My name is Jenn Frank. I used to review video games. I like kids' books. I am not a mother. I don't know any kids, and I don't know you. I have no business telling you about kids' books at all. But I am fiercely protective of my own girlhood; here are some of my favorite books.

Apr 23

Rest in peace E. L. Konigsburg, author of one of the greatest children’s books of all time. (Hyperbole? Oh, go get lost in the Met’s fountain.)


Rest in peace E. L. Konigsburg, author of one of the greatest children’s books of all time. (Hyperbole? Oh, go get lost in the Met’s fountain.)

Aug 6

Jun 27

Aw! I used to always get an invisible ink Yes and Know book for the airplane. Usually a spy-themed one!


I had a nice Christmas! I got a radio controled car, and the book The Wind in the Willows. I also got Ben and Me, and The Cave of Time. They are both books. I also got The Mighty Man and Monster Maker. It is a kit that you can make monsters with. I also got the book James and the Giant Peach. It is a good book! I got a sweatband, and two lego sets. Me and my brother got a tape recorder! I also got a Yes and Know book. It is neat! I also got a Pogo book.

Jun 8

The worst part about this is, when the Scholastic Book Fair order forms go out during English class, some little girl will have to spend all her allowance money on both books.

Well, and then once she’s read both books she’ll feel her psyche divided into two distinct halves, and she’ll be a little bit devastated because she actually preferred the book “for boys” to the one “for girls,” and what does it all mean. What does it mean! (It doesn’t mean anything. Or it means she has some sort of taste.)

Actually—worst-case scenario—a girl buys the second book, and in spite of herself. Because, the way Scholastic Book Fair works is, you make these book selections in plain view of a room of peers, and if you are a preteen girl, oh, oh, everyone is judging you, everyone is staring at you, and every day is the end of the world, you awkward little mawkish thing.

Right around age 11 or 12, I think, girls suddenly experience this incredible social pressure. They have to decide whether to maintain the sorts of smart or adventurous hobbies they’ve always enjoyed (or nebbish ones, like computer games and reading, ahem), or whether to start imitating this boy-crazy, fashion-obsessed facade all in the hopes of proving their gender in a super-social, schoolyard-hierarchy way.

I point to my 13th birthday, August 14, 1995, as experiential data. That day, which was the First Day of My Teenagerhood, I chose a cool leather jacket (ugh, of all things) over the Virtual Boy, which! by the way! I had been waaaaiting for, for months and months and months and months. Every time I return to this memory—and I do! Neurotically!—I am depressed by my decision all over again. I wasn’t true to myself. Oh, God!

And when I look at a drawing of a girl talking on a cell phone from the harness of a zip-line, and how important it suddenly becomes to 12-year-old girls to be interpreted by their peers as “grown” and “sophisticated” and whatever else that even means—and what does it mean?!?! To suddenly behave in a vacuous, image-conscious, boy-crazy way when the truth is you’d never so much as poke any of your classmates with a stick? To suddenly act like the most you can offer the world is your well-groomed hair ?—ugh, I start to think about my own girlhood, how careful I became to conceal my computer-game-playing and my book-reading from all my peers, and I just get so, so depressed.

(Teaching children—and girls in particular—to be “image conscious,” by the way, is just daring kids to behave like bullying little sociopaths. )

You guys, I started shaving my legs when I was 11 and I didn’t even want to.

Update: Well, all right.


BOYS ONLY: How to Survive Anything! 
Table of Contents:
How to Survive a shark attack
How to Survive in a Forest
How to Survive Frostbite
How to Survive a Plane Crash
How to Survive in the Desert
How to Survive a Polar Bear Attack
How to Survive a Flash Flood
How to Survive a Broken Leg
How to Survive an Earthquake
How to Survive a Forest Fire
How to Survive in a Whiteout
How to Survive a Zombie Invasion
How to Survive a Snakebite
How to Survive if Your Parachute Fails
How to Survive a Croc Attack
How to Survive a Lightning Strike
How to Survive a T-Rex
How to Survive Whitewater Rapids
How to Survive a Sinking Ship
How to Survive a Vampire Attack
How to Survive an Avalanche
How to Survive a Tornado
How to Survive Quicksand
How to Survive a Fall
How to Survive a Swarm of Bees
How to Survive in Space


GIRLS ONLY: How to Survive Anything! 
Table of Contents:
How to survive a BFF Fight
How to Survive Soccer Tryouts
How to Survive a Breakout
How to Show You’re Sorry
(and chapter 3 is where we no longer care about “survival”)
How to Have the Best Sleepover Ever
How to Take the Perfect School Photo
How to Survive Brothers
Scary Survival Dos and Don’ts
(“don’t throw things or yell at your ghost. it may react badly.”)
How to Handle Becoming Rich
How to Keep Stuff Secret
How to Survive Tests
How to Survive Shyness
How to Handle Sudden Stardom
More Stardom Survival Tips
How to Survive a Camping Trip
(“fresh air is excellent for the skin”)
How to Survive a Fashion Disaster
How to Teach Your Cat to Sit
(are you #$&^%*@ kidding me?)
How to Turn a No Into a Yes
Top Tips for Speechmaking
How to Survive Embarrassment
How to Be a Mind Reader
How to Survive a Crush
Seaside Survival
(don’t wear heels. tie your hair back. sunglasses add glamour.)
How to Soothe Sunburn
How to Pick Perfect Sunglasses
Surviving a Zombie Attack
How to Spot a Frenemy
Brilliant Boredom Busters
How to Survive Truth or Dare
How to Beat Bullies
How to be an Amazing Babysitter

I came across these books myself and remarked on them to Jenn, but didn’t pick them up to open them.  Jackie did, and it’s her comments in italics there.  These books were published this year by Scholastic.  They are not, as you have have guessed by the insane sexism, published in the 1950s.  Scholastic: this is not your proudest moment?

Maybe - MAYBE - How To Pick Perfect Sunglasses is actually in the same class as Surviving When Your Parachute Fails.  And maybe the authors truly believed this but also truly believed these two identical classes of disasters (for some reason?) needed to be in separate books.  If you ever find yourself in this situation, please oh please don’t say “THIS ONE IS FOR BOYS AND THIS IS FOR GIRLS”.  Perhaps instead say “THIS ONE HAS A BUNCH OF INTERESTING REAL-LIFE DISASTER SURVIVAL AND THIS ONE HAS A LOT OF PERSONAL HYGIENE AND INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIP STUFF IN IT, ALSO, TIPS ON GETTING YOUR CAT TO SIT DOWN, I DUNNO”.

The content of the book is what really makes it egregious, though I do recognize I react to “boys only” and “girls only” in most contexts really negatively (dating profiles and middle school sex ed classes being I suppose some exceptions).  I can’t help subbing in other groups that have had privilege:

How To Survive Anything!  STRAIGHT PEOPLE ONLY

How To Survive Anything!  WHITE PEOPLE ONLY

Wow those book titles seem really horrible, huh?  Weiiiiiiiiiiiird

Apr 25

Amy Fusselman tackles kids’ books

Amy Fusselman is one of my favorite writers. Her zine, bunnyrabbit, was one of the first zines I ever read. Fifteen years ago! We’re talkin’ 15 years, here!

Anyway, she’s got a piece about children’s literature over at McSweeneys:

If you have children, you probably know The Fur Family, because it was written back in the Stone Age by Margaret Wise Brown, she of the positively creepy, Norman-Bates-ian maternal force that makes damn sure that the Runaway Bunny goes nowhere, thank you very much.

But this is not about that children’s classic, the sales of which could probably put my own children through college ten times over. This is about The Little Fur Family, which I myself owned. I remember having a tiny copy that was covered in grey fur, and who doesn’t like fur-covered books?

It isn’t reeeeaaaally entirely about kids’ books, as is Fusselman’s way, but you know.

Jan 12
“For a certain type of girl wending her way through adolescence in the mid 1990s, the bible was a paperback novel with a hot pink spine. It was Blake Nelson’s debut and it was called, aptly, Girl. The cover bore a blurry black-and-white portrait of a girl in motion: in peasant blouse and pendant, she was flipping her dark hair over her shoulder in something between a head-bang and a shrug.”

The Gospel According to Girl: A Profile of Blake Nelson at The Millions

(via fuckyeahsassymagazine)

Jun 2

An interview with Eureka’s Castle's “Jovial” Bob Stine! (Best Week Ever)

May 14

Apr 3

Feb 17

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