One of the most anticipated events at the ALSC Institute in Oakland this September is the Breakfast for Bill, which all attendees are welcomed to as part of their registration (no separate tickets need to be purchased). The event honors the late Bill Morris, who was head of library marketing at HarperCollins for many years.
This year’s Breakfast for Bill will feature a panel of four authors of tween novels: Rita Williams-Garcia, Tim Federle, Pam Munoz Ryan, and Gene Yang.
The emcee for the panel discussion will be Jamie Campbell Naidoo, professor at the School of Library & Information Studies at the University of Alabama, and author of Rainbow Family Collections (Libraries Unlimited, 2012).
I will helping to run the event as part of the ALSC Institute planning committee, and had an online conversation with Jamie about our focus on authors of tween literature. Here is some of what we discussed:
What about tween literature appeals to you?
Jamie: While all children are influenced by the literature that they read, tweens are in their formative years at the beginning of adolescence trying to figure out who they are, their place in the world, and how this meshes with larger society, but particularly their family’s views. Literature for tweens can really shape their understanding of the world. Good tween literature can be the impetus for change in their lives and encourage them to be social activists for their peers around the world.
What is your take on the current state of diversity in tween novels?
Like all areas of children’s literature there is not enough diversity in books for tweens. I would even go as far as to say that there is probably less diversity in tween literature than picture books for children and young adult novels. There is a critical need for tweens in their critical stages of development to make connections with characters that are like themselves but to also make larger global connections with peer characters from other cultures.
Is there any trend in tween lit that you are excited about, or any trend that you wish was over?
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I so wish the crush and gushy tween BFF romance trend was over. I realize tweens are beginning to figure out who they are and who they might like (or not). But, I think they deserve a little more emotional depth and sophistication than these types of books provide.
Is there any voice or group that you don’t see represented in tween lit?
Where do I begin! There are so many voices that I don’t see represented in tween lit. Where are the tweens from low socioeconomic households? Where are the tweens from mixed race or bicultural families? Where are the LGBTQ tweens? Where are the homeless tweens? Where are the tweens that are differently able? Where are the tweens that are ethnically diverse? Sure you can probably find 3 or more tween titles representing these groups but are they really good titles? Are they recent and relevant?
What are you looking forward to hear about from our four featured authors?
I’d like to hear from each of them about the stories they liked to read as tweens and what features of those stories are present in their own works. I’d also like to learn what they think about the current state of diversity in tween literature and how we can fix it. On the fun side, what is their most embarrassing tween moment and has that ever featured in their books? Finally, their top 5 favorite tween books (either currently written or yet to come).
Did you ever get the chance to meet Bill Morris, the late editor with HarperCollins that this event honors?
Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of meeting Bill. I really regret that as I have heard from many that he was such an awesome man!
Penny: I was lucky enough to meet him at an ALA conference and to sit by him at lunch. He was hilarious! He loved to dish the dirt on the who’s who of children’s books, but not in a mean-spirited way. He was a delightful conversationalist, and could have held his own on a talk show!
Anything else about the William Morris Breakfast event that folks should look forward to at the ALSC Institute?
It is a breakfast. I don’t do mornings. There will definitely be some surprises to help me (and all those other night owls) wake up. I just have to think of what we can do to make folks squirt orange juice out their noses.
Penny: I totally agree! I am “nocturnal” myself, but I am looking forward to this wonderful event! We have lots of surprises planned for the attendees, including some local children’s authors coming to sit with the attendees at breakfast, as well as some fun games and prizes planned!
If you have not yet registered for the ALSC Institute, there is still time!
Go to: www.ala.org/alsc/institute
Special thanks to Jamie Campbell Naidoo for his time – and I hope to see many ALSC members at this wonderful event!
Penny Peck, author of Readers’ Advisory for Children and Tweens (Libraries Unlimited, 2010).