Friday, March 18, 2005

Great Stuff From the Horn Book

Are there any other bloggers out there who like to talk about what they read in The Horn Book Magazine? I love this thing, and I just caught up on with my reading this past week.

Here's something juicy from the January/February issue: In an article entitled On Spies and Purple Socks and Such Kathleen Horning states that Harriet of Harriet the Spy fame is a cross-dresser. According to Horning, Louise Fitzhugh created a gay subtext for her book.

I didn't read Harriet until I was an adult. I remember finishing the book and going, "What?" I really didn't get it. Maybe if I had known about the gay subtext it would have made more sense.

The March/April issue had some interesting reviews:

Looking for Alaska by John Green is about a teenage guy who is in love with a girl who is killed in an automobile accident. Where I Want to Beby Adele Griffin is about two sisters, one of whom is dead. Upstream by Melissa Lion is about a girl whose boyfriend is dead. (The live girl in Upstream lives in Alaska while the Alaska in Looking for Alaska is the dead girl.) And Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles is about a girl whose great-great-aunt dies and who then has to choose between saving her cousin or her dog so one of those two dies, also.

The Grim Reaper is one popular dude this spring. Ironically, Barbara Feinberg's book Welcome to Lizard Motel: Children, Stories, and the Mystery of Making Things Up: A Memoir is reviewed in this same issue in the Of Interest To Adults section. Feinberg got a lot of press last year for questioning the use of so many problem books in schools. Not all of that press was positive, though Feinberg is most definitely not the only parent to voice concerns about what her kids are reading at school. She's just the only who has managed to write a book about it.

People do die, and, therefore, death is an appropriate topic for literary works. However, we do other things, too. Doesn't the kidlit establishment's commitment to death and other tragedies of one sort or another in book after book after book eventually create a numbing effect on readers? Aren't these very serious issues trivialized from overuse? Are death and problem stories just becoming stereotypes for young readers?

They sure are for me.

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