Blogs have become a very popular way to communicate on the Internet. A blog (officially a weblog) allows you to post your thoughts, pictures and videos on the Internet as frequently as you like so that anyone who is interested can look at them and respond if they want to. It seems everyone now has a blog, from astronauts to politicians to soldiers in Iraq to rock stars to corporate CEOs. So I guess it comes as no surprise that a large number of people interested in children’s literature, who are of course already oriented towards reading and writing, have created hundreds of blogs devoted to children’s literature. Should you be reading blogs to keep up with what’s going on in children’s books?
Who are these people blogging about children’s literature, or as it is known in blogspeak, “kidlit”? It is a very diverse group. There are numerous children’s book authors and illustrators who maintain blogs. There are many teachers, school librarians and public librarians who either blog on their own behalf or might blog as part of their job. There are people in publishing, primarily book editors, who have blogs. There are booksellers, both bookstores and distributors, who maintain blogs. It has now become common for the book reviewers at publications like Horn Book and SLJ to have blogs as part of their job. You can easily find blogs by parents who are home schooling their children or who are just really into finding good books for their children. Some professors of children’s literature have blogs which I’m sure their students follow carefully. Professional storytellers can have blogs which give them a venue for promoting their services. There are a few cases, although not a great number, of kids who will blog about the books they read. And there are some people who blog about children’s books for no other apparent reason than they love children’s books! Then there are a great number of blogs in which you cannot figure out who the blogger is. The blogger remains anonymous and you have no idea what their job is, their age, their sex, or where they live. According to Meredith Farkas’ 2007 Survey of the Biblioblogosphere, 24% of library bloggers blog anonymously. It can be hard to figure out how much credence to give to these bloggers’ opinions when you have no idea where they are coming from.
What will you find on these “kidlit” blogs? Fortunately for the librarian looking for help in keeping up on all the books being published, many blogs primarily consist of book reviews or, in many cases, you would more accurately describe them as the blogger’s reaction and thoughts about books. Some will have precise rating systems they use while others prefer just plot summaries or a listing of what they liked and what they didn’t like. One interesting feature of blogs compared to professional reviews is that the bloggers do not hesitate to say bad things about a book if they don’t like it. I think many times the professional reviewers just don’t review the book if they don’t like it. Another nice feature about the blogs, particularly the many done by teachers and librarians, is that you will get a lot of suggestions about how to use specific books in the library or the classroom — which book works well for a story hour, what age group a book is really best for, and so on. Another nice thing about book blogs is that many of them will specialize in a certain topic or audience, such as fantasy, Hispanic books or picture books. If that is what you are looking for or are interested in, you will be able to find quite a bit of information without sorting through many extraneous posts.
There are of course quite a few other things on kidlit blogs besides book reviews. If you go to the author blogs you are more likely to find ruminations on the writing process and how certain books are progressing. Let’s face it, everybody who blogs likes to write and, no matter what their profession, most of them would like to publish a children’s book, so you end up with a certain amount of blogging about the creative process.
A feature of blogs in general, and kidlit blogs are no exception, is that you read a lot about the blogger’s daily life. Sometimes this can be quite interesting, if they live in another culture or they are talking about their worklife in the book/library world. But in many cases it can just be too much information I didn’t want to know.
Many kidlit blogs will comment on the latest news in the children’s book world and comment on current issues in children’s books. For instance, most blogs in July 2007 were full of comments about the arrival of the last Harry Potter, what it meant for children’s literature, how it was handled by Scholastic, and a host of other HP-related issues. Likewise, the “scrotum” issue in the Newbery winner The Higher Power of Lucky also set off a great many comments early in 2007 on the blogs.
One of the more interesting features of the kidlit blogs are the many interviews with children’s authors they will do. The big names authors are interviewed in the mainstream press but the blogs have a much greater variety of authors and they are not just the stars either.
Many blogs have come up with creative ways to try to get more readers and to be more entertaining. Interesting quotes, interactive challenges and surveys concerning children’s books give the reader some relief from straight book reviews. The kidlit blog world has even created their own children’s book awards, the Cybils. This is a very collegial world in which many of the bloggers follow each others’ blogs and refer to other people’s blogs frequently in their own posts. Almost without fail, each blogger’s site includes a list of other kidlit bloggers that they recommend you visit, as well as links to other useful websites.
How does this blogging work? The easiest way is to go to a website that provides the basic framework for you and all you have to do is customize how you want it to look and then start typing in your comments, or “posts.” The most popular of these by far is the free service “Blogspot,” a part of Google. There are others that are also used, including “WordPress,” “Typepad,” and Livejournal” that work in much the same way. It is also possible to set up your own website and use commercial software to build a blog within that. A fair number of kidlit bloggers use advertising and commercial links to help bring in money to their blog but many do not. You can post as frequently or infrequently as you want. I found some blogs that had several posts in a day and some blogs that would go four months without a post. The world of kidlit blogging is still very new. Most of the blogs I looked at had been started by mid 2005 although some went back into 2003. In general, all of the posts for a particular blog will be archived so you can go back and see all the comments ever made on that blog. Once you find you really like a blog you can almost always find a place to sign up for an RSS feed that will send every new post to you automatically as an email.
For more information about book blogs you may want to check out these titles.
Crawford, Walt. Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples. Self-published on lulu.com, 2007. 299 pp.
Kilgarriff, Catheryn. The Bookaholics’ Guide to Book Blogs. Marion Boyars Publishers, 2007. 288 pp.
SOME BLOGS TO TRY
It is impossible to create a comprehensive list of kidlit blogs. There are way too many of them and they come and go on an almost daily basis. But our website has some links to blogs that might be of interest, organized by the type of person who is doing the blogging, and with some comment on their interesting features. Go to our website, www.btsb.com, select the Library Corner tab and then select Links to visit these blogs. This should allow you to get started and, because each blog lists other recommended blogs, you will probably never run out of blogs to explore.