Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Wish List: The School Aged Literature I'd Like To See

The time for Christmas is almost upon us. It's a time of rest for teachers all across the world, as schools close for the holidays. My last day of work was this past Friday, and I don't have to head back until January 5th, so this is always a nice time of rejuvenation, relaxation, time with family, and time to read as many books as I possibly can.

I think I've chosen some pretty good books to sit down with here, but as good as they are, I sometimes find myself wanting something else, something that might not even exist out there in the world of children, adolescent, and/or young adult literature. Here are a few topics I'd love to see written about, my personal wish list of literary awesomeness:

1. More books from Markus Zusak: I read The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger, and needless to say I loved them both. He has written three other books, which I will surely pick up at some point, but I want more amazing Zusak, The Book Thief is quite possibly the single greatest book I've ever read, young adult or otherwise, and I need more!

2. A graphic novel adaptation and/or sequel/prequel to Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion: This is a fantastic sci-fi book for the adolescent set, full of political intrigue, the possible alternate reality of the future, and border issues as well. I enjoyed it immensely, and want more, so much more. A graphic novel would make this story accessible to even struggling readers, while a sequel or prequel would give me more of this story to sit down with.

3. A first rate school aged book about the history of southern New Mexico: OK, this one could be put under my "least likely to ever happen" list unless I wrote it myself. Come to think of it, I have always wanted to write a book, I just lack one thing, the ability to write a book. Living here in the historical south west, I'd love to have the history of this area more easily accessible to children, because, as it stands, it's low history that is loved by adult history buffs mostly.

4. A book about the American occupation in Iraq: told from the perspective of an Iraqi child, that is both critical of the Americans, sympathetic towards everyone, free from self-pity, and is as honest and open as books like The Diary of Anne Frank, Sold (by Patricia McCormick), and Maus (by Art Spiegelman). I realize that it's a stretch to compare these books to my wish, especially given the historical aspect and reflective nature of them, but that's my vision, so give me this moment.

5. A textbook that isn't ridiculously horrible and inaccessible to the majority of students: I put this one out there as a challenge to textbook writers. Because, honestly, textbooks are horrible, pretty much all of the time, without fail. The newest version of such-and-such textbook comes out, school districts spend millions on them, everyone pats themselves on the back because the books are glossy, with many wonderful pictures and text layout that are "optimal to student learning," and with teacher guides that have been completely dummy proofed (independent thought proofed) in every conceivable way. The problem? Textbooks are HORRIBLE. If someone could make a textbook that didn't act like a textbook, I would become a fan of that person or group of people. Until then, textbooks remain the snake to my mongoose (or is it the mongoose to my snake, I can't remember which).

6. Zombie literature for kids: I mean it, zombie literature for kids, it would be the most amazing point in human history if this became a reality. And no, I'm not talking about comic books in this case, because I realize those are out there, I mean real, poignant, zombie literature, in book form, for school aged readers.

Alright, so there you have it. What are your wishes and dreams as they relate to children/ya lit? Maybe if enough of us ask, someone will listen and get to work. Or maybe on of us will write something. Anything is possible. Just remember, if it's you, thank me for giving you the idea.


Tony said...

An interesting article, these are great ideas. Thank you for the post. Have a great Christmas!

Tony Peters
Author of, Kids on a Case: The Case of the Ten Grand Kidnapping

Mrs. Shealy said...

You've got some great ideas here! I have to ditto your need for more Marcus Zusak material. He is amazing! We definitely need more of his literature out there in the world. I have his books in my classroom, but none of my kids ever choose it. I think I need to do some more serious marketing of his work in my classroom. Hmmmmm . . . now that I think of it, I know exactly whose hands should hold his books.

The Buss said...

Mrs. Shealy,

I have had a similar experience with students not choosing to read Zusak in my class. Of course, I teach 5th grade, and I'm not sure what age group you work with. I did have a student attempt The Book Thief but decided that he didn't have the background to fully appreciate it and said he would put it away until after I've taught the Holocaust. As much as I enjoy I Am the Messenger, I don't know how many of my students would make it through it, it can be a little more tedious at times, almost one of those books that toes the line between young adult and adult literature.