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Margin for Surprise: About Books, Children, and Librarians

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This is important reading for people engaged in the publication, evaluation and selection of children's books. Mrs. Viguers offers a collection of the speeches she has made before library groups and three of her articles from Horn Book, the magazine which she edits. These arranged under three broad headings. The title section provides a valuable source of condensed informa This is important reading for people engaged in the publication, evaluation and selection of children's books. Mrs. Viguers offers a collection of the speeches she has made before library groups and three of her articles from Horn Book, the magazine which she edits. These arranged under three broad headings. The title section provides a valuable source of condensed information about the history of children's books and the history of critical writing about them. A discussion of the role and responsibilities of the critic is sure to engage the attention of children's librarians, who do more active reviewing than any of the other specialists in library service. Her major premise would be difficult to refute: that the critic's primary role should be the pursuit and illumination of excellence; that the same "margin for surprise" which children bring to their reading should be a factor in adult evaluation of materials aimed at children. Mrs. Viguers' dismissal of children as critics, her contentions about the proper use of critical reviews in book selection, and her pronouncements on various kinds of books should, among other points, challenge her readers to a reassessment of issues in current, if not always open, controversy. The second section, The Librarians, has a lucid section on reading appetites at the various age levels. The presence of personal anecdote brings a tone of informality to the explication of the goals and standards of book services to children that should make it useful for interested parents as well as potential and practicing librarians. The Children, the final section, concerns books at Christmas and books around the world. People in or watching this field will find refreshment in this book.


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This is important reading for people engaged in the publication, evaluation and selection of children's books. Mrs. Viguers offers a collection of the speeches she has made before library groups and three of her articles from Horn Book, the magazine which she edits. These arranged under three broad headings. The title section provides a valuable source of condensed informa This is important reading for people engaged in the publication, evaluation and selection of children's books. Mrs. Viguers offers a collection of the speeches she has made before library groups and three of her articles from Horn Book, the magazine which she edits. These arranged under three broad headings. The title section provides a valuable source of condensed information about the history of children's books and the history of critical writing about them. A discussion of the role and responsibilities of the critic is sure to engage the attention of children's librarians, who do more active reviewing than any of the other specialists in library service. Her major premise would be difficult to refute: that the critic's primary role should be the pursuit and illumination of excellence; that the same "margin for surprise" which children bring to their reading should be a factor in adult evaluation of materials aimed at children. Mrs. Viguers' dismissal of children as critics, her contentions about the proper use of critical reviews in book selection, and her pronouncements on various kinds of books should, among other points, challenge her readers to a reassessment of issues in current, if not always open, controversy. The second section, The Librarians, has a lucid section on reading appetites at the various age levels. The presence of personal anecdote brings a tone of informality to the explication of the goals and standards of book services to children that should make it useful for interested parents as well as potential and practicing librarians. The Children, the final section, concerns books at Christmas and books around the world. People in or watching this field will find refreshment in this book.

9 review for Margin for Surprise: About Books, Children, and Librarians

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Fitzgerald

    So many wonderful quotes. Much of this book originated as speeches to librarians, and the author is a master of rhetoric as well as a subject-matter-expert par excellence. I fear that some look at the pioneering children's librarians (Viguers was born in 1903 and served under Anne Carroll Moore - born 1871, who practically invented the children's library at NYPL) and see "dead white ladies" who couldn't possibly know anything. How wrong they are. Viguers brings with her more experience than pract So many wonderful quotes. Much of this book originated as speeches to librarians, and the author is a master of rhetoric as well as a subject-matter-expert par excellence. I fear that some look at the pioneering children's librarians (Viguers was born in 1903 and served under Anne Carroll Moore - born 1871, who practically invented the children's library at NYPL) and see "dead white ladies" who couldn't possibly know anything. How wrong they are. Viguers brings with her more experience than practically anyone in the field - not just chronologically, but geographically also: she was a children's librarian not only in NY (135th Street in the heart of Harlem) but also in Spain, France, and China. She taught for years at the library school at Simmons and was editor of The Horn Book. She gets beyond the technology (the "how" of children's libraries) and considers what is truly important - the "why". She recognizes what is universal to children - and to humanity - the importance of telling stories. So many children's libraries have gotten delusions of grandeur with their STEM labs and makerspaces, with their pre-pre-school early literacy hype (not to mention their drag-queens and Junior SWJ clubs), that no one is telling stories. On the subject of children's librarians' reading, she astutely points out that "Few have to keep abreast of the latest books. Only professional reviewers need do that. No harm is done if the buying of creative books for a school or library or home is a year or two behind publication. To children the mark of a new book is not the publication date." (pp.14-15) Alas, to many children's librarians, the latest is all they know and all that is held by the library after shortsighted policy making and misguided weeding projects. And it is all doomed to be replaced in a year or two so that there can never be a true collection of depth and significance, merely an ever-changing shallow accumulation of flavors-of-the-month. Of course, a book from 1964 cannot possibly consider the great books of the last 50 years (about the most recent included is A Wrinkle in Time), but hopefully wise librarians who have taken the time to read widely will be able to apply Viguers's principles to books of any time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katie Fitzgerald

  3. 5 out of 5

    FitzFamily

  4. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

  5. 4 out of 5

    rêveur d'art

  6. 4 out of 5

    Renee

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erik

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Rhinehart

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