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Children’s Books That (Some) Librarians Don’t Love

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Darling Reader, I’m going to let you in on a little industry secret.  A couple of them, actually.

Most human librarians have not read–and occasionally don’t have an awareness of–every single book in their respective libraries.

And . . . brace yourselves for Librarian Secret #2 . . . there are books that some librarians don’t even like.

Okay, okay, simmer down now.  I know this may come as an unpleasant shock to some of you, but it really shouldn’t.  Just as even the esteemed Dumbledore enjoyed lemon drops but didn’t much care for Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, so it goes with those of us who spend our days surrounded by the good, the bad, and the ugly of literature.  (Dirty little secret #3: there are actually librarians who do not like the Harry Potter series, but in the interest of good citizenry, I shall not reveal their identities here.  Hey, just because I love those books to the point of dressing up as Bellatrix Lestrange on Halloween and random Tuesdays doesn’t mean that everyone has to love them.)

Since it is a bankable fact that I’m a tremendous slacker and try to get my colleagues to do my work for me whenever any opportunity presents itself . . . oh, wait . . . I mean, since I value the viewpoints and opinions of my co-workers and try to practice inclusion whenever I can . . . and because this would be a really boring article if I just rattled on about the books that I despise (Johnny Tremain), I have solicited (and paraphrased in some instances) opinions from my smart and talented fellow librarians, and several of them have been kind enough to share their thoughts with me about children’s books that they personally find odious, irksome, or just plain weird.  I have also given my “guests” pseudonyms taken from the aforementioned Harry Potter series (and did I mention how much I love those books?) so that no repercussions may befall them for placing their confidence in me.  Therefore, Darling Reader, I present to you in no particular order a short list of books that are disliked by at least one (and sometimes more) WCPL employee.

“The only book that I can truly say that I despise is Madonna’s The English Roses.  And the reason has more to do with the fact that Madonna says she wrote it because, when she had her child, she ‘couldn’t find any good books out there for children, so she had to write her own.’  The arrogant ignorance of that statement caused me to hate the book on general principle!” says a kind and lovely librarian to whom I’ll refer as “Madam Pomfrey,” Hogwarts’ school matron, or school nurse, in American parlance.  (Author’s aside:  a used hardcover copy of The English Roses is available at Amazon for the astonishingly low price of fifteen cents.  I am so not making this up.)

Librarian “Godric Gryffindor” is also not a fan of Madonna’s alleged books, or of those by almost any celebrity or pop-culture figure, whether they go by one name, or two or three.  “However, I doubt if I could name a specific title, because I’ve banished all the crappy ones from my mind,” Gryffindor states.  And by Merlin’s beard, don’t even get him started on some of the adult “classics” . . .

Next up, a two-for-one.  Staffers “Kingsley Shacklebolt” and “Professor Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank” weigh in on Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.  “This book is sweet if you don’t think too hard about it; very stalker-mom if you do think about it, and once you do, you can never go back to sweet,” says Shacklebolt.  “It is just so incredibly sad!” states Professor Grubbly-Plank.  The author concurs on both opinions.

“I like books that teach or are an example of good behavior or qualities, and use proper grammar.  Also, humor is wonderful, but not bathroom humor,” says a librarian I’ll refer to as “Molly Weasley.”  Again, the author agrees.  I adored the late Barbara Park, author of the popular Junie B. Jones books, as she was a wonderful person and a fellow alumna of the University of Alabama, but I truly cringe every time I connect a child with ol’ Junie B.  Some folks find Junie B. charming and funny, others find her to be ill-mannered and obnoxious.  Ditto for Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants books, as well as Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  Personally, I try to make myself feel a little better about young patrons being devoted to these series; at least they’re engaged and reading something, I tell myself.  The darker side of my psyche usually responds with a profanity-laced reply that I keep to myself.

The final entries in this ridiculous annoying snarky insanely funny blog are brought to you by two fabulous librarians to whom I shall bequeath the pseudonyms of “Luna Lovegood” and “Hermione Granger.”  Hermione told me that she put some thought into my query, and that there aren’t that many kid-lit choices that she really detests, but that any books featuring Caillou (that whiny bald-headed Canadian kid who torments his little sister Rosie and the family cat Gilbert) are definitely on her list.  Also, “there was this dead bird book that was pretty morbid.”  Indeed—The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, author of the  classics Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.  Luna’s least-favorite children’s book also contains a theme of death and grieving:  I Cried Too by Jim Schmidt.  Our sweet Luna wants to make it clear that she doesn’t dislike this book, but that the subject matter just makes it so hard to get through.

Darling Reader, if you’ve stuck with me this far, thank you.  I hope this blog made you laugh, made you think, but most of all I hope it made you want to read—even if it is something that isn’t universally loved by librarians.  Because really, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?  Read what YOU love, and have fun.  Until next time–


Unlike most of my other blogs, the opinions and viewpoints in this article DO represent those of some other employees of WCPL.  Names and other identifying details have been altered, via my intense love for the world of Harry Potter, to protect the innocent and the not-so-innocent.  Lastly, just because your favorite librarian may not like a particular book, that doesn’t mean that she or he won’t help you find that one, or thousands of other amazing and wondrous books that are available at WCPL. Happy reading!
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After Harry Potter: What to Read Next

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

My childhood was largely influenced by my obsession with Harry Potter. I spent far too much of my time writing and reading Harry Potter fanfiction, having analytical discussions with strangers on Harry Potter forums, and creating perfect Harry Potter costumes. I even took a fantasy lit class in college just because Harry Potter was on the syllabus. Embarrassing confessions aside, Harry Potter helped me through some difficult experiences and taught me lots of life lessons along the way. Needless to say, I was devastated when I finished the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, less than twenty-four hours after I’d waited in line at midnight to secure a copy. I just knew that I would never find another book to love like I loved Harry Potter.

So in honor of the tenth anniversary of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I bring you read-a-likes! This list of recommendations is for you, Harry Potter lovers of all ages. I know they won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them.

For Children:

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (J F BLACK)
Warned away from magic all of his life, Callum endeavors to fail the trials that would admit him to the Magisterium only to be drawn into its ranks against his will and forced to confront dark elements from his past.

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (J F MCMANN)
In a society that purges thirteen-year-olds who are creative, identical twins Aaron and Alex are separated, one to attend University while the other, supposedly Eliminated, finds himself in a wondrous place where kids hone their abilities and learn magic.

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood (J F LITTLEWOOD)
Twelve-year-old Rose Bliss wants to work magic in her family’s bakery as her parents do, but when they are called away and Rose and her siblings are left in charge, the magic goes awry and a beautiful stranger tries to talk Rose into giving her the Bliss Cookery Booke.

Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull (J F MULL)
Whisked through a portal to The Outskirts, an in-between world, sixth-grader Cole must rescue his friends and find his way back home–before his existence is forgotten.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (J F CHAINANI)
At the School for Good and Evil, failing your fairy tale is not an option.  Best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil. The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed–Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.

For Teens:

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (YA F MAAS)
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin serving a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, and she is summoned to the castle; not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king’s champion. But when competitors start dying one by one, her fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (YA F BARDUGO)
Orphaned by the Border Wars, Alina Starkov is taken from obscurity and her only friend, Mal, to become the protegé of the mysterious Darkling, who trains her to join the magical elite in the belief that she is the Sun Summoner, who can destroy the monsters of the Fold.

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (J F FLANAGAN)
Fifteen-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (YA F TAHIR)
Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older (YA F OLDER)
When the murals painted on the walls of her Brooklyn neighborhood start to change and fade in front of her, Sierra Santiago realizes that something strange is going on–then she discovers her Puerto Rican family are shadowshapers and finds herself in a battle with an evil anthropologist for the lives of her family and friends.

For Adults:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (F MORGENSTERN)
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. Behind the scenes, two young magicians prepare for a duel that they have been trained for since childhood. Despite themselves, the duo fall in love, but what they don’t know is that this game can only leave one standing.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (F GROSSMAN)
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A high school math genius, he’s secretly fascinated with a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory, and real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams have come true. But his newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.

The Passage by Justin Cronin (F CRONIN)
The latest test subject in a covert government experiment, abandoned six-year-old Amy is rescued by an FBI agent who hides them in the Oregon hills, from which Amy emerges a century later to save the human race from a terrifying virus.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher (F BUTCHER)
For Harry Dresden—Chicago’s only professional wizard—business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (F HARKNESS)
Witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her.

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! (And Neville Longbottom, too.)

By Howard Shirley, Teen Department

9610573944_25fc1360f5_o_dBorn as the seventh month dies, as all Harry Potter fans know, is the haunting prophecy that forever establishes the boy wizard’s birthday as July 31. Though Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone* was first published in 1997 (making the series nearly 20 years old), according to Rowling the character himself was born in 1980, making the wizard a thirty-five year old father of three, with his adventures beginning in 1991 and coming to an end in 1998, when he was 18.

So, what’s Harry been up to for the last 17 years or so? The series ends with an epilogue featuring Harry’s two sons headed for Hogwarts, set presumably in September 2017, when Harry is 37. In it we come to know that Harry is an Auror, more or less the equivalent of a wizardly policeman/ secret agent.** Aside from this, little else is offered, although during the years, she has dropped hints and tidbits about her characters’ lives . It’s pretty much up to the fans to imagine what his life is like, though the scene implies it’s a happy one.

Last year, JK Rowling offered a tidbit about Harry and his friends through her Pottermore web site, featuring an article written by (notorious) wizardly gossip columnist Rita Skeeter (introduced in the fourth novel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Of course, whatever Rita Skeeter writes is “deliciously nasty,” to quote Albus Dumbledore, and less than accurate. In this case, it’s more or less a “seen and heard” column about audience members at the Quidditch World Cup,*** with Skeeter’s nastiness limited to cracks about gray hairs (Harry), thinning hair (Ron), and more than dubious rumors of unhappiness at home in the Potter marriage. The article itself is only available on Pottermore, but a further summary of the contents can be found here.

tumblr_mt0ozs1irR1qdibyzo1_r1_500But there are other developments going on as well. JK Rowling has already penned a new Harry Potter screenplay, based on her short book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (by Newt Scamander), itself a fictional bestiary of magical creatures which Harry and company use as a textbook at Hogwarts.**** Eddie Redmayne, an Oscar winner for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking, has already been signed to play the titular author, and an open casting call has been made for a young heroine named Modesty, Newt’s daughter. The film is initially reported to be a trilogy. For more info, the magic of the web will guide you to the following articles:

But those are not stories about Harry, as they are set some seventy years before Harry is born, and apparently in New York City (so perhaps we’ll see what life is like for American wizards and witches?).

Rowling has instead crafted another Harry Potter tale, though it’s neither a story nor a novel, but a stage play. Scheduled to open in 2016 in London’s West End theatre district, the title is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and was co-written with award winning playwright Jack Thorne. Rowling has said it’s “not a prequel,” though it tells more of the story of Harry’s parents. And of course we have yet another magical link.

So there you have it—all that is happening in the wizarding world (at least that we Muggles know of).*****

On a side note there is some “old news” that even local fans may not be aware of—there is a Tennessee connection with the Harry Potter novels (and films). It involves a famous legend and ghost story of middle Tennessee, and the connection appears in every novel of the series. It’s not until the fifth novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, that the full legend comes into play (with a little hold over into the sixth novel). What’s the connection? Well, let’s just say it involves a famous witch, a poltergeist (a spirit who throws things), and a family curse. If you want to find the connection, read the books again!

And that’s our birthday present to you—more to learn (and love) about…images

 


*The novel was retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for its American release, and the name of the title object was similarly changed, but otherwise it’s the same book.

** So, does he introduce himself to the bad guys as “Potter. Harry Potter,” and order his butterbeer shaken? We remain in mystery.

*** Quidditch is a wizard’s sport, sort of combination of field hockey , soccer, cricket and dodgeball, combined with a one-item “I spy” hunt and played on broomsticks. Really, where have you been for the last twenty years that you don’t know this?

**** Hogwarts is the boarding school where Harry and other young witches and wizards go to learn about magic, and, apparently, fight various nasty creatures and servants of the evil wizard Lord Voldemort, who seems to have a habit of terrorizing the school at least once a year. But only during term.

*****Non-magical people who can’t cast spells or fly around on broomsticks, but have to ride cars and airplanes and use telephones, e-mail and Twitter instead of owls to convey our messages. Really, do try to keep up!

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