Madigan McGillicuddy's Reviews > Children's Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career

Children's Literature Gems by Betsy Bird
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May 16, 11

Read in April, 2010

I finally got my hands on a copy of librarian blogger Betsy Bird's first book. Her primer on children's literature is geared for library school students or first year librarians. Experienced librarians will probably find themselves nodding their heads in recognition of many of the reference scenarios that Bird describes.

I had expected that the book would have Bird's trademark relaxed, sometimes silly, always rambling style, but she (or her editors) really reigned things in for this short monograph. The normally verbose Bird weighs in at only 108 pages, along with a few booklists and an index. The slim paperback edition is priced at a hefty $45. Library school students overwhelmed with plenty of lengthy reading assignments and accustomed to paying high prices for textbooks probably won't mind. For the most part, Bird adopts a more sedate tone but she does let her own ad hoc patois slip through here and there, for example; when describing Tana Hoban's White on Black she explains, "Clear, contrasting tones are particularly good for babies vision and it doesn't get much contrastier than black and white." (Emphasis my own.)

Mainly, Bird advocates maintaining a healthy balance between classic children's literature and brand new items. She also covers such basics as the importance of the Newbery and Caldecott awards. I was tickled to see that she highlighted a couple of my own favorite lesser-known favorites to booktalk such as A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz, Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story of Brain Science by John Fleischman, and The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice H. Harrington, illustrated by Shelley Jackson.

With an influx of new children's books being released every spring and fall, this book is sure to be dated in another few years. But, for the moment, this is just the thing for anyone wanting a quick, readable guide to children's librarianship.
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