Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bexley, Ohio. Joan Taylor is guest on Katy Taylor’s WCRX-LP program.

Monday guest was Joan Taylor who discussed children’s literature with her daughter, Katy Taylor. Katy offered her memories about the books of her chlldhood and youth. Katy’s list included Dr. Seuss, Wizard of Oz, and Harriet the Spy.

Joan and Katy then discussed the Nancy Drew series of stories (which Katy didn’t find interesting).

Joan described stories about Pippi Longstocking one of her favorites protagonists.

Pippi Longstocking is the heroine in a series of children's books written by Astrid Lindgren.
Pippi is assertive and strong, being able to lift her horse one-handed without difficulty.

Pippi mocks adults and regularly dupes the adults who encounter her.

Pippi reserves her worst behavior for the most arrogant and condescending of adults.

Joan said that as an adult, she had reread stories of her childhood written by Hans Christian Anderson. She said she was surprised at how gory some of the stories were.

She also recalled that her own mother had started her on the stories of Charles Dickens. She said that the Dickens books are now considered by many to be “heavy,” or “too heavy” for modern tastes.

Katy offered the thought that the Dickens books seem long to modern tastes probably because of the influence of movies on reading tastes. Stories in movies are much easier to take in than three hundred page books. Joan then recalled for WCRX-LP listeners that Dickens books were offered to readers as newspapers serials where only a short piece of each story was offered to readers on a daily basis.

Joan and Katy then continued their discussion of the influence movies on the reading habits of children and youth. Rather than discouraging children from reading long books, the Harry Potter phenomenon drew children to both movies and very long books. They also discussed the charm of watching Harry Potter grow up thorough both the books and movies.

Joan Taylor then offered listeners a report on what the children’s librarian at Bexley Public Library identified as popular fiction for children and youth. The librarian’s list includes the “Warriors” series. This is a group of books involving four competing clans of cats. The cats share the same forest but have conflicts when they come in contact with one another. A second recommendation from the librarian is “Among the Hidden.” This is a story set in an unidentified country that has a population law like that in China limiting a husband and wife from having more than two children. Despite the law, families have more than two children. The additional children are hidden, hence the name of the book “Among the Hidden.” Joan said this book is a “boy meets girl” tale. The girl uses a computer to email other hidden children and a protest demonstration is organized. The girl anticipates hundreds of fellow hidden children as protestors. Only a few dozen show up to protest. The government responds. All of the hidden child protestors are killed by the government troops.

Joan said she was stunned by this plot development and recalled how children’s literature once portrayed government as a source of protection and security. Government representatives such as policemen and firemen always brought safety and order to dangers. “Among the Hidden” in contrast identifies government representatives as sources of injury and death.

Katy then offered her insights about violence and media and how the Vietnam War ended the media’s reticence about violence. Where once the media focused on events, Vietnam marked the opening of the door to sensational coverage of carnage, blood and the savagery of conflict. Katy commented that her generation remembers the vivid photograph of a young girl standing naked and scarred by napalm burns.

Joan observed that much of the modern point of view involves portraying governments as the bad guy rather than as a friend.

Joan finished her discussion of the librarian’s list by noting that for children the popular items are the perennial pop-up books and picture books. No changes there.

Joan mentioned that among her favorites as a youth was a series of stories about the X-Bar X-Boys. The stories were set on a western ranch and involved two brothers and their younger sister. Since Joan was a younger sister to brothers, she enjoyed these stories about the young girl keeping up with the adventures of the older boys.

Katy then brought up the absence of a reference to any of the books by Judy Blume such as “Are you there God, I’m Margaret.” Joan said that Blume was a ground-breaking writer in creating stories about real situations that children confront. Joan gave an example of the story where a 6th grade girl moves to a new town and the difficulties of adjusting to a new community and finding new friends. Joan said that Blume also pushed the envelope by discussing some sexual matters and other controversial topics in children stories. Joan finished by observing that Blume’s stories are well-written.

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WCRX-LP Editorial Collective
Bexley Public Radio Foundation operating as
WCRX-LP, 102.1 FM, Local Power Radio
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Columbus, OH 43209
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Copyright 2007, Bexley Public Radio Foundation.

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