Thursday, January 20, 2011

MG/YA Brains: The Divide

Whenever my house seems dusty and cluttered, which is a lot, I put on some real estate show and look at the adults only kind of living with porcelain objects on tables and alien things like crystal and wine decanters. It's an entirely different world from mine. There, basketballs would never roll across a living room floor (we have a small Juliette balcony which sounds so lovely, but it is at the perfect height for a basketball toss) and you wouldn't have to think of a way to hide cat scratch marks on the sofas.

I love watching those shows. It's an escape that helps me come back and hurl rogue basketballs into the garage, pick up the fossilized socks under the sofas and start the laundry with renewed apathy.

I do that with work, too. A few days ago, I was writing curriculum for a course I am less than excited about teaching. So in the middle of a thrilling lesson on apostrophe usage, I went online and looked at new jobs. These jobs wouldn't be in my classroom where the windows don't open, ever, and the air conditioning kicks in the week before Christmas. These would be in new and shiny classrooms where the students didn't text while I was talking about Herman Melville and all the apostrophes would arrive in meticulously rendered papers. I just needed to find that job.

One really interested me. It was about an hour from here and it was teaching MG and YA writing. You had to have written and published at least one book, have a current manuscript and a bunch of other requisites  that I already have. It sounded perfect.

Of course, it's impossible for me to do this job since I'm already overly committed for the spring, but thinking about teaching MG and YA was no different from my viewing of adult only houses staged for sale.

And it made me think, again, about those lines between MG and YA. They seem so definite in the bookstores and libraries. Yet books like The Hobbit confuse me - that was assigned in our seventh grade class, yet it is in the YA section in a lot of places. Number the Stars, also a book I taught in middle school, is in the YA section. Other than obvious subject matter, I'm not sure what divides them. I have an idea, though, now, after one of our pre-dinner conversations.

Christopher was saying something about sleep and the brain, and how dreaming is essential to survival. (Remember finishing your first semester of college psychology and all the stuff you found out?) The conversation went something like this:

Definitely a YA reader, with a semi mature attitude. I say semi mature because Christopher would also agree with this brain theory:

Emma, who was gluing feathers onto the cover of her report on cell function, (because cell function reports are dull) explained to Christopher that she knew, exactly, why we dream.

"When you go to sleep, your brain has nothing to look at and nothing to do. It's sooooo bored. So it makes up stories until you wake up. That's why you dream."

I think I had my answer to the difference.


Lisa Amowitz said...

Haha--LOVE it, Anne. Your classrooms sound a lot like mine. Except in my classroom the ac never kicks on but the heat does instead--in April.

Anne Spollen said...

Yeah, what is it with that HVAC stuff? They never seem to get it right.

Good luck with the new semester, Lisa!

Bish Denham said...

I LOVE your daughter's explanation for why we dream!

Anne Spollen said...

She was so convinced, too, Bish. She looked up, explained it to us, then went back to gluing her feathers on. She had that one flattened.

Marcia said...

Wow -- at least half of me wants to say that makes total sense. :D I love it!

Maybe I'M muddled, but I don't think libraries know where the line is that clearly. Seems to me they slap YA stickers on MG all the time. Theory: Kids read up, plus the general public thinks anything not adult is "young adult." Therefore they'll get more circulation with the YA sticker? Also, the same book is often not classified the same way from one library to the next.

Anne Spollen said...

I secretly agree with Emma on her dream theory.

The thing with the MG/YA divide, Marcia -- one question - is there an MG section anywhere? In our library, in most libraries, there is a Teen Zone or a YA section, but never anything for the 'tween kids. Their books are lumped in with the chapter books and easy reader. Something for librarians to think about since I know a certain 'tween (and all her friends) who won't go to that section because it's " so baby."

I'm wondering if that's just here???

Glynis said...

Love the post and Emma's answer! :)

Mary Witzl said...

I completely agree with your daughter. Dreams are crazy TV to keep us occupied when we're doing nothing but sleeping.

Here in the U.K., all sorts of things end up in the 'Teenage Lit' section. (They don't know what MG and YA mean.) Every library and book store seems to have a different idea about what books people from 13 through 20 want to read too. In the same section, I've found Sweet Valley Twins, books by Meg Roskoff and Mark Haddon, and Nancy Drew.

adrienne said...

I'm glad my kids are out of the tweens stage - it was so difficult to find appropriate reading then. And I'm impressed you had feathers handy to jazz up that boring report!

Anne Spollen said...

Thanks, Glynis! Emma is in that precise margin of going from kid to 'tween, so she's got some interesting theories on life...

It's not that much different here, Mary. Everything seems lumped in one big sort of adolescent soup even though we pretend to separate them out.

Oh yes, Adrienne. We have lots of feathers in this house, glitter, sequins and shiny stars. Unfortunately, a lot of that stuff is in the kitchen and sometimes...well, you know.

Anonymous said...

I see the MG and YA divide in bookstores, but I can't recall what libraries have.

I like to look at perfect houses too, but I know I'll never have one. I'm more of a writer than a housekeeper, and my cats destroy everything.