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Don Quixote (a Spanish language primer) : Jennifer Adams & Alison Oliver

Don QuixoteDon Quixote by Jennifer Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this. It’s a board book which introduces some of the key words in and around the story of Don Quixote, in both English and Spanish. Each spread deals with one particular moment ‘castle / el castillo’ and delivers a vibrant, chunky drawing underneath it which ties back into the word. The noises are translated as well: ‘baaa’ / ‘beh beh’ for the goat, and ‘zzz’ / ‘sss’ for the snoring in the ‘bed/la cama’ spread. On the back page of the book is a phonetic translation of the words in two columns: one for English speakers and another for Spanish. It’s such a lovely glorious book with images that are chunky and thickly coloured and intensely evocative in their precise, clean nature.

Armor / La Armadura
Armor / La Armadura

One key thing to mention – and I grant that this is such a finicky note on a very good book, but it’s something that is worth mentioning. I’d have welcomed a little more consciousness of the role of the gutter within the book. Some of the double page spreads are beautifully aware of their construction; the ‘armor / la armardura’ one for example sees both figures facing into the middle of the book, mirror images of one and another and thus they tie the language down very specifically to both images. Sometimes the colour notes on each one vary, yellow flowers instead of pink, a brown goat instead of a white one, but the construction of these images do not change. There is an inclusion about these spreads. You know that the ‘goat’ on one page is ‘la cabra’ on the other.

Windmills / Los Molinos De Viento
Windmills / Los Molinos De Viento

Other spreads such as the ‘windmills / los molinos de viento’ see two separate images without this mirror construction; ‘windmills’ has a bigger windmill to the left of it and then one smaller to the right, whilst ‘los molinos de viento’ has a smaller windmill to the left and a bigger one to the right, thereby matching the stylistics of the previous page, but not the mirror images of the other spreads.

It’s a very finicky note in a rather lovely book but things like this matter within a language primer, particularly for this age. Are you telling the children that windmills are image a) or image b) ? (And particularly, with something potentially quite removed from a child’s experience, are you asking them to link the word with the windmill or that windmill, the little one or the big one? And how are you asking them to engage with this page – where do you want your reader to be, even at this age, at this point in the text? How do you want them travelling over the page? Do you want them to start with one method and then shift to another or not? All questions that, I’m sure, are addressed as part of this lovely series, but they’re all questions that strike me as being centred around issues of construction and concern for readership.

Goat / La Cabra
Goat / La Cabra

I mention all of this because this is a book very much on its way to being perfect. I love things like this that deconstruct classics and reconstruct them in accessible, fun and contemporary ways. I have never read Don Quixote. I’ve never had the inclination. But right now, I sort of do, and I think that’s one of the massive powers of a book like this. It opens (and re-opens) doors into texts.

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#kidbkgrp Christmas in Children’s Literature

Last night, #kidbkgrp met to discuss Christmas in children’s literature and came up with what is officially a mahoosive and rather amazing list of Christmas book recommendations. You can catch up on the chat here  and here’s a link to previous chats.

This is usually the bit where I tell you about the next chat, but that’s it for 2014! My thanks to everyone who’s chatted this year, you’re all awesome 🙂 Same again in 2015? 😉

 

 

 

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#kidbkgrp recap : Picture Books

Last night #kidbkgrp (and lots of lovely new Tweeters – welcome!) met to chat about picture books. Picture books are one of my great literary loves and so basically I spent the chat going “YES!” at every title suggested. There are a *lot* of lovely books recommended in this chat so it’s definitely worth having a look at it. (And perhaps one day I’ll be able to spell recommendations…).

You can find the storify of the chat here and here’s a link to the previous chats.

The next chat is on December 4th and we talk about Christmas!. See you there 🙂

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Awards and children’s literature

Last night #kidbkgrp talked about awards and children’s literature. It was a very brief and quiet chat as there weren’t many people online (my thanks to those who were around!). I therefore decided that the chat as a whole wasn’t worth storifying but, as I do think this is a topic worth pursuing, I decided to blog. Voila! Cogito Ergo Blog!

Photo courtesy of  daverugby83 (Flickr)
Photo courtesy of daverugby83 (Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/daverugby83/3893586483

A brief check of Wikipedia reveals that there are a minimum of 31 children’s book awards in the UK. Now, as per the nature of WIkipedia, that’s not going to be a complete list. And it isn’t. There’s no UKLA award on there and I expect that’s not the only one. Wikipedia is a brilliant resource but it’s not infallible. (Do I sound like I have my librarian hat on? I surely do. It’s a sombrero btw).

Children’s book awards in the UK range from those voted for solely by children, such as the Red House Children’s Book award, administered by the FCBG, through to those selected by professional bodies such as CILIP who look after the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards. As I’m a member of CILIP, I get to nominate which is exciting and also rather a huge privilege.

So what does this mean? Why do we have awards?

Well, I think one reason is that we’re sort of honouring the presence of literature in our lives. We’re saying to our contemporaries, our peers and those readers yet to come that these books are wondrous. They are life-changing, vivid beasts and they are good and great and should be read. As previous Carnegie winner Philip Pullman says: “Once upon a time lasts forever”. Stories are forever and they should be and we’re memorialising these books by entering them in a sort of joint record (like a societal bibliography, if you will) and we’re trying to give them a sense of longevity. Just looking at the previous winners of the Carnegie is like looking at a distilled vision of perfect, wonderful (and occasionally intensely challenging) British children’s literature. And it’s right to be proud of that, I think. It’s more than right.

Another reason, as mentioned last night, is to give books by new authors a chance of being read. Did you know that over 10,000 books were published last year in the UK? (At least 10,000 books – some reports go way, way higher than that). Proportionally speaking, the number of children’s books that get published in one year is basically tons (technical, I know, but have a look in your bookshop at the number of new titles and you’ll see what I mean). It’s hard to get read out there. And it’s hard to find books. I read a lot (this is a safe space, right?) and so many of my books are found through browsing and happenstance. A good cover. The librarian reshelving it just in time for me to see. There is so much luck about this. And awards help! They do. They give people a chance to catch their breath and go – wait, this is supposed to be good, I heard about this, let’s give it a chance. Awards can do that signposting towards literature and almost ‘remove’ that risk element of reading. Nobody wants to invest time of their own in reading something rubbish. And when we’re talking about children’s literature, with that always tricksy contextual element that it no doubt has, that’s two fold. You don’t want your kids put off by accidentally reading say War and Peace instead of Where’s Wally.

As it’s always good to do things in threes, here’s a third reason why I rather love what awards can do. They can make statements. They can set out and articulate issues that need articulating.  The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award came into being in 2013 with the aim to “to recognise a rich tradition of radical publishing for children in the UK”. Radical is, they say “include[s] books informed by inclusive/anti-discriminatory concerns or those which promote social equality or social justice”. In an increasingly diverse world, they’re making the statement that diverse and brave literature matters for juvenile readers. And that’s brilliant because it is such a statement. It’s proud and it’s lovely and it’s desperately vital. I believe in the right of children to see themselves in literature and awards that celebrate that right are a good and great thing.

So here we are. As you’ll gather, I’m in favour of literary awards. I do acknowledge that they can be problematic beasts at time but as a whole, I think I’m rather proud that we have them. Here’s to us and our continued celebration of children’s literature. Long may it continue.

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#kidbkgrp Historical Children’s Literature

Last night, #kidbkgrp met on Twitter and talked about historical children’s literature. It’s a big old topic so I was interested to see what was said! We covered periods of history we wanted more books about (publishers / authors – if you’ve got anything about the Russian Revolution, do stick your hand up now?) and periods of history we were sick of reading about. And a lot of love was expressed for Charlotte Sometimes.

You can find the storify of the chat here and here’s a link to the recaps of the previous chats.

The next chat is on October 2nd, 9-10pm and will cover award winners in children’s literature. Should be good! See you there? 🙂

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#kidbkgrp – Boundaries and responsibilities in children’s literature

Last night we talked about boundaries and responsibilities in children’s literature. It’s a bit of a vague topic but one that has a lot of relevance for children’s books and the world of reading / publishing in general. Children’s books are defined by adults for children and very rarely the other way round. Therefore we may have expectations of the genre that may not be actually reflected by the intendees (intendees is not a word and that point’s also a rampant generalisation so please forgive me but I hope you see where I’m going with it.) It’s also a topical issue with things like Roald Dahl front covers receiving less than positive feedback and The Bunker Diary receiving heated reactions post its Carnegie win.

I think talking about this sort of stuff and questioning both it and ourselves is vital (which is why I love blogging and Twitter in general). It’s through talking that we reaffirm ourselves. We understand ourselves. It’s when there’s silence and fear, that’s when understanding starts to become something quite foreign.

You can find the storify of the chat here and here’s a link to the previous chats.

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Have you heard of #kidbkgrp ?

Hi! Do we talk on Twitter? If not, we really should (say hi, you know you want to). (But, you know, say it with some context and not just hi, because then I’ll just hi back and that will not be constructive in the whole beginning a conversation thing and now I’m digressing just a tad, so I’ll stop and move on to what I actually wanted to tell you about)

#kidbkgrp is a monthly chat group which meets the first Thursday of every month, 9-10pm on Twitter. We talk about a whole range of issues relating to children’s literature and everyone is welcome. This means you, specifically 😉

All you need to do to take part is tweet during that time frame using the #kidbkgrp hashtag (basically so I and everyone else taking part in the chat sees you). That’s it! You can view the schedule for the remaining chats of the year here and this Thursday (August 7th), we chat about Drama in Children’s Literature (particularly relevant in a post Carnegie climate, no?). We’ll talk about what children’s literature should and should not do and how to achieve this. It should be good – and I’d love to see you there 🙂

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#kidbkgrp recap – Re/reading classic children’s literature

Last night, we talked about re/reading classic children’s literature. It’s a topic that seems perenially interesting when you apply it to children’s literature, and it’s a topic which is perenially difficult to actually define. What is a classic? Who decides a classic? Can classic status be revoked? How do books become classics? And how do you deal with ‘difficult’ content when re-reading classics?

You can find the storify of the chat here and here’s a link to the previous chats.

The next chat is on August 7th and we talk about responsibility in children’s literature. See you there?

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#kidbkgrp recap: Diversity and Children’s Literature

So last night (and a little bit of today – hurrah for afterchats!), we talked about diversity and children’s literature. Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these (due to Life And That), so it was a quiet slide back into the groove. I loved it. It was good to be back. Last night reminded me how important debate is because it’s quite often through that articulation of thoughts and fears and questions and angers that resolution and improvement happens.

Now usually what I do is write a little precis of what we discussed, but I think that  summed it up perfectly with her definition of diversity: “For me it means all kids and adults being able to see themselves in books” Simple, isn’t it? If that’s not an aim to sign up for, I don’t know what is.

You can find the storify of the chat here and here’s a link to the previous chats.

The next chat is on July 3rd and we talk about rereading classics. See you there!

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#kidbkgrp 2014 schedule

So here we are. The first Thursday of every month, 9-10pm – let’s talk about children’s literature on Twitter with the hashtag #kidbkgrp. Do come along – I’d love to see you there 🙂

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#kidbkgrp is back!

So due to the whole necessity of having to a) find a new place to live, b) starting a new job, c) moving halfway across the country and d) writing a book, I had to put a few things on the back burner for a while. One of these was my beloved #kidbkgrp.

But no longer… *insert drum roll*

#kidbkgrp is BACK. If you’ve not heard of it, it’s a monthly Twitter chat under the hashtag #kidbkgrp covering a wide range of topics in children’s literature. It’s between 9-10pm (to allow the kids to be fed and bedded 🙂 ) and lasts for the hour (though you’re obviously welcome to chat afterwards!). It’s full of amazing smart and friendly people and I guarantee you will get some brilliant book recommendations and some thought provoking conversation.

I’m putting together a schedule for the rest of the year (to start sometime in June), and here’s the part where I’d like your input. What would you like to chat about? What do you want to crowdsource some thoughts on? Are you baffled by books for boys? Want to talk about gender in children’s literature or how about representations of sexuality? How about heroines, or historical literature, or the best horse books for your pony mad children? Do you want to learn more about theory or do you want to chat about studying children’s literature? Do you want to find some hidden gems, want to talk about what makes picture books so great, or are you trying to figure out what makes a bestseller so best?

Let me know your thoughts either here or on Twitter and I promise you I’ll add them in to the plans. And keep an eye here because in the next week or so I will produce a super lovely schedule full of dates and times and stuff. Exciting!

(and my thanks to @yayeahyeah for keeping #kidbkgrp warm during my absence! If you’re not following him on Twitter or checking out his lovely blogs, you should!)

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#kidbkgrp School Stories in Children’s Literature

Last night #kidbkgrp discussed school stories in children’s literature. Now, I admit that this one might have been a little self-indulgent as a topic (Team Chalet, yo), I was fascinated to see the range of reccomendations that came up. I think there’s something really interesting in how so many people plumped for say Chalet School in Exile and Prisoner of Azkaban as their desert island book – both books were spectacular highs in their respective series, and in the case of Exile, quite remarkable that it even got published.

I love school stories. I love what they are and what they can do. And I loved hearing all the chat last night. Thanks for coming along.

Here’s the storify of last night and here’s a link to the previous chats.

And that’s it for 2013! This is the part where I usually tell you about the next one that’s coming up, but I don’t know yet …. so I need your help!  Let me know what you want to chat about and how you want to chat about it (like, say, gender in children’s books or an open reccomendation surgery….). And finally, thank you for chatting! If you haven’t felt able to join in, but want to, let me know what would help you to join in? I would love to have you along for next time..! 🙂

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Comics #kidbkgrp

So last night #kidbkgrp met online and we talked about comics. Comics! Shazam, kathwop, kablammo comics! I love comics, but I know I don’t know as much about them as I could. I know as well that a lot of people find them intimidating (I mean, where do you begin?) or baffling (So – that X-Man is dead in this one, alive in this one, and a zombie in this one?) and sometimes just don’t know where to go with them. And I think that was a big part of my rationale for holding this chat – a sort of ‘de-mystification’ of the genre and the chance to pick the brains of some genuinely talented people for their hints and tips and personal favourites.

I need to thank @illusclaire and @sarangacomics for helping me out massively with this chat. @illusclaire is the assistant editor of Women Write About Comics (website), and @sarangacomics has a hugely good blog here full of reccomendations for new readers. Both of them are very, very good at their thing.

I also need to spotlight @neillcameron as well who gave a lot of brilliant sounding reccomendations for comics for six year olds (and, in a moment of very handy public spirit, storified them here). Thanks Neill!

Here’s the storify of last night and here’s a link to the previous chats. See you next time! December 12th – we talk school stories!

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Darkness in children’s literature #kidbkgrp

If you’ve not heard about #kidbkgrp, basically it’s a Twitter based chat (using the #kidbkgrp) on various topics in children’s / YA literature. The schedule for the November / December chat is available here (and I’d love to see you along next time!)

So last night we talked about darkness in children’s literature. Darkness is a very umbrella term and one that I use to encompass a whole variety of ‘graphic’ content. In a way, it’s things such as violence, drugs, sex and more. The chat topic came about after I chatted with some other people online about the ‘Gone’ series by Micheal Grant, and also by my feeling that perhaps it’s easy for certain angles of the media to ‘brand’ a certain genre of YA literature as ‘dark’ and therefore ‘abhorrent’ and that’s far too simplistic an angle to take when we actually look at the book, at our actions as a reader and at our role in the entire process as gatekeepers / adults etc. 

Here’s the storify and here’s a link to the hashtag on Twitter.

See you on November 14th to talk about comics! I want everyone to be there! Let’s take over Twitter! 😀 

 

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#kidbkgrp update – Oct/Nov/Dec dates and topics!

So, as promised, plans! Schedule type plans! Here’s the #kidbkgrp schedule for the rest of the year. Topic wise I’m really interested about all of them, but I’m very happy to be able to bring you some resident experts for the comics one. And for that one, I really want people who don’t think about or don’t like comics to join in – what puts you off? Is it the image or the titles or – something else? Tell me and our resident experts!

For those of you who haven’t joined a #kidbkgrp (nb: singular kid, singular book) chat, they are gatherings on Twitter where we talk about children’s and YA books. The topic headings are a guide and all you have to do to join in is use the hashtag. Which is nice, right? But as ever if you need a helping hand through it, let me know!

I’d appreciate you sharing this far and wide 😉 Thanks! See you on the 10th 😀

Date Time Topic
Thurs 10th Oct 9pm Darkness Should children’s literature feature dark/graphic content? Is this something to be scared of or celebrated? And what’s our role as gatekeepers – how do we mediate / control this content – and should we even try?
Thurs 14th Nov 9pm Comics clinic Share your comics woes and joys; with resident comics experts to give you title recs / advice.
Thurs 12th Dec 9pm School stories What’s your favourite school story? How has the school story changed? Does the school story still bear relevance to modern children’s literature?
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#kidbkgrp

Have I told you about how much I love doing the #kidbkgrp chats? I do. They’re ace. Have a look at them. I love being able to share amazing titles and chat with people about topics that are very close to my heart.

But I wanted to ask you a few questions to help me plan the future sessions…

  • Would you like them regular as opposed to ad-hoc? Say the first Sunday of every month or something?
  • Would you like to submit topics? Or have a topic calendar? Or are you cool with ‘official’ topics being chosen?
  • Have you wanted to join in but been freaked out? (And if you have, oh god, I love you and I want you to join in the next one and I’ll virtually hold your hand all the way through it because you’re awesome and I want to hear what you have to say).
  • Is there something you desperately want us to chat about? If so, what?

comment / tweet /email me ? Thank you!

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Favourites in children’s literature #kidbkgrp

12th September saw a super speedy #kidbkgrp chat happen. It was precipitated by my finishing A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson and remembering just how much I loved her. You know that feeling, right? The one where you come back to your favourite author – or book – and feel like you’ve finally come home? That buttery toasted crumpets on an open fire dog on your feet cat on your lap sort of feeling? That’s the one. That’s the exact one.

So we talked about what our favourite books were and why we liked them and as ever a massive amount of titles were suggested (which is something I love and send virtual high fives to all of those who gave them).  Here’s the storify and here’s a link to the previous chats.

See you at the next chat! 😀

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Female Characters in Children’s Literature #kidbkgrp

So we just had a #kidbkgrp on Twitter ! It’s an online chat group for people who love to talk about children’s literature – and I’d love to see you there next time (in about three weeks or so…?). Keep an eye on the hashtag anyway because if anything exciting happens in the world of children’s literature, I’m sure we’ll want to talk about it 😉 Anyway I promise to burble joyously and plentifully about the next one so you’re sure to hear about it.

So. Inspired by this article (which I blogged in response to here) , we discussed female characters in children’s literature. The good, the bad, the brilliant and our personal favourites.  There’s a whole host of reading suggestions featuring some brilliant sounding heroines. It was really interesting to see that we tended to plump for heroines when naming our personal favourites – I was wondering whether people like Maleficent would get a mention, but they didn’t which is definitely something to think about!

Here’s the storify and here’s a link to the hashtag on Twitter.

See you at the next chat! 😀

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Classics and Children’s Literature #kidbkgrp

Last night at 9pm, the very new and very amazing #kidbkgrp over on Twitter got going. It’s an online chat group for people who love children’s literature – and I’d love to see you there next time (end of August ish). Keep an eye on the hashtag! (And feel free to suggest topics – I have one in mind, but I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂 )

Inspired by this article, we discussed classics in children’s literature. What makes them, what breaks them, why we have them, what they are, and how they are. There’s a LOT there to talk about, right?

Here’s the storify and here’s the link to the hashtag on Twitter.

See you at the next chat!