One of the biggest reasons a book is banned or challenged, especially if it's a children's book or YA, is profanity. Recently, I came across this image (seen on the right), about an interview with Angie Thomas, the author ofThe Hate U Give, and thought it summed up the issue perfectly. I shared it on my Facebook page where a follower of my page commented with why she still felt language was an issue, including her fear that kids would start to say the words if they read them. I replied, that follower deleted her comment, which in turn deleted my reply. So, I figured, I'd share my reply here:
"I can certainly understand why wanting to be cautious of particular words, especially words that are extremely offensive to groups of people, such as the n-word or the c-word. That being said, I believe the author's point is the situations she wrote about, police brutality and violence and the racism in this country, are more offensive than a curse word like the f-word, as it does more harm than a word like the f-word.
As someone who grew up in a house where we were told to read everything, my brother and I came across many words. It opened the door for discussion and conversation about those words, especially words like the n-word or the c-word, what they meant, how they came about, and why they shouldn't be used. More to the point, just because my brother and I read To Kill A Mockingbird or Huckleberry Finn, did not mean we walked around using the n-word. Similarly, when we came across the f-word in reading, it did not mean we walked around saying the f-word. Just as a kid can learn boundaries, or they can learn that just because Superman can fly in a movie doesn't mean they can jump off a roof and not hurt themselves, children can learn the difference between reading words in a story and using those words in their daily vernacular.
My question is, why is the f-word put on the same level of offense as police brutality, violence, and racism?"
"Sometimes things don't turn out exactly how we think they will, but it doesn't mean they won’t be just as good. Or even better…"
In Ben's Little Tomato, (sequel to Ben's Little Acorn), Ben's favorite plant is tomatoes. There are so any different tomatoes out there, and here is a list of just 8 that exceed expectations for what a tomato is, looks like, tastes like, and how it can be used. These are also tomatoes Ben, from the Ben's Little Book, would find cool!
The author found these tomatoes through The Whole Seed Catalalogue from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (2019)!
golden streaked flesh
hollow bell pepper shape
strawberry like seed clusters
stands up well to powdery mildew"
Lucid Gem Tomato
yellow-orange when ripe
black anthocyanin splashes contrasts with lighter colored skin
flesh marbled yellow to red
sweet, juicy, fruity
winner of The Sweetest Tomato Award at the 2017 National Heirloom Expo
Berkley Tie-Dye Green Tomato
green with red and yellow stripes
each color has a different flavor"
Reading provides many skill in general. Reading with your kids provide many great benefits for both your child and you. It's great for bonding, creating routines for bed, and promoting reading and literacy in general. When you read with your kids, though, there are other ways to gain even more benefits after that final page is turned. Here are just a few tips and tricks for after and their benefits.
1. Ask your child what happened in the books they read
This is a great way to still participate in your child's reading even when they are reading by themselves or reading with others. Showing an interest in what they read shows the value and importance you put in their reading and literacy and encourages their own interest. This also provides a similar benefit in bonding. And, it reinforces comprehension, strengthens their memory, and helps refine skills like summarizing.
2. Ask and discuss a character's motivation
Conversations about reading, even when away from the book, again strengthens memory. Asking about motivation, also allows for reinforcing and challenging skills like comprehension. Motivation allows the conversation to take a less black and white direction. There's no right or wrong answer, which allows for the conversation to become more in depth. It also allows for fostering a child's ability to empathize and apply the social cues they are learning on a daily basis. A child might bring up emotion as a motivation, which then can turn into what made them think the character was feeling that way, for example. The adult can then also help them connect the stories to themselves and provide daily vocabulary for when they feel that way later. InThe Butter Thief, a reader might say the mother seemed angry because she yelled. An adult might build on that by saying something along the lines as "It must have been very frustrating that all the butter kept getting ruined."
3. Apply aspects of the book to everyday scenarios
First, how does one do this? Take a book likeBen's Little Tomato. After reading the book, go to the grocery store or the Farmer's Market and ask your child which tomato they think was Ben's Little Tomato and why. Play detective and utilize the five senses to try to figure it out. (I.e. These three are small tomatoes, all about the same size. These two of the three are both red. This one has the best taste.)
Second, why do this? It provides concrete example of the book's concepts and stories, and connects them to the real-world. It reinforces the importance and relevance of reading and books, while cementing the concepts the book discusses in the child's mind. It helps with memory, and using all the sense. Plus, it makes both the reading and concepts hands on and fun, which in turn will reinforce that reading is fun.
Other great topics for conversation to have away from the book, especially for longer chapter books, include:
* Predictions and what they think might happen next and why.
* Did they feel the book had a satisfying resolution?
* If they were in the character's shoes what would they do and why? Do they think that character would act in a similar way?
What do you discuss with your kids when reading?
As many of my readers know, The Butter Thief explores the origins of the word "butterfly" in a fun and imaginative narrative. One of the theories that inspired aspects of the book, and continues to inspire aspects of the series, is the part fairies play.
It was believed that fairies and witches would turn into butterflies to steal the family's butter. One element of that theory appears to be missing on the surface of the overall story. But, is it really left out?
Upon closer observation, this is not the case. Readers might recall the purple fairy door that Brigid receives as a gift and in turn gives to the brimstone fairy. What does a purple door have to do with anything, one might ask.
Purple doors are often a sign of a witch.
Before people start conjuring up images of a green-face, wart-nose, evil devil worshiper, let me set the record straight. Fairies and witches are actually very closely related. They way they respect, nurture, and connect with nature is very similar. Often witches are individuals who recognize, harness, and utilizes their inner-most magic and intentions. Like a fairy, they refuse to be ignored, forgotten, or used. Both work in balance. It cannot be all take. Offerings need to be made.
If the brimstone butterfly fairy more than just a fairy? You, as the reader, can decide. Just know, as the author, the witch part of the theory was not forgotten.
Also, The Butter Thief fairy doors will be available soon for your own garden!
Originally posted on Goodreads, Dusty Shelves!
Most people who know me know I'm part of an indie-only bookstote in LA called Pipe & Thimble Bookstore (www.pipeandthimble.com). As the co-propriator, the PA, and the salesperson who sits behind the counter, I know one of the biggest struggles, especially in getting out there and drawing in the community, is that most, if not all,the names are unknown. While it is a selling point for most (No one else will bring that book as a gift to the babyshower), others don't always grasp how special and essential these relatively unknown voices can be. As an indie author myself, I've also experienced this in regards to my own books at events or trying to promote books online.
Here's the thing. If you were to walk into some big name retailer, like say Barnes & Nobles, and you were to browse their shelves, how many names would you recognize? Sure, you might know some of the classics. Bronte, Austin, Dickens, Twain... You might recognize most recent big names. Green, Roberts, Sparks, King... But how many times do you glance at a Best Seller List and know every single author on there? One of the biggest challenges of this industry for many is how inundated it is, how many books are out there, and not only through self publishing and the rise of the small presses, but traditionally published books, too.
Marketing wise, it can feel like you're shouting into the void. Indies don't have the corner stone on being unknown. The difference is, we have to work a bit harder to be seen. Reader wise, though, what's the difference?
Okay, yes, theoretically the endorsement of a big press or a well known name gives the reader certain assurances. Indies are on their own for things like formatting, cover design, editing, and content. However, recent years have proven the stigma and stereotype in regards to quality or lack thereof false. There's a reason Pipe & Thimble Bookstore not only sees repeat customers, but customers coming back for more copies of the same book to give out to friends or even more titles by the same author. And, while there can be drawback from someone who does not rely on big name companies, there's also many, many benefits. The only censorship for an indie is self-censorship. They can cover topics and issues that seek to make a difference in readers lives, regardless of if it's "in" or "sellable." The passion and quality can remain the same through out a series without the restrictions of pre-set deadlines. The list can go on.
There's another part of this as well. I've been to a Barnes & Noble where the salesperson didn't know Jane Austen wrote Pride & Prejudice, didn't realize she has been dead for a while, or that the book is not part of a series. People know Ray Bradbury wrote Farenheit 451 or that Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five, but can they name other titles they wrote? Can they list off all their titles? Did you know George Orwell didn't just write 1984 or Animal Farm, but also wrote Keep the Apridistra Flying? Or that the author who wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the same author who wrote Treasure Island and he wrote another book called Kidnapped. If an author themselves is not unknown, chances are there's a book of theirs that is, if not to you, than to someone.
And, let's be honest, no author was a success overnight. No author started off with even 10 reviews. At some point, they all were just some unknown name writing some unknown book and shouting into the void of an inundated industry. J.K. Rowling got where she was because someone took a chance on her. Any of the greats, any of the well-known who have been adopted as a pop-culture reference got somewhere because someone happened to hear them out.
It's no different walking into Pipe & Thimble Bookstore or when you walk by an author's signing table. You could be that first spark to ignite recognition, or at least for that author to know someone took the time to hear them, that they aren't shouting into the void. With you, they can be more than just an unknown, they can someone to somebody. Chances are something they say will resonate. Take a chance on them, and take a chance on me.
And, authors, yes it feels like shouting into the void. Yes, we are inundated with books. But, don't stop. There's an endless amount of stories to be told and there's an endless amount of people to tell them, including you. And, just as endless as those stories may be and despite whatever the media is feeding you, there are endless readers to enjoy those stories. You will hear people say reading is a dying art. The truth is, it never went away. We will not, and will never, run out of readers. And, books, much like basset hounds, chocolate, fried rice, and potato chips, are an addiction. Readers don't just have one book. So, never stop shouting into the void. You never know who might hear.
Society’s Foundlings has been called “A modern day Outsiders” by a few reviewers. There are parallels that could be drawn, whether it is the financial situation the characters live in and their relationships to each other, as well as their relationship to others from a different socioeconomic status, especially Sampson and Nicole Brennerman. In a recent blog post on Pipe & Thimble, I even mentioned my book would probably be banned for the same reasons The Outsiders was banned.
The title itself, Society’s Foundlings, holds a similar meaning and can often evoke a similar feeling or reaction to “The Outsiders.” When searching for a title, I wracked my brain for a good one that emphasized the meaning behind the story. I played around with titles like “The Lost Boys,” and eventually wound up looking up synonyms to “orphans.” Orphans, of course, did not sit well because the issue was not that they were without an influence of the society around them or orphaned from their families.
What it boiled down to was abandonment. They felt abandoned by the society around them and each other. That’s when I remembered the term from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. A foundling is someone who has been abandoned by their parents and is discovered and cared for by others. Though, not necessarily in the everyday vernacular, the obscure term seemed a perfect fit for my four boys.
They feel very much, as Gina Capobianco puts it in one of her poems from her new book, Conscious Connection,
“I am an outsider in a world that surrounds me.
Watching, but never truly a part,
Fading in and out of the scenery,
I long for permanence.
Long to belong somewhere, anywhere.”
And, we see this in many ways. Between the invisibility felt by Math, Sampson’s views of teachers/his father and his father’s apartment/bosses, and, more subtly, the lack of anyone outside his core group of friends, except Amy Bishop, mentioned by Clem.
One of the main differences, though between S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and my Society’s Foundlings, though, comes from not only feeling outside of “a world that surrounds me,” but also feeling as though that world has completely abandoned them. It’s not just the outside looking in, but the idea of loss, whether it’s something they once had like Carver and Sampson’s relationship or it’s something they never had but know was or should be possible like Math and his relationship to his father, or is something they’d like to have like Carver and Ophelia or Sampson and Nicole, or even is something they don’t feel like they have, like Clem’s insecurity about where he stands with his group of friends.
A title is an essential aspect to a book. It can be just as important to hook the readers and the blurb on the back, the cover, and the opening lines. And, where S.E. Hinton’s book and mine share some similarities, as the titles suggest, they are very much a different read.
Going to try something new. They say to write, one needs to read. Despite any debate you might hear on the topic, I know it helps me greatly. For some reason, when I'm reading a really good book, it somehow always spark something for my own writing. My advice when it comes to this is to each their own. Go with What works for you.
In any case, since opening Pipe and Thimble with my best friend and partner, Barbara Lieberman, I haven't been writing or reading as much as I like. Currently, we are working on a few phenomenal manuscripts for which we are very excited. To be part of the process of bringing someone's story into being is beyond words. We have a very full calendar that is constantly becoming even fuller with events for the store. There is the everyday maintenance of running a business. And, of course there is illustrating and PAing. It's a pretty full plate. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I love every minute of it, but it's easy to see how certain hobbies and pastimes have fallen by the wayside.
Here's the thing about it, though. I have about three bookshelves of my own personal library, most of which I haven't read. I have an entire store worth of books that I'm working my way through. And, I have people recommending even more books.
Ultimately, I miss that escape, that zone, where you see the story playing out in your head and you're in the book right there with characters and everything. I miss that worn vanilla smell, that crack of the spine for the first time, the feel of the page against my finger tips.
So, here's the plan. I'm going to start sharing the books I'm reading here. At least one will be from the store, one will be from my personal library, and one will be a recommendation.
What's on my menu this time:
-Descendant by Toni Kerr
Toni Kerr is an amazing person! We've worked with her on book swag such as the mini book charms and our pendants. If you're looking for swag, I recommend her. We carry her entire Secrets of the Makai series. I was in an anthology, The Playlist, where she wrote a prequel to that series. It was amazing and I wanted greatly to read more about her character, Tristan. So, I'm diving into the first in that series. Those that follow me on Goodreads probably will notice I'm more than 100 pages in, but I'm a slow reader, and my time to read in the shop is limited.
-One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
This has been on my TBR list for a very long time. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I loved banned and challenged books. With Banned Book week coming up, I figured this would be a good book to celebrate with.
-The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
My boyfriend has recently gotten into Disc World. I recently finished The Color of Magic and really want to get to Equal Rites. I'm borrowing his copies and he will only lend them to me in order. 😛 I am eager, however, to find out what happens to Rincewind. I want to learn the spell he knows. And, I want to read more about the luggage!
What are you currently reading?
"Handing the cup over, she gets the nastiest look from the customer, as their eight-year-old snickers at her cursing. She's oblivious to it, but it kind of pisses me off. Who the hell are they, bringing an eight-year-old here past midnight and buying their kid caffeine? Then they have the nerve to get all righteous?"- Society's Foundlings, Ellie Lieberman
Many have different opinions about cursing in books, especially in children's books, Middle Grades, or YA. Certain books, such as Bridge to Terabithia, have been banned or challenged for it. Other books, such as the also banned, The Catcher in the Ryee, discuss one of the issues many people feel about cursing, seen whenJ.D. Salinger draws a connection between the graffiti that reads 'Fuck You' with a loss of innocence.
In Society's Foundlings, there are about fifteen "fucks." I know this because after watching some interviews about The Perks of Being a Wallflower and learning that in order for a movie to be considered PG13, it could only say "fuck" about once, I got curious about my own work. While this fact about my book will turn away some readers, as an author, it was important, essential, and at time deliberate for the reader to understand the characters.
For Carver, as seen in the quote at the beginning of this blog, cursing is the not the worst thing in the world to him. He chooses to be more concerned with the physical health for a child, for example, rather than his co-workers use of expletives in front of the child. That can be taken a step further. He is more concerned with the parent's judgement of his co-worker and the hypocrisy of said judgement.
It can be said this is hypocritical from a character who takes his sixteen-year-old friend for burgers and shakes at midnight (arguably for both of their well-being, though) and also says later he'd prefer his caffeine "in an IV drip. Stat." Or, the fact that the co-workers use of cursing was during a conversation about how Carver was judging his cousin's friend. This situation in and of itself can show how we, as people, don't always recognize a negative trait in ourselves as easily or readily as we do with someone else. It can also show the difference between Carver and his co-worker, Ophelia Cortes, especially in their reactions.
However, hypocrisy aside, Carver is also a character who has messed up a lot when he was in high school and who has seen some of the darker sides of humanity. Whether it is directly stated, implied, or inferred, Carver hasn't had the nicest or easiest life. His choices in the past are part of this, but so are the choices of others who had been around him ( i.e. why doesn't he mention a parental figure?). A big part of him, especially during the story, is choice and that extends to his choice in vocabulary, as well as his choice of what he concerns himself with.
That being said, he also reads extensively. His choice in books also shows more a freedom with vocabulary. As the author, I have my own opinions and thoughts about this that may differ from yours, as the reader. Please keep in mind, your interpretations are not wrong. These are just mine.
To me, Carver's search for that "more," for that freedom, to not feel the constraint or burden of financial struggles and past mistakes would extend to his philosophy about vocabulary and how he speaks. To me, it seems like he's the type of character who would not necessarily view a word like "fuck" as an offensive word. I don't think curses hold the same power for him.
This is also where he differs from say, Clem or Math. The only time Math says "fuck," is at the climax of the story, when emotions are running high, and conflict is running higher. To someone like Math, the word holds a certain power, especially for expression. It can also be argued that what Sampson, Math's brother and Carver's cousin, has said and what both Sampson and Carver have done is more offensive than Math's use of the word "fuck."
Here's where I throw my two cents in as an author. There are certain words that we have that are offensive. By this, I don't mean curses like the ones we are discussing. Should they be in literature? There is still that debate about books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
This book was written a very long time ago. That one word was prevalent and it remains just as offensive now as it did then. It can be argued that a book like this can be used to start the conversation about the power of words and the importance of learning from the past. Especially with how easily and how often it appears in the book. That illustrates another problem, though, if the conversation is not had. I've also heard arguments that you shouldn't tell an author what they can and cannot write, or change a classic.
I think the issue is bigger than this, though. Between the way people are reacting about taking down Confederate statues, the fear caused by the election and other current events, and even someone like Bill Mahr cracking a joke, whether he meant to or not (which illustrates it's own problem with our society and use of certain words), these conversations need to be had. There needs to be a dialogue.
Should that dialogue occur with a book like Huckleberry Finn? It's written by a white man with a character who is a white boy. There are probably better examples out there, but the fact this is the first book that comes to mind speaks a lot about the society around me and myself, one of the things I'm trying to work on personally.
Also, I am a white author. I will never know what it's like to have a word like that, with so much history and connotation tied to it, directed at me. I know this word has power. I know this conversation needs to take place. It's not me who should be talking, though. It's me, as someone who is white, who needs to be listening.
Conversation makes it sound like I have the right to speak on a subject that I have never lived through. I can't say the word, nor do I think I ever could. Ice-Cube was on Bill Mahr, and he said the word was their's now. And it should be. It's time white America starts to listen.
I'd like to think, even Carver, would find there are more offensive actions and words out there than "fuck." As a YA author, I don't think we do any of our readers justice if we try to shield them from important conversations. I also don't think it is very fair to them to be more concerned with whether or not the book they read has curse words than what they're hearing on the news and seeing in the society around them today.
This blog was technically written months ago, but only just found it's way to this site.
It's 1:14. I shouldn't be up late. I have two new, big ventures that fulfill more dreams than I could possibly explain. I need to get up before noon. There's things to do, general life to live. But, I can't stop clicking on Button Poetry links on Youtube.
It started with things I couldn't possibly know. Things I will never experience. Searching for a hint of understanding because spoken word poetry can sometimes move a heart ore than anything else. If a picture is worth a million words, spoken word poetry is worth an infinite amount.
What this late night foraging turned into was stumbling on ones that hit a little too close to home. And like a sadist, I continued to watch. Searching once more for that hint of understanding. To not feel so alone in my loneliness, to not feel so insane in my insanity.
I have a life to live come morning. I should go to sleep, instead of haunting my personal skeletons at some god forsaken hour. But, sometimes we need that understanding more. Sometimes we need the power of words. Maybe just another poem.
I used to get C's in 6th grade English class for writing too much. Guess the jokes on that teacher because not only am I the author of two published books, but I also have two short stories in anthologies, with a third and fourth on their way and a few children's books in the works.
My mother used to get phone calls from my middle school advanced art program about how I never followed the instructions. Well, jokes on them because now I am the illustrator of about eleven children's books, four of which are already published, and at my last event I sold two art prints.
Everybody knows JK Rowling's amazing story. How many rejection letters? How many times did Walt Disney's business go under before Mickey Mouse? What's that quote from Edison? "I didn't fail. I just found 2,000 ways how not to make a lightbulb."
Barbara Lieberman was told in first grade that she should never pick up a pencil to draw again. So, she didn't until she was an adult. Not only has she returned to painting miniature canvases, which she originally did as part of a miniature business with her father in the 80's, but she is also co-illustrating our upcoming My Mom is in a Wheelchair.
I leave you with these thoughts:
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts"- Winston Churchill
"You fail if only you stop writing"- Ray Bradbury
But also remember, Jackson Pollock stood in his own paintings. Vonnegut would sometimes write himself into his own books. Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss made up words.
Forget what they taught you in Kindergarten. My mom always said, "You don't have to color inside the lines." And no matter what anyone tells you, no matter if that voice inside you is telling you that you got it wrong, every time you see a mistake or are marked down, remember it took even the greats more than one try and never quit.
Gathering dust in the depths of my mind, random thoughts dusted off and put out there for the world to see...