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Teen fiction website - thoughts please

(13 Posts)
Thewidewideworld Wed 03-Oct-12 16:16:35

Name changed for this as the site I'm going to link to has my rl name on it and I don't want to out myself on my regular name, but I am a longtime Mumsnetter and regular contributor to the children's books forum.
I'm an English teacher with a big interest in YA fiction and I've put together a little website mainly for English teachers but which may also be of interest for teenagers and their parents.
My plan is to build up some more content over the next few weeks and then upgrade the website - hopefullly I will add some extra features including a message forum. I really just want to make it a useful resource for busy classroom teachers who don't have time to read all the new YA literature themselves or scour the web looking for good author blogs or websites. If they can point pupils at it as a place where they can find out what they might like to read next that would be great. It might also be useful for parents who want to encourage their teens to read but don't know what to suggest.
I've posted in the staffroom to get feedback from teachers but it would be good to get feedback from parents as well about what they and their teens would find useful on a site like this.
Anyway here it is The widewideworld

madamehooch Wed 03-Oct-12 16:53:05

Hi there Wide

I've had a look at your website wearing my bookseller's hat and also from the perspective of someone who runs reading groups in secondary schools.

In principle, I think that your site is a good idea. However, by the time children reach their teenage years, they tend to want to select their own books, which is why I wonder whether your website would be best aimed at them instead of adults. I did, in places, find it confusing as to who you were addressing your recommends to - adults or teens. In either case, I do think the the website needs to be more teen friendly and a bit more visual than it currently is if you want teens to refer to it.

Just a picky point (and I know everyone has their own opinion on this,) but some of the books you have picked have been aimed at the wrong target audience. Morris Gleitzman for example wrote his 'Once' 'Then' and 'Now' trilogy for Key Stage 2 pupils (I've met him and he told me this(!)) Also, I would not have said that 'Divergent' is similar to Harry Potter or to Angie Sage. The latter are aimed at a much younger audience.

A good book to look at for research is 'The Ultimate Teen Book Guide.'

If you have someone with a bit of computer graphic savvy, it might be worth them taking a look at your site to jazz it up a bit. You could also see if you could post links to book trailers - they're an excellent way of drumming up interest in particular titles.

Hope my criticisms have been constructive rather than too negative.

MadameHooch x

Thewidewideworld Wed 03-Oct-12 17:20:56

Thanks for this Madame Hooch. You've made some very useful points.

The site is mainly for English teachers and I should have made this clear. I see it as a one-stop shop for teachers to access to fairly targeted information about YA fiction, rather than a general site IYSWIM, but I hoped that it would also be somewhere that teens and parents could look at for recommendations if they wanted to. I should probably try to focus more on my USP.

I take your point about Once, but I know Year 8s who have read it and found it quite harrowing. I'm not sure I would want to teach it in Y6.

You are right about Divergent. I'll change that.

In terms of graphics, I hope I'll be able to include some more when I do the upgrade in a couple of weeks - the package I've got at the moment is quite limited.

Thank you for your really constructive comments, they've helped a lot. I was in two minds about whether to put this version of the site out there, but the feedback I am getting is making me a lot clearer about the improvements I need to make.

madamehooch Wed 03-Oct-12 17:50:56

This is why I love posts like this - it really draws out us book anorakssmile

It's interesting what you say about the Morris Gleitzman trilogy. I came across it when 'Then' was shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award a couple of years ago and it was recommended for upper Key Stage 2. Accordingly, I tested it out on Year 5 and 6 able readers (with the consent of their parents, some of who read it first) and I've yet to find a child who does not like it. I think they do find it harrowing but are able to cope with it because of the way it's written. Each child is different though and, as I said, these were able readers.

Good luck with the site. It's not until you start these things that you realise just how much work is involved is it?

Campaspe Wed 03-Oct-12 18:46:33

The Wide World - probably worth publicising your site on the TES forums, if you haven't done so already. I am a parent not a teacher, but I could definitely see myself referring to a site such as this as my DD gets older. And also, I would use it myself as I enjoy some YA books and think they are too good to be solely the preserve of teenagers!

TunipTheVegemal Wed 03-Oct-12 18:57:20

Your site is great. I agree with MadameHooch it needs to be a bit more visual.

Quite a lot of the books you list are ones that certainly used to be categorised as younger than YA, eg Cynthia Harnett, Michelle Magorian, Nina Bawden. I think age categories do shift, though, and some books appeal to a wider age group than the ones they were originally written for. Our local library files Morris Gleitzman under YA and they do seem to get borrowed.

Is there a way you can make it more interactive? I am sure teens would rather read recommendations from other teens than from a teacher - it would be fun if it could turn into a place where there could be a dialogue, with readers commenting and you replying to their comments. If that would make it too technical or hard to manage, then quotes from real life teens could help bring it alive more.

I really like the section listing books by historical period.

TunipTheVegemal Wed 03-Oct-12 19:01:40

sorry, I've just read the front page properly and realised you are already asking for reviews.

Thewidewideworld Wed 03-Oct-12 19:20:03

Thanks Tunip.

More interactive is on the way, I hope. I have spent the past hour swearing at my website builder package as I try to create a forum on the site. It is all going horribly wrong atm because of my own technical incompetence but I will get there.

I agree about some of the books I have listed seeming 'young' for YA, but it is hard to decide what the cut off point is. A low-ability Y7 class for example will certainly need what you might think of as Key Stage 2 novels.

Campas - thanks. I have posted a link on the TES forum too. You are so right about YA books, a lot of the time I prefer them to so-called adult fiction.

Thewidewideworld Wed 03-Oct-12 19:20:42

Tunip - I need to make the front page info a lot clearer!

TunipTheVegemal Wed 03-Oct-12 19:35:01

I agree, I would far rather read good YA than a lot of literary adult fiction. There are so many amazing authors working in YA at the moment. I think it's the fact that while teens can be curious and thoughtful, so the writers can address really interesting topics, you can't take their attention for granted so the best YA writers will work really hard to get & keep their attention and as a result the storytelling is top-notch.
Something I find really exciting at the moment is how good some writers are at drawing you in with what you think is going to be one genre and then taking you somewhere quite unexpected - Mal Peet's football ones for instance. Or B.R. Collins' Tyme's End, which I thought was going to be a bog standard ghost story but turned into something fascinating about the nature of evil.

TWWW I think it would help if you divided up your story about reading The Wide Wide World from your 'what the site is for' bit. You should definitely keep it because it presents you as an individual and humanises the site a bit but when you go to the front page what you really want initially is a punchy 'this is what we are about' thing.

Re the cut off point, I think it's good to blur the boundaries at both ends and one of the things I really like about your site is the fact that you do that.

jongleuse Fri 05-Oct-12 21:28:03

Like the look of it, widewideworld. Presumably you are going to expand the range of titles and link to lesson plans, topics for discussion etc?

Thewidewideworld Fri 05-Oct-12 23:45:24

That's right Jongleuse. I decided I had enough material to get a basic version of the site up so I could start to figure out what works and what doesn't. As it is a personal hobby rather than a money-making enterprise I can't afford to pay for an expensive website package, but I have upgraded it a little bit so I can have a few extra pages and a discussion forum and hopefully more graphics.

Thewidewideworld Tue 09-Oct-12 15:24:31

OK, I have added a few more things including a comment form on the home page and a discussion forum (or what my webhost people seem to think passes for one). Anyone want to have a go and see if it works?

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