Armchair BEA Day #5 – Keeping it Real and Children’s/YA Literature

Reading Challenges and Events 24 Comments 1st June, 2013

Can you believe that Armchair BEA is almost over?  This is the last day of the themed discussions, and tomorrow I’ll post a wrap-up of the event.

What exactly does “keeping it real” mean?  The meaning lays in keeping.  How do you not only grow an audience, but how do you keep them coming back for more?  If you have been around for years, how do you keep your material fresh?  How do you continue to keep blogging fun?

One of the main things that I like to remember when blogging is that if it stops being fun, I’m doing it wrong.  Generally the combination of reviewing books and participating in the occasional event has worked well for me.  I’ve also started participating in book tours, because I like being able to discuss a book that I’ve read with other bloggers.  It’s the discussions and overall level of excitement that I see in the blogosphere that keep me coming back for more.

One thing I plan on doing in the near future is a slight re-design of the look and feel of my blog.  While it currently works for me, I noticed since I came back to blogging that WordPress has added more themes that have a sleeker look and better social media integration.  I’d also like to re-do my avatar, because I got glasses back in January and wanna make her look as close to what I look like as possible.  I always wonder though when I update the look/feel of my blog whether I’m making it harder for people to recognize.  Thoughts?

Our final genre focuses on the younger crowd:  children’s picture books and young adult literature and everything in between.  What are the top 5 (or more) books that every child should have on his shelf?  If you are an adult who reads YA, why do you keep going back for more?  If you are not a reader of these books, think back to your childhood and share your favorites from your younger years.

I was lucky as a child, because my mother valued reading.  She used to read me bedtime stories every night, even when she was exhausted and really ought to have been in bed herself.  It’s something that I’m grateful for.  Some of our favorites, in no particular order, were:

1.  “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle – I’m still enchanted by the Murray family of Madeline L’Engle’s Time Quartet.  As a child, they showed me that it was okay to be different, that it was okay to want to learn, and that religion and science didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.

2.  “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney – Beautiful illustrations, and a theme of making the world a more beautiful place.  It inspired me to plant lupine seeds all over my neighborhood.

3.  “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – A sad story, but a reminder of the power of a child-like perspective on the world.

4.  “Mary Engelbreit’s The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen – A gorgeously illustrated edition of the classic fairytale.

5.  “The Story of May” by Mordecai Gerstein – A little girl travels to visit each of the personified months of the year.  I was saddened to discover that it’s out of print.

Moving on to the subject of young adult novels…

I’ve got a love/hate relationship with YA.  There are a lot of brilliant YA novels out there, but there are also a lot of duds.  I have a hard time finding the good ones, and it irritates me to no end when an otherwise good story is ruined by love triangles and teenage angst.  Even when I was a teenager, that kind of drama annoyed me.  Sometimes it makes me want to swear off YA for good.  But then, books like Seraphina, Bitterblue, and Katya’s World remind me that I’m being unfair, and that young adult novels can contain imaginative new worlds populated by strong and resilient protagonists.

What are some of your favorite childhood or YA novels?

24 Responses to “Armchair BEA Day #5 – Keeping it Real and Children’s/YA Literature”

  1. Sarah Says Read

    Chaning the look of your blog can be a good thing, because sometimes it needs it and you want it to reflect you. It’s when people change their blog look every few months that it starts to get confusing.

    I really, really need to read The Little Prince! I only heard of it this year, but apparently it’s a major classic kid’s book. I had no idea!

    I almost put A Wrinkle in Time on my list, but it’s been SO long since I read it and don’t remember it well enough – just remember that I did like it.

    • Grace

      I’ve been playing with new looks all morning and this one is the best that I come up with for now. I don’t think it reflects me though, so I don’t think it’ll be permanent. I like to keep the same look for a long time, but my old one was looking dated and not as polished as I’d like.

      The Little Prince is so good, but sad at the same time, and it’s the kind of book that grows with you and means even more as you get older.

    • Grace

      Sometimes I get frustrated with the lack of customization options, but that’s also one of the things I like about WordPress.com, because the available patterns tend to be clean and professional.

        • Grace

          Very true. I really wanted one with built-in social media buttons, but couldn’t find one I liked. I ended up using a text widget to make them instead, which is fine, but not ideal.

  2. cherylmahoney

    I also have mixed experiences at times with YA. I find I do better with fantasy, because the characters typically are dealing with large-scale problems, and if there’s any teen angst, it’s just one thread of the story. I don’t read much real-world YA, because I’ve found I have no patience for teenage characters moaning about test scores and overblown boyfriend drama. I’m not sure I had patience for it when I was that age either…I was reading mostly fantasy then too!

    • Grace

      Same here. Then again, I don’t generally have the patience for contemporary grown-up stories either, for similar reasons. I prefer fantasy/sci-fi/historical fiction, because characters have bigger problems and larger issues than whether a cute boy likes them. :P

  3. Kelly

    One of the main things that I like to remember when blogging is that if it stops being fun, I’m doing it wrong.

    This is one of the reasons I took a quick blogging break recently, to re-evaluate and to come back with fresh perspective. I had gotten caught up in pageviews and comment counts, and that’s no way to blog! I’d much rather do it for fun and because it’s a great way to share my passion with other book-minded people :)

    • Grace

      I took a break for several months (I’m actually just coming back now) because I was getting bogged down in stress between blogging, grad school, and working full time. I’m finally starting to realize that it’s okay to take breaks, but I don’t want to stop blogging all together, because blogging and book talk keep me sane. :)

    • Grace

      It’s so good… I’m glad my mother was a good sport and totally let my sister and I run around the neighborhood planting lupines in random people’s yards (and our own). Some of them are still growing!

    • Grace

      Even though it’s written for children, I think it becomes more and more meaningful the older one gets. :)

  4. kim cuasay

    Fun and redesigning indeed! yes! I’m still in the works of reconstructing stuff in my blog which I find pretty interesting and challenging haha I’m also trying to get to know more books and read at least in every genre though there are lots of duds the great ones will always stay forever thanks for sharing! XD

    • Grace

      I’ve spent the past two days working on a re-design that I don’t think I would have otherwise been motivated to do. Seeing what other people had done made me want to update my own and make it more reflective of my personality.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)

  5. Stormy

    Ah, A Wrinkle in Time! I love those books so much! And I think they’re what taught me a lot of the same things. I love how science is most often portrayed so positively in L’Engle but so are emotions.

    • Grace

      Yes! I also loved that the Murrays were a functional family. It’s pretty rare in children’s lit to see characters have adventures while their parents are still alive/present.

  6. Deb Atwood

    For middle grade, yes, Wrinkle in Time is right up there. I admire the pro-feminist stance (Mrs. Murray as renowned scientist; non-gender specific nurturing creatures) as well as the theme of individuality and acceptance. My other fave middle grades would be A Single Shard and The Middle Moffat.

    For YA, I love Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Anne of Green Gables, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Giver. And I’m passionate about The Book Thief.

    I’ll look for you over at Once Upon a Time. RE scifi, I read Zhang’s What’s Left of Me based on your review and liked it quite a bit.

    • Grace

      Glad you enjoyed “What’s Left of Me.” I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy when it comes out. :)

      Sherman Alexie is always fantastic; I love the way that his writing deals with real-world problems in a humorous way.

      Great point on the nurturing creatures in A Wrinkle in Time–I never thought of it that way before, and it make me love L’Engle even more.

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