Today’s Cybils judge of the day is Sherry Early, blogger at Semicolon since October of 2003. According to her blog, Sherry is a "a 40-something homeschool teacher, foolish Christian, conservative Republican, bookreading fanatic, happily married, mother of eight." She is also the originator of the Saturday Review of Books series (in which dozens of people each link to their favorite review of the week), and she is a dedicated judge on the Cybils Middle Grade Fiction committee. You can find links to her reviews of several Cybils nominees here. Today, Jen Robinson interviews Sherry about her blog.
Jen: Why do you blog, Sherry?
Sherry: I must confess that my creativity is somewhat limited. When I started my blog, I called it "Sherry’s Blog." Imaginative, huh? Eldest Daughter gave me the name Semicolon, and I liked it. I like semicolons; I use them judiciously. However, I still didn’t have any idea that the title would actually say something about the purpose of my blog. But it does. I blog to communicate. I also blog to connect with others and to connect other people with each other and with the information and ideas that will help them to ultimately connect with the God and Father of us all. I try to use my blog as a semicolon to connect readers to books and to wisdom and to encouragement. Language really is quite powerful, and even punctuation has its place in holding the universe together.
Jen: What is it about kidlit that you love most?
Sherry: Children’s literature tends to be more hope-filled and joy-infused than adult literature. Even if an author’s worldview tells him that the universe is utterly meaningless and that despair is the only rational reaction, no one wants to tell children that. So children’s authors find some kind of hope and meaning to put into their writing, or else they don’t write for children. Also, good children’s authors know that while adults may persevere in reading a book that isn’t very interesting for the sake of having read it or being able to talk about it, children usually won’t. Children’s authors have to tell a good story, or their audience won’t read the book. I like good stories.
Jen: What are your favorite books that didn’t make the shortlist?
Jen: Do you and your kids ever disagree on reading choices? Tell us about it.
Sherry: Eldest Daughter, who’s in college, is really fond of twentieth century authors like Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, and Virginia Woolf right now. I’m trying them out, but not convinced. On the other hand, I love Dickens and all the other Victorian novelists, but I haven’t totally convinced the urchins. All of my older children have read and re-read Harry Potter, but I refuse because I’ve already heard too much about them and can’t enjoy a book that’s been over-hyped. We all agree on loving Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle.
Jen: If you could have a fictional character visit you for a day, who would it be and how would you spend the time together?
Sherry: Elizabeth Bennett and I would have tea and discuss the neighbors and books.
Here are a couple of examples of Sherry’s writing style and subject matter. First, from a post last February decrying "adults who presume to read adult meanings and prejudices into picture books":
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton is NOT an agrarian tract. Drummer Hoff by Barbara Emberly does NOT teach children to glorify war. And Curious George is a book about a curious monkey and his friend, not about a slave and his master. George is a monkey, and the theme of the books, if there is one, is curiosity and how too much of it sometimes leads to trouble. If you see subversive plot elements or themes in this or other commonly enjoyed picture books, you probably brought them with you.
We also recommend Sherry’s post from last March about ten Favorite Children’s Books for the Whole Family (and why), and this wonderful description of an Early family Poetry Party, where different family members each selected a poem to read. A fun sidenote from that post:
All the poetry presenters got a treat, and even the teenagers scrambled to remember some lines of poetry in order to merit a piece of chocolate.
Moral: Poetry is great, and it goes down even better with chocolate.
For more, visit Semicolon yourself. You’ll be glad you did.