Good morning, book people! Mir and I are still sick, but we’re over the worst of it. How are you doing? We’re tricycling (I know, I’m sorry, but he’s cute, okay?) around the interwebs this morning–there’s a lot of interesting stuff to read.
The Guardian’s Robert Crum blogs about conservative politico (and Education Secretary) Michael Gove’s new stance that UK children should be reading 50 books a year. The statement has excited a lot of debate in the UK, and authors such as Phiilip Pullman and Anthony Browne have come out against it. The Guardian also asks–which 50 books should kids be reading?
I’m a little torn over this. I hate the idea of forced literature, but I do think kids–think everybody, really–should read more. Incentives to read, like the prizes offered at our school as part of the MS Read-a-Thon charity drive (people sponsor you to read x number of books in a given time) really only work for the readers. (And some of us are ineligible–I was miles ahead of my class, reading around four books a week, so they took me out of the running.) Gove’s idea might be a bit off the rails, but at least it’s doing something: making us talk about reading.
The Google Book Settlement has been rejected! True, a lot of people probably saw this coming, but it’s still big news. Wired has a pretty clear rundown on what the settlement terms were, and the result.
Next up, at The New York Times, a piece on using Theatron, a VR program, to help students stage virtual productions of Shakespeare and more. The Theatron website is a bit of a mess, but it looks like a fun program to work with, and much more enlightening than the 30 minute claymation versions of The Tempest and Macbeth we had to watch in school.
Also at The NYT, David Greenberg on why last chapters so often suck disappoint. Do not fear, though–your last chapter probably does not suck. Greenberg is writing specifically about books “aspiring to analyze a social or political problem.” These aren’t alien concepts to kidlit, but the scope is definitely different. Useful reading, though.
Over at The WSJ, Meghan Cox Gurdon on children’s books set behind the Iron Curtain and writes a thoughtful review of Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray. YA & kidlit people definitely need to read this.
Now that we know Jennifer Lawrence will be playing Katniss in The Hunger Games movies, speculation is wide-open about who’ll play Peeta. People has a quick rundown of the contenders so far. Please, please, please, people, don’t let it be the kid from Glee! Also, does seeing the double “e” in Peeta make anyone else want coffee?
A lot to read at The Shatzkin Files today, but both of these are worth the time. First up, Mike on what Barry Eisler’s decision to turn down a $500,000 advance means. One point not raised, that I’m curious about–how much did Eisler’s CIA background–probably a promoter’s dream–skew the publisher’s offer?
Mike’s second post is also self-promoting–he’s announcing a partnership with Michael Cader, Publishers Launch Conferences, which will “deliver live events…on publishing and digital change.” This post isn’t as concrete as the first, but it’s a good look at how some of the top digital books folks are thinking–and monetizing–so if you have the time, do read it.
Eric at Pimp My Novel has a rerun of a post on publishing myths, but it’s still a great post, so head on over.
ETA, 9:36 am: Michael Gove is Education Secretary.Read More
Over the weekend, I had a chance to play with an iPad in the Apple store. The selection of apps available was limited, though I did spend some time reading (tiring on the eyes) and typing (surprisingly easy, though I spent a lot of time watching my fingers). One kids’ book app had a demo: Dora the Explorer Coloring Adventures (pictured left). From the iPad app store:
“It’s time to explore and color in “Dora the Explorer Coloring Adventures!”. Kids can go on adventures in creativity with a combination scene creation and coloring book designed specifically for the iPad.”
The app’s use is fairly intuitive–tap Dora to bring her to the fore, tap colors to select, finger slide Dora around to place her in the scene. Unlike real coloring, everything produced is perfect: kids can’t color outside the lines, and even the most garish hue selections are glossy and pretty, eerily coordinated on the iPad’s shiny new screen. Although fun for a moment or two, I found the app a little soul-destroying–the neat lines and finger taps strip away creativity at the deepest level.
Of course, a child interested in Dora the Explorer may be too young to care about the difference between playing with real finger paints and tapping away with Jobs’ virtual ones. Several children at the store were engrossed in reading books (pausing to shout “look, mom, I’m reading on an iPad and I like it!), coloring, and playing with piano software. Curious, my husband lifted helped him reach an iPad.
Baby, unsurprisingly, wasn’t up to the Dora app. But at 10 months old, he was able to make the iPad go in much the same way he makes his musical cube and piano table go–by tapping and flailing and squealing with joy. Using Magic Piano by Smule, a virtual piano app with a no-fail option, he played one of his favorite songs, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and was able to recognize the melody (no doubt thanks to our regular attendance at Jeff Jam singalongs at Twinkle Star in Cambridge). Unforunately, we didn’t capture the piano playing, as he was playing with me.
Already, Baby is one of the new Apple generation of kids, comfortable with technology and touch screens in a way I’ll never be. Is this a good thing? I’m not sure. Crazy-new-parent Peta screams no, though more rational anti-luddite Peta reasons yes. Historically, familiarity with technology has led to better education, better language acquisition, and better job placement (ah, Ned, you were just a stone’s throw away from a book deal and a COO position at Armani!). That said, television was once a new technology, and the so-called idiot box can have effects on child development, particularly language acquisition, if allowed in excess.
The key? Moderation. Some studies have shown that educational television a la Sesame Street, in moderation, can be helpful. Joe and I have strict-ish limits on television, just in case–Baby watches a Baby Signing Time DVD for, at most 15 minutes twice a week (usually just once a week). Occasionally, he sees some incidental television, but we’re pretty quick to distract him. That said, the Baby Signing Time DVDs are having a positive effect–the kidlet can now sign for more, milk, all done, drink, eat, and dog. Milk, eat, and more are particularly useful, and are eliminating a lot of frustration in our household.
Dora the Explorer Coloring Adventures isn’t Baby Signing Time, and, if we had an iPad in our house, I’d probably skip it. But limited access to educational apps and encouraging Baby to be comfortable with technology may be prove to be more useful than I’d previously reckoned. We’re still a long way away from getting a household iPad, though.
Do you let your kids watch tv? Would you let them use an iPad, or other gadget (assuming the cost weren’t prohibitive)?
Carnival of the Mobilists: some of the most interesting posts on all things mobile (phones, e-readers, etc.) from around the web. My iPad & Penguin article is up top this week – read the rest of the carnival here.
Guide to Literary Agents – if you’ve read my previous guest post on how to set up a blog, you know how easy the tech stuff can be. This week’s post helps new bloggers get past the paralyzing task of finding something relevant to say. Read the rest here.
I have more guest posts coming up soon, so keep an eye out for my name out there on the great, wide interwebs.