Monday, November 29, 2004

Author: Roald Dahl

The Telegraph has an excellent overview of all things Dahl as Hollywood discovers or re-discovers of his work. Read the whole thing.
No other British writer has combined imagination, wit and black humour to entertain his child readers over the heads and behind the back of disapproving adults.

Some cool facts from the article that you may not know about him include:
* he invented the word gremlins
* he adapted two Ian Fleming books for the cinema: You Only Live Twice for the film starring Sean Connery, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Dick Van Dyke
* he was born in Wales in 1916 and went on to study at Repton. He took a job with Shell but when the Second World War broke out he joined the RAF and became a fighter pilot.

Screen treatments in the works:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Tim Burton with Johnny Depp as Wonka
The Fantastic Mr Fox - Wes Anderson, who made The Royal Tennenbaums
The B.F.G – the Big Friendly Giant – by the producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshal, with a script by Ed Solomon, who wrote Men in Black.
The Twits - John Cleese has written the script
Robert Altman, is adapting some of Dahl's macabre adult stories into a six-part television series

The Official Roald Dahl Website features the art work of Quentin Blake. Lots of good stuff there.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Tolkien's home receives "listed" status

BBC reports, J.R.R. Tolkien's home has been listed as a Grade II property.
Tolkien's house
The house has been given Grade II listed status
The house where he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is now protected.

"... we can also give protection to buildings that have historical association with nationally important people or events.

"Professor Tolkien's house in Oxford is a fine example of this."


Tolkien wrote part of Lord of the Rings in the drawing room

The listed status means that any future alterations will have to respect the character of the building and its preservation must be taken into account in any redevelopment.

Monday, November 22, 2004

She respected chldren

Nancy Larrick has died. Her book A Parent's Guide to Children's Reading was originally published in 1958 and reprinted six times, according to the NYTimes. She was the founder and first president of the International Reading Association and the author of many other articles and books about reading.

Dr. Larrick considered the standard reading workbooks of the 1950's, with their picture games and stories about Dick and Jane, insulting to even a 5-year-old's intelligence. An editor of children's books for Random House, she preferred Dr. Seuss and Little Bear and asserted in a book review in The New York Times that children "can hear the rhythm of beautifully turned phrases and follow the suspense of a good story line."

Trina Schart Hyman dies

There was no one like her. Her talent was amazing. Whether it was cover art for Seer and the Sword or an entire picture book like Saint George and the Dragon -- her illustrations lift the reader into the story.

When she won the Caldecott Medal in 1985 for illustrating "Saint George and the Dragon," she said she thought and even dreamed about her characters.

"I think about the story and about what it means and about how it can be brought to life in pictures," she said. "I think about the characters and what makes them tick and where they’re coming from and where they might be going to."

My daughter chose Trina's princess from Saint George and the Dragon as the model for her very first Halloween costume.
There will be many tributes to her in the coming days. This is a loss.
Update: NYTimes Obit

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Muppet fans will be pleased to see the gang honored on U.S. commemorative stamps in 2005.

"U.S. commemorative stamps portray individuals, subjects and events that are instrumental to the American experience," said David Failor, executive director of stamp services for the Postal Service.

...Among those appearing in the set are, of course, Miss Piggy, as well as Statler and Waldorf, the Swedish Chef and Dr. Bunson Honeydew and his assistant Beaker.

Beloved as they are, Kermit and friends aren't the first puppets to make it on stamps, Charlie McCarthy managed the feat in 1991, along with his assistant Edgar Bergen.

For a list of the other new stamps planned visit the USAToday article.

On the more serious side, the stamp program will be recalling the Civil Rights Movement.

A 10-stamp set honors the courage and efforts of those who took part in that effort with stamps recalling President Truman's order integrating the military, the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march, sit-ins at "white only" lunch counters and the first black students to attend Central High School in Little Rock.

A wonderful children's book-tie in to this topic is Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges , 1999. Bridges relates a moving account of her first grade year on the front lines of America's battle for civil rights. This is an important and beautiful story of courage and faith. It should be shared in every family.

In addition to that set, singer Marian Anderson will be honored in the Black Heritage stamp series and tennis star and humanitarian Arthur Ashe will be recalled.

Do not miss When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Munoz Ryan, Brian Selznick, 2002.

Posted by Hello

Friday, November 19, 2004

Caldecott contenders?

Karen Gardner reports that Mary Chang, one of 15 committee members on the Caldecott committee read two books to a third-grade class in Williamstown, PA.
Chang read the children two very different books she is considering giving her vote to when the committee decides the award next January -- "Walt Whitman, Words for America, written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Brian Selznick, and "Kitten's First Full Moon," written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes.

I have seen the Whitman book and it is an astonishing, beautiful and important work. I never guess the Caldecott. It will be fun to see what wins this year.

Of the Caldecott award Chang said:
"It's not a popularity contest, but I'll remember it," Chang told them. "There were enough supporters of 'Walt Whitman' to make me think that it's possible, but there were more people who enjoyed the fun of 'Kitten's First Full Moon.'"

The experience was such a positive one that Chang said she would continue to read to groups of children to gauge their reactions to the various books she is considering giving her vote to.

"I was actually very pleased by their reaction," said Chang. "I wanted to see if it was connecting with them, and obviously it was."

Legends of Literature honored

Ray Bradbury and Madeleine L'Engle were honored at the White House on November 17, 2005.
SciFi Wire reports Bradbury received the National Medal of Arts and L'Engle was honored with the National Humanities Medal.

"This is the happiest day in my life," Bradbury told the newspaper. "I started from nothing. It was a long haul, and now I'm here."

...L'Engle was unable to attend the White House ceremony and was represented by her granddaughter Charlotte Jones...

Ray Bradbury is the author of Fahrenheit 451 and many others. Madeleine L'Engle is well known for her Wrinkle in Time as well as other books.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Author: Louise Borden

The Greatest Skating Race by Louise Borden and illustrated by Niki Daly, 2004

Louise Borden has added another little known story to her collection of historical fiction. It is the year 1941 and Holland has been under Nazi control for a year. Ten year old Piet dreams of following in the footsteps of his hero, Piiim Mulier the skater who first achieved Elfstedentocht, the Eleven Towns Race.

When a family friend is taken into German custody Piet's grandfather asks the boy to take the threatened family's children, down the frozen canals, to safety across the border to Brugge, Belguim. They are hoping three children skating down the canals will not attact the attention of the German troops. The journey becomes Piet's Elfstedentocht. The cold, the exhaustion, the fear and the natural exuberance of the children are beautifully shared in this story.

Niki Daly's illustrations have an old fashioned feel. Daly has caught the feeling of the Dutch winter sky and the era with muted colors. The cover even echos the flag of The Netherlands.

The official website of the Elfstedentocht is in Dutch but there is an excellent CNN video report in English at the bottom of the page to give you an idea of the passion for the event in the Netherlands today. I loved seeing all the orange hats!

Borden's other book about WWII is The Little Ships: The Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk in World War II. Michael Foreman's lovely artwork illustrates this legendary story of bravery and determination.

A visit to her website shows she is preparing another WWII story, His Name was Raoul Wallenberg. Wow!

Her book, Sea Clocks : The Story of Longitude has been selected for the 2005-2006 Texas Bluebonnet list.

I love her books!

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Author Kenneth Oppel has won the Governor General's Literary Award for Children for his 2004 book, Airborn.
The judges in this year's literary awards described Airborn as "masterfully crafted" and a "feat of powerful imagination." "From cover to cover," the judges continued, "the reader is in the hands of a superb writer."

Thanks to KidsLit for the tip on the website--very cool!

Oppel says he is not worried that children's books are about to disappear beneath an avalanche of movies, videos, the Internet and other media. In fact, the author is proof of that. His favourite childhood memory is watching the movie Star Wars.

His trilogy, Silverwing, Sunwing, and Firewing have been popular reads with guys.

Author: David Kirk

William Kates of Associated Press has an article with a nice photo of author/illustrator David Kirk. According to the article, Kirk was working as a one-of-a-kind toymaker when publisher Nicholas Callaway purchased one of his toys and "became enamored with the box with its rich illustration and recognized Kirk's ability to bring a character to life."

I love this description of Kirk's home:

In many ways, Kirk's real world is as magical as Miss Spider's: His 140-year-old Gothic-style farmhouse sits on a wooded hillside overlooking the vineyards of Cayuga Lake in this small hamlet, 50 miles southwest of Syracuse, where he lives with his second wife, Kathy, and three daughters - Violet, Primrose and Wisteria.

His house is stuffed with bright-colored paintings, children's books and all sorts of toys, especially robots. Outside, a two-story Victorian-style tree house sits nestled in a towering black walnut in the backyard.

The idea for Miss Spider came from Kirk's oldest daughter, Violet, now 17.

"When she was little, she could pick up a little caterpillar and carry it around for hours," he says. "I would worry because kids aren't usually very careful. Hours later, she would still have her little bug, and it would still be happy, crawling around. When she was ready, she would let it go. She was the inspiration for Miss Spider. Someone who might cause a little trouble, but always very nice."

David Kirk's books are featured at There are coloring sheets, biographical info.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Author: Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson's landmark book, Bridge to Terabithia won the Newbery Medal in 1978. The powerful story is being made into a movie by the same folks behind Holes. The book remains a flash point for some parents. An interesting and revealing interview with Paterson appeared in the Boston Globe. She discusses culture, religion and faith in her writing.
Some highlights:
"An elder in her Presbyterian church in Vermont, Paterson wrote the novel to help her make sense of the death of her son's 8-year-old friend, who was struck by lightning."

How does your faith come through in your work?

C.S. Lewis once said that the book cannot be what the writer is not. I'm not sticking my religion in, because that never works. But who I am and what I believe at the deepest levels is going to come out in what I write. I must say that nearly all of [the challenges] of my books have come from fellow Christians. I think that's a misunderstanding of what a story is all about. I want children to be able to see themselves in [characters]. If I pretty [characters] up, they'll know it's fake.

As a Christian, are you troubled some Christians find your books inappropriate?

Of course, it makes me sad. If you make the book inoffensive, it doesn't deeply move anybody. Some books work for us, and some don't. There will be some children for whom the book will not work. You can't write a book for every single child.

I suppose some people would find parts of the Bible grim or risqu[e].

Well, so do I! A letter from a teacher in a Christian school said she had read "Bridge" aloud in class and stopped because she was appalled. She said, "From now on, I'm going to teach children literature from the Bible alone."

I hope she doesn't use the Book of Judges.

Texas Bluebonnet List, 2005-2006

The new Texas Bluebonnet books have been announced! This year's list looks terrific. I have read many of them and I am looking forward to reading the others.

The Texas Bluebonnet Award (TBA) reading program was established in 1979 to encourage Texas children to read more books, explore a variety of current books, develop powers of discrimination, and identify their favorite books. The award process provides librarians, teachers, parents, and writers with insight into young students' reading preferences. It further affords an opportunity to honor and encourage imaginative authors who create books with high appeal to children.

I enjoy the variety and breadth of the Bluebonnet selections. Left to myself, I read history, mystery and fantasy. The Texas Bluebonnet list encourages me to read in other areas and I am always glad I did.

Two of my favorite books this year are on the list:
Balliett, Blue. Chasing Vermeer. Illustrated by Brett Helquist, 2004.
Collins, Suzanne. Gregor the Overlander, 2003.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Children's Book Week, November 15 - 21, 2004

Since 1919, educators, librarians, booksellers, and families have celebrated Children's Book Week during the week before Thanksgiving. Children's books and the love of reading are celebrated with storytelling, parties, author and illustrator appearances, and other book related events.

...The need for Children's Book Week today is as essential as it was in 1919, and the task remains the realization of Frederic Melcher's crucial goal: "Book Week brings us together to talk about books and reading and, out of our knowledge and love of books, to put the cause of children's reading squarely before the whole community and, community by community, across the whole nation. For a great nation is a reading nation."
 Posted by Hello

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Power of Children's books

NPR has a lovely piece "Kids' Books with Lessons for Life."
All Things Considered, November 9, 2004 · One of the toughest tasks for any parent is helping their children cope with a painful situation. Whether it's rejection, bullying or a thorny teenage breakup, finding just the right words to soothe a troubled child is very difficult. In those moments, s often lament that parenting doesn't come with some sort of instruction manual.

But there are books that can help -- children's books. Fables, fairy tales and novellas can do more than just entertain and delight. They can also ease young people through some of life's challenges.

Classics like Where the Wild Things Are, Ramona the Pest, The Hundred Dresses all have life lessons that can be helpful to kids. Young books can "entertain and assure" kids making the transition to hood. Two books I like for, 5th grade and up were on the list, What Every (Except Me) Knows by Nora Raleigh Baskin (adolescence) and The s by Amy Goldman Koss (cliques.) One of my daughter's favorites, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (adolescence) was also included.

Spiderwick: Gothic Lite

An article by Jacqueline Blais, USA TODAY reports on the popular children's series The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.
[They are] "more cozy than chilling" says Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book Magazine, which covers children's books.

Nice bits about the team and the future of the books.
The five Spiderwick books are a little more than 100 pages each, invitingly illustrated and small enough to hold easily. But, as DiTerlizzi told one fan: "Dude, when you're done, you've read a 500- to 600-page book."

That fan would be Alexander Carr, 10, of Alexandria, Va., who once was what is called euphemistically a reluctant reader. Reading was "evil," he says, his hand chopping downward. He started the first in the series, The Field Guide, one night, woke up in the morning, found the book at his side and started reading more.

The END?
Black and DiTerlizzi say this [The Wrath of Mulgarath] is the end of the Grace children's story: They don't want to put Jared, Simon and Mallory through any more torture.

But it is not the end of tales from Spiderwick. Coming next summer: The Spiderwick Chronicles: Notebook for Fantastical Observations, an illustrated journal for children to record their own spritely creatures - "strange occurrences in their yard, playground, so forth," DiTerlizzi says. And next fall: Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, an illustrated replica of the field guide that the Grace kids discover in their haunted home.

Deep Sea Fishing Catch!

Lord of the Deep by Graham Salisbury

This story is full of the action and the details of deep sea fishing. Mikey greatly admires his step-father, Bill. He is proud of the confidence and trust that he has earned with his hard work for Bill’s charter fishing boat business. When Bill offers to adopt Mikey, we feel the boy's happiness. He does not like their new charter customers though and Mikey’s peace of mind is crushed when Bill makes a decision in favor his family over ethics.

The end of the novel does not resolve smoothly but the more I have thought about it, the more it speaks to me. Young people view the world as very concrete, and it is difficult to come to terms with the hard choices adults must make. It is painful to understand the failings of people we love. What Mikey decides at the end of the story would make for a terrific discussion with young people who are just beginning to make personal decisions about their lives.

A fifth grade student told me recently that this book was his favorite Texas Bluebonnet book so far this year.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Don't miss Chris Van Allsburg's website

Chris Van Allsburg has his own website. They have taken a page from The site looks wonderful. There is a scavenger hunt, wallpaper, screensavers, a timeline of his career, printable bookmarks, coloring pages (from Bad Day at Riverbend) biographical information, writing submissions... lots of stuff to look at. This would be a wonderful extension to an author study.

Yet another good news story about the author by Samantha Critchell, Associated Press Writer

`The Polar Express,' I believe, was a story that came to me fairly quickly. It was more like a recovery of a memory than cooking up a story," he explains.

"It started out in my imagination as a story about a train — the idea of a train standing still in the forest of the winter. I imagined myself as a child approaching the train and that I could ask the train to take me anywhere ... and then I thought to myself, 'It's winter and I'd be able to go anywhere, and at 8 or 9 years old, where would I want to go?' Then I asked, `Where would I want to go on Christmas Eve?' Then it occurred to me, where else would I want to be on Christmas Eve other than the North Pole?"
USA Today story, Monday Nov. 8

Friday, November 05, 2004

Puppy named for dinosaur in children's book


The president is giving first lady Laura Bush a puppy for her birthday. The Scottish terrier pup is related to Barney, the current first pooch, and will be named Miss Beazley after a dinosaur in the children's book The Enormous Egg.

from: OTHER NEWS (

Black lights and Eric Carle

What a wonderful idea for a library lesson using puppets...

For those who envisage a Carle classic coming to life, Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia -- ranked among North America's most exciting troupes for the young -- brings Carle's enchanting stories to the stage tomorrow at the Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University. The "Very Eric Carle" show opens the Center's 2004-05 "Especially for Kids" series.

Mermaid Theatre draws upon the magic of black light and fluorescent puppet creations to capture the essence of A Little Cloud, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and The Very Busy Spider.

About his next book:

... Ten Little Rubber Ducks will be released this spring. It is based on the true story of a freighter in the Pacific that lost a box of rubber ducks that drifted to different shores.

"The story is sheer fantasy, my interpretation," Carle said.

Coolest feedback from a reader:

When asked what has made the deepest impression on him as a children's writer, Carle said, "The highest compliment I've ever received is when a child reads my book, studies the art, and says, 'Hey, I can do that too.' Then I know I've made the connection."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Author: Chris Van Allsburg

Articles and interviews with Chris Van Allsburg abound with the release of The Polar Express Movie. This one by Johnette Rodriguez in the Providence Phoenix has some interesting biographical information as well as Van Allsburg's feelings about the upcoming movie. He describes his conversations with Tom Hanks about the story:

He [Hanks} said, furthermore, it’s not the kind of story that should be awash in the kind of irony and pop culture that you see in kid’s films, and I agreed with him. Because the story couldn’t accommodate that; trying to do that with this particular story would have made — not necessarily a bad film — but it wouldn’t have been this book. Because the book’s pretty earnest, and Tom thought that’s the way the film should be too.

About the movie he says:

It really is kind of unusual to see a film, with its intended audience as younger kids, and there are no jokes about flatulence, no kids on skateboards. You look at the film and even though the technology clearly puts it absolutely contemporary, there’s nothing about the quality of the narrative or the story values that tells you whether it was written in 1950 or 1940 or 1980. It’s devoid of time reference. It’s actually one of the nicest parts of the film.

Other Van Allsburg articles:
An AP story
Grand Rapids Press story
Movie Premier story in Detroit News
How they made the movie in the NY Daily News

The Royal Mail has selected illustrator Raymond Briggs to design their Christmas stamps this season. You can see the stamps and read their description here. Briggs has created Father Christmas cartoons for the stamps along with other illustrations for the First Day Cover Envelope, Filler Card, Airletter and Presentation Pack.

The 2004 stamps show our hero braving every conceivable type of winter weather during his arduous Christmas Eve night shift. But as you can see on the 1st Class stamp, all the hard work’s been worthwhile as he salutes dawn breaking on Christmas Day.

Each design is especially made to fit perfectly on a stamp. The piece begins with dozens of pencil sketches, which are then coloured using crayons and watercolour. This attention to detail is obvious in these delightful pieces that literally glow with colour.

The website describes the stamps but I cannot find a "magnify" image which is a shame. I would like to see the details.
The second class stamp design features Father Christmas struggling up a snow covered rooftop towards a high chimney steep. Surely those footsteps will arouse some suspicion?

In true British style, the weather has changed suddenly to rainfall as Father Christmas makes his way back to his loyal reindeer. Featured on one of the European airmail stamps it could be perfect for showing friends abroad what they are missing out on!

Father Christmas battles through wind so intense it knocks his hat off. Determined, he struggles on. A bit of bloomin’ wind won’t stop him getting his job done.

As hailstones the size of pebbles descend, Father Christmas takes cover under an icicled chimney steep. Could it get any worse?

Daylight approaches and a heavy fog settles. Poor old Father Christmas is close to falling off the roof as he searches for his reindeer. But it’s clear to see that this Airmail stamp design is flawless.

Finally morning comes and Father Christmas, in a rare display of joy, throws his arms up to the sunrise. The night is over, all the presents have been delivered, and he can go home, have a bath and put his feet up. A triumphant design for our first class stamp.

Briggs is in the news lately for his EBay auctions for charity of snowmen items that have been sent to him over the years. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Author: Mary Pope Osborne

Pat Conway interviews Mary Pope Osborne in the Litchfield County Times. The article is full of interesting facts about Osborne's life, travels and writing. She is well known for her "Magic Tree House Series."
Each book in the fiction series usually takes six months to write on her laptop, but also includes many revisions. "Every time I get stuck, I take a break. When I come back," she said, "I've broken through."
Taking a break might mean walking in the woods near her country home in Goshen. Or it just might be relaxing in the sunroom and gazing out on the Marshepaug River that gently flows through the backyard-or playing with Joey, her friendly 5-month-old terrier, or having a cup of tea on the back deck of her home and watching a family of turkeys in the yard.

The article is full of information to share with students and fans of her books. Her next Treehouse books will be #33 and "will be out in the spring [March 8, 2005.] It is entitled Carnival at Candlelight, and it has the two young heroines, Jack and Annie, saving Venice from a flood."

One of my favorite Osborne books is New York's Bravest, her retelling of the American tall tale of Mose the New York City firefighter from the 19th century. The book was her way of dealing with the events of 9-11. She writes that Mose is with every firefighter today that climbs a ladder "toward a blazing sky." I choke up everytime I read it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

City of Ember: the movie

Filmmakers are trolling the children's section of the library for movie ideas. Tom Hanks fresh from his outing with The Polar Express is looking at my favorite summer read, The City of Ember for a future project. reports:
Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman have bought Jeanne DuPrau's young adult SF best-seller The City of Ember to adapt into a movie, Variety reported. The partners are in talks with Edward Scissorhands screenwriter Caroline Thompson to adapt it and Gil Kenan (Monster House) to make his live-action directorial debut. Walden Media is coming aboard as co-producer and financier, the trade paper reported.

The SF fantasy adventure is set in a future when Earth's citizens have moved underground to escape the planet's toxic atmosphere and deals with two teens: one who longs to be a messenger to venture above ground, and another who dreams of working underground to repair a generator whose failure will doom the city's power supply..."

Candy Cookbook

Election stress drives some people to exercise, drink and worry. Some people (me) run to the kitchen. Jill Wendholt Silva of Knight Ridder Newspapers has an article with some suggestions for using your left over Halloween candy. Snickers, Junior Mints, Tootsie Rolls, Milky Ways, Bit-o-Honey, M&M's, and Dots can all be used in inventive ways. Hershey Kisses in Rice Krispy Treats, Bit-O-Honey Pumpkin Cake, Snickers chunks in a salad with apples chunks, Cool Whip, sour cream and peanuts? Woah!

Alison Inches and pastry chef Ric McKown have written The Candy Bar Cookbook which might raise your BGL by just reading the recipes. Sounds like a great addition to a school library cookbook collection.

This is a fun article with recipes included.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Author: James Howe

"25 Years Later, Bunnicula Hops Again" is the title of the interview with James Howe by NPR's Jennifer Ludden.

He describes how his vampire rabbit, Bunnicula came to be. He is proud his series has turned many kids on to reading.

Author: Raymond Briggs

Raymond Briggs, author of The Snowman, is selling his bounty of snowman gifts for charity. David Smith in The Guardian reports that Briggs has been receiving snowmen since his book was published in 1978 and made into an animated film in 1982
'I get stuff sent from all over the world, especially Japan,' he said. 'It's good quality, a lot of it, but there is too much and I just don't have room. I've filled up the attic and getting a big cardboard box up there is now very difficult, in fact it's a nightmare.'

Briggs hope to sell the items, which he will sign, on EBay.

'We're starting with one item to see if it will work: a Snowman toy holding a tiny teddy bear, which I've signed. It's very well made, like Steiff teddy bears, and I can't remember if we've said £50 or £150. There are mad collectors out there who will buy anything with signatures. If it works, we hope to put more on and raise money for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital.'