Every once in a while - not at regular intervals, not even every century - one literary form comes to dominate. When that happens, all the other practising artists are pulled towards the dominant form. In Elizabethan and Jacobean England, drama became primary; in the 19th century, it was the novel. So strong were the writers in these fields that all other writing took on some of the qualities of the dominant genre; practitioners in other fields turned to playwriting, poets experimented with the novel. So in a decade in which Salman Rushdie has produced a children's book, the question is whether children's fiction is exercising that gravitational pull right now.I have always said that children's and YA books are the best reading around, no matter what age you are.
The answer has echoes in that previous time. What made Elizabethan England a golden age of literature? It was because there wasn't just Shakespeare - who raised standards higher than they'd been before - but the plethora of other brilliant playwrights (Marlowe, Middleton, and later Webster and Ford); authors who in any other age would be hogging the limelight all to themselves.
That is the situation in today's world of children's literature. Not just Rowling but several other names are at the top of their game: in no particular order, Lauren Child, Geraldine McCaughrean, Jerry Spinelli, Ann Brashares, Michael Morpurgo, Mark Haddon, Philip Ridley, Neil Gaiman, Joel Stewart, Eva Ibbotson, Michael Rosen. The talent out there is dazzling.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
The Howl's Moving Castle will feature the voices of Christian Bale (31) as Howl, Jean Simmons (76) as Sophie Hatter (old), Lauren Bacall (80) as the Witch of the Waste, Billy Crystal (58) as Calcifer and Blythe Danner (62) as Madam Salliman. The voice actress for the young version of Sophie has yet to be announced. In the Japanese dub Chieko Baisho voiced both the young and old versions of Sophie. Pete Docter will direct.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Sherry at Semicolon notes that today is Anna Sewell's birthday. I never knew anything about Sewell's life. Sherri's information is fascinating although I'm afraid Ginger's death put me off horse books forever.
She began writing Black Beauty when she was in her forties after a doctor told her she had only a year to live. The book actually took her more than five years to write, and she died a few months after its publication.I have never understood how you can teach literature without sharing information about the author's life. An amazing first grade teacher I know does in-depth author studies with her class every year. Her students can tell you anything you want to know about Jan Brett, Marc Brown, Mercer Mayer and Norman Bridwell. Their knowledge brings an extra richness and enjoyment to the books as they share them. I have long held that high school literature teachers should use her model to teach 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird and Animal Farm and Shakespeare.
Having read the novel as a child, re-reading Charlotte's Web as an adult brought depth to author E. B. White's writing. "I look at it as a piece of general literature because when you look at it as an adult you understand the beauty of [White's] writing. In terms of American writers he is in the realm of Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut," Kerner said.
His writers are also committed:
His adaptation tries to pay homage to White, with its writers, Susannah Grant and Karey Kirkpatrick, devotees of White's writing.
"The writers love White's writing so they mimicked it or used it as much as possible in the screenplay," Kerner said.
He has been given unprecedented access to White's notes on the novel and has borrowed many of his thoughts to help transpose the book onto the screen.
Some people lament Hollywood's treatment of children's books but often I find movies send kids back to the books. Sounds like Kerner's heart is in the right place.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
He joins Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld as TV comics who want to share memories of their childhoods with young readers.
It will be interesting to see if the story has a LESSON or MORAL. Short of a calling to write for kids, celebrity books are often chock full of "messages" for living a fuller and better life. Kids just love books written solely to "teach" them something.
Wendelin Van Draanen was honored with a Christopher Medal on March 10 in New York for her book, Shredderman: Secret Identity.
Also awarded that day were the late Christopher Reeve, the movies "The Incredibles," "Hotel Rwanda," and Bob Scheiffer of "Face the Nation." The Christopher Award is given to people or works that "affirm the highest values of the human spirit," according to the organization Web site.
I always enjoy Van Draanen's books. Her writing is thoughtful as well as entertaining. I loved Flipped and it continues to be a favorite with middle school readers. Her Sammye Keyes mysteries are excellent.
The article talks at length about her Shredderman books. When I read the first book I was struck by the hero's resilience and creativity in dealing with a bully at school. There is also much to unpack and discuss beneath the amusing story. Discussing these books Van Draanen says, "I hope the reader finds the superhero within them [and] to learn to stand up for themselves and be the best person they can be."
The previews before the show featured a movie of Chris Van Allsburg's most recent book, Zathura. Like The Polar Express, it will be released for the holidays, 2005.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Tolkien: The Authorized Biography
On March 25th we celebrate the downfall of Sauron.
To read how Tolkien Reading Day came about, visit the Tolkien Society website. In August they are planning a conference in Birmingham, England as 2005 is the fiftieth anniversary of the complete publication of The Lord of the Rings.
In honor of the day, a reading from The Hobbit, chapter 5, "Riddles in the Dark":
When Bilbo opened his eyes, he wondered if he had; for it was just as dark as with them shut. No one was anywhere near him. Just imagine his fright! He could hear nothing, see nothing and he could feel nothing except the stone of the floor.
Very slowly he got up and groped about on all fours till he touched the wall of the tunnel; but neither up nor down it could he find anything; nothing at all, no sign of goblins, no sign of dwarves. His head was swimming and he was far from certain even of the direction they had been going in when he had his fall. H guessed as well as he could, and crawled along for a good way, till suddenly his hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel. It was a turning point in his career, but he id not know it. He put the ring in his pocket almost without thinking; certainly it did not seem of any particular use at the moment.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
She is also looking forward to the autumn release of Inkspell, which will be published simultaneously in German and English, and to the final volume of Funke's trilogy. 'All those who have worked on Inkspell here think that it's even better than Inkheart,' she says. 'The heroine is two years older. It's longer, it is very powerful. There are many dark bits in it. We're all of us agog to read the third!'
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Hollywood News reports: Christopher Paolini's Eragon will be made into a movie with Stefen Fangmeier directing. He was the visual effects supervisor on such films as Lemony Snicket, The Bourne Identity, The Perfect Storm and Saving Private Ryan.
More things Eragon:
Eragon website at Random House
Shur'tugal - all things dragon, dream, talk, read about Eragon
Alagaësia Newsletter - sign up for updates from author Christopher Paolini about Eragon and Eldest
The next book in the Inheritence trilogy is Eldest and will be published in August 2005.
Great summer ahead--Harry and Eragon!
The Game of Sunken Places by M.T. Anderson, 2004
This book is only 260 pages but it took me forever to finish it. Two boys, Brian and Gregory, are caught up in a strange game while visiting an uncle. They have adventures and meet strange creatures. Even now I cannot really remember or understand what the point of the game was. The boys' characters were very undeveloped. I had a hard time remembering which boy was which -- they seemed interchangable.
The great "ah hah!" at the end was -- underwhelming. Anderson was aiming at a gothic and sinister atmosphere but Spiderwick Chronicles and of course Lemony Snicket do it better. There is better stuff out there for fantasy readers.
Monday, March 21, 2005
I want to see the movie Robots. The trailer and reviews make it sound like fun. Something about the style and look of the film was familiar though and then I came across this very interesting article in Newsweek.
The wholly original and multi-faceted William Joyce is credited as the "production designer" though it sounds like it he and Chris Wedge were kindred spirits and co-conspirators on the project.
This is a world much like ours but purely mechanical, inspired by its makers' fondness for widgets and gadgets. "We haunted old junk shops and auto-salvage yards, equipment-supply places," Joyce says. "I'm not a junkyard kind of guy, but I now know a number of machinists, junk dealers and junkyard dogs by name." He started building cities out of utensils in his own house. "My wife couldn't find a can opener, a corkscrew, or our coffee, sugar and flour tins. The kids couldn't find their protractors, because they were in my Rivet Town diorama."
Very cool extra bits: The articles mention that Disney is still working on a movie version of A Day with Wilbur Robinson. (This has been a footnote in the book forever.) Also Joyce and Wedge met while trying to bring Santa Calls to the screen. Maybe with the success of The Polar Express they will revisit this one. Santa Calls is one of my favorite holiday stories but find the full size book, not the dinky board book version.
Robots website (takes forever to load)
"The man behind the machines: William Joyce designs "Robots" from the Shreveport Times
(Joyce lives in Shreveport)
William Joyce website
Just the same, some librarians said they feel the first lady perpetuates an incomplete and outdated stereotype of their profession, which is increasingly high-tech and specialized.Why does Carver make that sound so ... distasteful? Echoes of baking cookies and giving teas.
Said Blake Carver, a New York librarian and Web site operator, "We are not all gentle creatures who read books to children."
Goodness, I am perpetuating an incomplete and outdated stereotype because I read to children. And here I thought one of my roles was to make reading seem like the most wonderful past time in the world, to fire-up imaginations and to touch hearts with stories. I cannot imagine a higher profile job than that.
To be a children's librarian is like a vocation. You have to be PASSIONATE about the books or the kids see right through you. Well, I guess I am not really a "gentle creature" after all.
Petrified Truth had a good take on the comment:
Leaving aside for now the ongoing paranoia of the library community about the Patriot Act, this thought occurs: it takes a deep insecurity to single out reading books to children as an example of lack of status or professionalism.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Filmed on location in a pristine region of Calgary over more than four months, the epic production of Little House on the Prairie recaptures the scope and magnitude of the frontier and recreates the literary saga with painstaking accuracy. Additional episodes will air on subsequent Saturdays, April 2, 9, 16 & 23 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET each night).
The limited series stars Cameron Bancroft as Charles Ingalls, Erin Cottrell as Caroline Ingalls, Kyle Chavarria as Laura Ingalls and Danielle Ryan Chuchran as Mary Ingalls.
I think I will dial it up next Saturday, March 26 at 8/7c.
It might interest scholars to know that documents and papers relating to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter and collaborator Rose Wilder Lane are housed at a very unlikely place: the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.
The Rose Wilder Lane Collection provides a fascinating look at how the books came to be written. How Rose came to donate her papers to the library is also very interesting.
There is also fabulous related content for educators and students studying the westward expansion of the United States at the Hoover site. Great projects!
"It's a challenge to take a character ... and make sure he ages correctly and make sure he looks like he would look if he were to get a year older," she told The Associated Press. "I feel like I'm his mom, I comb his hair or I mess it up, I make sure he looks good before he goes out the door."This AP story has wonderful descriptions of how she creates her illustrations and her feelings as the series winds towards the end.
Mary GrandPre's website
Friday, March 18, 2005
Another Lois Lowery title, Anastasia Again!, was removed from a school library in Florida. Anastasia Krupnick??
If the Know-Nothings do not want their own children reading this book, that is fine. They should instruct their kids accordingly but leave it on the shelf for other students to enjoy.
Great news for the students of the Blue Springs school district. The Blue Springs School Board has "unanimously voted to keep "The Giver" on the district's approved reading list."
"After taking time to reread the book and discuss it with patrons of the district, I feel this is a good book for our students to read," he said. "The last chapter of the book shows Jonas fighting to break the cycle, and showing that it is wrong. The message is not about suicide or euthanasia, but about demonstrating to students that the government can't control us."
The Blue Springs school board did something very unusual. The school board members actually READ the book! Know-Nothings rarely read the whole book or think about the ideas behind the stories.
The Giver is a thought provoking story about a world where color and emotions have been removed because feelings can cause pain. The ending of the book is a triumph as Jonas, who has learned the truth of his society, saves the life of a baby slated for "termination." The final image is tremendous and wonderful for discussion.
Readers who want more "closure" can read Lowery's other books about this world: Gathering Blue, 2000 and Messenger, 2004.
News stories seem to be right out of The Giver these days. Novels provide an safe avenue for family discussions about these issues.
At some point in high school students will read George Orwell's 1984. The Giver is an introduction to the concept of a dystopia. I am so glad my children had an opportunity to read Lowery's book before grappling with 1984.
Thanks to Robert at Twisted Librarian for the heads up on this.
From National Post:
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America recently created the Andre Norton Award for young adult novels, and the first award will be presented in 2006.
"She was wonderful with new or younger writers," said Jane Jewell, executive director of SFWA. "On many occasions, she worked with new writers and collaborated with them on novels to help them get started."
Her first novel, The Prince Commands, is set in a mythical European kingdom and tells of a young nobleman who returns from exile to stop a communist takeover of his homeland. It was published in 1934 when Norton was 22. The Witch World series, which details life on an imaginary planet reachable only through hidden gateways, included more than 30 novels.
She was the first woman to receive the Grand Master of Fantasy Award from the SFWA in 1977, and she won the Nebula Grand Master Award in 1984.
Tribute from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
"He always said he felt the most satisfied when he worked on the children's books, that he was using what he could do the best way," said Gloria Rand.
His career began when Bill Martin Jr., a well-known children's author, spotted a painting by Mr. Rand and recruited him to illustrate one of his books. Two of his most widely sold works were the illustrations for "The Ghost-Eye Tree" and "Here are My Hands," both written by Martin. He also collaborated with his wife to produce 12 books.
Their final effort together, "A Pen Pal for Max," is scheduled for release later this year.
Just a few of his books:
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Monday, March 14, 2005
Award-winning 53-year-old [Geraldine ]McCaughrean was hand-picked to pen the tale.
Her winning story -- entitled "Captain Pan" -- was announced Sunday at the London International Book Fair in Olympia, west London.
She said: "It is an astonishing, daunting privilege to be let loose in Neverland, armed with nothing but a pen, and knowing I'm walking in Barrie's revered footprints.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
This class of citizens is making it their business to decide what "other people's children" have the right to read. A parent certainly has the power to guide their own child's reading life but censors have no right to make reading rules for my child.
The Limestone County school board voted 4-3 to ban the book Whale Talk last week from the Ardmore High School library after a parent complained that it contained offensive language.
Crutcher has a thoughtful and insightful response. As a child therapist, he knows the world he writes about.
Read the whole thing!
Whale Talk is a tough book, but it is also a compassionate book, about telling the truth and about redemption. I didn’t draw the tough parts out of thin air; they are stories handed to me by people in pain.
When a teacher looks out over his or her classroom, he/she is looking at one in three girls who have been sexually mistreated, one in five boys. That doesn’t take into consideration the number of kids who have been beaten, locked up, or simply never allowed to be good enough. Stories are buffered in fiction and therefore allow discussion of issues that would not otherwise be brought up. They save many students. I’d think twice before I allowed them to be taken away.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Edinburgh will host a 10 month Hans Christian Andersen Festival. Our favorite lad, Billy Boyd will be one of the special ambassadors promoting the festival in the capital city.
The Greatest Fairy Tale, which has been designed in New York by exhibition expert Ralph Applebaum, will be coming to Edinburgh direct from Copenhagen, where it is due to be unveiled in May in a specially-constructed building shaped like an enormous book.
The connection between Scotland and Hans Christian Andersen is explained:
Andersen travelled to Scotland in 1847 with the intention of meeting Sir Walter Scott and although he never managed to, he was a much sought-after dinner guest in the New Town and was famously impressed by how much the fishing village of Newhaven reminded him of his native Denmark.
Councillor Ricky Henderson, Edinburghs culture and leisure leader, said: "
Its great that this is happening so soon after Edinburgh was designated the first [Unesco] World City of Literature."
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
The Goose Girl by Sharon Hale, 2003
When Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee was born, she did not open her eyes for 3 days. Her loving and understanding aunt cares for the girl and recognizes that this child is very special. She teaches her to listen to the voices of animals and nature. Growing up, Ani knows she is different as she has an ability to “speak” to animals including her beloved horse, Falada. Though she tries to fit in, she is viewed with suspicion by her mother so when her dear father dies, the queen revokes her title of Crown Princess and sends her off to marry the prince of a neighboring country.
On the journey to her new home, Ani is betrayed by her lady-in-waiting who attempts to have her killed and steals her identity. Fearing for her life, Ani hides in plain site. She works as the goose girl to the king, the man who would have been her father-in-law. In her new role she makes real friends and finds her true self.
Ani is a strong heroine and this is a very satisfying retelling of a lesser known fairy tale. Highly recommended.
Bloomsbury has an interesting Q&A with Hale. Not surprising, one of her favorite authors is Robin McKinley.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Author Marc Brown is featured in the IndyStar. I like this bit:
What is your proudest accomplishment regarding Arthur?
Having the stamp of approval of Fred Rogers. He was such a hero to me for years. To have him as a guest on the "Arthur" show and to get to know him as a friend. I was so honored when he had some nice things to say about my work. He validated a lot of what I did.
The cover of the highly anticipated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling's sixth Harry Potter book published in the U.S. by Scholastic, under the Arthur A. Levine Books imprint, due in stores on July 16, 2005. Once again the cover art is created by Mary GrandPré, the illustrator of all five previous U.S. editions of the Harry Potter books.
Monday, March 07, 2005
A House of Tailors by Patricia Riley Giff, 2004
Dina's stitches are small and straight. She has a sense for color and fabric. Dina's gift is sewing but she hates it. She longs to go to America and live with her uncle and his family but when she ends up having to flee to New York from her home in Germany she finds her dream and the reality of life in Brooklyn are far apart.
Giff can put the reader into the setting of a story better than any other writer. In her novel, Nory Ryan’s Song, we knew when the blight had overtaken the potato crop because we could “smell” it. In this book we sense the crowded streets, the cooking in the tenements and the soot from the fires of Brooklyn in the 1870s. The crowding, disease and long back breaking hours of labor that were part of the immigrants life are accurately depicted. The joys of the her new land include her first taste of ice cream, a new friend Johann, and her little niece and nephew. Dina longs for her home and family in Germany but finds she cannot imagine leaving her new family and friends. She finds great pride in her talent for hat and dressmaking and ultimately makes a place for herself in her new country. Dina is a wonderful character full of strength and love.
Giff wrote this story as a tribute to her great grandmother. Her touching afterward describes which stories from the book which came directly from her own family history.
Patricia Riley Giff is one of the most honest writers I have ever read. She is like an accomplished musician, every note of her books rings true and touches the heart.
For more information and books by this remarkable author, visit her site at Random House.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Melanie Martin Goes Dutch : The Private Diary of My Almost Bummer Summer with Cecily, Matt the Brat, and Vincent Van Go Go Go, 2002
The Diary of Melanie Martin : or How I Survived Matt the Brat, Michelangelo, and the Leaning Tower of Pizza, 2000
With Love from Spain, Melanie Martin, 2004
It is spring break here and that makes me think travel. Sadly, a dream trip to Oxford for a certain literary festival is not going to happen so I will content myself with a virtual trip abroad.
The Melanie Martin Diaries by Carol Weston sweep the reader off to The Netherlands, Italy and Spain. Melanie keeps a journal of her family vacations and chronicles the highs and lows of family trips. Weston has an ear for middle school voices. Melanie is at once protective and annoyed by her younger brother, Matt the Brat. She is intrigued and bored by art museums; hungry for and alarmed by the "exotic" foods they try in restaurants. The reader "hears" the language (complete with pronunciation) smells the food and sees the sights through Melanie's eyes.
The story and reading levels make the books accessible to a wide range of young readers. I am happy to see my girl is back in the newly released, Melanie in Manhattan, 2005.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
“Kira-Kira” ... is Kadohata’s first children’s book and her fourth published book. She began writing after graduating from the University of Southern California with a degree in journalism in 1979.
“I had thought I could never be a reporter because I can’t really drive,” Kadohata said. “I still wanted to write nonfiction though. I moved to Boston and there were a lot of bookstores and I started reading lots of stories.”
The Science of Middle Earth
2.30 pm £5.50 Oxford Union
Henry Gee ingeniously reveals how contemporary science can explain some of the wonders of Middle Earth, where Tolkien’s marvellous fantasy creates a world with an insistent sense of reality. In The Science of Middle Earth, he delights in explaining such scientific conundrums as how Frodo’s coat of mithril armour can deflect deadly blows and how Legolas can count the Riders of Rohan across five leagues. Just because The Lord of the Rings is fantasy, he argues, this doesn’t prevent scientific explanations for its wonders. Henry Gee is one of the editors of Nature.
The walking tours:
Lyra’s Oxford - Jordan College to Jericho
Tread the footsteps of Lyra as she takes you on an adventure around Oxford from Philip Pullman’s book. Fans of all ages of His Dark Materials trilogy will enjoy discovering more about Jordan College and seeing Lyra’s favourite haunts as Pullman imagined them, while listening to readings from the book.
Oxford’s Secret Gardens
Behind the walls of the ancient colleges lie acres of beautiful gardens, some of which are not normally open to the public. Join design historian Helena Chance for one of her popular tours which traces the history of the gardens from the fourteenth century to the present day. The tour starts at New College with its famous mound, visits a tiny secret garden at Corpus Christi College and finishes with the private gardens at Wadham College.
Some of the children's literature sessions: Charlie Higson author of SilverFin (new young James Bond series,) Philip Pullman and his book, The Scarecrow and his Servant and G. P. Taylor, author of Shadowmancer and Wormwood.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
This week Stanley strolled up the red carpet with Clint Eastwood at the Oscars. Flat Stanley has also visited the White House.
I love helping out with Flat Stanley-type projects. I have taken "Traveling Texas Heroes" to football games and on vacations. One year I sent "Neil Armstrong" off to the USS Kitty Hawk and he got to fly over Mount Suribachi in an F-14 Tomcat and visit Japan.
"In the book, by Jeff Brown, Stanley gets squashed flat by a falling bulletin board," said Dale Hubert, a Canadian third-grade teacher who created the Flat Stanley Project. "Stanley's parents rolled him up, put him in an envelope and mailed him to his friend in California. And that just seemed like a way of communicating that grade-three students might enjoy."
The program is designed to improve the reading and writing skills of elementary school students while they learn about new people and places.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Gail at Original Content noticed that the Royal Mail has issued a series of stamps based on Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.
Royal Mail chose illustrations by a famous artist, Paula Rego, specially for this issue because she also looked at the 'dark side' of the story.The location of the "real" Thornfield Hall from Jane Eyre was discussed here in Dec.
There are six stamps to collect, plus a First Day Cover, Presentation Pack and stamp cards.
"Tom and I started out with a lot of free time as kids," is how Fred Newman describes Tom Keith's and his own beginnings as sound effect masters. Minnesota Public Radio has a fun interview, full of sound effects with these two men. Newman says his sound effects come from a tradition of storytelling in his family.
Tom Keith, sound effects man for A Prairie Home Companion. Fred Newman also contributes sound for A Prairie Home Companion. Newman appears on the PBS children's series Between the Lions. He's the author of the new book Mouth Sounds.
BBC News reports a story that sounds like a John LeCarre novel.
Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons in 1930, married Trotsky's secretary and travelled widely in the Soviet Union for British newspapers.
He kept London informed of what he learnt and intelligence chiefs passed details to the King.
But it took MI5 20 years to finally concede Ransome was loyal to Britain.