Last week, my colleagues and friends Cynthia Alaniz, Donalyn Miller, and Karin Perry joined me in creating lists. Each of us took a decade from 1965-2015. Our task was to select 10 important books (note, not BEST per se, but influential or key) for K-12 for our decade. The emails and Voxers flew back and forth as we all moaned about having to make tough decisions. If Book X stays, then Book Y has to go. Did someone else have a book by Author A so that the list maker in question could give a slot to Author B. We will present these 50 books at the Texas Council of ELA Teachers conference in a couple of weeks. I know we will have discussions with audience members about why Book C and not Book D and Author L instead of Author M. And I look forward to that discussion. That discussion takes a depth of knowledge of the field AND a knowledge of the milieu that spawned books during a particular time period.
Why this digression? I want to state outright that lists like the one in TIME are dangerous. Being published in a national outlet somehow elevates this from a list you or I might make to one that somehow has been "blessed." It will be passed along via social media. Some will use the list to evaluate collections in classroom and school and public libraries. And that needs NOT to happen.
Here is a link to the list: http://time.com/100-best-childrens-books/.
And here are just a few of the questions I have:
1. Only 8 of the books are by authors other than white. Where is the diversity? See Debbie Reese's comments here: http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2015/01/time-magazines-almost-all-white-list-of.html
2. Most books are by US authors. The others are British. There are few real international books here. Why this focus on US when there is a world of wonderful international books for children?
3. Many are award winners (especially Caldecott). While that is certainly one measure of the quality of the book, it means that many other books are going to be ignored. Why not include some other awards? Hans Christian Andersen Medal? Astrid Lindgren Award? Greenway? Carnegie?
4. What about nonfiction?
5. Most are picture books. Children move beyond picture books. Where are those chapter books?
6. Where are the novels? Only one novel (I do not think I missed anything) is OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper which seems out of place with the rest of the list. It jarred me. Not because it is not worthy, but because it was one of the few books not in the picture book category.
7. Poetry beyond Silverstein and Prelutsky?
8. Where are GNs for young readers? Board books? Other forms and formats? Pop-ups?
9. What criteria were used?
10. Are these in some sort of order? If so, what is the order for ranking them?
This list is a starting point for discussion. While I knew the books on the list (and thank goodness for that), if there are titles unfamiliar to readers, this might be a good place to start remedying the situation (and hopefully all these are in print. I did not check). If I were teaching a master's seminar this semester, this might just be the focus of the course: to take the two lists and discuss them, deconstruct them, and even reconstruct them to a degree.
Stay tuned tomorrow as we take a look at the 100 best YA books of all time. This should be fun!