Childrens Books: Smart New Help for Parents
San Diego State University
In the booming business of childrens books, theres smart
new help for consumers this year with a unique partnership between
the Parents Choice Foundation and leading literary scholars
from San Diego State University.
online book reviews by faculty at the universitys National
Center for the Study of Childrens Literature are being posted
the Web site of the nonprofit Parents Choice, the countrys
oldest reviewer of childrens books.
recent double-digit increases in childrens book sales fueled
by blockbusters like the Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket series,
thousands of new kids book titles are being introduced each
are more good childrens books available than at any time I
can remember, says Alida Allison, a professor of English and
comparative literature at SDSU and now a Parents Choice reviewer.
Superb writers are now doing these books.
is one of the first universities in the country (and also the largest)
to accord advanced-degree status to the academic study of childrens
and adolescent literature within the universitys masters
program of the Department of English and Comparative Literature.
was the departments online Childrens Book Review Service
that this year attracted the attention of Parents Choice,
leading to the partnership agreement. The book review service was
founded by Allison in 1998 for students and teachers.
the new partnership, SDSU faculty and graduate students will provide
100 reviews a year under the direction of Allison to the What
Weve Been Reading Feature on the Parents Choice
site. SDSUs National Center for the Study of Childrens
Literature, one of only a few American nominating bodies for Swedens
prestigious Astrid Lindgren Award for childrens literature,
also will provide jurors for the annual Parents Choice Awards.
look forward to working with leading experts at the National Center
for the Study of Childrens Literature in recommending the
very best literature for young readers, Parents Choice
Director Claire Green said in announcing the new partnership. By
partnering with SDSU, we will create one of the largest single sources
for reviews of childrens books.
consumer-friendly reviews are as easy to read, fun and sensible
as the professors own book for the youngest set, The
Toddlers Potty Book, which has sold more than half a
million copies. Her advice for parents is simple: know your own
child. Book reviews and age guidelines must be tailored to fit a
childs interests and reading skills.
a great fan of fantasy books. One of the things you can do
for your kids is to focus not just on how-to books, but also on
books where their minds can wander. Another suggestion is
that parents not be quick to dismiss books that address controversial
or even violent themes. In a world where a kid can turn on
the television and see someone being blown up in Baghdad, it can
be a service to expose children to problems of the world in a way
they can understand, she says. Controversial themes are
less shocking, it seems to me, when theyre presented between
the covers of a book, Allison says. If youre concerned,
read it. Often books that are condemned are condemned by people
who have not read them.
a few of her favorite new and classic books for children:
* Stories for Children by Isaac Beshevis Singer, containing 36 folk
tales written by the Nobel Prize winner.
* The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban, another childrens
* The Lady Grace Mysteries by Lady Grace Cavendish (nee Patricia
Finney), which Allison describes as Nancy Drew in Elizabethan
* Haroun and the Sea of Stories by renowned author Salmon Rushdie.
* The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez, about growing up in a family
of migrant workers in California.
* Leons Story by Leon Tillage, about a black child growing
up in Chicago It blows students away when they read it,
* The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, a fantasy-adventure by the winner
of Englands Booker Prize.
* The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon,
about an autistic boy with exceptional math skills. Its
brilliant, Allison says.
* The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela by Uri Shulevitz, about travels
through three continents in the year 1159.
* The Magicians Boy by Susan Cooper, another award-winning
writer of adult fiction.
libraries are extraordinary resources to find such books,
says Allison, who also advises taking children along to the local
Taking a kid to a bookstore is an experience that is complimenting
the intelligence of a child. Youre saying, we trust you,