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‘Tis the Season for Audiobooks

I’ve never been a huge fan of audiobooks, always preferring the act of reading to that of listening. In fact, up until the last couple of years, audiobooks were relegated to long road trips and flights. However, more recently I have found that while I may not always have as much time as I would like to sit down and read a book, it is still possible to get my fill of books by opting for the hands-free audio version and multi-tasking while walking the dog, cleaning the house, or sitting on the couch trying to crochet a cactus (a pandemic project). 

To me, there are three factors to consider when choosing an audiobook. First off, we obviously need a good story. However, not all books that make for good reading make for equally good listening. Non-fiction audiobooks can sometimes be a challenge for me, as I find myself getting burned out on the subject matter halfway through. That said, a good memoir seems to be a safe bet. Similarly, the length of an audiobook is important. In general, I feel that many books could benefit from a solid edit, and this is something that often becomes even more noticeable when a book is read aloud (exhibit A, the 48-hour audio version of the Ulysses S. Grant biography, ‘Grant’). Given my shortened attention span, I prefer books that are in the 15 hours or less range to prevent myself from overcommitting.  Lastly, and most importantly, is the narrator. Nothing ruins an audiobook like a narrator who reads too slowly or worse, tries to distinguish characters with terrible and often offensive accents.  However, find yourself a book with an engaging narrator, and it’s hard to take the headphones off. 

Lucy Hodge
“Rock On!”

I Completed My Goodreads Reading Challenge: So What?

For the past several years I’ve been setting myself a goal of reading 50 books per year. Somehow, I always feel certain I’ll easily accomplish it and reliably come out five to ten books short.

Last year was the first time I’ve ever officially succeeded. In the final few days of  December 2020, I forced myself to rush through a forgotten stack of graphic novels I’d already decided I didn’t want to read. I guess this was the way my particular brain compromised between the incessant call to be “productive” above all else and my absolute rejection of that value in general. 

It’s halfway through 2021 now—both months after last year’s “triumph” and months into this year’s challenge. (Again, 50 books. Again, I’m behind and feeling guilty about it.) It’s an odd time to be thinking about this, I guess, but the charge to write about something interesting for this blog post forced me to confront just how depleted my capacity to fully engage with media has been during the pandemic. The bleak truth is that though I might have finally met a goal I’d been striving for, I don’t really remember anything meaningful about any of the books I read last year. In some ways, that claim might be an oversimplification, but it’s also an accurate description of the emotional toll the past year and a half took on me and, consequently, my media habits. So, in other words, when it came down to it, I placed more value on the quantity of books I read than the effect that media had on my life.

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

International Children’s Book Day

Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services

 Vision: “A Book in Every Child’s Hand” by Pratham Books


Vision: “A Book in Every Child’s Hand” by Pratham Books

Today, April 2, 2014 is International Children’s Book Day. Established in 1967, the holiday falls on or near Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, the 2nd of April. Ostensibly, it is meant to encourage a love of reading and highlight children’s books. It is also an opportunity to turn a critical eye towards children’s book and their representation of people.

When I look back at the books I loved most as a little kid, they included:

  • The Poky Little Puppy A Big Golden Book – representation male, animal

  • Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up by Shel Silverstein – I’m not going to go through the poems, but there were poems about boys and girls and animals, all the depictions in the illustrations seem to be white people

  • McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Suess – ‘young man’ main character, drawn as white

  • Giants Come in Different Sizes by Jolly Roger Bradfield – all main characters are male and apparently German, based upon umlaut usage, or British, based upon names. There are a few images of female characters.

  • Richard Scarry’s Peasant Pig and the Terrible Dragon – all the characters are animals, the cast seems fairly evenly split as male and female, but the major players are male.

  • Dr. Suess’s Sleep Book by Dr. Suess – a variety of genders in made-up species

the-poky-little-puppy-cover

According to my favorites, there was a slight advantage to the boys, and other groups of people were not so well represented. A study in 2011 looking at the representation of gender in books found that in children’s books written from 1900 to 2000, male characters had a central role in 57 percent of books published per year while female characters were at 31 percent. This value did not get better over the century, and in fact, it was worse mid-century. Another more recent study has found that in the literature children read in their school textbooks, male characters outnumber female characters in both text and visual representation. As I pointed out in the books I listed of my own interest, even when characters are female, they are doing stereotypically female things.

I didn’t go into my favorite books where the text outweighed the illustrations, such as Bunnicula by James and Deborah Howe or The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White or A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. But these books are characterized in the above studies as well, and also show the same gender disparities.

 Caption: Tina Kugler’s illustration on the statistics on racial disparities


Caption: Tina Kugler’s illustration on the statistics on racial disparities

What about race or disabilities? What about sexual orientation? To address the latter, I found one study directly exploring the representation of sexualities other than heterosexual in children’s literature. Considering so many children’s stories actually have a romance or an arranged marriage between a male and a female character, I would expect that heteronormative experiences are the huge majority of any sexuality presented.

There have been studies of the representation of disabilities – and a wide range of disabilities in children’s books. You guessed it, they are hugely under-represented. And the disabilities shown do not reflect those that most children see in their peers in elementary schools. Sadly, children’s books are where the tropes of characters with disabilities start. These tropes include being support characters, inspirational, “pitiful or pathetic, or a burden and incapable of fully participating in the events of everyday life.” For those who are disabled reading this, this is not the reflection that is healthy. And for those who are able, seeing only these stories is also unhealthy for learning about others.

Studies of the representation of both disability and race have been done. In general, when you find children’s stories with disability represented, the percentage of those with non-white races depicted is very low. In fact, the percent of children’s books depicting any race that is not white is low.

As every single study or article linked above says, it is important for children to see representations of themselves, and positive representations of themselves in the literature they read.

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon was not a book of my childhood, but it is a book I read to my kids and have kept because I liked it so. The main bat character is female, but it does not live up to a fully diverse cast. Do you have some examples of inclusive children’s books?

Eric Mack
“Rock On!”

Ask GGC: What do you love about your local library?

Hi everyone! In honor of National Library Week, I asked our faithful staff at GeekGirlCon what they love most about their local library. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

“When I returned to Seattle after a near-decade away, I could not believe all the changes that had been made to the Seattle library system! They’d become all sleek and modern, with a website for me to check out things, pay fines, and renew holds. Best of all, in my absence they had built a gorgeous branch in my neighborhood that is perfectly located next to a grocery store and other handy things. What a joy it is to load up on books (I never leave with just one), get other errands done at the same time, grab coffee, and go home to curl up and read. Not going to lie, I’ve had a lot less overdue books than in the past because of this system; everyone should have a neighborhood library!” – Nova Barlow, Web Content Producer

“What I like most about my local library system is my library card. In addition to checking out materials, my library card allows me to access a huge array of fantastic online resources: such as dictionaries or encyclopedia like the Oxford English Dictionary, when I need to get some hardcore etymology, usage, or history for words; or full text magazine and publication databases like ProQuest, General OneFile, or eLibrary when I wanted to pull up that article on the Lake District from 1998; or a fantastic pulled pork recipe from an old cooking magazine accidentally ruined by a sweet-and-tangy (but sadly opaque) sauce. I’m amazed at how much stuff is not on the free internet, and I am really happy that my library gives me access to it wherever I am.

And yes, I do have my library card number memorized.” – Amanda Powter, Copywriter

“My favorite thing about my library is the fact that they’ve gone digital. Now I can check out an audio-book on my phone or an eBook on my kindle from anywhere instead of having to make that extra effort to stop into the library. I read a lot of books and use the library for most of them. I would much rather check out 10 books on my kindle than have to carry around a giant hardback. Thank you, Seattle libraries, for providing digital content, and here’s to hoping the selection keeps expanding!” – Jex Ballard, Volunteer Coordinator

What do you love about your local library? Leave your comment below and show some love for your favorite book nook!

Shiboo_Krismer
“Rock On!”

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