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Entering the Literary Discomfort Zone

The witty and charming Colleen AF Venable joins me this week to answer some TOUGH QUESTIONS from listeners. We discuss issues like restricting what kids are allowed to read, who has the final say in what is even “appropriate” for kids in terms of literature, how to deal with family bookish drama, getting out of your own literary comfort zone, and much more. (Then we take a fun break and talk about poetry! Yay!) Don’t miss it.

Colleen is the Art and Design Editor for First Second Books. She’s also the author of the Eisner-nominated “Guinea Pig Pet Shop Private Eye” series, as well as two forthcoming books: Mervin the Sloth is About to Do the Best Thing in the World (picture book), and Kiss Number 8 (YA). Be sure to look out for those. Thanks for joining me, Colleen!

This episode was sponsored by Oyster.

Questions Discussed on the Show:

Dear Book Nerd,

I would like to say that I am a huge fan of Book Riot, truly! My darling sister is a fantastic mother who loves her children more than life itself, but she can be very closed-minded about some things. My oldest niece is starting to read more advanced chapter books. For her 11th birthday, I bought her a bookcase and filled it with Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Judy Blume – all the good stuff a blossoming preteen needs. My problem is that my sister insists on buying her books that are usually related to boy/girl drama. My niece told her mother she didn’t want to read Twilight and wanted to read C.S.Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” instead, but my sister still bought her Twilight and insisted that she read it. My sister replies with comments like “No one is reading that book, read THIS one” or “That is a boy’s book.” It makes my skin crawl. So my question is, how do I respect my sister’s relationship with my niece, but still encourage her to branch outside of her literary comfort zone?


Dear Book Nerd,

I have a 10-year-old son who is a voracious reader. He reads above his grade level, and I do not restrict his reading in any way. We go to the library at least once a week, where I allow him to choose anything he wants, including adult books. He has recently taken a liking to Stephen King, and he brought King’s book to school recently to read during homeroom. I received a phone call from his teacher later that day and was told that this reading material was not appropriate for his age, and the teacher suggested that I no longer allow him to bring such books to school. I explained that I do not believe in restricting my child’s reading material, and that it is my decision to decide what is appropriate. So far, I have continued to let him bring these books to class. Am I right in allowing him to do so, or should I respect his teacher’s wishes?

P.S. I have a meeting with the principal of my son’s school at the end of the month to discuss this matter.


Confused Parent

Dear Book Nerd,

Recently, I’ve been reading some poetry and finding a lot of it to be really enjoyable. This sort of surprised me given poetry’s reputation as being cryptic and pretentious. It seems like many people, even book nerds, seem to be wary of reading poetry. Why do you think poetry has been given this negative image of something that only a select few individuals have the power to “get” and how can more people be persuaded that poetry isn’t as scary as it is made out to be?


Links Discussed on the Show:

The Absolutely True Diary of Real-Time Book Censorship” (Book Riot)

New York City Hosts Twitter Poetry Contest” (Media Bistro)

Students Can Participate in Poet-to-Poet Multimedia Project this Month” (School Library Journal)

Colleen’s Poetry Recommendations:

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens
God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant
In The Garden of Bad Things by Doug Macleod
Out of Order/Fuori Servizio by Pedro Pietri
The Really Short Poems of A.R. Ammons
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes
Witness by Karen Hesse


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Do you have a bookish question about life, love, or literature for Dear Book Nerd? Fill out the form below or email me Don’t be shy, ask away!