Thursday, June 30, 2016

Patriotic Reading for the 4th of July

With Independence Day coming up, we're feeling patriotic here at Peachtree. Instead of setting off fireworks (no need to scare our cats unnecessarily), we decided to do a little patriotic reading. From Benjamin Franklin to World War II, our reading list is American through and through. For your holiday weekend reading, check out these great children's books!

The Amazing Mr. Franklin
by Ruth Ashby
Everyone knows Benjamin Franklin was an important statesman, inventor, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. But did you know he started the first library in America for the public good? 

Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells
by Philip Dray
illustrated by Stephen Alcorn
How could one headstrong young woman help free America from the “shadow of lawlessness” that loomed over the country? (Also check out the available Teacher's Guide).

Marching with Aunt Susan
by Claire Rudolf Murphy
illustrated by Stacey Schuett
Based on the experiences of a real girl, this inspiring story offers a child's eye view of the fight for women's right to vote. (Also check out the book trailer, and available Teacher's Guide).

Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt
by Leslie Kimmelman
illustrated by Adam Gustavson
The 26th president of the United States was a strong and clever man who could handle almost everything—except his eldest child, Alice.

The Everlasting Now
by Sara Harrell Banks
In 1937, the Depression is in full force, Joe Louis is the new heavyweight champion of the world, and Champion Luckey has just arrived in Snow Hill, Alabama. James Longstreet Sayre's life will never be the same.

The Coastwatcher
by Elise Weston
Day after day, Hugh looks for signs of German spies. It seems like a harmless way to spend least at first.

Look for these titles and more at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New Fall 2016 Books

The summer is heating up, and we are getting ready for a new season of wonderful children's books. Peachtree is so excited to announce our Fall 2016 list, with some familiar faces as well as brand new characters and adventures. Enjoy!

New Board Books

Stanley's Colors, Written and Illustrated by William Bee
Everyone's favorite hardworking hamster, Stanley, is back starring in a new board book series for Stanley's youngest fans! Stanley and his friend Little Woo learn about colors and vehicles as they travel around.

Stanley's Shapes, Written and Illustrated by William Bee
Stanley's board book series continues as Stanley and Little Woo go on vacation. Help them spot circles, squares, triangles and more!
New Picture Books

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel, Written by Janet Nolan and Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
This nonfiction picture book tells the powerful story of how seven and a half tons of steel, which had once been a beam in the World Trade Center, became a navy ship's bow, and highlights the remarkable work that came from the devastating events of 9/11.

Never Follow a Dinosaur, Written and Illustrated by Alex Latimer
Sally and Joe are convinced that the mysterious footprints they have discovered must belong to a dinosaur. Could they be right?
 Join them in this clever, cumulative caper as they follow the clues to find out!

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog, Written and Illustrated by Lisa Papp 
Madeline Finn does NOT like to read. Fortunately, she meets Bonnie, a library dog. Reading out loud to Bonnie isn't so bad. When Madeline Finn gets stuck, Bonnie doesn't mind. As it turns out, it's fun to read when you're not afraid of making mistakes.

About Marine Mammals, Written by Cathryn Sill and Illustrated by John Sill
In this new addition to the acclaimed About... series, Cathryn and John Sill provide a first look at the world of marine mammalsfrom the small, playful sea otter to the gigantic blue whale.

New Middle Reader

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Puny Pirates, Written by Bill Harley and Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
In the fifth addition to the wonderful Charlie Bumpers series, Charlie and his best friends Tommy and Hector can't wait to try out the stupific offensive soccer plays they've perfected. But their high hopes are crushed when they see their inexperienced teammates and find out that their new coach isn't interested in stupific plays.

For more on these new books, check out the full Fall 2016 Catalog. Stay tuned this fall for author interviews, giveaways, and much more.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Part 3: Children's Books Then and Now

For the past few weeks we've been delving into the history and evolution of books for children through the years. The emergence of children’s literature as a genre began in the early 1700s with books that taught manners and morals, as we discussed in our first post. In the late 1800s, books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland started to make children’s books look more like books for children rather than lessons on proper behavior. In our last post, we got into the development of children’s books during the first half of the 20th century; advancing technology, the rise of Modernism, and the World Wars all had their effect on the form and content of children’s books. Today the conversation moves through the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.

It would be impossible to talk about the last 60 years of children’s books without considering such historical moments as the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of young adult fiction, and the digital era of the internet, video games, and e-books. So, we begin in 1950s America during a movement that continues to have an impact on our society and our children’s books today.

The Civil Rights Movement

On first considering the effect of the Civil Rights Movement on children’s books, we decided to take a look at the children’s books published during the height of the movement’s activity. Wonderful books like Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955), The Cat in the Hat (1957), Where the Wild Things Are (1963), and The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1968) were all published and well received during the 1950s and 1960s; however, the expansive list of books about Civil Rights and Civil Rights heroes were actually written more recently in the last couple of decades.

The Civil Rights Movement led to conversations about race, discrimination, and equality in the U.S. Although that conversation did not widely contribute immediate results in the promotion of diverse authors and children’s book characters, it did create a space for stories to address topic of race and discrimination—like To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) and The Empty Schoolhouse (1965)—as well as represent the diversity seen in everyday society—like The Snowy Day (1962), which depicts "the first non-caricatured African-Americans to be featured in a major children's book." However, even in 2013, in a study conducted by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, from 3,200 children’s books, only 93 were about black characters. Although the conversation started in the ‘50s and ‘60s, we have seen a fairly recent surge of awareness surrounding the need for diversity within children’s books, whether it be authors, characters, or subject matter.

In particular, 2014 saw the We Need Diverse Books movement explode in all areas of the children’s book industry. At Peachtree, we’ve loved including such books as We’ve Got a Job and Watch out for Flying Kids to our catalog to promote cultural and religious tolerance. The hopes and ideals of the Civil Rights Movement made an immediate impact on our culture, but today in the children’s book publishing industry we are still experiencing the ripples started by those who took up the cause against racism and discrimination. We love being a part of the push to see diverse characters and authors represented to children in the U.S. who should be able to find a book that relates to their life and surroundings, whatever those may be.

The Rise of Young Adult Fiction

In the same decade of Civil Rights and increasing awareness for the need for equality throughout the U.S., a new term had been coined to define an entirely new subset within American society. They were “teenagers.” After World War II, an economic boom accompanied by compulsory education laws led to this age group staying in school and having more leisure time rather than working jobs. They were therefore not recognized as adults, but they were certainly not children. Of course, just like children’s literature, until teenagers were socially defined, there was no set category of books (or entertainment in general) for or about them.

This began to change, beginning with The Seventeenth Summer (1942) and continuing with books like The Pigman (1968) and The Chocolate War (1974). As might seem obvious, most of the books published mainly from 1950 to 2016 that were meant for adolescents are about transition and transformation. They are coming of age stories. Within young adult fiction, there have been two fairly distinct trends, especially recently.

The first was a burst of fantastical and futuristic literature chock full of vampires and dystopian societies. The second trend featured tragically realistic stories set in modern, often socially unstable surroundings. Books by Rainbow Rowell and John Greene feature characters that very often fail at their hypothetical “quests.” Within both trends, however, characters face transitions (growing up, moving away, starting a new school, dating a new person) and social issues (domestic abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, body image), like in J.J. Johnson's Believarexic. No matter the surroundings, whether a futuristic city or a modern ghetto, YA fiction addresses all the internal doubts and decisions that comes with being a teenager. YA has also increasingly become a platform to address social issues and their consequences.

Young adult fiction as its own category was just the beginning for children’s literature. The genre as a whole continues to be parsed into increasingly specific age and grade group increments. Children’s books are becoming more targeted as authors, editors, and publishers create and promote books with social and educational topics best suited to certain age groups.

The Digital Era

The development and changes surrounding the content of children’s literature was to be expected. Like every genre, history and society would have its effect, and the books and stories produced would reflect those effects. However, what no one could have seen coming was an era of unbelievable technological advances that introduced fundamental changes into the fabric of everyday life for everyone, including child readers.

Storytelling was now available not only through an adult storyteller or a book, but children began to have access to interactive and beautiful stories through movies, computer games, and video games. This of course came with a whole slew of new challenges and opportunities in the world of children’s books. As children interacted with more and more possibilities for entertainment and education, maintaining interest in children’s books became more difficult. On the other hand, technology is introducing the world of children’s books to possibilities never available before. With interactive e-books that help reluctant readers or include moving pictures, children are actually coming in contact with stories and the written word probably more than any other generation. As publishers, teachers or librarians, we all have access to the many new mediums available to teach children and the opportunity to continue telling beautifully crafted stories to the next generation.

No matter the medium, stories can teach empathy, tolerance, curiosity, humor, history, science, and math. Although we have seen the purpose of children’s books change through our history—from didactic moral stories to simple entertainment—educating children about their world and promoting a love of literature has always been a number one priority. It is a priority that should be pursued through all the changes that will inevitably come in the next century of children’s literature.

It’s the end of our conversation for now, and we’ve loved taking a look at how children’s books have changed through the years. If you’re interested in looking more into the effect of the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of YA, and the digital era on children’s literature check out these additional resources.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Celebrating Father's Day

Happy Father’s Day!

We would like to say thank you to all of the incredible fathers and father figures out there who have made a difference in so many lives. If you're looking for some Father's Day books to celebrate, we've got a list of some great titles featuring fathers, dads, and daddies.

by Kevin Luthardt
Papa, why can’t I fly? a boy asks his father. His father’s simple answer leads to another question, and then another, until the father playfully demonstrates to his son all the things the child can do. In the end the boy discovers that with a little imagination and some help from his dad he can fly—even without wings!

Dad, Jackie, and Me
by Myron Uhlberg
It is the summer of 1947 and Jackie Robinson has just become the new first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers—and the first black player in major league baseball. A young boy shares his love of the game with his deaf father by listening to the games on the radio and then using sign language to tell his father about the games. Finally, his father has a big surprise for him: they are going to Ebbets Field to watch Jackie play!

That's Not How You Play Soccer, Daddy
by Sherry Shahan
After a tough practice, Mikey's dad and dog Socks take him to lunch at the park, but super-competitive Mikey only wants to practice for the big game. Daddy offers to help, but to Mikey's dismay Daddy doesn't put in much of an athletic effort. He keeps bending the rules and telling his impatient son to "just have fun." After an irresistible ticklefest, however, Mikey finally comes around to Daddy's way of thinking—and joins him and Socks in the worst, best soccer game ever!

Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?
by Julie Middleton
Dad takes Dave to the museum. As they walk through the dinosaur exhibit, Dave tries to get his father's attention. Why is this one grinning and why is that one interested in Dave's lunch? But Dad is too busy telling Dave all there is to know about these amazing creatures to notice that they've sprung to life! Dave gets the feeling that Dad has one hugely important fact very, very wrong...

Pennies in a Jar
by Dori Chaconas
A young boy promises to be brave when his father goes off to fight in World War II. But it isn't always easy, especially now that he and his mother are alone and the air is punctuated by sirens. Then one day a stranger with a small pony named Freedom offers the boy an opportunity to create the perfect birthday present for his father. But that means digging down deep inside to find a new and special kind of courage...

Hey! Daddy!
by Mary Batten
In the vast animal kingdom, mommies are often solely responsible for the birth and upbringing of their young. But daddies can, and do, help in a variety of surprising ways. Among the featured fathers are the blue jay, the marmoset and the beaver, who share parenting responsibilities with the mother, as well as several animal daddies (such as the seahorse, the penguin, and Darwin's frog) that perform more extraordinary roles. Finally, the human father is singled out for devoting the most time of all to raising his young until they can survive on their own.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Part 2: Children's Books Then and Now

Starting with the evolution of thought surrounding children and their development in the early 1700s, in our last post we saw nearly two centuries of children’s books that focused on impressing morals, lessons, and proper ideals on children. In the late 1800s, however, the publication of books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Treasure Island (1883), and Jungle Book (1894) started to change the genre of children’s books. We're continuing our exploration into the fascinating progression of the genre that defines our daily life here at Peachtree.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
original cover art

Unlike the two centuries preceding it, the 20th century was a time of abundance and a variety for children’s books. From The Wonderful Wizard of Oz published in 1900, to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone published in 1997, the 20th century witnessed an explosion of wonderful stories and characters all specifically geared to kids. Of course, the abundance of children’s books, especially illustrated children’s books, could not have been possible without the literacy and technology advances of the first decade of the 1900s.

Literacy and Technology in the 20th Century

Today we are used to the children’s section of a bookstore being colorful and bursting with fun figures and images, but widespread illustrated books were not accessible to most children until the beginning of the 20th century. In “Picturing Childhood: the Evolution of the Illustrated Children’s Book” Cynthia Burlingham remarks on the development of four-color processing and photography in creating illustrated children’s books. With the advancing technology surrounding printing and publishing, these colored picture books meant for children became less expensive to produce, and therefore less expensive to purchase.

Additionally, literacy in developed countries was on the rise at the turn of the 20th century. Specifically in the U.S., literacy rates increased by 13.3% from 1870 to 1910. More children were attending schools at younger ages, so the increasing availability children’s books was matching the demand from those families and children who had the ability and context to read.

The Effect of Modernism

Technology and literacy were advancing, and more kids wanted books, but the beginning of the 20th century also introduced a change in the content of children’s books. In her lectures entitled The Modern Scholar: Children’s Literature Between the Covers (2011), Professor Kimberly Reynolds discusses both the presence and rejection of Modernism in children’s literature during the early 1900s. At its simplest, Modernism represented a cultural and societal movement to break from classical or traditional practices. It’s interesting to note that the books that are perhaps best remembered from this time period are those that were posing a rejection of Modernism.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit
original cover art

The settings behind the most popular stories of this time like The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), The Wind in the Willows (1908), Swallows and Amazons (1930), and Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) are peaceful countryside scenes. Even in The Wind in the Willows when a car enters the story, it is noisy and destructive. Although Modernism was affecting art, literature, and culture in general, children’s stories remained an outlet for many authors to reminisce about older times when country gentlemen were not confined to a desk at a bank or a factory.

These children’s books were also traditionally built stories. Although some Modernistic literary techniques such as an emphasis on identity, stream of consciousness, narrative authority, and the presence of social evils can be found in Winnie-the-Pooh for example, the focus in these stories was more often what would happen next, rather than stylistic structure. With children as their main audience, the authors behind these famous books understandably put more weight on the story or plot, than the possible analysis of literary elements.

The World Wars

Of course, we cannot talk about this period without touching on the effect of the World Wars on the content and focus of children’s books. For example, books specifically for boys carried messages and viewpoints on the consequences and possibilities of wartime. From before World War I to the time after World War II, the messages behind war-focused books shifted and adjusted in step with societal feelings.

J.M. Barrie’s famous character Peter Pan was a type of boy soldier that represented a certain ideal before any real breakout of war. Peter Pan was willing to die young for a noble cause. The romanticized notion of soldiers before the wars focused on the nobility and heroism of the young men who were willing to die for their country. Additionally, G.A. Henty’s stories (The Young Carthaginian (1887), Wulf the Saxon (1894), and Won by the Sword (1899)) consistently featured young soldiers fighting bravely to the end for what often seemed like hopeless causes. Once the wars began, however, writers were more aware of and willing to address the pain and suffering of wartime in books.

J.R.R. Tolkien's illustration of the Shire
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the Shire represented a peaceful, beautiful England. However, the threat of war is imminent, as it appeared in the reality of 1937, the year The Hobbit was published and the year before the start of World War II. War was now seen as a dreaded atrocity rather than an opportunity for heroics. During and after World War II, the purpose behind children’s books shifted yet again to help bring up a generation that could build a better world out of the destruction of the world wars. It was at this time that books began addressing current and important social issues; books became a medium for the younger generation to learn about and be aware of the world around them.

Even within the first half of the 20th century, we can see how much the purpose behind children’s books could change and shift with society. The explosion of production in children’s book publishing during this time made the genre as diverse as adult level books had been for centuries. Children’s books became embedded as a cultural medium that we are seeing advance and grow even today.

We’ve got so many more children’s books to talk about with the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century to cover. So, stay tuned for more discussion on the purposes and perspectives of children’s books then and now.

In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about all the changes in children's literature through the centuries on your own, here are some resources to explore:
  • A Critical History of Children's Literature by Cornelia Meigs, Anne Thaxter Eaton, Elizabeth Nesbit, Ruth Hill Viguers 
  • The Modern Scholar: Children's Literature Between the Covers by Kimberly Reynolds