This blog is still pretty new and hasn’t been around long enough to generate any ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ so I imagined a bunch of questions that someone might ask and I am answering them here.
Q. How often are you going to post?
A. Right now, I’m shooting for 2-3 times per week. I didn’t want to set a pace that I didn’t think I could handle long-term, so I’m aiming for that. Some weeks may get more and some may get less, depending how busy the rest of my life is.
Q. How do you choose the books you post?
A. For now, I am going with the ‘random whim’ scheme, with occasional forays into ‘a good reason,’ mostly associated with birthdays. But on the horizon are several theme months, where all the books that month will share a common theme. In the meantime, I have a (growing) list of 300 books (compiled from Caldecott Medal Winners, friends’ recommendations and other ‘Best of’ lists) that I’m planning to read & review. On top of that, I can’t ever seem to leave the library without seeing other books that intrigue me. So I’m not likely to run out of materials for some time to come.
Q. Why is it called The Possum’s Bookshelf?
A. The Possum is the name of the bear featured in my banner artwork. He has been a friend of ours for around 30 years now and has recently taken up residence on the shelf where all my picture books are stored. I think he intends to stay there, so the name seems to fit.
Q. Do you only post books you like?
A. No, I plan to post a review of every book I read, whether I like it or not. Having said that, though, I should clarify that, at the moment, I am mostly reading books that have won awards or been recommended (or that I already own and adore), so it’s all pretty much a love fest now. And, admittedly, I’m an easy audience. It’s not tough to win me over. If you’re looking for harsh literary criticism, I’m probably not your huckleberry.
Q. Where are the age recommendations & warnings?
A. Oh, I would be terrible at judging age recommendations, since I truly believe that many of these books are cross-generational in their appeal. Most importantly, I don’t know you or your child, so I’m in no way qualified to judge anything as suitable or unsuitable for either of you. And regarding warnings; sure, I value books that celebrate diversity, educate against discrimination and show realistic characters solving relatable problems with ingenuity and determination. But that’s not all I value. You can give me talking penguins or plotting princesses or mischievous monkeys or monsters on vacation or whatever else the creative minds of truly talented writers & illustrators put out there. If the story holds my interest and the artwork catches my imagination, I’m not scouring for stereotypes or tabulating the ratio of male to female characters. I’m just enjoying a good book.
Also, I can’t remember ever withholding any books from my kids. We read books of all kinds together and if there were words they didn’t know or plot points they didn’t understand or questions that came up, we discussed them. If something in a book scared or bothered them, we talked about it. Through reading these books together, we learned a lot about how we, collectively and separately, saw the world.
Q. Do you have any recommendations for those of us who are more stringent with our standards?
A. There are lots of sites that can give you the 411 on any gender, race, etc. issues that might be important to you in these books. You can always read through a book first yourself. But I suggest that if you’re concerned about a book that your child wants to read, just read it together. Discuss the parts of it that concern you and let your child share his opinion. Don’t be afraid to ask and answer tough questions. Do research together if questions come up that you can’t answer. Enjoy the experience and remember to celebrate the simple fact that your child, in our modern technological world, wants to read a book. Good for him. Good for you. And ultimately, good for everyone…because all the people who wrote all these wonderful books I post about here, started by wanting to read one.
Q. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
A. Chocolate peanut butter. Yum.
My imaginary interviewer definitely wanted to ask that last question.