Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tween a Rock and Hard Place...

To Tween or not to Tween, that is the question!

While at our regional conference last weekend, I went to a panel discussion on what is now being called "tween literature".  The panel consisted of the executive of the American Booksellers for Children, Stephanie Anderson the great manager of WORD Brooklyn, a local expert that teaches about child and teen sexuality, and an editor or chidlren's literature. 

I attended because good tween literature has become my focus recently here at Aaron's Books, stemmed from the 10 year olds that come in asking their moms to buy them "Twilight" (yay to the moms that resist their pleas). 

The panel brought up the very valid point that TWEEN is nothing more than a newish marketing ploy to reach the young girls with money to burn that want to be seen as more grown up.  Really we're talking about an age group that is from 9-13, and ranges vastly in sexual, emotional, and intellectual maturity.  There is no one right or wrong book for this group (that in my day... waaayyy back in the 80's was called more aptly "pre-teen", and really only had Judy Blume to read). 

The good books for this age group are those that do teach lessons (most tend to be about self-worth and true friendship, things young girls that are being told by the media that they are fat and ugly need to hear!).  They also act as a mirror and a window, allowing the reader to see a little of themselves in the characters and also see into a different world.

So here are some shopping tips for moms of tweens (most specifically girls)
1) know what your child has been reading and likes to read, then read one of their boooks.  Use this as a way to not only talk about the book, but also other issues that may come up. Why does this help in shopping?  Because it means that you are more in tune with your child's interests and reading level.

2) ask for help at the store. Tell us what she may have read recently (not what grade they are in, or what grade level they read at)

3) let your child shop alone, or with the help of the store clerk.  We're happy to pull 4 or 5 books that meet your criteria and share them with your daughter to help her choose an appropriate book

4) don't say NO... now I don't mean let your daughter read whatever whenever.. but don't use a blanket "NO" for any books that have a death in them, or 17 year olds that are dating, or use certain words.... that  is limiting your child's exploration.  If the subject matter of a book she selects is mature, see point number one.  Also, if you bring your child to a bookstore and they really want a book, don't walk out empty handed... yes as a person that makes their living selling books (and let me tell you I'm not making money hand over fist!) seeing you walk out without a book hurts, but what hurts more is seing a child that came in with a gleam in their eye and a desire to read walk out with their head down and mopey because they were just told NO you can't have anything in here.

We'll be working hard in the coming months to add more and more books for the 9-13 age and interest range, but let me share with you some books we do currently have  and are recommended by our staff (and by coinincidence, some these authors will be appearing at our Kid-Lit Festival in November!)

My Life In Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald
What I Meant by Maria Lamba
The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan
The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King (for the more mature tween, 14 and up)
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (illustrations by Matt Phelan)
The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler
The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli
Newsgirl by Liza Ketchum
Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder
School of Fear by Gitty Danehvari

Happy Reading!

PS- you don't have to be a "tween" to enjoy these books.... good writing is good writing for all age levels!


  1. I am so writing down all of these books! Love your list!

  2. As the marketing category YA creeps up to college age and thus includes more and more intense content, the category of "tween" begins to make much more sense. Plus, when it comes to books winning awards, tween books may have a difficult time competing with YA. As an author, books I consider "tween" have content more interesting to readers older than many MG books and a bit more complex, and tween books also include some of the content interesting to YA readers, but without such intense content or graphic scenarios.(Refer to murder in tween, show it as it happens in YA. Best leave the subject out entirely in MG. JMHO) I like three categories: MG, tween, and YA.

    As you so aptly stated, there can be no firm age or reading level associated with these breakdowns. Matching a book with a reader is an individual process.

    As a former reading teacher, I can't agree more with your assessment of the damage done to a book-hungry child leaving the bookstore with empty hands.

  3. THANK YOU for this post. As a librarian in a LS/MS this is a never ending struggle. Educating parents is key!

  4. I'm totally mystified that you could say the 9-13 year olds only had Judy Blume when you were that age, even facetiously... didn't you read any, say, Madeleine L'Engle or Lois Duncan or Lois Lowry or or or? These girls have always been BIG readers.

  5. I have two boys 8 and 9. I find that the younger one only wants to read below his level and the older is already trying to get a hold of my Robert Heinlein. (don't worry I've said not yet.) I've set them both up with good read accounts so not only can they keep track of what they read but I can go back and read some of the books as well.

    I think the hardest part in the youth books for them has been that they are both adopted and in so many children's books, the parents are either dead or missing. So we have had to have many sit down talks about that. My oldest even asked. "Why can't they have parents for once?"