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September 15, 2014

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Book Review Professional Reading: January 2013

BERNIER, Anthony, ed. VOYA’s YA Spaces of Your Dreams Collection. 224p. appendix. charts. diags. further reading. illus. index. photos. websites. VOYA. 2012. pap. $50. ISBN 978-1-61751-011-3. LC 2012935470.
Bernier has compiled every “YA Spaces of Your Dreams” column for VOYA since its inception in 1999 through 2010. The book is divided into three main parts by size of the teen space (less than 500 square feet, 501 to 1000 square feet, and more than 1001 square feet), and the sections are organized chronologically by publication date. It provides a valuable resource list of websites and annotations for potential products needed for a great YA space, broken down into categories such as designers and consultants, furniture, and aesthetic amenities. Both authors and libraries are indexed. In the introduction, Bernier makes it clear that very little research exists about YA spaces. The book’s research team followed up with each of the libraries with a short questionnaire in May 2011. Through the survey results, Bernier makes a case that a well-defined teen space has benefited these libraries in terms of greater support, improved perceptions of teen library users, and “positive gains” for services to teens. As he states, this compilation is not intended to be a collection of best practices; however, it is a useful resource for those wishing to create a YA space in their library as well as for those looking to update an existing space.–Adrienne L. Strock, Maricopa County Library District, AZ

JONES, Diana Wynne. Reflections: On the Magic of Writing. edited by Charlie Butler. 368p. bibliog. index. notes. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2012. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-06-221989-3; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-221990-9. LC 2012018080.
Putting her papers together in the face of her impending death, Jones chose and arranged these lectures, articles, and reviews written between 1978 and 2008 to encapsulate her beliefs about writing, writing for children, and fantasy. Ranging from literary criticism to autobiography, the 28 pieces illustrate her insight, her humor, and the mastery of her craft. She describes how magic and humor work, discusses the nature of heroes, the uses of mythology, and the value of learning Anglo-Saxon. Other selections reflect on the magic of the “Narnia” books, the nature of “Real Books,” and the orchestration of a narrative. Because this volume is a gathering of pieces written over many years, topics and episodes are repeated, like recurring melodies in a long piece of music. One of the most important themes is that humans–children and adults–need fantasy. In some ways, her entire oeuvre is a reaction to a childhood in which fantasy literature was denied, as revealed in the long essay she wrote for Something About the Author and included here. An interview with the book’s editor, Charlie Butler, and reminiscences by two of her sons wrap up the collection. Readers who have known and loved the author’s vast body of work will nod and laugh, rejoice that they can return to works like the “Chrestomanci” series, and mourn the fact that there will be no more.–Kathleen Isaacs, Children’s Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

LEVITOV, Deborah D., ed. Activism and the School Librarian: Tools for Advocacy and Survival. 120p. appendix. bibliog. charts. further reading. index. websites. Libraries Unlimited. 2012. pap. $45. ISBN 978-1-61069-187-1; ebook $45. ISBN 978-1-61069-188-8. LC 2012016873.
Based on research, experience, and actual implementation of award-winning programs, this book offers solid information to guide school librarians in one of their most valuable roles, that of advocate. Seven engaging and informative chapters, all written by various successful practitioners, offer solid suggestions. The first chapter identifies numerous characteristics important to promoting the library, such as focusing on the students, providing equality of services, teaching 21st-century learning skills, helping students learn in meaningful ways, etc. Chapter two emphasizes the importance of student learning, assessment, and evaluation. Remaining chapters address activism, being proactive, developing leadership, connecting, collaborating, and establishing advocates from within the faculty. Suggestions for creating an advocacy plan; ways of promoting it within the school, community, and business; acquiring legislative support; involving parents; and connecting and involving administrators, board members, and teachers are included. If they are heeded, library programs will flourish. Frequent text boxes and figures support the information. Most articles include a summary, with references and additional resource lists at the conclusion of each chapter. The appendix also includes additional tools for developing, planning, and assessing the plan. An extensive index concludes this valuable resource.–Susan Shaver, Hemingford Public Schools, NE

WEBSTER, Lawrence. Under the North Light: The Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petersham. 192p. illus. index. notes. photos. reprods. WoodstockArts. 2012. Tr $39.50. ISBN 978-09679268-6-5. LC 201293874.
This biography looks at the lives of two of the most influential illustrators of children’s books in the 20th century and will be of interest to scholars, librarians, and art students. In lively prose, Webster recounts how two artists with disparate beginnings (Miska, an impoverished Hungarian immigrant, and Maud, daughter of a minister and descendant of the Mayflower), met in a New York art institute in 1912, married, and collaborated on exquisite award-winning children’s books for more than 40 years. Comprehensive research including the artists own correspondence and letters from children; commentary from authors, reviewers, educators, and businessmen; and interviews with family members results in an endearing account of the process, dedication, and joy that went into each project. Numerous texts and illustrations are discussed at length and are accompanied by vibrant colorful reproductions. The author emphasizes the artists’ originality and significance, noting that their work presents a picture of the cultural trends of their times. Webster discusses the criticism as well as the accolades. She acknowledges that today’s critics, more sensitive to cultural stereotypes, find some of the books outdated. The 1946 Caldecott award The Rooster Crows (Macmillan) was reissued in the 1964 printing minus two pages of offensive stereotyping.–Jackie Gropman, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library System, Fairfax, VA

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