children's books

Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and You

Written by Grant Goodman, 2/16/2015 Time travel. Rocket ships. Wizards. Dystopias.

You will meet many people in your life who look down on “those kinds of stories.” They are the serious types. They believe in their serious literature.

We can let them believe in that.

They can have their stories about sad people in sad cities. Because, honestly, we read those books, too. Every now and again, we need a palate cleanser, a waystone that lets us step back into our own world.

The deep truth is this: we like other worlds. We like worlds that don’t already exist.

Besides, the biggest milestones of human storytelling tend to be about magic and dystopias.

The Odyssey is full of witches and sea monsters and Cyclops. Beowulf fought a dragon. Shakespeare filled his plays with ghosts and wizards and prophecy. Mary Shelley brought the dead back to life. Jules Verne sent humanity to explore the moon long before John F. Kennedy was born.

Reading fantasy and science-fiction connects us to the roots of the world. The desires to explore and to escape and to imagine are built into us.

That’s why we need Suzanne Collins to send us into the arena. That’s why we need Darren Shan to show us the hidden world of vampires. That’s why Ray Bradbury once wrote, “I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”

So go ahead and dive into sci-fi and fantasy.

But don’t be afraid to dip your toes into realistic fiction, either. There’s excellence to be found there, too.

A Reader's Resolution

A Reader’s Resolution Written by Grant Goodman, 12/31/2014

This year I will go on a thousand adventures. I will travel across countries, through space, and all throughout time. I will partake in daring rescues and tragic failures. I will be a part of star-crossed romance and the kinds of deep friendships that we should all be lucky enough to have.

I will discover twenty new sentences that give me chills. I will find a new author whose words give my world more meaning and color.

I will do what I can to deal with the fact that there will always be more books than I have time for.

I will stop losing so many bookmarks.

This year I will turn more pages, tame more dragons, and solve more mysteries.

This is a year for reading.

Maryland’s Black Eyed Susan Reading Program: Part I

Maryland’s Black Eyed Susan Reading Program: Part I Written by Grant Goodman, 11/16/2014

I’m lucky enough to work in a school where our reading programs are unbelievably successful. Our Media Center (the new term for libraries, for those who aren’t in the education world) participates in the state-wide Black Eyed Susan reading program.

Maryland has a committee of readers from around the state who spend time picking out 10 featured books for students to read. (There are 10 books for elementary school, 10 for middle, 10 for high school, and 10 graphic novels)

What I love is that there is a mix of genres every year, including supernatural, science-fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, and poetry as prose.

They are all entertaining reads (though I will admit that some do skew younger than others) and if you’re looking for new reads, you’re bound to find a new author or two who will really impress you.

This year’s middle school list is as follows:

After Iris by Natasha Farrant

On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave by Candace Fleming

The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Eddie’s War by Carol Fisher Saller

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson

Four Secrets by Margaret Willey

Poison by Bridget Zinn

BONUS POST: Mac Barnett TED Talk - "Why a Good Book is a Secret Door"

Today, I'm going to recommend that you take 15 minutes and watch something that is absolutely brilliant. Mac Barnett discusses the craft of fiction, lying to children, and creating meta-fiction. The man's creativity and imagination is stunning, especially when he starts talking about his time travel store.

(A HUGE thank you to Darshan Jain for sending me this video in the first place.)

[embed]http://www.ted.com/talks/mac_barnett_why_a_good_book_is_a_secret_door?language=en[/embed]