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What is Freedom? Exploring the concept through Picturebooks. #LibrarianFightClub

What is Freedom? What’s the difference between ‘freedom’ & Privilege’?

Lately I have been asking myself “What is freedom?” an awful lot. So I started looking at my books trying to find freedom. Here’s what I found…

Growing up in Canada, we don’t’ spend a lot of time talking about the concept of ‘Freedom.’ Not in the way that seems to take over a lot of the discussion in America around what they demand from their society, what they expect of their lives. “Freedom” has never been our primary value in our Canadian society.

But lately I’ve begun to really start thinking about what it means to have freedom, and where does freedom end and privilege begin? What is a basic freedom and what is entitlement? So I turned to my books, to search for freedom and this is what I’ve found.

The freedom to dream big?

On the surface level, I think a lot of people think of freedom as breaking free from the constraints of society, letting their hair down and, letting out their emotions.

Freedom is the space to run, to howl and cry.

Being able to count on your basic needs being met is freedom, freedom to live.

But, freedom is the right to clean drinking water, safety, food security.

Freedom from Oppression & Persecution. To be able to pass on your traditions, your history without fear.

Freedom from Oppression & Persecution

Freedom is autonomy over your own body.

Freedom is autonomy over your own body (not someone else’s.)

Freedom is, to be in your own skin, to love yourself and take up space without apology or explanation.

Freedom to exist in your body, to love yourself and, be respected.

Freedom is to be able to love without fear.

Freedom is to be able to love without fear.

Freedom is to be able to express your identity.

Freedom is to be able to express your identity.

What did they all have in common? Safety. The safety to dream, to feel, to love, to be, to live. If your idea of freedom is directly endangering any of that safety of others, then what you’re asking for isn’t freedom, it’s privilege.
Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

#LibrarianFightClub to Hug or not to Hug?

One of the reasons I love picturebooks is that they take all of the values and social discourse of the time they’re made in and present them in this beautiful little package to pick apart and wonder at.  Looking at two books made a handful of years apart can show how society has grown and changed and there is no better example than this than these two hug books.

  I love both of these books actually, “Hug Machine” by Scott Campbell 2014, and “Don’t Hug Doug (He Doesn’t Like it)” By Carrie Finison 2021. But what I find most fascinating about them, especially next to one another, is to marvel at how fast mainstream ideas are moving about issues around childhood, consent and, toxic masculinity. 

When “Hug Machine” came out in 2014 it was subversive in quietly challenging toxic masculinity and traditional gender roles in this beautiful pale pink and red ode to a little boy who loves to love and show affection.  Hug Machine is concerned with the emotional needs of those around him when; a baby is crying, a hedgehog feels unloved, etc. These things fundamentally challenge the emotional frigidity of toxic masculinity.

However, things have moved on, the world has moved on and become more complex, and isn’t that a wonderful thing? “Don’t Hug Doug” explores the complexities around consent, boundaries and, also the many ways that one can show their friendship. But I think what’s most poignant is the piece around expectations that children take on burden of emotional labour.

Less than a decade ago, it was seen as appropriate that the Hug Machine should be taking on the emotional labour of hugging literally everyone so that they felt better.  The kid didn’t even have a name he was reduced to his performance of giving.  In “Don’t Hug Doug” the onus is not on Doug to take on that burden, the children in this book are being relieved of that expectation and being given agency regarding their personal space.  This is a major step forward in society’s understanding of the fundamental rights of a child, and the nature of childhood itself.

Is there space to celebrate both of these books? Are they even fundamentally in opposition? #LibrarianFightClub  

Posted in Demystifying publishing

4 Reasons why it’s important to Preorder Books if you want to help an Author Succeed

Have you ever wondered why publishers and authors are always publicizing preorder availability? There’s some very practical reasons for it!

Preordering a book that doesn’t arrive for months or years might seem unnecessary but your decision to preorder directly affects the book’s chances of commercial success.
1. Pre-release, preorders signal to publisher there will be interest, and they can adjust print runs to accurately meet demands. THe size of an initial print run announces to the world the confidence the publisher has in a book’s commercial success. The bigger the print run, the more confidence, the more buzz. Under printing can be a huge problem, because often people who cannot find a book in stock when they want it, will forget about it and not come back and buy it later.
2. Preorders then build buzz and encourage larger orders from big retailers. The buzz around the book is a great sales point that gets big retailers to make larger initial orders to prepare for consumer demand. This is of course not a good thing if after the fact nobody buys them, because they’ll be returned. But having them ordered and in stock means that they are available and a book has a chance to succeed.
3. Post-release, preorders sales count as part of first week sales. These inflated numbers allow books to launch and climb the rankings onto the bestseller lists which guarantee continued sales. Being on a bestseller list is one of the best things that can happen to a book commercially. People who have never heard of it, and might have never considered buying it, will go out and buy it because it is on this list.
4. Support independent Bookshops with guaranteed sale for their stock, helps mitigate risks. Independent bookshops help authors with creating readership and awareness. Preorders are guaranteed sales, and it allows retailers who operate on small profit margins and are risk averse to have a guaranteed sale on a book. Independent bookshops work hard to create opportunities for local authors and illustrators, to help them create buzz and get books out there. Supporting indie bookshops is supporting the culture of books.

Special thanks to the team at Walker Books for answering questions about this issue as well as UK Book Publisher, Editorial director at Andersen Press, Libby Hamilton @LibbyHamHam on Instagram

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

Racism in Children’s Books is Still Racism: #LibrarianFightClub

Shit People Say to Keep Racism Misogyny &, Antisemitism Alive and Well in Picturebooks…
This mind bogglingly tone deaf article “The Dangers of being hyper-aware” by Claire Hennessy was released today in The Irish Times. Note the quotations around “problematic” and “insensitive.” The condescending & gaslighting implication that because it doesn’t bother this white author, whether or not it is a problem, is up for debate.
The author of this article, an established member of the publishing industry as both editor and author of 12 books, makes several points that we often see in defense of problematic children’s books. In fact, it makes the rounds so it’s a perfect case study! Let’s explore some of the main points shall we?
Argument 1: ‘Without Racism, books won’t be good.’ “Danger in this hyper-aware, hyper-critical culture: of literary culture becoming so anodyne and sanitised it dies out entirely”- C. Hennessy

Removing racism from children’s literature will kill of culture? …whose culture exactly are you worried won’t withstand being held accountable to any standards of common decency and respect for others?

Argument 2: ‘Just give your kids the Historical Context Disclaimer.” “Contextualizing the dodgy bits within Seuss’s overall body of work Developmentally ages-3-4 Time is a completely abstract concept. Ages 5-6 they begin to understand correlation between certain days in their daily life (holidays, birthdays, etc.) Concepts of historical time don’t develop until ages 9-11. History is valuable, discussion on literary theory is interesting but learning goals should be age appropriate. How do you teach a 5 year old historical context with any level of valuable understanding, when they do not know what Friday is?

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/ages-stages-how-children-develop-sense-time/

Argument 3: ‘But I liked it and it’s inconvenient you’re ruining it for me.’ “The delicious insanity of Roald Dahl’s fiction is forever tainted by his anti-Semitic comments (his family apologized in late 2020)”-C. Hennessy. Oh, his family apologized so as not to jeopardize their cash cow? Well then, that changes everything!
Argument 4: “Your fave is almost certainly problematic.”- C. Hennessy. Gosh could that be because picture books are written almost exclusively by white people, to this day? Maybe the publishing industry allowed other people traditionally to write picturebooks, we wouldn’t have such a crap selection.
Argument 4: ‘Fine, let some people of colour publish a few books and stop bothering us with your whining.’ “Focusing on diversity of various sorts, and the need for more of it, allows one to side-step the knotty business of trying to distinguish between pearl-clutching and thoughtful concern,”-C. Hennessy. Whether or not the concerns of marginalized people about how they are represented seem trivial to you is irrelevant. Shockingly, this is not about you.
Argument 5: ‘Complaints on Social Media are Invalid.’ “tempting to wonder if people-particularly within social media bubbles…are taking it all a bit too seriously, reading too much into silly, entertaining kids’ books. How could anyone take offence to, say, Dr. Seuss,” -C. Hennessy. For the first time in history marginalized people have a voice that cannot be controlled by gatekeepers, Social media.; Dismissing the medium of expression because it lacks the gravitas of print media is just another way of maintaining the status quo and of systemic oppression.
Argument 6: ‘It’s too hard to fix we better do nothing about it.’ “Hard-and-fast rules to ensure inoffensive content are impossible” -C. Hennessy. Try not starting out with stereotypes? Try researching? Try editing? Try consulting with people you’re representing? Try harder.
Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

It’s Not as Simple as Animal Books Vs. “Diversity

Sources for this Post:

Lucy & James Catchpole https://thecatchpoles.net/

“Data on books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published for children and teens compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

Book Riot https://bookriot.com/diversity-in-childrens-and-young-adult-literature/

https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/raise-a-reader-blog/why-its-important-kids-to-see-themselves-books.html

Larsen, N. Lee, K., & Ganea P.. “Do storybooks with anthropomorphized animal characters promote prosocial behaviours in young children?” Dev Sci. 2018 May; 21 (3): e 12590 2

*C. Burke & J. Copenhaver. “Animals as People in Children’s Literature ” Language Arts Vol 81, N.3 Jan. 2004, P. 205-213 .