Meet Jen Webb

JenJen Webb writes at No Flying, No Tights, which features reviews of graphic novels for teens, and she’s judging this same genre for Cybils. A librarian in Lexington, Mass., she writes that her alternate career choice would be "rock star by day/superhero by night."

She recently sent us answers to a few questions:

Q. How long have you been blogging?

A: Since 2002

Q. Why do you blog:

A. I don’t know if I can really call myself a blogger, although the lovely folks at the Cybils have made me an honorary one! I love to write, talk, think, and argue about reading.  When Robin Brenner started her acclaimed site devoted to comics, No Flying, No Tights, she invited me to be a reviewer and I jumped at the chance. We wanted to spread our love and knowledge of the medium throughout the library world and beyond–especially to teen readers. A lot of people are already comics fans, but they don’t know it. Did you used to love Archie? Calvin and Hobbes? There’s a graphic novel out there for you. Robin and I are planning to blog more and on a wider range of topics at No Flying, No Tights in the future, so stay tuned.

Q. What is it about kidlit that you love most?

A. I never grew out of children’s books, and kidlit has grown richer and more varied with each year. Unlike adult books, that have to fit into strict categories to sell, kidlit can cross genres and mix the realistic and the fantastical with ease. Books for kids and teens aren’t afraid to just tell a story, but the best of them use language in creative and sophisticated ways while still keeping readers turning the pages. Great kidlit writers are like poets–they use far fewer words than most novelists, so each word has to be just right. Don’t laugh, but  Captain Underpants is a great example of this inventiveness. Dav Pilkey mixes comics with text, using one to comment on the other. He takes familiar narrative patterns and subverts them. The title alone tells you these books are all about playing with language.

Q. What’s your favorite book that didn’t make the shortlist?

A. I would have liked to see some Japanese manga (as opposed to American manga) make the list.

Q. Do you and your kids ever disagree on reading choices? Tell us about it.

A. As a kid, there were always a few things I read that made my parents groan, like Sweet Valley High. When the kids I work with love something and I don’t get it, I try to understand why it appeals to them. As we grow up, I think we forget how personal and individual our responses to reading can be. Kids are making their own meaning from what they read in ways we can’t imagine. I’d like to point out to my parents that I didn’t end up internalizing the worldview of Sweet Valley!

Q. If you could have a fictional character visit you for a day, who would it be and how would you spend the time together?

A. Ooh, so hard to choose! I’d love to hang out with the Castle Waiting gang.

Here’s a snippet from a recent review of Baron the Cat Returns:

As any cat lover will tell you, felines operate under their own
              logic. Racing around as if chased by an invisible enemy, attacking
              pieces of lint– we’ll never understand why they do the things they

Read the rest here or check out other reviews, such as this one on GALS!, a manga that breaks the mold of female heroines:

Ran, rebellious daughter of a family of cops, dispenses her own
              unique brand of justice among Shibuya’s warring cliques. She’ll
              happily scam a cute guy into buying her dinner one moment, then
              rescue a friend from trading her body for cash the next. While real-life
              kogals were notorious for dating older men in return for
              shopping money, Ran’s quirky code forbids treating yourself like
              merchandise. She explodes onto Fujii Mihona’s pages like a super
              heroine in leopard-print, giving GALS! its kinetic energy.

Here’s the rest.