Author Topic: Suggestions needed--Mutant books  (Read 6609 times)

Fellfrosch

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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2003, 03:07:34 PM »
My comment about language devolution was aimed at the "Feed" description, not YA fiction in general, but you probably knew that.

As for YA fiction, I wouldn't say that the label is dangerous any more than "children's book" is dangerous. Different people read at different levels, and while a kid certainly CAN read adult stuff (I read LotR when I was 10), they can get just as much out of books designed for YA audiences. Saying that all YA books are like Sweet Valley High is like saying that all adult books are like Danielle Steel. Books like the Prydain Chronicles are very firmly in the realm of YA, and obviously never intended for adults, but that doesn't make them fluffy and useless.
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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2003, 03:12:45 PM »
Just to interject some random comments:

"Young Adult" is more a marketing term than anything else. I read HG Wells War of the Worlds when I was 8. Ditto The Hobbit. I read the whole of Lord of the Rings before I was 10. I don't believe I'm terribly abnormal for this board in that regard.

Yeah, if you think teens really buy into the idea that teenagers are reading what they're told their supposed to read, than "Young Adult" is doing harm. I don't know anyone who does. I think maybe teens don't read the Chronicles of Narnia because they do have a more sophisticated grammar and vocabulary than the Narnia books contain, but most don't have the sophistication of analysis to get out of it what an adult would.

Naturally, these are generalizations. The few people who are not reading Narnia (and like books) because they're comparable to "Sweet Valley High" (which isn't what they'd be next to, they'd be next to the New Jedi Order books) will either realize their mistake as an adult or will never gain the sophistication they need anyway.

All this is to say that I'd rather have my kids reading Sweet Valley High than reading nothing. It may be fluffy and little else, but it's better than turning on "reality" TV.

Amendment: I realize all of that didn't flow, but then, that's why they're "random" comments. Also, I'm doing the same thing as yesterday, and I'm alternately bored or flipping windows. You'll cope.

stacer

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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #17 on: May 01, 2003, 01:19:41 AM »
As far as the term Young Adult goes, it's generally used as a term for books that would generally be appealing to teenagers, and it's a term applied by adults, not one that teens really use themselves. But for ease of reference, and to be able to know where to put the books in the library or bookstore, we use the term YA.

Sometimes books are packaged for both children's and YA--the same reasoning behind printing an adult version of Harry Potter, that adults will want a less cartoon-looking book.  The Hobbit is a perfect example--you can find it in the children's section, the YA section, and the adult section, usually in three different bindings. I've generally seen the Narnia books in the children's section.

Fell, I didn't realize you were a liguist. At any rate, whatever you call it, you might find the book interesting.

And as far as reading levels go, I don't think kids should be pigeonholed, either--I was constantly reading above what they said was my reading level, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

I hear stories about some teachers and librarians who use this computer program (Advanced Reader or something?) that determines a student's reading level, and then they use that level and make the students read only on that level. If a child is interested in a book that is above or below that, they don't allow the child to check it out. That's ridiculous.

Teenagers often read up, but they also read books specifically targeted at them, which is the kind of books I was talking about. I won't be dividing them by age group in my project, but I do have to draw the line somewhere, seeing as how the program *is* children's literature. I can include some books generally thought of as "adult" if they have a wide following among teenagers or kids, but in general I have to focus on books for kids/teenagers.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I agree with St. Ehlers.

And I should be doing my homework.

Thanks for all the suggestions, guys.
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Mad Dr Jeffe

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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #18 on: May 01, 2003, 08:50:05 AM »
Sorry, I was just remembering kids in my highschool English classes. You see they all could read, and did (which is pretty good considering the literacy rate in the US) when they had too, but many of them did not read for fun. I don't really blame them.  I blame English teachers who over analyze books, and crappy cookie cutter best sellers, and a culture that gives us very little time to read.

Once upon a time I had to read Lord of the Flies for school. Its required reading here in Virginia, and I have to say William Goldman wrote a very good book.  But Sitting in class hearing our teachers theory's on what it meant made me sick. I actually got into an argument with her because she was convinced the rock that kills Piggy was symbolic because of its reddish hue.

Its a shame that when someone reads a book they come to the conclusion that because they saw it one way that must have been what the writer intended.

I'd have to say most of the kids I knew in school got turned off to reading in highschool. Up untill sixth grade we still liked reading our english books aloud (sanitized classic short stories in Virginia) and just about everyone in my class got a book or two at the scholastic book fair.

It was when people started to hit us with the symbolism genie that people lost it. I mean honestly can a rock be naturally red without symbolizing death and conflict? Especially when the act of crushing Piggy IS death and conflict.

I abhor the marketing labels given to books almost as much as I hate the section in record stores labeled "popular" music.

I understand that YA books are easier to read than some fiction and even that some books can be found in multiple sections. But when Im standing in a bookstore and I see two young teens discussing books (the Narnia Chronicles) and deciding not to buy it because its kids stuff and obviously in the wrong section I get ill.

You don't see a senior citizens section, or a Middle Aged Section. I dont see why books cant be catagorized by a better marketing system. Like subject. Hmm is it non-fiction, a Mystery, a Sci-fi book maybe just fiction?

Yes its a marketing tool,   but its a harmful marketing tool. In the same way that Nicklodeon and MTV convince kids that Parents are the enemy. Or that a TV show is "Just for kids".  It does the same damage to TV and movies as it does to books. Take animation for example, out of the US its a vibrant art form that people of all ages go to see. Here except for a few diehard fans, animation is only for "kids".  I attribute it to marketing and while it assures a ready made market it prevents people from outside of traditional demographics from branching into a new subject, or genre.

Sorry about the rant, I just wish kids could be challenged and not targeted. Its too bad its a pipedream.  


..........That being said ;D I wholeheartedly support the marketing of Roleplaying Games to kids in school...

Come comment in the RPG forum.

Jeffe
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Fellfrosch

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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #19 on: May 01, 2003, 12:27:45 PM »
Well, I, um...still disagree. I simply don't think that marketing labels are nearly as harmful as you think they are. (On top of that, the labels you suggest like Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, etc. are usually innacurate and viewed by most writers and publishers as a necessary evil. There are huge discussions on the topic every year at WFC.)

Look at it this way: my daughter is just under two years old. There are books she can read and books she wouldn't get anything out of. Children's literature is a fact that I don't think any of us can deny (unless you were three years old the first time you read Crime and Punishment). So where are you going to draw the line? When does age-appropriate literature give way to the vast collection of human thought? Does a person go straight from Goodnight Moon to unabridged Les Miserables? Obviously, limiting a young person to YA fiction is a stupid thing to do--no one's going to argue with that--but giving them some extra guidance about what they may or may not like can only help them.

The things you say about symbolism killing the joy of reading have a strong element of truth, I believe, but beyond that I would suggest that High School english classes are many kids' first introduction to "adult" literature rather than YA. I think a lot of people learn to hate reading because english classes force them to stop reading the stuff they like--the more accessible YA books that they're accustomed to.
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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #20 on: May 01, 2003, 01:01:04 PM »
I don't want to get off topic, as I'm enjoying the discussion - I just wanted to point out to ElJeffe that the US's literacy rate is 97% (according to the CIA World Fact Book).  It's no 100% Lichtenstein, but it's certainly no 14% Niger either.

Okay, now back to the show!
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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #21 on: May 01, 2003, 01:05:59 PM »
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! >:( >:( >:( >:( >:( >:(


Having said that, I don't ever want to hear the "over anaylyzed" argument ever again. 75% of the time it's an excuse some teenager who couldn't see what the teacher was talking about came up with to explain why he didn't see it before the teacher mentioned it. Teenager ARE always smarter than someone who studied a subject for 4-5 years at an institution of higher learning in order to be qualified to teach that subject. English teachers in public schools have many faults, but with fewer exceptions than accuracies, this is not one of them.

Yes, the red rock represented violence and death. Get over it. The very fact that it was USED as an instrument of violence and death sets it apart from every other red rock on the island and asks to wonder WHY he even bothered to describe the color instead of just saying that a rock was used.

I think basically we rebel against the books we had to read in school because the books are a symbol of authority, and high schoolers are notorious for rebelling against authority. Not because some teacher didn't do a good job.

I also think teenagers don't read because, frankly, it's not "cool." Going out to play ball is cool. Skateboarding is cool. Reading and role playing... sorry to destroy your illusions, but not cool to the average adolesant

Ok, aggression out of my system now. But I do want to mention that sometimes things are there, and often the whether the writer intends it or not is largely irrelevant.

Oh, and I've never been at a book store and seen someone not buy a book they were looking at because it was in the YA section. In fact, more often, I see books like Narnia and Harry Potter firmly in the "Science Fiction" section. Which again points out Fell's argument that the whole nomenclature of genre is at least slightly off if not totally broken. However, even at that, it's still not entirely unuseful.

I more often see adults panning movies or books because they didn't understand it than kids not reading something because it was too easy to read.

I would like to finally add that I don't feel targeting a show at kids, or playing on their natural but only surface tension with adult/authority figures is doing a whole lot of damage. After all, that is essentially what Dahl (I think I have that right, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, and James and the Giant Peach) wrote about, almost exclusively. And he's another example of children's lit worth an adult's perusal. There ARE things that adults don't necessarily remember about childhood, and if you want to write meaningful lit/tv/movies for kids, you SHOULD address those issues.

Mad Dr Jeffe

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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #22 on: May 01, 2003, 01:15:07 PM »
Where do I draw the line? Well that the trick isn't it. I don't. If a book is too hard a kid knows it pretty much right away. Personally I think English teachers and Parents do their kids a big disservice by not reading to them (mainly because if they participated in the book they could know what their kid is having trouble with.

I disagree with your assertation that kids stop reading the books they like in high school, but only to a point.  Our society is so afraid of controversy that books are sanitized and excerpted to the point of insanity. In Virginia we have readers, or compilations of literature that are so editied it would make you sick. Take Beowulf or Edger Allen Poe out of context and what do you get unorganized trash. The few books that we do get to read are seriously over analyzed by teachers with minors in English and majors in BullS$#& .  Image also if the only literature you were ever exposed to were hundreds of years old... take Shakespeare for example, or Emily Bronte (both great writers by the way) and no one ever introduced you to Kerouac and Dylan Thomas.
Or all you english teacher could focus on was if Ernest Hemingway was gay or not.  You get caught up in all the meaningless details and forget that each book has a simple personal message to each of us.

I also disagree that classing things by genre is worse than classing them by reading ability. Classing something by reading ability is eliteist and snobbish and only takes into account general standards of reading ability as recommended by someone else.  At least when I buy a mystery I know what it will be. Or a sci-fi for that matter. Even though all mysteries are not the same and all science fiction books are not the same. If I had my way I'd just have two catagorys Fiction and Non-fiction arranged alphabetically by title. But thats just me.
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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #23 on: May 01, 2003, 01:26:13 PM »
I really don't think it's elitest. It's practical. All it does is identify the average age at which one has the vocabulary and grammar sophistication to understand a book. Kids (and parents) know if they're above that sophistication. In my mind, most parents OVER estimate a child's ability. I find such a system immensely practical and useful. Just keep in mind it's a guideline, not a law (and no one ever DID say it was a law).

I think your description of NoVAs educational system woefully unfair, as well. I read Les Mis as required reading in high school. the unedited version. See my previous rant about "over analysis." I won't blow my top about that again, especially since you probably posted before you saw it. On the one hand, you complain about "over analysis." on the other, you complain about teachers not being able to explore deep enough. Which is it?

Not every book has a "simple" message. And not every book applies to every one. This applies to "great books" as well as any other literatures.

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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #24 on: May 01, 2003, 01:55:27 PM »
Here is a fun article by Gene Weingarten tangentally about this subject.

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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #25 on: May 01, 2003, 02:00:15 PM »
Nonfiction=anything that isn't fiction. That's a lot, according to the Library of Congress, including folklore, poetry, drama, etc. We've been discussing this issue in class, and I think the classification of fiction/nonfiction is too broad--and I think that there's plenty of drama, poetry, and folklore that's fictional! :-)

I do like being able to go into the bookstore and differentiate between gardening books and Shakespeare. I think the biggest problem in my local B&N is that the "adult" section is divided and subdivided, but the children's and teen sections are only divided by fiction and nonfiction most of the time, and the nonfiction is woefully inadequate, especially for someone in a nonfiction class. But oh well.
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Mad Dr Jeffe

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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #26 on: May 01, 2003, 02:01:18 PM »
Eric maybe I am being hard on VA, but we didn't read that many books in my classes and I had to read all the books in our anthologies on my own. Now I did transfer to a Catholic School for my last 2 years, but I worked my butt off there and read like crazy and didn't see the same things going on there that I did in public school.

But the over analysis thing isn't something to be discounted by waving ones hands and saying it doesn't happen. It does because its easier to tell someone what to think about a book than to take the time to get them to develop an opinion. Gatsby is always about regret, Lord of the Flies is always about a Christ figure. But it wasn't true to me then and it isn't now. Gatsby (which I have read about a hundred times) has a different and personal meaning to me every time. And the only similarity to Christ I see in Simon is that he is killed in a brutal way.  Authors include things that sound good, and flow and that make their book more interesting. We could all just write like Gibbons Decline and Fall but then most readers would be asleep. Im sure Gibson took great pains to choose the word red for his rock but I have to say that I belive rock is red because he describes many things on the island by color, yellow fruit, green foliage. It makes the rock more interesting than if it were just "the rock". He chose red (which is a pretty common natural color on a vocanic island) for an unknown reason.  I could say I looked at the blue lamp without meaning that the lamp is sad and depressing.
You can explore themes and meanings without say that something is always something else.  Why not study the structure of the book grammatically and make Grammar accessible to kids. Think thats too hard study the feelings it evoked or the broad themes it touches on without overcomplicating the read.  Hell I'd like it if they didn't discount that some writing is done because a writer needs to eat and it becomes literature because it has a certain mass appeal. Like Victor hugo who wrote almost entirely for pulp journals (like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)  

Look I wont deny that teenagers do want to rebel. But sometimes the analysis of a book can come off as awfully snotty and arrogent. Often times if a student offers a different theory or idea about a subject they are simply told "No your wrong" without any debate or explaination.  Its the constant Im in charge and you will listen to me mentality that reinforces the whole authority figure response.  
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Mad Dr Jeffe

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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #27 on: May 01, 2003, 02:07:31 PM »
Oh and Eric I just have one thing to say to you...

"Kill the Pig, Bash his head, Spill his Blood!!!" ;D
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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #28 on: May 01, 2003, 03:22:22 PM »
I'm not "just waving my hand" and saying it doesn't exist. But the fact is over analysis is more often ascribed to HS English Teachers than ADD is over proscribed.

What I don't get is why you think these people didn't use symbolism. Even if they're writing for the masses. Isn't that what Shakespeare did? (answer, yes. He wrote plays so any idiot with a penny could come in and throw vegetables at the audience). The symbolism in his plays is so strong that you'd have to be retarded, deaf, and blind to not notice it. Teachers point these symbols out so you'll learn to see them. Of course they're heavy handed, especially at first. But if they're not, the kids are likely not to notice. And no, I've never had a teacher tell me that it HAS TO BE that way. But I have heard a lot of students without a single idea in their vacuous skulls tell me that the teacher is bad because he'll only accept a regurgitation that he gave originally. These student, on the other hand, don't really have any other interpretation, so apparently they're just built to whine.

Studying only the structure of the grammar defeats the purpose of studying literature. Sure the grammar is part of it, but that's going to leave us without an understanding of what's happening there. A work of literature is a work of aesthetic production, and as such uses symbols, allusion, and other devices. They're there. Ignoring their presence (and as a side note, I want you to enjoy both my alliteration and use of all homonyms of "there" in the last two sentences) is foolish and willfully ignorant. No one has said you can't have a different interpretation. But if you refuse to see that the red rock is a potential symbol, than it's you, not the teacher who has a problem. You can ignore it as not meaningful once you've explored it's potential significance, but if you ignore it before than, well, who's doing the "hand waving" now? Goldman's language calls our attention to the color for a reason. Why is it such a problem if a teacher calls your attention to it and gives you a potential meaning?

I obviously had a different school experience. No, I wasn't seriously challenged by my standard English classes in high school, but that's because frankly, I'm much smarter than the average bear. Many people were challenged. I did take literature classes for electives that did challenge me, however. You're making generalizations about an educational system that a) you didn't graduate from, even though you did spend some time in it, and that b) has been consistantly rated as one of the 10 best in the country. FCPS is a MUCH better system by nearly ANY reckoning than you're making out to be. Yes, I had some bad teachers, but not a single one of those was due to over-analysis or forcing me to think like they do. without an exception, every bad teacher I had in public school was due to the teacher not explaining what the expectations were.

Remember that in public school you are, by and large, dealing with students who, for whatever reason, do not have the sophistication to do a solid analysis of a book. Yes, there are exceptions, but you can't educate your public by building your core system by the exceptional cases. You have to build it on the general level of understanding. You introduce them sometimes by giving an extreme version, which they (the students) are obviously  going to tone down when they put it into practice. So in the few cases of overanalysis, it still serves a purpose, and I'm not convinced that the damage you say it is doing is even remotely the case.

Fellfrosch

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Re: Suggestions needed--Mutant books
« Reply #29 on: May 01, 2003, 03:24:03 PM »
I'm really sorry that you had crappy teachers and lame edited books in High School, ElJeffe, but that doesn't mean that a YA label is evil or that literature should not be studied. Honestly, I haven't heard these arguments of yours since I threw them at my teacher in 7th grade. We were studying "To Kill a Mockingbird," she tried to show us that books can have layered meaning, and we told her everything you're telling us, pretty much word for word. And then we read the book and studied it and realized that she was right and that our understanding of themes and archetypes actually improved our ability to understand and, yes, enjoy the book.

Obviously there are bad teachers out there, and obviously the attitude of "this is the only way to interpret things" is a bad one, but I was fortunate and never had any teachers like that (well, not until my Shakespeare class in college--I hated that class).

I suppose you could argue that I've been suckered in by the illusion of literary analysis and that I see things that aren't there. I suppose you could also argue that I am an esoteric exception to the rule, and that most kids don't want or need to find meaning in literature. But if you say that, aren't you just saying that kids aren't mature enough to read heavy literature? And wasn't that your initial argument here?
« Last Edit: May 01, 2003, 04:57:40 PM by Fellfrosch »
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