Fuse #8

Friday, January 05, 2007

Is a Sixth Grader a Young Adult?

Well, it's a legitimate question. Mitali Perkins poses the query on her blog The Fire Escape. As a YA author, she finds it odd that a book like Hattie Big Sky would necessarily be lumped into the same category as Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (as it was with the Cybils). Certainly it qualifies as a librarian question as well. At NYPL we figure that once you hit 12 you are outta the kid area and into the teen. Which, considering how cool my library's Teen Central is, doesn't really bother them. And the crossover between Middle Reader books and YA is immense. So where to put those late tweens/early teens?

Mitali's piece ties in nicely with Chicken Spaghetti's recent bit on YA Considered. Probe your gray matter.


At 6:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is such an issue. I taught 5th grade for a long time and kids are 11/12 in 5th. Some of those YA books make total sense for them. Others make me nervous. That grades 5-8 range is a little tricky. Such a diverse range of stuff and a huge age range...

At 10:52 AM , Blogger Jenny Han said...

I don't know, dude. I know I ran into this problem with Shug, different bookstores were putting it in different sections, and my worry was that it was getting spread thin and that it wouldn't get to the right readers. I've gotten emails from girls as young as ten and as old as fourteen, so I guess it really is tween.

At 1:11 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

As the mom of a soon-to-be tweenager, I hope not!! Seriously, I find it hard to challenge her as a reader, and yet not corrupt her morals! She is pretty good about picking age-appropriate things for her, and yet remaining challenged. She's just started the Dear America books, which are interesting and educational, if not fine literature. I have not encouraged her to read our state's nominated books, the Nutmegs, because some of them are so mature in subject matter. . . . And these are highlighted in her school library, which only goes up to 4th grade.

At 2:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will never get the distinctions. I wrote a manuscript that I thought was for adults but it is being marketed towards this YA thing. I don't remember YA existing when I was a YA. Did it? Or did I just not read enough as a child? Either way, it's my parent's fault.

Fat Larry

At 2:27 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

It existed when I was a teen, but not to the extent it does now. When I was that age the Kalamazoo Public Library (where my K-zoo peoples at?) had a separate teen room, which was probably one of the first of its kind. However the selection was a lot of Christopher Pike, a lot of Fear Street, and a Paul Zindel and Robert Cormier. Nowandays it's a field in and unto itself. I wonder if anyone can pinpoint the impetus.

At 2:33 PM , Blogger Lisa Jenn said...

The MG v. YA distinction just isn't fine-grained enough. Which makes sense when you consider you're talking about just two categories for kids who still have half their baby teeth to those who are old enough to vote.

I think our library does a decent job of breaking up the MG/YA territory. Our "children's" section covers chapter books up through 4th or 5th grade, then "junior high" takes over with 5th-8th. The "high school" section covers everything else.

That junior high area ends up as sort of a slushy area, with harder MG novels and lower YA books that don't go beyond the occasional F-word, action violence, or oblique references to sex. Another reason it's great to have the junior high area is that the high school space is, at this time, very sorely lacking shelf space -- so junior high picks up a lot of slack. But, of course, there's always some inconsistency.

Considering that YA lit only recently seems to be getting the attention it deserves (e.g., the Printz award), I think we're making good progress. But anytime you try to make something black and white, you're going to come up -- well, gray.

At 2:38 PM , Blogger Jennie said...

We have a really vague break between kids and YA at my library. You have to be 12 or under to use my computers, but our reading list shelf goes up to 7th grade. The system also has several titles that are catalogued in both sections. I usually consider anyone 11-13 to be on the brink and encourage them to look in both places and I often find myself focusing on books I know are shelved in both sections when I shelf talk.

Also, back when I was a teen, the library had a two shelving units near adult fiction for us Youths, as we were called on the shelf sign. It was all Christopher Pike and Fear Street and the like as well. Of course, Pike was all I wanted to read at that time anyway, so it was good for me!

Jennifer-- there's lots of YA novels with good morals that are a good reading level and appeal to the age group. Your friendly YA librarain should have a good list what those titles are, so don't fear!

At 2:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A thought about tweeners and edgy YA-
Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. I'm raising my 3rd tweener and she recently picked up Bridget Jones Diary, a fun read but pretty skanky for a 10 year old. I told her we had to talk about the book when she was done with it, and as I suspected she had ZERO intrest in the skanky bits. She did love the Bridget character and all the parallels between that book and Pride & Prejudice. What I really love is that for a while she kept her school planner in the manner of BJ's diary, listing not just assignments but gross things at lunch and lame remarks by her teacher. She took not the content but the style and made it reflect her own life.
A kid who is interested in edgy topics whether they are sex or violence or political commentary will find them in books, on tv and online. If they aren't, they either won't look for those topics or will disreguard them when they run across them in the culture
It's not the book but the child's character and experiences that shape his or her interests.
my $.02,

At 5:59 PM , Blogger Little Willow said...

Ooh, if she liked P&P, give her Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman.


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