Posts Tagged 'children’s literature'

Friday 5: Off the beaten podcasts

When I started listening to podcasts a few years ago, I only knew of one or two that I liked, but I’m an audio learner, so I was hooked. The trouble was that asking around or Google searching for  good podcasts tended to yield the same suggestions: RadioLab, The Moth, This American Life, etc. They’re not bad suggestions (The Moth remains one of my favorites), but I was looking for something off the beaten podcast. In the past year, I’ve broadened my range of go-to podcasts for listening to by focusing on particular interests. Here are five of my favorites that you probably haven’t heard before.

1. Brain Burps about Books

With some podcasts, I go through a feverish phase of frequent listening and then my enthusiasm fades. Not so with Brain Burps About Books, a podcast full of writing and business tips for children’s authors, illustrators and aspiring authors and illustrators. I spent several months devouring the archives last fall after discovering this show. Now that I’ve exhausted past episodes, author/illustrator Katie Davis’ fun and funny personality, along with her top-notch guest lineup, leave me eager for a new episode each week.

2. The Introvert Entrepreneur

In the past few years, introvert awareness and empowerment has been on the rise, with books like Susan Cain’s Quiet and Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power leading the (reserved) revolution. At the same time, the arena for entrepreneurship and online marketing podcasts has continued to expand in popularity. A few months ago I listening to an episode of a successful online marketing podcast in which the host spent much of the time declaring why introvert entrepreneurs need to become extroverted. Disappointed by the host’s lack of understanding for what being introverted is (which is not a character flaw), and by his non-response to my email respectfully asking him to learn more, I decided to tune into something different. Beth Buelow’s The Introvert Entrepreneur hits the sweet spot where the business podcasting and introvert awareness trends meld. Although I’m not an entrepreneur, I love her thoughtful and heart-centered approach to interviews and advice that is good for any working introvert professional — and the extroverts who work with them.

3. A Way with Words

It’d be hard to choose between A Way with Words and Grammar Girl for the top podcast for word nerds. While the latter offers practical tips for grammar sticklers, the former is focused on the stories behind common and unusual words and phrases. Fielding calls from listeners across the country, co-hosts Martha and Grant flaunt a seemingly endless knowledge of how people speak in different regions of the U.S. and how those vernaculars evolved. The callers’ stories about where they heard a phrase or the debates they’re having with co-workers and spouses about how to “correctly” say something prevents the show from being a formal or stuffy foray into etymology. Each episode also features a different word nerdy quiz game schemed up by writer/comedian John Chaneski. The downside? New episodes are rare.

4. New Tech City

Some of my news articles to write are about technology. Not tech stories about the best iPhone 5 features, but exploring how people are interacting with technology and how it’s shaping culture. That being said, I quickly became a big fan of this show about technology in society (with a NYC focus, as it’s produced by WNYC), after hearing that they were covering the same topic as me this summer: a Perry County summer camp that allowed kids to bring smart phones for the first time. (Their videocast. My article.) Manoush Zomorodi’s conversational hosting style and the roughly 20-minute episodes make this podcast great for listening to during short runs.

5. The Public Speaker

Want “quick and dirty tips” to improve your public speaking skills? Listen to this podcast and you’ll definitely get what you asked for. Lisa B. Marshall’s dishes out practical advice not just for speaking alone in front of a 100-person audiences but also for effective communication in a variety of professional settings. Bonus: the episode titles are incredibly straightforward (e.g. “How to end a speech,” “How to present science to non-scientists”), so it’s easy to tell whether a particular edition will be relevant or interesting to you.

So what about you? What are you listening to and loving?

Renaissance Women and Men

As someone with a long list of passions and ambitions, I always find it inspiring to hear about people who have worked in a range of fields in their life. Same for people who switch from one career to a very different one later in life. Here’s an example I just read about in Highlights (a children’s magazine):

J. Patrick Lewis is the current U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate. He’s the author of many poetry collections as well as other children’s books. Writing is not his original career, though. First he was an economics professor! Who normally associates economics and poetry? Not me…

In recent years I’ve seen a lot of people my age struggle with what to do with their lives post-college. People like Lewis offer good reminders that we don’t need to “figure it all out” immediately.

Friday 5: Beverly Cleary Tribute

When I had short hair as a child I liked to imagine it was a “pixie haircut” like Ramona Quimby. Did you love Ramona and her friends as a young reader? Do you remember that they lived in Portland, Oregon, which was also the home of her creator, Beverly Cleary?

I didn’t remember that until my sister moved to Portland a few years ago. The classic image of Ramona in rain boots makes sense given what I now know about Northwestern weather! I visited my sister last week and found several signs of Portland’s Beverly Cleary pride.

Continue reading ‘Friday 5: Beverly Cleary Tribute’

Life on the Margins: Witchy Women

Halloween is coming! And I wrote a Canonball post that at the portrayal of women as witches in children’s books, particularly in Roald Dahl’s The Witches and Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona. Read it at the link below:

Life on the Margins: Witchy Women

July BAND Discussion: My Favorite Nonfiction

As noted yesterday, I’ve decided to join the conversation of BAND (Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees), which poses a monthly question about nonfiction for all bloggers to answer. July’s question, asked by Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness, is “What is one of your favorite types of nonfiction to read? OR What is one of your favorite nonfiction topics to read about?”

Kara the Pirate reading Bourdieu

Though I love reading a range of social science literature and social theory, the type of nonfiction that I would take to a desert island with me would be writings on critical literacy.

Critical literacy, as I understand it, is an approach to teaching and learning that understands literacy as a social action. Readers are not passive recipients of a text but active meaning-makers who should be encouraged to ask questions and analyze what’s happening in a story. Especially questions about how power is portrayed in the story and why that may be so. Critical literacy scholars say that texts are never neutral and encourage students to contemplate the way a text could be re-imagined and re-designed.

Let me give an example of the kinds of analyses to be found in critical literacy writings. In an essay on the standard story of Rosa Parks found in children’s texts, critical pedagogist Herbert Kohl identifies the flaws in telling this tale as a tired woman who one day got sick of segregation and stayed in her bus seat, sparking the civil rights movement. Kohl rightly points out Rosa Parks had been a leader actively fighting segregation for years before 1955. Moreover, leaders of the Montgomery black community had already planned a bus boycott and were waiting to initiate it until they found “someone who had the respect of the community and the strength to deal with the racist police force as well as all the publicity that would result from being at the center of a bus boycott” (Kohl 44).

Kohl argues that the story of Rosa Parks should be put “in the context of a coherent, community-based social struggle. This does not diminish Rosa Parks in any way. It places her, however, in the midst of a consciously planned movement for social change…” (46).

I know many community organizers who could make the same criticism, but what excites me about critical literacy scholars is that they’re applying the type of critical thinking I love to a topic that inspires my creative brain.

Another positive attribute of critical literacy is that it’s not just about written analysis. It’s about using these analyses in educational practice. In his essay on Babar, for example, Kohl shares reflections from the conversations he held with a third grade class about the colonialist influences of Jean de Brunhoff’s Babar. The Critical Literacy in Practice (CLIP) podcast hosted by Vivian Vasquez, is a great source to listen to other examples of educators holding these kinds of discussions with children.

I set my life goal of writing and publishing radical children’s books well before I ever heard the term “critical literacy.” In college I noticed a curious thing about anthropologists. They discuss at length the ways people have been socialized to think and act certain ways. Lots of anthropologists also want to be part of positive social change on the issues they study. Yet I rarely experienced conversations connecting the dots in those two points to the idea that we can positively affect society by changing the way we socialize children. Putting that argument together with my tendency toward imagined worlds, my plan for radical children’s books came into being.

And to my delight, Herbert Kohl, (whose book of essays on children’s literature I’ve been reading this week, can you tell?) made a call for such books 16 years ago:

I want to plea for the creation of a radical children’s literature that projects hope and provides youngsters with the sense that social forms are constructed by people and therefore that the world can be made into a finer, more caring place. (Kohl x)

From this quote the root of my love for critical literacy as a type of nonfiction: people who write on this subject share one of my greatest passions, and thus they speak to my heart.

What type of nonfiction do you love?


Kohl, Herbert. Should We Burn Babar? Essays on Children’s Literature and the Power of Stories. The New Press, 1995.


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