Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW Interview Swap With Eden from Story Snoops

Posted by Simcha 2:40 AM, under | 8 comments

For day-two of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, participating bloggers will be interviewing each other as a way to discover new blogs and learn more about the bloggers who run them.

I had the good fortune of being assigned to interview Eden at StorySnoops, a blog that I wasn't familiar with before but which I'll now be visiting often. Eden and three of her friends run a wonderful blog and website geared to helping parents select appropriate books for their children.

Welcome Eden!

The "About Us" page on your site says that you started StorySnoops, along with three other women, to help parents find suitable books for their children. Can you please tell me more about your blog and your incentive for starting it?

All four of the StorySnoops have always been avid readers, and we’re all moms who found ourselves in that place where we were looking for a new challenge in our lives. We mulled over a million different ideas for new careers for each of us, but didn’t really come up with anything that stuck. We had a bit of group epiphany after we had a discussion about a couple of different kid/book situations. My daughter read the Twilight books in fourth grade, and I didn’t know until after the fact about all of the sexual content in the last book. I would have liked to have had a discussion or two with her on the topic before she read that book! Two other Snoops were working at a school Book Fair and were constantly being asked for recommendations by the parents who were shopping there. The fourth Snoop has a daughter who is a very sensitive animal lover, and she always wants to know ahead of time if there is going to be an animal “problem” in a book. We put our heads together on the topic of getting content information out to parents, and StorySnoops.com is the result.

Your site appears to be more than just a blog but it also includes an impressive search engine for finding books based on the reader's age and book preference (genre of book, gender of the main character, book theme etc.) How did you go about putting together this search engine and how do you decide which age group each book is suitable for?

This is actually how our site began. Our vision was to create a resource for parents to help them match their kids up with the most appropriate books for them, based on their child’s interests, age level, etc. For every book we read, we write a “Story” (a brief plot synopsis) and a “Scoop” (a summary of what we think another parent would like to know—both celebratory themes and cautionary themes). Our goal is not to scare parents away from any book, but to help them match their child with the best book for them, or to even facilitate discussion between parents and their children who may have already read a certain book. We planned for several months how we wanted the structure of the site to be, and then hired a web designer/programmer to help us put it all together.

The age question is an interesting one because we don’t have any credentials to judge which age a book is most appropriate for, other than our experience as parents (between the four of us, we have children ranging from 7 to 15). We start with the publisher’s recommended age for each book, and use that for search purposes. We then add information to the Scoop if we think the publisher’s recommended age may be too high or too low. For example, if the publisher recommends age 9-12, but a book has a complex plot that might be difficult for younger readers to follow, we will say so. Our goal is to give the parents all of the practical information they need to make the right choice for their child.

Are your kids as enthusiastic as you are about reading? If so, did you do anything in particular to foster this love of reading in your children?

My daughter is a very enthusiastic reader and constantly has a book going. I have to remind myself sometimes when I am telling her to put the book down so she can eat dinner, that this is a good
problem to have. My only contribution to this miracle was to hand over my collection of Nancy Drew books from my childhood. These were the first books that she really connected with. My son likes reading, but not as much. He has really big ideas about what he wants to read, and tends to get himself in a little over his head with a level that is a bit too difficult. Which is too bad, because then he struggles more than he needs to, and has a harder time finding that wonderful place where you can just completely lose yourself in a book. He and I are on a constant search for books that are a “just right” level that are also interesting to him.

Since your blog is geared to helping parents select suitable books for their children I'm curious as to what your thoughts are on how active parents should be in censoring the books that their children read. Do you think schools and libraries also have a right to censor children's books?

I think that only parents should be able to decide that their child won't read a certain book, and it is not the job of the school or library to restrict a child's access to any title. This has been a hot topic at StorySnoops lately, because we are preparing to post a series of interviews on censorship during Banned Books Week, Sept. 25th-Oct. 2nd.

One of our interviewees is author Meg Cabot, and we asked her which of her titles, if any, had been frequently challenged. She responded that
The Princess Diaries series has come under fire in elementary school libraries, because of references to a certain birth control method. I understand that--as the mother of an elementary school child, I wouldn't want that reference coming up in third grade! But really, as Ms. Cabot pointed out, those books don't belong in an elementary school library in the first place. They are intended for a Young Adult audience, and the publisher's recommended age is “Grade 6-9” for a reason. While I do understand that a school librarian is in a tricky position, I think some of the banning issues in schools would be resolved if he or she made sure to double check the publisher's recommended age for the book's intended audience.

I know that it's not realistic for librarians to be intimately familiar with every work of fiction that they carry, and that it is still my job as a parent to monitor what my child is reading as best I can. Of course, being a StorySnoop, I am in a unique position with regard to knowing what is in the books my children are reading, so it is easy for me to say this! But I do believe that if a parent has strong concerns about what their child reads, the information is out there, and they should take the time to check up on it (on StorySnoops.com perhaps!).

Along the same line, I want my child's teacher to choose books to study in school that it can be reasonably assumed most of the children in the class are mature enough to read. If a parent objects to his or her child reading a book in class, then the option should be available for that child to read something different. But I do not want that parent to have the power to have a book removed from MY child's curriculum. Only my husband and I get to decide that for our child.

Did you review books before you began StorySnoops?

No, none of our group has ever reviewed books before. When we first started our site, we were hesitant to refer to what we wrote as book reviews, because none of us had a literary background. And really, what we are looking for when we read is content that other parents would want to know about while they are trying to match their kids up with books. So we make every effort to be as unbiased and neutral as possible when we write the “Scoop” for each book we read. But not surprisingly, we were finding that we had some really strong opinions about some of the books we were reading. So it’s a great outlet to have the blog, where we can say what we REALLY think! And not so surprisingly, some of the blogs we write are sounding more and more like actual reviews….hmmm!

What has been the most enjoyable aspect for you of book blogging?

I think I can speak for all of the Snoops when I say that it has been really fun developing opinions and finding topics that inspire a passionate response to write about. When our project first got going, none of us had ever even read a blog before and we were all very intimidated at the thought of having to write one. I guess in that sense, we are different than most book bloggers because our site didn’t start as a blog, so we really knew nothing about it.

Can you give me an example of a topic that you discovered a passion for through your book blogging?

We have all found ourselves feeling passionate about certain books that we've read (be it a positive or negative reaction!), and other topics related to reading. I got very worked up about practices in the publishing industry relating to marketing to teens and tweens. Another Snoop is passionate about authors who write about children that have Asperger's Syndrome or autism, because she has a soft spot in her heart for children with these issues. And another has a reluctant reader that she would do anything to motivate. It has been fun to take what sometimes starts as just a little thought, and have the freedom to explore and expand on the idea.

What is your preferred reading genre?

I love the realistic fiction, but the StorySnoops project has forced me to go in some new directions, and I’m really enjoying the science fiction and historical fiction that I’ve read.

Who are three of your favorite authors?

I am really enjoying Scott Westerfeld. I never read much science fiction before, but I’ve really enjoyed all of the books of his I’ve read for the StorySnoops site. Judy Blume was my first favorite author, and will always have a special place in my heart. For my own personal reading, I’ve always loved a good detective story, and Harlan Coben has been a favorite lately.

What was the last book you read that you really loved?

I just finished The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. It’s a YA book that was written in 1974, but it’s still very relevant today. Absolutely loved it!

What are you currently reading?

The children’s book I’m currently reading is
Funerals and Fly Fishing by Mary Bartek, and for months now I have had The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson and This Body of Death by Elizabeth George sitting on my nightstand!

What do you enjoy doing when you aren't reading?

When I’m not reading, I love hiking with my dogs, cooking and hanging out with my husband and kids. The kids are 10 and 12 right now and it’s such a fun time—they have lots going on, and we enjoy any aspect of it that they will let us be a part of!

Thanks so much Eden for taking the time to answer all of my questions. I really enjoyed getting to know more about you and Story Snoops and I will definitely be returning to your blog the next time that I need to find a good book for my kids.

You can visit Eden and her fellow bloggers over at StorySnoops and make sure to check out her fascinating interview with me.

Visit this link to read more BBAW blog interviews.


awesome interview! Her site sounds so serious, and I'm thinking I've definitely got to check it out!
I also think I might NEED to read the Chocolate War!

Thanks for this interview with Eden. I'm sure as my children grow older, I'll find this particular blog invaluable.

I really loved The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier! Great book. Thanks for the interview.

I loved this interview. And, as a mom myself, StorySnoops really sounds like a blog I'll love. Going to check it out now.:)

It seems to me that almost every book involving a pet ends sadly. It'd be graet to know which books don't!

umm... that should be "great" not graet. :-)

Your daughter got a hold of Breaking Dawn in 4th grade! I would be concerned too. I can just imagine at that age, reading those graphic scenes would make me scared of sex, actually.

I hadn't heard of StorySnoops, but will have to check it out since I'm always looking for good age-appropriate books for my kids - especially my oldest son whose reading level is a few years ahead of his age.

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