Mental Illness in Children’s Lit

I love following We Need Diverse Books on Twitter and reading on their website all about the advocacy they are doing to get books with diverse characters published and in the hands of readers. They are also a great place to find other resources on diversity. Case in point, here’s a tweet from them today:

Disability in Kidlit takes a closer look at how those with disabilities are portrayed in books for kids and teens, which is obviously important and awesome. How did I not know this site existed until now? Luckily I found out about it at just the right time because all next week they are looking at books portraying mental illness. As someone whose family has a history of mental illness and as the daughter of a psychiatrist, I’m all too aware of the stereotypes, stigma, and misinformation that so much media perpetuates about both people with mental illness and the professionals who treat them (if you want to hear a really good book rant, just talk to me about 13 Reasons Why). I’m looking forward to keeping up with their posts and discussions starting on May 18th. You can read more about the Disability in Kidlit’s editors’ goals for the week on their post about the event.

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Meanwhile, outside the book bubble…

I spend a lot…seriously, A LOT…of time on book blogs – reading reviews, witty commentary, new releases and other stuff that people who are obsessed with books or obsessed with getting a library job again read. That being said, I read blogs about other stuff too, and one of my favorites is Design*Sponge, the blog turned multimedia darling started by the adorable Grace Bonney. Today, my blog worlds collided when I got onto my Reader to see that Grace had written a post about Wildwood, which I just so happen to be reading at the moment. Really, I should have known the book would show up on a design blog somewhere as the illustrations are not only charming, stylish and somewhat rustic, but the book itself is small cut compared to your typical novel and it has color plates, as way more books should (I’m looking at you, Okay for Now).

While part of me wanted to be a snooty academic and pass off her review as naive, I actually found myself enjoying Grace’s non-cynical, non-critical, non-former-lit-grad-student point of view. Sometimes I get so caught up in everything I’ve read – books, reviews, critical articles, tweets! – that sometimes nothing is good enough. Here I’ve been reading Wildwood and thinking how contrived and derivitive it is at points, and how everyone is so hyped on this book because the author is a semi-celebrity who just happens to write well (really, the book is well written). At the same time, I have enjoyed the book so far, when I let myself. If I could just forget my academic training every once in a while and just let myself enjoy a book for what it is, I think would find the kind of simple joy in books that Grace found in Wildwood. Clearly I need to get out of my critical bubble (or Impassable Wilderness?) every once in a while and enjoy children’s books the way they were meant to be enjoyed…like a child, with an open mind.

Library of the Early Mind documentary

The Children’s Lit Project blog just released the poster for the premier of Library of the Early Mind, a documentary about children’s literature, at Harvard University on Tuesday, October 19. I am attending the premier with some peeps from the Children’s Literature Master’s Program at Simmons College, so come back to find out what I thought.

In the mean time, here’s the poster. I like it except that gigantic eye really freaks me out! I promise I won’t go all “Tell-Tale Heart” on the thing though.