A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature

A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature

by Roger Sutton, Martha Parravano

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Two of the most trusted reviewers in the field join with top authors, illustrators, and critics in a definitive guide to choosing books for children—and nurturing their love of reading.

A FAMILY OF READERS is the definitive resource for parents interested in enriching the reading lives of their children. It’s divided into four sections:



Two of the most trusted reviewers in the field join with top authors, illustrators, and critics in a definitive guide to choosing books for children—and nurturing their love of reading.

A FAMILY OF READERS is the definitive resource for parents interested in enriching the reading lives of their children. It’s divided into four sections:

1. Reading to Them:
Choosing and sharing board books and picture books with babies and very young children.
2. Reading with Them:
Launching the new reader with easy readers and chapter books.
3. Reading on Their Own:
Exploring what children read—and how they read—by genre and gender.
4. Leaving Them Alone:
Respecting the reading privacy of the young adult.

Roger Sutton knows how and why children read. He must, as the editor in chief of THE HORN BOOK, which since 1924 has been America’s best source for reviews of books for young readers. But for many parents, selecting books for their children can make them feel lost. Now, in this essential resource, Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano, executive editor at the magazine, offer thoughtful essays that consider how books are read to (and then by) young people. They invite such leading authors and artists as Maurice Sendak, Katherine Paterson, Margaret Mahy, and Jon Scieszka, as well as a selection of top critics, to add their voices about the genres they know best. The result is an indispensable readers’ companion to everything from wordless board books to the most complex and daring young adult novels.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Not a children's book, but a book for anyone who has ever loved children's books, this collection of essays and interviews is designed to help parents foster a love of reading in children, while providing insight into the craft of children's bookmaking. Collected by Sutton and Parravano, editors of the Horn Book (where some of the book's content previously appeared), the contributions--Jon Scieszka on book design, Sarah Ellis on writing humor, Bruce Brooks and Virginia Euwer Wolff on Holden Caulfield, among others--are grouped into sections that mirror the reading life of a child: reading to children becomes reading with them, which gives way to their growth as independent readers. "By the time a kid is ready to read on his own, he's ready to... read on his own," writes Sutton. "Your job is, essentially, to let him." Sutton and Parravano also contribute commentary, discussing the best books for all ages and reading levels, and what makes them so. It's an indispensible guide at a time when, as Sutton writes, "debates about what qualifies as ‘reading' are as noisy as the concurrent fights over what can be called a 'family.'" (Sept.)
VOYA - Nancy Wallace
This collection of essays from editors, reviewers, and authors emanates enthusiasm for books and reading. The introduction sets the stage, calling it "a book for readers, people who need books as much as food or air." Each section begins with an overview, followed by a selection of essays. The first chapter addresses the very smallest book lovers, and the last tackles the needs of young adults. Each chapter is followed by an annotated list of books. A complete bibliography and biographical sketches of the contributors are included at the end. The essays abound with wonderful quotes, underscoring how literature enriches life. Mitali Perkins quips, "I know exactly why Peter Pan flew back to Neverland." Vicky Smith, commenting on Julie of the Wolves (HarperTeen, 2003) says, "If Miyax could survive . . . with nothing but a needle and a couple of knives, then surely I could make it through gym class." As a professional review journal with eighty-five years of experience, The Hornbook Magazine is uniquely qualified to offer expert advice on juvenile literature. Editor-in-chief of the journal, Roger Sutton, explains, "this is a book that features informed opinions from passionate readers, not bland lists of dos, don'ts and surefire recommendations." Eminently readable and often humorous, each entry speaks ardently to what children long for and need at each stage of their development. It should be required reading for every youth services librarian. Reviewer: Nancy Wallace
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
For parents and teachers of students of all ages, this text will be a useful addition when trying to decide what books or types of books will work well for young people at different ages. The editors of this text, also editors of the journal The Horn Book, have compiled a strong grouping of essays from the journal that will aid parents and teachers in their quests for just the right books. The text is split into four parts with the additional breakdown of chapters in each section. Part One focuses on reading to children and highlights the importance of picture books. Section Two looks at reading with children and discusses easy readers and chapter books. A more extensive group of categories is found in the third section with its focus on encouraging children to read and explore various genres in both fiction and nonfiction on their own. The final section—titled "Leaving Them Alone"—focuses on young adult literature and bridges into the classics. A strong resource section completes this well-designed and solidly conceived text. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Unlike other guides, this authoritative title is more than an extensive annotated bibliography: "[T]his is a book that features informed opinions from passionate readers, not bland lists of dos, don'ts, and 'surefire recommendations.'" The book is divided into four parts: "Reading to Them," "Reading with Them," "Reading on Their Own," and "Leaving Them Alone." Each part is divided into chapters discussing types of books (picture books, easy readers, humor, nonfiction, young adult books, etc.). Parts and chapters contain introductions and/or overviews of each type or format, plus pertinent articles from the Horn Book family of contributors. Original essays include Betty Carter on historical fiction ("When Dinosaurs Watched Black-and-White TV"), Vicky Smith on adventure books ("Know-How and Guts"), Marc Aronson on nonfiction ("Cinderella Without the Fairy Godmother"), Alice Schertle on poetry ("Up the Bookcase to Poetry"), Nancy Werlin on books for teens ("What Makes a Good Thriller?"), and many others. Annotated bibliographies featured throughout are supplemented with a concluding list of recommended titles and suggestions for further reading. This book presents literature for youth within historical, pedagogical, and practical contexts, but, like an inspirational teacher, that presentation is fueled by a fervent, articulate love for the subject at hand. Librarians, teachers, parents, writers, and readers will find their own passion for books and reading eloquently reflected here.—Janice M. Del Negro, GSLIS Dominican University, River Forest, IL

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt


"A Future of Page Turns" - Martha V. Parravano

Babies don't need complex stories, elaborate artwork, or high educational content. Books for babies can be as simple as Tana Hoban's groundbreaking series of wordless black-and-white board books (Black on White; White on Black), with their high-contrast images of bibs, pacifiers, stuffed animals, and other homely objects associated with newborns. But though the books themselves may be simple, the interaction is anything but: with board books a baby is honing his visual and listening skills, bonding with the adult reader, and, yes, taking the first steps toward literacy. Every time an adult reads a book with a baby, she is passing on an essential building block of literacy: the page turn. The mechanics of reading—the fact that in order to read a book one has to turn its pages—is a basic skill, but it has to be learned. The page turn—the progression of left to right and front to back (at least in our Western culture)—is the foundation of reading. As an adult reader shares a book with a baby, she is transmitting that essential knowledge, the key to later literacy.

Babies watch with remarkable intentness the components of their universe: faces, their own hands, a mobile. First board books should be a barely differentiated extension of that small universe. It's not necessary to use books to expand a baby's world—a reflection is more than sufficient.

Babies respond to books that promote interaction—animal sounds, vehicle noises, movements, opportunities to name objects or body parts. Pictures in books for babies are not only visual feasts for the baby but prompts for parental commentary. Any book a parent reads to a baby, even a wordless one, will be an opportunity for expressive language, be it a re-creation of animal sounds or the naming of objects or the creation of spontaneous stories to go with the pictures.

Board books are specifically made for babies: with their stiff, sturdy cardboard pages, nontoxic materials, and glossy wipability, they will survive teething, spills, spit-up, and worse—anything a baby can throw at them (sometimes literally). The most successful board-book creators tap into babies' enthusiasms, attention spans, and (occasionally) senses of humor. Helen Oxenbury's series of oversize board books, ALL FALL DOWN, CLAP HANDS, SAY GOODNIGHT, and TICKLE, TICKLE, features four diverse, active toddlers in an implied day-care setting singing, clapping, falling about, and waving—all with toddler-appropriate energy and warmth. Rosemary Wells's Max books are about the power struggle between a willful baby rabbit and his bossy older sister, Ruby. In MAX'S FIRST WORD, Ruby tries to persuade Max to name various innocuous household objects, but "Max's one word was BANG!" Wells connects with her young audience because she is funny, able to shape plot and character with the briefest of texts, and always on Max's side.

One distinction to be aware of is between board books conceived originally for the format and those that started life as full-size picture books. Board books are big business for publishers. Consumers love board books, for good reason: compared to picture books, they're less expensive, more durable, and more portable—easier to tuck into a bag already bursting with snacks, extra clothes, toys, games, crayons, and puzzles. But beware: a board-book version of a picture book most probably reflects some compromises made necessary by the format change. While standard picture books have thirty-two pages, board books can have as few as twelve. So board books that are adapted from picture books must either conflate pages (taking the text and art from, say, two spreads of the original picture book and cramming it onto one page) or drop material altogether.

Ann Herbert Scott's ON MOTHER'S LAP is a classic picture book about sibling rivalry and familial love. It features a generous design based on double-page-spreads; a simple text; and a small, satisfying story. When Michael, a young Inuit boy, has the chance to snuggle with his mother in her rocking chair while his baby sister naps, he is anxious to include all his favorite things—his reindeer blanket, doll, toy boat, and puppy—in the experience. But when Baby wakes up, he balks at including her. "There isn't room," he says jealously. Mother persuades him to give it a try, and Michael finally admits that "it feels good." The book ends with an iconic picture of family warmth and togetherness, with Michael's mother telling him, "It's a funny thing . . . but there is always room on Mother's lap."

The board-book version (at four by six inches) is too small to be a satisfying lap read; it excises two crucial setup illustrations and an entire double-page spread that depicts the conflict (so that, oddly, the board-book version has resolution but no conflict); and it's not meant for babies. It is clearly older brother Michael who is the center of the story, Michael with whom readers are meant to identify. Despite the simplicity of text and layout, this story of a boy dealing with his feelings about a new baby is meant for older siblings, not babies.

A more successful translation from picture book to board book is Anne and Harlow Rockwell's THE TOOLBOX. Because the original picture book was aimed at very young children, the pictures (of a saw, a hammer and nails, pliers, and so on) are paramount, set against expanses of white space; the text is extremely brief, almost always one line per page; and the subject matter is of interest to many small children. The board-book version is a complete representation of the original, with no illustrations or transitions omitted, and it's fully two-thirds the size of the original picture book.

Meet the Author

Roger Sutton has been editor in chief of The Horn Book since 1996. With an MA in library science from the University of Chicago, he worked as a children's librarian for eight years before becoming a full-time book review editor. Sutton has served as a judge for every major children's book award, frequently teaches and speaks about children's books, and maintains a lively blog called Read Roger.

Martha V. Parravano has been at THE HORN BOOK since 1989, and is now the magazine’s executive editor. She has worked as a children's librarian and bookseller and has a master's degree from the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature.

From the Hardcover edition.

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