CAPTION: At the American Library Association Annual Conference with Pam Renfrow, center, and Mona Batchelor. Pam is manager, curriculum specialists at Britannica Digital Learning. Mona is librarian at McKenzie (Tennessee) High School.
The wonderful Alison Krauss sings this lyric that has always haunted me: “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”
That phrase sifted through my head as I read Mona Batchelor’s review of COPYBOY on her blog, “The Hiking Librarian.” Mona is a school librarian from McKenzie, Tenn., and is a past president of The Tennessee Association of School Librarians. She’s also a good friend. She received an ARC (advance reader copy) of COPYBOY when she visited the Capstone Editions booth at the American Library Association Annual Conference in New Orleans last month.
Mona’s review is a gracious one, which I sincerely appreciate, but what intrigued me is what she didn’t say. While Mona is a secondary school librarian and is certainly aware of library classifications, she never labels COPYBOY as “middle grade,” “young adult” or says it’s suitable for a certain age. Thank you, Mona.
I probably have sounded a tad self-congratulatory in the past when I have insistedA at book gatherings for PAPERBOY that my writing is for all ages, not just young people. I am always quick to explain that I DO seek to write in a manner where young people can access my books, but I prefer not to be labeled as a writer for readers in a certain age category.
The Atlantic stated in a December 2017 article that 55 percent of today’s “YA readers” are adults, citing the massive readership of Harry Potter novels and those written by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Turtles All the Way Down.) Since J.K. Rowling and Mr. Green are here to speak on their own behalf, I want to discuss my favorite writer as a young reader – Ernest Hemingway.
I distinctly remember reading The Old Man and the Sea just before turning 15. Hemingway died on July 2, 1961. I turned 15 on July 18, 1961. In those intervening days, I read The Old Man and the Sea. I remember the thrill of that first reading and the thrill has not lessened in the dozens of readings since. I found something special in it when I was not yet 15. I find something new in it as I approach 72.
Not as a coincidence, readers will find a gentle narrative thread running through COPYBOY that speaks to The Old Man and the Sea. I could not have written the book without it.
I note with a smile that various publications and booksellers label COPYBOY as suitable for readers 10 to16, 12 to 15 and 12 to 18. Let me welcome readers from another age group – 8 to 80.
There’s no argument that librarians and booksellers must have a way to categorize books. I also realize that an age demarcation is another way of saying that a book does not contain sex, gratuitous violence, or vulgar language. I’m just here to suggest let’s not be so quick to put strictures on the reading public. Thanks again, Mona.