaps that's why she's so compelling.


    Course descriptions for my summer & fall classes

    Potential students at ISU for this summer's ENG 375: Young Adult Literature and next fall's ENG 272: Literature for Middle Grades can now read course descriptions and book lists for the sections that I will be teaching.

    Course description for ENG 375: Young Adult Literature (in .pdf format). This is a four-week, intensive summer-session class that will meet Monday-Thursday 1--3:50 p.m from May 26 to June 9. Be prepared for a considerable amount of reading and writing during an interesting and challenging four-week course.  Attendance is crucial. Since you'll have the book lists, you might want to get a head start on reading now, if you're enrolled in this course.

    Course description for ENG 272: Literature for Middle Grades (in .pdf format).  This course will be taught during the Fall 2011 semester and focuses on texts for children 9 - 13.  We will read fiction, including multicultural novels, non-fiction, including information books, and examine children's media and culture.  Be prepared for writing a research paper, a short paper, and several short writing assignments as well as pop quizzes and two exams.

    As usual, I expect students to attend class regularly and to actively participate in class discussions. These courses have exams that you will be required to take.

    For those of you interested in ENG 470: Topics in Children's Literature, the topic is going to be Tween Literature and Culture.  I am working on that course description.  Any graduate student who's interested might look at ENG 272 for some of the primary texts.  However, it will be different in scope and will have assignments and discussions geared toward the graduate-student level.  I think that there is a need to critically examine this popular and fast-growing segment of children's literature and culture, particularly for graduate students in children's literature.