105 Ways to Give a Book

Just Grow Up

Whatever whoever chooses to read is their business, of course, but adults whose taste in recreational reading ends with the YA novel need to grow up.
Words of wisdom from Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book, a literary magazine about books for children and young adults.

The best response in my book?
I’m rubber
You’re glue
Whatever you say bounces off of me
And sticks to you!
Actually, Liz over at Tea Cozy makes a very good and suitably outraged argument on her blog, but it was that part that stuck out for me, because the original statement is so ridiculous — and in so many ways — that it needed a silly response.

There’s the hypocrisy of the editor of a magazine about children’s literature blasting an entire audience of that magazine. There’s the absurdity of being judged not only by what you’re reading but why you’re reading it. There’s the stupidity of saying that what people choose to “read is their business,” but then making a judgment anyway.

My personal favorite part of the sentence is the phrase “recreational reading.” Apparently, it’s okay to read kids’ lit if it’s part of your job, but not if it’s your fun reading. Only someone with the luxury of reading books at work could make that statement and not realize how inane it is. Librarians, teachers, and booksellers don’t get time on the job to read the books they are expected to know and recommend. They read them at home on their own time, and the line between recreational reading and professional reading blurs, because it has to. After working and the after-hours reading and — hello — having a life, there isn’t necessarily time fit in adult books too.

In the comments of the original post, Roger tries to squirm out of his original assertion by saying that it’s really the people who are smug about only reading children’s books that need to grow up. But that only comes into play at about comment forty-six. I guess by then he was choking on the taste of shoe leather. For me, I only have one more thing to say about the whole thing...
Like, what-evah.


Andy Peters said...

I stopped taking Roger Sutton seriously a long time ago. His blog is a proliferation of arrogance and snobbery and I'm actually surprised it's taken this long for people to realize that. He rules over Horn Book with Draconian fervor, passing down his smug judgment from his lily white tower. I think his recent posts should draw his objectivity as an editor into sharp focus.

Liz B said...

Great post!

What now bugs me is the "oh that's Roger he's just stirring things up" argument.

Talk about middle school politics! With someone provoking an argument just because. I find that maniupulative; not charming, not clever.

Jenny said...

This is interesting to read. I read Roger Sutton's comments in a different way. I took his frustration to be with people who did not want to have the ending of books shared in reviews in Horn Book. I thought his point was that Horn Book reviews books for teachers, librarians, etc who might want to know the ending as they consider whether or not to purchase the book. As a teacher I read plenty of kids books and enjoy them greatly. I wasn't offended by his comments because I didn't think he meant me. But, maybe I was wrong.

Roger Sutton said...

Liz--I said what I did because I meant it, not because it would "stir things up." Don't blame me for someone else's assessment of my motives.

MotherReader said...

Jenny, I actually agree with the point that the Horn Book should reveal the ending of a book if it would be relevant to a decision to purchase or recommend the book, ie for teachers, librarians, etc.

But at the end he goes into another kind of personal rant which ended with that provocative statement. I think - as do others - that Roger could have made the point about the primary mission of Horn Book without trying to offend a component of its readers.

Liz B said...

roger -- point taken & thank you for the confirmation that you meant it.

About who reads reviews and why reviews are written -- I agree with Roger about that. The audience for those reviews are the "gatekeepers" for want of a better term. (And, of course, there are similar reviews about adult books that give away more than a reader-oriented review in publications such as kirkus & booklist.)

Actually, I think its one of the reasons that kidlit blogs do so well; it's next to impossible to find reader-reviews of childrens books.

Barbara Shoup said...

I'm always amazed that ANYONE tells ANYONE what they should and shouldn't read. Jeez.

Years ago, I was at in a writers' conference that offered an afternoon panel on "What Every Self-Respecting Writer Should Have Read." It scared the crap out of me because I knew I was going to fall WAY short. I went anyhow. (Why?!?) It was totally predictable (I kept sliding farther and farther down in my chair) until it was the poet William Stafford's turn. He gazed at the panelists, bemused, then at the group. "I think you should read what you love," he said. "It will take you to the books you need."

Beth said...

There's a bit of a difference between saying anyone who reads children's books needs to grow up and anyone who ONLY reads kids books. There have been times in my life that I've limited my pleasure reading to only easy kid books, or only easy SF, but it is definitely a limit. When I'm feeling less overwhelmed, I'll read a more demanding range of things.

Megan Germano said...

My personal favorite part of the sentence is the phrase “recreational reading.”
This is my itch with the whole story as well. If I did not read these books for pleasure, how could I get them in the hands of my students who need the books so desperately? With the different levels of reading, topic tastes, and genre preferences I have in my classroom, I have no time to do anything but read YA and children's literature for pleasure. There certainly isn't any time to do it during a school day.
The whole point is I teach day in and day out that everyone has CHOICE in reading and should exercise that CHOICE. I certainly couldn't see saying "This book is no good any more because it is 'too easy' for you." That is just against everything a reading teacher stands for.
My 2 cents.

Robin Brande said...

"I think you should read what you love," [William Stafford] said. "It will take you to the books you need."

Thank you, Barbara, for sharing that!

Mother Reader, book snobbery pisses me off no end. I can't stand it when people try to shame kids about what they want to read, or when they try to shame adults. In an age of cable and internet, the fact that anyone wants to read books or magazines or newspapers or comic books--anything slow that takes actual brain work--I bow down and am grateful.

I hate snobbery of any sort, but book snobs are especially destructive.

Cloudscome said...

You said this so well. I completely agree.

Camille said...

I have a very good friend who "only" reads nonfiction. She enjoys learning about "real" things she says. When we talk about books there is an implied superiority about the nonfiction reader because they are "improving" themselves with facts and knowledge as opposed to "frivolous" fiction readers.

That whiff of superiority and condescension seems very prevalent today. "She only reads r-o-m-a-n-c-e novels, you know." "They read that manga junk." "I can't get my son to read AR books.He just wants to read about natural disasters." The comments are always followed by a heavy sigh.

Having just spent an afternoon booktalking to a group of "we're almost outa here" 8th graders, I glory that we have readers of any genre today.

Library Lady said...

YA novels tend to be a helluva lot better written than most of what passes for adult "literature". They're my work reading AND my pleasure reading!