1. Here are the teenage classics covered in Lizzie Skurnick’s delightful new reading memoir Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading that I’ve also read:
• From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwieler by E. L. Konigsburg
• Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
• Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
• Blubber by Judy Blume
• The Long Secret by Louise Fitzhugh
• Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume
• The Pigman by Paul Zindel
• Deenie by Judy Blume
• Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
• My Darling, My Hamburger by Paul Zindel
• Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr.
• All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Lizzie Skurnick writes best about the books that excite her most, like From the Mixed-up Files, which she illuminates in surprising ways (I never actually thought about it, but the Michelangelo statue does seem to symbolize Claudia herself) and the two great Louise Fitzhugh novels, Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret. Skurnick gets extra points for recognizing that The Long Secret is every bit as good as Harriet the Spy, though very different (it also occurs to me, thinking of these books today, that a good friend of mine recently went through an experience very much like the climactic scene in Harriet the Spy).
Lizzie also gets big points from me for paying attention to the wonderful but lesser-known All of a Kind Family, the first book in a series about a family of Jews living in old-time New York City’s Lower East Side that meant a lot to me as a kid (her treatment of the book, though, is cursory). My biggest problem with Shelf Discovery involves its unnecessary gender focus; which Michael Orthofer also recently wrote about. Teenage boys read books too. Why leave half the world out?
I’ve also never heard of many of these titles. Hangin’ Out With Cici by Francine Pascal? Okay … I’ll have to take her word for it. And where is Lisa Bright and Dark by John Neufeld, and Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack by M. E. Kerr, and I Never Loved Your Mind, Paul Zindel’s lesser-known best book? And where on earth is S. E. Hinton?
Still, this is a fun book and I predict it will sell very well (among other things, it’s a good book to give as a gift). And there’s one more nice touch: Shelf Discovery is a paperback original printed on thick creamy paper that looks and feels exactly like many of the teenage-era books described within. Nice, nice.
2. Speaking of children’s literature, I have complaints about some recent High School syllabi. My daughter Abby has to read The King Must Die by Mary Renault for her upcoming 10th grade English class. She hates the book and asked me my opinion; I tried to read it and I hate it too. Can’t they find a book more relevant to the lives of teenagers, and more enjoyable to read?
Meanwhile, a Long Island high school senior recently told me his class studied Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus last year. Titus Andronicus? What the hell? There are 37 better Shakespeare plays to read. I asked him if he’d read Hamlet. “No.” Enough said. Get your act together, teachers.
3. Copyblogger on writing lessons of the Ramones.
5. Katharine Weber presents a significant object.
6. Farewell to the great guitarist Les Paul.