Saturday, August 1, 2009

Geordi Brings the Smackdown! or Near Death Experience + Years of Kid Lit Experience = "The Rainbow F#@%ing Fish!"

We frequently hear about how children's book editors dislike books with agendas or outright "lessons to teach". They aren't the only ones.

LeVar Burton, the host of the Reading Rainbow television show on PBS (or depending on your age and TV-viewing preferences, Geordi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Kunta Kinte from Roots, or even that guy from The $10,000 Pyramid- my personal favorite-what can I say, I'm old), recently commented on books for the "worst/most overrated" children's book list on The American . Side note: When you follow that link, be prepared for some serious ripping on various well-known pieces of kid lit with some long flaming and replies, particularly about The Giving Tree, including comments from Shel Silverstein's mom (or are they?).

Scan down to July 21st, 2:05 am, and find the comments from Mr. Burton after another commenter suggested The Rainbow Fish be added to the list, to remind yourself that there are people out there who read kid lit and think seriously about the messages sent in a story, whether implied or openly stated.

Mr. Burton's comments are dated about a week after he was injured in a five car crash in West Los Angeles, but I'm betting that had little bearing on his passionate response. His first comment is snarkier (the one that starts with {eep!} "The rainbow f#@%ing fish!.."), his second has the same message but in a more scholarly form, and the American Library Association's advocates for intellectual freedom will be pleased to see in that second post that he wouldn't ban any books from any islands. If you think Mr. Burton's assessment is harsh, check the reviews of the book on Look familiar? After at least twenty-five years of children's reading advocacy, Mr. Burton surely knows what he is talking about.

The message for us as writers? Kid's books DO send messages. What does yours say?

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