Your Favorite Children’s Books…Revamped for Kids These Days

In the modern world of Snapchat and selfies, reading has often taking a back seat to texting and iPad games for today’s kids. The Huffington Post pokes fun at this tech-obsessed generation by recreating popular children’s book covers.

Here are a few of my favs, presented without comment:

 

Hope these made you LOL! Any others that you can think of changing?

Call the whambulance: Jealous writer tells J.K. Rowling to move aside

Ohhhh, have I been itching for another literary rant, and now is my chance!

The blogosphere attacked with full force last week, this time at Lynn Shepherd, a novelist and copywriter who recently wrote on The Huffington Post, “If J.K. Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It.”

Let’s just take a look at her complaints, shall we?

I didn’t much mind Rowling when she was Pottering about. I’ve never read a word (or seen a minute) so I can’t comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent. I did think it a shame that adults were reading them (rather than just reading them to their children, which is another thing altogether), mainly because there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds.

Ah yes, another uber-sophisticated person who thinks she’s above Harry Potter. How original. It’s one thing to judge a writer without reading her work (heck, I did it to Nicholas Sparks with zero regret). But she never even saw the movies? Was she living under a rock from 2001-2011? Perhaps, because *surprise surprise* up until this drivel was published, no one but her fellow HuffPo click-baiters had even heard of her.

Then Shepherd throws shade at Rowling’s adult novels, starting with A Casual Vacancy:

It wasn’t just that the hype was drearily excessive, or that (by all accounts) the novel was no masterpiece and yet sold by the hundredweight, it was the way it crowded out everything else, however good, however worthwhile.

You know what? Too bad! Rowling is insanely rich and famous now, and that means no matter what she writes–even if it suffers critical reviews like A Casual Vacancy in fact did–her fanbase is large enough that she’s still going to make bestseller lists. As a former single mother living on welfare, Rowling managed to overcome the odds and become successful. Good for her, and shame on anyone who would want her to give up on her dreams.

Shepherd continues playing the world’s smallest violin with this nonsense:

I know she used a pseudonym, and no doubt strenuous efforts were indeed made to conceal her identity, but there is no spell strong enough to keep that concealed for long.

So you acknowledge the fact that Rowling tried to remain anonymous, and you still diss her? I can’t comprehend the cognitive dissonance that takes. Rowling has never fought for anyone’s attention; she’s a very private person who rarely does interviews or public appearances.

And she donates more to charity than you could ever hope to earn in your lifetime. Seriously, the woman donated $160 MILLION a couple years back, knocking herself off the Forbes billionaire list. Green isn’t your color, Shepherd, and now you just made millions of people see red with this poorly crafted pity party.

Shepherd ends her article with this:

By all means keep writing for kids, or for your personal pleasure – I would never deny anyone that – but when it comes to the adult market you’ve had your turn. Enjoy your vast fortune and the good you’re doing with it, luxuriate in the love of your legions of fans, and good luck to you on both counts. But it’s time to give other writers, and other writing, room to breathe.

Come on, we all know that you don’t mean “other writers:” you mean yourself. God forbid you work on perfecting your craft when you can just demand more talented people take a back seat. With your line of thinking, Beyonce should stop singing, Meryl Streep should stop acting, and Jared Leto should stop doing both AND chop off his gorgeous hair (Just kidding Jared, don’t do that. Our future wedding photos will look dreadful!)

Wins an Oscar for dressing up as a woman. Looks better than all women by doing so.

Shepherd is what I’d like to coin as a creative communist. Guess what? Life isn’t fair! You shouldn’t get trophies for participation or blame others for your lack of success. Suck it up, work harder, and be grateful for what you have. Rowling is not your competition; your ugly attitude is what’s getting in your own way.

And might I point out that it’s a bit sexist that you targeted Rowling solely, when there are plenty of male authors saturating the adult fiction market, like James Patterson and Stephen King. They’ve been writing crime and suspense for much longer, but you just had to get your panties in a twist and start a catfight. Petty much?

Fortunately for karmic justice, no one can write without thinking and not suffer the consequences. Her article gained over 700 comments, most verbally ripping her to shreds. Jezebel called her out with their own critique, and Amazon now hosts dozens of one-star reviews of Shepherd’s novels, written in retaliation. Hell hath no fury like Dumbledore’s army scorned!

So I hope you’ve learned your lesson, Lynn Shepherd, and eaten the huge slice of humble pie that the Internet has served you. I’m glad you sent an apology to The Guardian, because you have a lot of sucking up to do now. It’s a shame that you had to resort to such pathetic levels to find a spotlight, a plan which backfired with gusto and essentially killed your career.

Now please go back into literary oblivion where you came from.

Belated Book-Related News

Another week has gone by, and now it’s finally starting to feel like fall here in California. I know that I’m spoiled living in the Golden State, so I won’t complain too much, but I always get so upset when I have to put away the shorts and bring out the sweaters.

Autumn and I don’t get along very well. Even though it doesn’t snow where I live, I absolutely loathe being cold. Especially when I have to get out of my cozy, warm bed! I hate layering clothes, dealing with dry skin, and smelling or tasting anything pumpkin-flavored.

You can keep your stupid lattes, Starbucks!

Thus, I’m trying to remind myself of what I do enjoy about this time of year: drinking hot cocoa, dressing up for Halloween parties, eating so much delicious food at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and having extra time to spend with family and friends during the holidays.

That, and awesome movies based on books! We’ve got tons to choose from, so here’s a list to remind you:

  • Romeo and Juliet, Oct. 11 – Ed Westwick as Tybalt? I am so there!
  • Kill Your Darlings, Oct. 18 – Daniel Radcliffe plays Beat poet Allen Ginsberg–yet another British actor who pulls off an American accent!
  • Ender’s Game, Nov. 1 – Despite all the controversy surrounding author Orson Scott Card’s homophobia, I hope this movie is just as great as the book.
  • The Book Thief, Nov. 8 – Didn’t read this bestseller, but so many readers are looking forward to seeing this WWII tale on screen.
  • Great Expectations, Nov. 8 – If anyone could get me to enjoy this story, it’s Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham.
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Nov. 22 –  You already know about how I feel about the end of this trilogy, and now we’re just one movie closer to it. Sigh.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,  Dec.13 – People may wonder why another trilogy was warranted for this book, but I’m just ecstatic for even more time in Middle Earth!

What else is going on this fall? Well, by now you’ve probably heard that Canadian short story writer Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature! As an 82-year-old who was first published at 37, she’s an inspiration to writers everywhere!

And I’d say she’s lived a pretty full life so far! Congrats!

I would love to read more of her work in the future (Alison over at Hardcovers and Heroines found a great list of short stories of Munro’s which you can read for free!), and I highly recommend “How I Met My Husband,” which is part of her collection Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You.

And speaking of reading (which is pretty much all I speak of on this blog!), The Huffington Post conducted a survey of 1,000 American adults and found that 41% had not read a single book of fiction this past year! How utterly sad!

To combat this, HuffPo released a list yesterday of some of the benefits of reading: it decreases stress, keeps your brain sharp, helps you sleep, and eases depression! Good, because it looks like I need to read to overcome my depression after reading those poll results!

I’m currently 100 pages into my 14th book of the year, Awaken by Meg Cabot, so be on the lookout for my review in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Some Friday Fun: Book Cover Flipping

Happy Friday everyone! I can’t believe that it’s the end of May already; time just seems to fly by!

This is especially disconcerting when I realize that the year is 42% over, and I’ve only read 35% of my reading quota. Alas! I’m about 100 pages into Catch-22, which I’m enjoying so far, but I definitely need to spend time this weekend making a bigger dent into the novel.

Some might say that setting an annual reading goal is stifling, but I find that it keeps me motivated and pushes me to be a better blogger for my followers. I only wish that sleep was unnecessary–oh, how many books we could all read then!

Anyways, I found an interesting literary link that I thought I’d share: The Huffington Post’s coverage of author Maureen Johnson’s book cover flip experiment. As a YA fiction writer, Johnson was frustrated with the stereotypes targeted toward books written by women:

And the simple fact of the matter is, if you are a female author, you are much more likely to get the package that suggests the book is of a lower perceived quality. Because it’s “girly,” which is somehow inherently different and easier on the palate. A man and a woman can write books about the same subject matter, at the same level of quality, and that woman is simply more likely to get the soft-sell cover with the warm glow and the feeling of smooth jazz blowing off of it. If we sell more — and we often don’t — it is simply because we produce candy, and who doesn’t like candy? We’re the high fructose corn syrup of literature, even when our products are the same.

So Johnson tweeted her request that people recreate book covers as if the stories were written by the opposite gender. Here are some of my favorites, all of which you can check out at HuffPo:

 

 


I completely agree with Johnson. I believe that the publishing industry can be extremely sexist, perpetuating the idea that men won’t read female authors by packaging their novels in highly feminine covers–despite the fact that the quality of work is just as good as that of their male counterparts.

And while I have nothing against “chick lit” as a genre, since I read quite a bit of it, I realize that there’s no such thing as “dude lit.” We have perceived stories about women’s lives as different, and thereby somehow lesser.

So yes, I’ve described books as fluffy, light, beach reads, but only as an indicator of subject matter, not sex. There’s a huge difference between teen queen Meg Cabot and activist Margaret Atwood, and whomever you enjoy more is just a matter of preference.

And when it comes to my preferences, what I think is trash also has nothing to do with gender. I love romance novels when they’re written well, and loathe them when they’re written by Nicholas Sparks.

But if boys are so insecure in their sexuality that they refuse to read books with “girly” covers or written by women who use their first names instead of initials, then we have only ourselves to blame.

Let’s stop giving into cultural misogyny and start teaching all children to love reading, no matter what the main characters’ or authors’ genders are. Let’s stop polarizing the publishing industry by book covers and start encouraging more gender-neutral marketing. Lastly, let’s stop writing off entire genres as inferior and start reading outside our comfort zone so that we expand our preconceived notions and actually learn from one another.

Who’s with me?!

RIP Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

I’m forgoing today’s “Masterpiece Monday,” so I can express my thoughts on the late great Christopher Hitchens. Sure, I’m a bit late considering that most media are more concerned with Kim Jong Il’s death right now, but how do you figure out what to say about a man who changed your life?

For those of us who knew of Christopher Hitchens, his death on Thursday was not surprising. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t heart-breaking. Hitchens was a famous atheist from England whose reputation as a debater could not be matched. And the only thing that could match his excessive smoking and drinking was his esophageal cancer, which killed him at only 62 years old.

I became familiar with Hitchens in high school, as I educated myself on atheism and read the works of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. I read excerpts of Hitchens’ God is not Great and loved watching his debates on YouTube. His curmudgeonly attitude and harsh words against religion obviously upset a lot of people, but I was amazed at how many commenters online respected his refusal to be sorry for his beliefs, as well as admired his quick wit and riveting words.

Hitchens gave me the courage to live as a loud and proud atheist. One smart reader noticed that I prefer to call myself “secular” on my blog, but I only do that for your guys’ benefit, not mine. This is a book blog, and my atheism–although vital to my life–does not need to be mentioned in all my posts. But make no mistake: ever since de-converting as a teenager, I have never had doubts or felt apologetic for my views.

Which is why I love Hitchens so much. Many journalists made offensive comments to him as he struggled with cancer, such as whether he wished to recant in his final days, but he took all the ignorance with grace. And if Hitchens could read when The Huffington Post asked “What happens when an atheist dies?”, he would probably laugh and reply, “The same that happens to everybody else.”

Hitchens didn’t need saving, no prayers and miracles. He chose to smoke so heavily, and he never regretted his lifestyle. We shouldn’t hope that God will let him into Heaven anyway, and we shouldn’t wish him a torturous existence in Hell. He didn’t fret about his afterlife, so we shouldn’t either. Instead we should respect his beliefs and focus on all the good he achieved while he lived.

So how exactly did Hitchens change my life? By showing me that if atheists want to be accepted by society, we need to lead by example. We shouldn’t be afraid to share our thoughts and educate others, to fight for our civil rights and remind people that the majority shouldn’t rule by default. Show everybody that you don’t need faith to be a kind, considerate, generous, and moral person.

Whether you’re a staunch atheist, a devout Christian, or someone in between, you can benefit by reading Hitchens. He’ll broaden your mind as he blows it with all his exquisite arguments. You may not agree with a word he says, but at least you will be encouraged to ask questions and not take everything for granted.

Because that’s what it means to be an atheist. We believe that this life is all we get, so we better make the most of it.

Do Novelists’ Personal Beliefs Affect Your Opinion of Their Work?

Orson Scott Card at Life, the Universe, & Ever...

Orson Scott Card (Image via Wikipedia)

So I’m about 50 pages into my 20th book of the year, Ender’s Game, and coincidentally I ran across this column on the Huffington Post about the author Orson Scott Card. Since I’ve never read Card’s books, I had no idea that he was a Mormon who was staunchly against same-sex marriage. Given what I knew about Ender’s Game, that it was a sci-fi story about a boy genius soldier, I didn’t think Card’s religious views would play much of a role.

And yet, in Chapter Three, Graff tells Ender that his mother was a Mormon and his father was a Catholic. Because of their upbringing, they love their third son even though most families are permitted to only have two children. But they also hate Ender, because he is an everyday reminder that their family does not fit into this society.

I admit that after reading the HuffPo column, I am more aware of traces of religious bias than I would be if I hadn’t read it at all. For example, when bully Bernard is ridiculed for supposedly watching the other boys’ butts, I wondered if this scene promoted homophobia by declaring that being attracted to the backsides of the same sex is somehow wrong and worthy of mockery.

Am I reading too much into this? I just started the novel, so those who have finished it probably have a better idea of its themes. But at least this article got me thinking: Do I like or dislike certain books, just because I like or dislike the author’s personal beliefs?

The answer for me is sometimes. I love pre-modern literature, which is mostly written by racist, sexist, homophobic men. But I just chock it up to the time period and take their words with a grain of salt. And because I can’t go back in time and get to know them personally, how am I to be sure that people like Joseph Conrad or Mark Twain were racists? Anyone who has taken any literature courses knows that autobiography definitely plays a role in a person’s writing, but that you cannot assume that every word of theirs is autobiographical.

On the other hand, I can either love or hate a story whether or not I like that writer’s opinions. My favorite novel is The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, who is a devout atheist. You cannot ignore his anti-religious messages in the story, which is exactly why I adore it. His modern adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost demonstrates that churches are corrupt and that there is absolutely nothing sinful about experiencing puberty and sexual awakening, despite what the clergy brainwashes children into thinking.

And because I’m secular myself, I am extremely wary of books with religious messages. I enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia as a child, but I agree with Pullman that the books send the wrong messages to kids. I refuse to read explicitly Christian literature now, even if it’s disguised as fantasy.

This is why I have a hard time swallowing The Twilight Saga. As a hopeless romantic, I gobbled up this forbidden vampire/werewolf love triangle. But anyone who claims that Stephenie Meyer’s Mormonism doesn’t affect the story is sorely mistaken. If I had a young daughter, I don’t think I would want her reading a story in which the female protagonist marries at 18 to have sex with her overly controlling, jealous boyfriend. Not to mention, Bella gets pregnant after said sex and refuses to terminate the pregnancy even though the vampire-hybrid fetus is killing her from the inside out.

Feel free to agree to disagree, but Meyer’s anti-choice, anti-premarital sex viewpoints, as well as Twilight’s inherent misogyny, do not an excellent novel make in my humble opinion. And I realize that Pullman’s atheistic epic turns a lot of people off as well. I guess the point of this post is that we should be grateful that we possess the freedoms of speech and press, because even if we disagree with an author’s values, that author has every right to include those values in their novels. And nobody’s forcing you to read books you don’t agree with.

So what about you? Do novelists’ personal beliefs matter to you? Are there certain books you can’t stand or just can’t get enough of on the basis of values alone? Let’s get a debate going, guys!