WELCOME! Once a month, usually on a Thursday evening, a group of writers, illustrators, teachers and librarians meets in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles to discuss children's books. Usually we talk about one picture book and one middle grade or YA novel. After the meeting, Sandy Schuckett, a retired LAUSD librarian, summarizes our discussion. Here are her reports of our thoughts about the books we have read. We'd love to have your comments too!
Thanks to Nancy Hayashi for our wonderful title art! Our group has been meeting since 2007. It was organized under the auspices of the Children's Literature Council of Southern California (CLCSC).

Thursday, September 8, 2016

PRESIDENT SQUID by Aaron Reynolds and JEFFERSON'S SONS by Kimberly Baker Bradley

At our last meeting, we began with our picture book, President Squid by Aaron Reynolds. We weren't very thrilled with the story of this very 'Trumpish' pink squid who thought he had the five necessary characteristics of a president who could fix everything, but when he discovered that actually helping someone required work, he changed his mind about wanting to be president....(and then decided he wanted to be King of the World.) We liked the illustrations, which were very colorful and quite humorous, and felt that one use for the book would be as a read-aloud to kick off a class discussion of what it really takes to be a leader. We didn't love the ending....except that it was kind of 'Trumpish' also. We did feel that the book was quite apropos during these unusual political times in which we are currently living. We also wondered at the timing of its publication...how quickly had it gone through the publication process which usually takes as long as a year or more?

We had a good discussion of our novel, Jefferson's Sons: A Founding Father's Secret Children by Kimberly Baker Bradley. We thought it did a relatively good job of explaining the institution of slavery to young readers, although it left a lot of questions unanswered. Several of us were put off by the construction of the novel: jumping around between the points of view of Beverly and Madison (Maddy,) the young sons of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, and their friend Peter, another young slave. We felt that confused the flow of the story. We also felt that it was amazing that there was no feeling of underlying anger on the part of these boys and their mother, as well as their friends, whose lives were completely under the control of the whims of Jefferson. We thought the author had done quite extensive research, but we still had some problems with the dialog, which in many cases sounded too modern, especially in the uses of terms like 'okay' and 'nope' which weren't yet even coined during the 1809-1827 time period of the book. One of our members had read the actual historical accounts (the only ones available) of this unusual 'family,' and found some inconsistencies with the story we were reading. We agreed that it was a very difficult topic to bring to the table for young readers, and wondered how it would have been treated by an African-American author rather than the white one who wrote it. And the final question still remained: How could the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence (which was quoted in the story) have so little real consideration for the feelings of these human beings who were in fact his own family?

On a related note, one of our members thought people might like to read this discussion of slavery as it is treated in childdren's books. Link here: http://www.motherjones.com/media/2016/08/diversity-childrens-books-slavery-twitter

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