Wednesday, February 13, 2013


All it takes to get a new blog post up is a huge snowstorm that brings any regular life obligations to a grinding halt. It should last a few days at the very least, so that a person gets bored of TV and Youtube and eating and puzzles and plucking eyebrows and naps, and even gets some random household to-do tasks done, like hanging up pictures that have been leaning against the baseboard for seven months. If you are in need of reviving your blog, really that's all you need. It's so simple. You should try getting your own Snowpocalypse.

But seriously, since we've had so much time to read at our house these last few snowy days, I've been thinking a lot about what makes a person like a book. Specifically, I've been trying to figure out what kind of recommendations to offer my 8-year-old. As a librarian, I generally make a lot of assumptions about a reader when I rattle off titles as suggestions. I mean, I have to, right? And just because in this case (or probably EXACTLY because) I'm his mom, means he likely won't give my suggestions a chance.

When his older brother introduced him to Erin Hunter's Warrior series, he couldn't put them down (yes, he has read them all AND all the Seekers and Survivors titles that are out). It was the first time he was actually choosing to read for the pleasure of it, which was exhilarating to see. How fun to have a voracious reader in my own home! Think of all the wonderful books I can tell him about! So I think, hmm, he likes animal fantasy. And I can think of a dozen books that fit the bill. But the reality is, that's not necessarily what he wants. The question is, what is it about the Warriors books that he likes so much? It could be anything from the swiftness of the plots to the like-able cat characters, to the predictability in the pattern of the series as a whole. I'm still not sure since he's not necessarily the most talkative kid (unless the topic is Minecraft or Roblox).

It turns out, I can sometimes catch his interest by reading a book aloud to him, and he likes it enough to finish it without me: The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell (with "Decorations" by Maurice Sendak), and Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (I love this version with Lauren Child's illustrations).

And some books simply sell themselves, like for instance, I handed A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz to him and he proceeded to speed through it without any encouragement. He then confiscated the companion book, In a Glass Grimmly, from my stack of "Currently Reading" and read that too. The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka also took next to no encouragement.

So, I sit here and wonder stuff like why he liked these enough to finish them. I know why I like them. But what is it about these books, the combination of all their elements, and his brain, that compelled him to keep going? And if I could gather that data and study it, would it help me know what book to recommend next?

I think about the books I loved as a child and am trying to remember what it was I liked about them. Bunnicula, anything with Ramona Quimby in it, How to Eat Fried Worms and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. And why I didn't pick up other books that were recommended to me? Like Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden, Little Women etc. (it seems like the main deterrent was, as I remember it "if my sister liked it, then it's not for me" which I can see now was a singularly irrational bias that kept me from reading some really great stuff, but all kids have their irrational biases, right?)

So I guess the thing about readers' advisory is that you never know, I mean REALLY know, what book a person is going to like or why. It's always about trial and error. By the way, do you know any 8-year-olds? And what are they reading?