YA Blog Report — “A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy”

(As viewed somewhat appropriately by “Katy by the Fireplace”)

Summary of the Blog and Its Themes:

The young adult materials blog that I have chosen to follow over the course of the Winter 2011 semester is “A Chair, a Fireplace, & a Tea Cozy,” which is maintained by the School Library Journal website.  This blog is updated frequently: on average, there are about four new posts per week.  The archives for the blog go back to July 2010.  The author of the blog posts is ‘Liz B’, who identifies herself on the blog as a New Jersey librarian[1].  She has a disclaimer on her ‘About’ page stating that her views on this blog do not reflect her employer or any other organisation.  Throughout the semester, I have read on her blog reviews, contests, opinion pieces, news articles, and posts that are hard to categorize as any of the above.  An example would be a mid-February post about booktalking, which was partly advice and partly merely a post about how much she loved doing booktalks.

The blog address is http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/teacozy.  While it is maintained on the School Library Journal website, this blog does not advertise directly for the magazine.  The closest that this blog comes to advertisement is recent posts pertaining to the School Library Journal’s ‘Battle of the Books 2011’ contest, upon which Liz B is maintaining a running commentary and is participating.  As this contest has been ongoing for the past couple of weeks (March 22nd-April 2nd), there are many posts about it, and one has to look farther back for conversation about other topics.  On the other hand, this contest provides opportunity for Liz B to share her reviews and those of her colleagues.  Not all of the books for this contest are young adult titles, but might work as crossover books.  The book that Liz B champions is The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud, and every post from the contest pertaining to it is hyperlinked to her excellent and in-depth review.

“A Chair, a Fireplace, & a Tea Cozy” has a wide variety of coverage of young adult literature, although the blog only represents one viewpoint.  Liz B reviews many books and does not stress any one genre in particular.  She also includes film reviews, particularly when they are relevant to books that she is reviewing or reading.  As an example, earlier in the semester, she reviewed the novel Jazz in Love, by Neesha Meminger[2].  This particular novel discusses arranged marriage, and Liz B linked it to the novel Hush by Eishes Chayil[3] (which appears to be an adult novel that could cross over into young adult readership) and the film Arranged[4].  While these latter stories may appeal to young adult audiences, they were not necessarily targeted at them, and so it is refreshing to see them on a blog about young adult materials.  Liz B connects them together into a common theme and yet gives each individual item its own review.  Overall, this blog approaches young adult materials in a mature manner.

There are many themes discussed on this blog.  Some of them are quite mature (such as the aforementioned arranged marriage), while others feel more frivolous.  Nonetheless, this blog is respectful of the materials that it covers and does not marginalize young adult books because of the target audience.  Liz B’s reviews do not stress pedagogy, but they evaluate works on their literary merit or how entertaining they are.  Librarianship is a common theme throughout, and it is evident that the target audience of this blog is librarians, teachers, and parents moreso than young adults themselves.  The overarching theme of this blog is summed up in its title: it is a relaxing, peaceful place where the author and readers can have a polite discussion over tea about young adult materials.

Tying into this theme of librarianship, the level of interactivity and participation on this blog is quite high.  However, the majority of comments come from other adults, mostly professionals (librarians and teachers) and authors, as well as adult readers.  If teenagers are participating on this blog, they come across as very mature in their comments and I cannot distinguish them from older adults.  This blog also functions as a networking tool between librarians, teachers, and authors, likely a result of being associated with the School Library Journal.

 

Reflection:

I really enjoy this blog and plan to continue monitoring it in the future.  I really appreciate the variety of reviews and articles that Liz B posts or provides links to.  I think that young adult materials need to be considered seriously and promoted as works of literature.  They merit mature discussion among professionals.  They also need to be promoted as reading choices for all ages, rather than being written off as “kids’ books.”

However, this blog is primarily a professional blog for librarians and teachers.  I really felt at home reading it, and the image that comes to mind is of adults discussing literature over tea, which is not necessarily an image that appeals to teenagers.  However, this blog does not come across as patronising, likely because its intended audience is on equal par with its author.  Liz B is writing for librarians and teachers moreso than for teenagers themselves.  Young adults interested in this blog would be those mature enough to fit in with librarians and teachers.

What I have learned most from monitoring this blog is that young adult literature is an interesting and current topic in librarianship, and that it is not as cut and dried as bookstores and the general media might have us believe.  One of the big questions that has arisen for me over the course of this semester is exactly when does ‘young adulthood’ end?  Clearly, this blog is devoted to young adult materials, but is aimed at mature adults.  The reviews in particular are all about how much the author of the blog and then the commenters enjoyed or did not enjoy the book for themselves.  Are we, as librarians, targeting teenagers only?  Does being a teenager end at eighteen or twenty, and what exactly is a young adult?  Is focusing too much on young adult materials only serving to create a divide between teenagers and adults?  Frequently, the term “young adult” is a euphemism for “teenager” (I have used it myself a lot during the course), when it might better describe readers ages 15-25 or 18-30.  If teenagers are young adults, what are twenty-somethings?  This blog demonstrates that older audiences love young adult materials, but mostly those which are not specifically marketed for teenagers.  Young adult is a much broader concept and age-range than high-schoolers.  Librarianship needs to reflect that.


[1] Judging from her email address, her last name is likely Burns.  Throughout the semester, it never occurred to me to look for the author’s actual surname, and thus throughout this report, she will be referred to as ‘Liz B.’

[2] (Ignite Books, 2010)

[3] (Walker, a division of Bloomsbury, 2010)

[4] (Cicala Filmworks, 2007)


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