professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Who is the audience?

I ran across this quote in an interview with Jerry Spinelli in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: "I set my book like a bowl of milk on the edge of the porch and then walk away,” he explains. “I don’t stand there and call the cats. I go back in the house and see who comes to drink.”

This was in response to Spinelli's latest offering HOKEY POKEY (you MUST read this book), but I think it is perfect for much of the discussion we have had of late in terms of books and levels and lexiles and all the ways we try to restrict what kids can read.

I finished HOKEY POKEY a few days ago, and I am still mulling over images, conversations between characters, passages from the book. Does that mean this is a book for adults? Yeah, kinda sorta. I think adult readers will respond differently to the book and characters and events and emotions than younger readers will. Is this a book for younger readers, too? Yep, it is. I think kids will connect to the carefree nature of some days: bike riding, warring with girls using words, playing catch with a younger sibling. I doubt younger readers will wax nostalgic, but it could happen. I can still recall College Girl telling me about when she was a kid (at the time she was 7) and recalling it with some nostalgia for the good old days.

As I am looking at my students' reading autobiographies, I notice they, too, are waxing nostalgic for their favorite books from childhood. And many of them in the YA class are wishing these great books they are reading had been available when they were tweens and teens. I open boxes of books and see new editions and new series based on Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and recall many an hour spent lost in those books.

So, when I am asked for titles of books for reluctant 7th grade boys or accelerated 9th graders or whatever, I sometimes hesitate. It is not because I do not know titles to offer. I am a walking card catalog (though some days, I fear my drawers are over-stocked). But part of me wants to know more about the reader. Are there books he or she might have missed along the way (did they read WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE when they were young? How about HOLES? Did they miss out on OFFICER BUCKLE AND GLORIA?). I yearn to offer some picture books they might have missed or perhaps a series published after they went through that age range (BABYMOUSE, for instance).

Now I do NOT mean to suggest that one book is good for each and every reader. That one size fits all is a fallacy. However, one book just might appeal to a range of readers, a wide range when it comes to age perhaps more narrowed when it comes to interest. And the best children's and YA books speak to me, perhaps more to my inner child or innter teen, but they do speak VOLUMES. Here's hoping one speaks to you soon.
Tags: audience
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