Sunday, July 31, 2005

On the Road

We are heading to the Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville, Texas today. This wonderful camp has been one of the greatest things that ever happened to our youngest entling. On the way we are going to try and work this Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince crossword.

Treebeard finished it last night so we could FINALLY all talk about it as a family. I have always enjoyed reading the Harry Potter series but THIS book has stayed with me and I find myself continuing to thinking about it.

Here is a very interesting article, originally from the Dallas Morning News on the Christian imagery that can be read into the story. Years ago I ended up in a conversation with someone who disliked the books because of the magic themes. Typically, the person had NOT read the books but had bought into The Onion send up and other things they had "heard" about the books. I shared my personal feeling that there was a Christian message developing in the story. I don't know if they ever read the books but maybe I gave them something to think about. Come to think of it, their daughter has read the books and is a tremendous fan, maybe they trusted me.

A lot of people didn’t know what the books were about. They got all worked up because someone would say how evil they were, and then they wouldn’t read the books. Now some of the people who didn’t want to read the books have seen the movies, and that may have alleviated their fears.”

Burkart, 34, teaches creative writing on the college level. She says she has been impressed by the way the books help her children, ages 12, 10 and 8, understand their Catholic faith.

“One of the most powerful connections my son made was when he was in the fourth grade,” Burkart said. “He told me that when Harry drives the serpent’s tooth through Tom Riddle’s journal in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, that reminded him of how Christ destroyed Satan’s book of lies when they drove the nails through Christ’s hands and feet.

“And he told me that when the phoenix’s tears heal Harry, that made him think of Christ’s tears at the crucifixion. That’s how Christ heals us.”

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Chincoteague pony swim

Collecting My Thoughts had a nice post on this event. I also enjoyed this one from about the Chincoteague pony swim. Author Marguerite Henry made the Chincoteague ponies famous.

Barbara Sery of Annapolis, Md., waited patiently next to a fence bordering the swim site.

"I read 'Misty of Chincoteague' when I was a little girl and I had to come out and see this," Sery said, referring to the world-famous novel by Marguerite Henry.

"It seems so magical to me. It's every little girl's dream to watch this and maybe even take home a pony."

Movie: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

The movie rights to Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig have been acquired by Lions Gate Family Entertainment. They plan a CG animated feature called Sylvester.

Now what would be truly funny would be to use the character "Donkey" from the movie Shrek as Sylvester. Shrek is also by William Steig.

I have the nifty Sylvester doll that unzips to deploy the "rock" complete with magic pebble. It is so much fun to hear the "wow" when the donkey turns into a rock when I read the story aloud.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Author: Marianna Mayer

Marianna Mayer describes the origins of her new book, The Boy Who Ran with the Gazelles, in this article from the Litchfield County Times. Her books fill the mythology and 398.2 section.

Dog lovers will enjoy the account of her childhood with Tony, the family dog who was practically her surrogate mother.

But as fond as the rest of the family was of Tony, the moment young Marianna arrived home from the hospital, the dog took possession of the baby.
"Since I was an only child [at the time], Tony was the one who was there for me," Ms. Mayer remembered. "We'd play for hours. I'd dress her up in clothes and I'd tie a bandana across her eyes and she'd have to find me. She was a fabulous animal."

Her description of picture books as "cinematic" is a brilliant way of describing the magic that happens when stories and illustrations mesh.

..."A picture book [is] very cinematic," she said. "It's a story board between hard covers, and when it's done well it's a seamless thing. I'm not always thrilled with the result, but this one I am."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Happy Birthday Jim Davis!

Despite my great affection for Harry Potter and company I believe that two other book series have done more for childhood literacy than the boy wizard. They are Captain Underpants and Garfield the Cat.

My insight on Garfield occured while driving and listening to a backseat conversation on the topic of Garfield. One child began to recount a favorite strip from memory and soon each kid was reciting a Garfield cartoon. The astonishing thing was how many times the punchline was delivered in unison by the whole car. Many of the comments began, "Hey, remember in Garfield 7 when Jon says..." or "Remember when Garfield 9?"

Their knowledge of the strips and books was encyclopedic. Their enjoyment was unending.
A spot check of any library shelf will demonstrate the cat's popularity because ALL the Garfield books are checked-out.

Thank you and happy birthday, Jim Davis!

Garfield and Friends Official Site

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Schwa Was Here

The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman, 2004

Calvin Schwa seems to be invisible. Now you see him, now you don't. Antsy Bonano and his group decide to study this "Schwa effect" and use it for financial gain by taking wagers on Calvin's ability to enter improbable places unseen. The scheme is profitable until they accept a bet to steal a dog dish from the home of Mr. Crawley, the neighborhood eccentric. The Schwa is discovered by Crawley who can see him very clearly. As punishment, Calvin and Antsy become dog-walkers for the old man's 14 dogs. Later Crawley asks Antsy to befriend his visiting granddaughter, Lexie, who is blind. Schwa, Antsy and Lexie set out to discover to find out what happened to Calvin's mother. Is his "invisibility" tied to his past?

This detailed story is a page turner. Schusterman writes with compassion and humor.

As someone who works in a school setting, I found the story very moving because these "invisible" kids are in our classes. They are quiet, engaged and self sufficient so we sometimes overlook them. So much of a teacher's attention is consumed by high-needs students but the quiet ones also need all the recognition and acknowledgement that their teachers and friends can give them. The Schwa reminds me to make an even greater effort to keep these kids on the radar!

This book is a great YA read but would also be appreciated by kids in 4th grade and up.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Books: television and merchandise

Did not know that one copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar has "sold every minute since the book was first published in 1969."

Chorion has purchased Silver Lining Productions which owns merchandising rights to several children's book franchises such as Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Ian Falconer's Olivia the pig.

Counting on the Caterpillar by Dominic Casciani

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Movie: Stormbreaker

Andy Serkis (Gollum & King Kong) is going to play "Mr. Grin" in the movie adaptation of Anthony Horowitz's first Alex Rider book, Stormbreaker. He has the grin for it.

Stephan Fry and Ewan McGregor are also part of the production. This could be good!

BookMoot review


I have become a huge fan of audio books over the past year. I received a beautiful little IPod for my birthday so I am in heaven. IPods are like Barbie dolls used to be when I was young. Once you have one you have to buy them all kinds of little accessories and outfits like ISkins (gosh, what color?) and car adaptors and ...

I can listen to a book and do other things whereas my time to read is limited to evenings and then, no matter how good the book is, my eyelids grow h-e-a-v-y.

I have found my enjoyment of the book is totally dependant on the narrator's abilities. My admiration for their skill in presenting the material knows no bounds. Matching the voice with the book is another art form, I think. While trolling aroung the internet I found AudioFile's Golden Voices Hall of Fame.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Current Events and Harry Potter

Everyone is noting how the recent events in London give an current feel to the events in book 6.

JKRowling changed the reading she had planned at Edinburgh castle because of the London attacks. From the joint interview, part 2, with MuggleNet and The Leaky Cauldron:

Terrorism and the like; has it factored into your writing, has it shaped your writing?

JKR: No, never consciously, in the sense that I've never thought, "It's time for a post-9/11 Harry Potter book," no. But what Voldemort does, in many senses, is terrorism, and that was quite clear in my mind before 9/11 happened. I was going to read last night [ie, do the midnight reading at the castle] from chapter one. That was the reading until the 7th of July [bombings in London]. It then became quite clear to me that it was going to be grossly inappropriate for me to read a passage in which the Muggle prime minister is discussing a mass Muggle killing. It just wasn't appropriate, as there are touches of levity in there. It was totally inappropriate, so that's when I had to change, and I decided to go for the joke shop, which is all very symbolic because, of course, Harry said to Fred and George, “I’ve got a feeling we’ll all be needing a few laughs before long.” It all ties together nicely. So no, not consciously, but there are parallels, obviously. I think one of the times I felt the parallels was when I was writing about the arrest of Stan Shunpike, you know? I always planned that these kinds of things would happen, but these have very powerful resonances, given that I believe, and many people believe, that there have been instances of persecution of people who did not deserve to be persecuted, even while we're attempting to find the people who have committed utter atrocities. These things just happen, it's human nature. There were some very startling parallels at the time I was writing it.

Clip of JKRowling reading at Edinburgh castle.

When Harry Met Osama: Terrorism comes to Hogwarts from

50th Anniversary of Lord of the Rings

Scholar's Blog noted that July 19th was the 50th anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Michele has the facts on the books' history.

My family attended The Lord of the Rings Symphony a few weeks ago. The tremendous Howard Shore music was performed by the Houston Symphony. Alan Lee's and John Howe's artwork accompanied the music.

That music was the soundtrack to our family's life for three years. It was very moving to hear it in a live performance.

A year ago we "happened" to be in Atlanta, GA and heard Howard Shore himself conduct the piece with the Atlanta Symphony. Shore received a standing "O" for just walking out on the stage before a single note was played.

This is a very very interesting article (so read the whole thing) about the origins of the work. John Mauceri, the music director of Pittsburgh Opera, suggested the idea to Shore because:

"Much of my life as a performer has been devoted to finding and making music that people don't usually hear," he says.

He and Shore worked together to prepare the scores.
It was Shore who decided on the form of his symphony -- two movements for each of the three films because each of the three volumes of Tolkien's work is itself in two books.

Shore and Mauceri split the work of preparing the score. In fact, Shore was completing his music for the final film at the same time the rest of his symphony was taking shape.

"One of us would do the first pass for each movement," Mauceri says. "Then we sent comments back and forth. All my work took place in Pittsburgh while I was conducting operas."
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will feature actor Billy Boyd (Pippin) in their performance this weekend. John Mauceri is conducting. How fun!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Author: Jane Yolen

Nice piece about author Jane Yolen. Fun to see a photo too!
One thing that has not changed, despite the phenomenal trajectory of Yolen's writing career and myriad awards she's won, is the excitement she experiences with each new publication.

"Every new book is a cause for celebration. I do the happy dance (bad back be damned!) whenever I get my first copies."


Chicken Spaghetti tagged me with a meme.

1. What are three of the stupidest things you’ve done in your life?
Hmmm... only 3?
I have kids and they know I'm perfect. I won't admit to anything in the blogosphere.

2. At the current moment, who has the most influence in your life?
My husband and children and parents.

3. If you were given a time machine that functioned, and you were allowed to pick up to five people to dine with, who would you pick?

a. J.R.R. Tolkein - the Professor - I just want to smell the pipe smoke

b. Ronald Reagan - everyone agrees he was a great storyteller. I love listening to stories.

c. Mark Twain - between the cigar and the Professor's pipe, it would be a very smokey evening

d. George Washington - Listening to David McCullough 's 1776 reminds me how lucky this country was that he was there at the beginning. Timing is everything.

e. Gene Kelly - Enjoyed reading his biography a few years ago. What a creative mind!

4. If you had three wishes that were not supernatural, what would they be?
A cure for Type 1 Diabetes...times 3--can't think of anything better than that.

5. Someone is visiting your hometown/place where you live at the moment. Name two things you regret your city not having, and two things people should avoid.

a. I wish we had fully functioning transit system. Sadly, the folks in charge here-abouts are not capable of running or designing one. They have shut down routes that actually took folks to places they want to go in order to sustain the most dangerous choo-choo train in the USA. Still, it is nice to dream. Otherwise, this is a dandy part of the world to live in. I've got bookstores, museums, coffee and bagel shops, quilt stores and TX Children's Hospital.

b. I guess I would enjoy some mountains or ANY elevation at all.

c. Avoid summer and I-10, neither for the faint of heart.

6. Name one event that has changed your life.
Standing in line for food at a band banquet, a friend said, "I hear there is going to be an opening for a school librarian at our elementary school," and I thought..."I could do that!"

7. Tag five other people.
I think everyone I read has done this. Feel free to volunteer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sequel to Airborn

The excellent KidsLit blog has discovered the sequel to Kenneth Oppel's Airborn. Skybreaker will be out December 2005.

Until then watch the amazing teaser on Oppel's website. I thought Airborn was a "cracking read." I cannot wait to read the next one.

Oppel likes compound words for his titles.

Thanks Scotty!

James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" TV series and motion pictures who responded to the command "Beam me up, Scotty," died early Wednesday. He was 85.

This is a nice tribute by Bob Thomas. I did not know Doohan was a veteran of D-Day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Insight into Harry

I have several books to report on here but my mind is still filled with the latest Harry Potter book.

I know there are folks who have their reservations about JKRowling's series. Some dislike Rowling's writing style and are eager to point out her perceived instances of adverb abuse and other stylistic lapses that disqualify the books as "literature" in their eyes. Some dislike the book on religious grounds and have been demonstrative of their distaste for the witchcraft element to the books.

The recent dust-up about Pope Benedict's "supposed" disapproval of the books have more to do with discrediting the Pope than cheering Harry in my opinion. (I think his "letter" reads more like the kind of boiler-plate note that gets mailed out when unsolicited books arrive from authors hoping for a notable comment from the rich and famous. Check any of the vanity press websites to see similar letters from presidents and celebrities who are acknowledging these "gifts" as kindly as they can.)

The OpinionJournal has a very thoughtful review which expresses many of my own feelings about Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

There is maturity of another kind in this book that sets it apart from the rest of the series thus far, and that is the depth of its moral message. This may comfort readers made uneasy by claims that the Harry Potter books are somehow satanic or by Pope Benedict XVI's recently publicized criticism of the series as potentially harmful to children's religious formation.

For gone is the implied but relatively crude Manichaeism of the earlier books. The struggle between Good and Evil is enriched, this time, by explicit talk of free will, the power of love and the sanctity of the soul. In one scene, a teacher at the Hogwarts School explains to a student: "You must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, it is against nature."

"But how do you do it?"

"By an act of evil--the supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart."

At another point, Professor Dumbledore explains to Harry that he is not compelled by either destiny or prophecy to pursue Voldemort, who murdered Harry's parents and countless other innocents. The boy has free will and can choose his course of action.

"It was, [Harry] thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew--and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents--that there was all the difference in the world."

Thanks to Petrified Truth for the tip

Monday, July 18, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Discussions about this latest chapter in the life of Harry Potter are flowing fast and furious here in my corner of the world.

Life in a technology age:
We have one copy of the book. My daughters took turns reading and and were going cross-eyed trying not to talk about it in front of me. They dashed to the computers and began a discussion through AIM, one daughter upstairs on her computer, one downstairs. From the sound of the rapid fire keyboarding, they were going at it.

When I finished it I was tearful and had to sit and just reflect for a time. Then I reopened it and immediately began to re-read it.

The themes of the tale continue.
  • Love is the greatest power of all.
  • You cannot slap evil, you have to crush it.
With the real events in London so fresh in my mind, reading of terrorism and fear in the wizarding world that is spilling over into the Muggle society made the book feel very current.

From the NYTimes:
Indeed, the achievement of the Potter books is the same as that of the great classics of children's literature, from the Oz novels to "The Lord of the Rings": the creation of a richly imagined and utterly singular world, as detailed, as improbable and as mortal as our own.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

There's a kind of hush

There's a kind of hush all over the world tonight
All over the world you can hear the sounds of lovers in love
You know what I mean
Just the two of us and nobody else in sight
There's nobody else and I'm feeling good just holding you tight

Herman's Hermits - 1967

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Friday, July 15, 2005

No Appeasement

From the OpinionJournal:

Thanks to Petrified Truth for the tip.

The parallels between this volume [Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix] and Britain's prewar dithering are so great that the book is perhaps best read as a light companion to "Alone," the second volume of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill.

Jonathan Last describes the similarities between Voldemort and Hitler, Chamberlain and Fudge, and Churchill and Dumbledore.

Like Neville Chamberlain, Minister Fudge is eager to help his constituents look the other way. Throughout the '30s, Chamberlain, fearing that Churchill was out for his job, conducted a campaign against his fellow Tory. Chamberlain denied the existence of the German menace and ridiculed Churchill as a "warmonger." He used the London Times--the government's house organ--to attack Churchill and suppress dispatches from abroad about the Nazis that would have vindicated him...

...In retaliation for sounding the alarm about Voldemort, Fudge strips Dumbledore of his many honors and has him driven from Hogwarts. He also uses the Daily Prophet--the wizarding version of the London Times--to print nasty stories about Harry and Dumbledore and to suppress reports about the Dark Lord. Fudge even has a toadying adviser--Dolores Umbridge--who, like Lord Halifax, exists to give the cut to Dumbledore and peddle the notion that Voldemort poses no danger. Umbridge--an appeaser if there ever was one--replaces the curriculum of Hogwarts' Defense Against the Dark Arts class with lessons such as "Non-Retaliation and Negotiation."

Harry! Harry!Harry!

Can't wait!!!

Tons of Harry stuff:

Overdue comic strip
Facts and figures via BBC
In Love With Harry, Over and Over Again via NYTimes--Kids read and re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-read!
Book craze has French kids reading English
Harry Potter at Summer Camp
The boys and girls at the Kennolyn Camps in the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains in California will get a most unusual wake-up call on Saturday. Roused from their beds at 6:30 a.m., more than an hour earlier than usual, they will be marched to a campfire meeting, served hot chocolate from a bubbling cauldron and read the first chapter of the new Harry Potter novel by counselors dressed as characters from that popular series.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

P.D. Eastman toys

The books of P.D. Eastman are part of the new Kohl's Cares for Kids promotion. Are You My Mother? and Go Dog Go! are featured. Kohl's stuffed animals are great storytime friends for librarians.

The nutty humor of Go Dog Go! has always been a special favorite with guys.

"Hello again."
"Hello again."
"Do you like my hat?"
"I do not like it."
"Good-by again."

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Author: Mary Pope Osborne

Nice interview with Mary Pope Osborne, author of the Magic Treehouse books and many many others. Kids love these mystery adventures.

Did you have a treehouse when you were young?

No, but I always wanted one. I tried to write about a magic cellar, then magic whistles, then I wrote about a magic artist and studio and then a magic museum. None of those worked, and I didn't publish any of those. I was taking a walk and I saw a treehouse. It took a year to figure that out. The simplest ideas sometimes take the longest to get.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Author: Chris Crutcher

I always enjoy hearing authors talk about their work but sometimes it is a life changing experience. Jack Gantos is a must hear if you ever have the chance and Chris Crutcher is another. I saw Crutcher speak at the Texas Library Association meeting this spring. I was moved beyond words by his talk.

This article describes the inspiration for Crutcher's latest book, The Sledding Hill. It sounds just like him.

While en route to an author appearance at Anderson's two years ago, Crutcher received a phone call from Becky Anderson Wilkins, who told him he would, at some point in his visit, be meeting with a group of students who had just experienced a "crushing loss."

Those students were the friends of the late Zach Clifton, a Naperville Central High School senior who was killed in a car accident Feb. 14, 2003, near Edward Hospital. Clifton was co-captain of Central's speech team, and one of his speeches drew on a portion of Crutcher's book "Whale Talk."

About an hour before Crutcher was scheduled to read funny stories from his new book for people interested in buying it, he and the students and teachers who were Clifton's friends met in the basement at Anderson's.

Anderson Wilkins called that meeting "one of the most wonderful and moving experiences" of her book-selling career, and Crutcher described it as one of the most memorable appearances he'd ever made.

Having spent most of my time a school librarian in an elementary setting, I had only read Crutcher's short stories. After TLA, I ran out to get Whale Talk. (Any book that is getting that much attention from the "know-nothings" is a book I want to read.) The book is the most powerful and uplifting piece of YA writing I have ever read.

Website: Chris Crutcher

Comics: Luann

In the comic strip, Luann, Gunther and Knute are trying to break into the comic book business. They have a table at ComicCon and have roped Luann and Bernice into wearing the character costumes. I've been enjoying this arc that started 6-27.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes

Chicken Spaghetti has a link to a great article about one of my favorite illustrators, Kevin Hawkes.
When given a book to illustrate, Hawkes puts himself right there, then, he says, he tries to conjure the most exciting, fun image he can get from the words on each page. Sit with a child to look at a Hawkes book; you'll know he's succeeded.
You have not had fun in life until you have read My Little Sister Ate One Hare to a group of kindergarteners. It includes the funniest word in the English language, "underpants." I also love his illustrations for Eva Ibbotson's novels.

Thanks to Original Content for the link to this new blog.

Author E.B. White

Semicolon has a nice list of E.B. White links in honor of his birthday today.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Daniel Handler, representing author Lemony Snicket

Author Daniel Handler, representing Lemony Snicket, surprised an 11 year old Alex with a birthday delivery of the latest Lemony Snicket book. is celebrating their tenth anniversary with "special deliveries" of some of their customers' orders.

Handler is hilarious.

Political cartoonists/children's book illustrators

Chris Riddell is a political cartoonist as well as an illustrator of children's books. He won the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for his book, Gulliver's Travels. He is also the illustrator of The Edge Chronicles series.

In this Guardian article he discusses the historical links between these two worlds. John Tenniel (Alice in Wonderland), Ernest Shepard (Pooh/Wind in the Willows), Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) were equally well known for their political work.

Riddell writes thoughtfully and with insight.

I grew up with the illustrations of Tenniel and Shepard, and then went on to discover their political work. Both artists treat their audiences in much the same way, be they elderly colonels reading Punch in their clubs or toddlers in the nursery. Tenniel's Alice, for instance, inhabits the same world as his Gladstone, while Shepard's Nazi Goose could quite easily invade the Hundred Acre Wood. The great difference, of course, is that while newsprint and old periodicals fade, books can live on over the generations - that is their great attraction for any illustrator.

David Catrow and Berkeley Breathed are two cartoonists who are currently carrying on this tradition in the USA.
I have got to read The Edge Chronicles.

Friday, July 08, 2005

As part of the HCA celebration the British Library has a special exhibit in London.

This is a new-style exhibition for the British Library. Interactive exhibits complement the more traditional historical material to mix word and play, reality and magic. Within a soundscape inspired by Andersen's stories, puppets, pulleys, projections and paper-cuts bring his characters to life. Visitors can perform their own fairytales, go under water with the Little Mermaid and find the Snow Queen herself. There are also live performances for families with young children.

There is a contest and splendid HCA e-cards on the website too.

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Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors

Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors by Jenny Nimmo, 2005

This book continues the story of Charlie Bone and his friends who attend Bloor's Academy. It is a new school year and poor Billy Raven continues to suffer at the hands of the Bloors who have him adopted by a couple who despise children. We learn more about Billy's background and Charlie thinks he is close to solving the mystery of his father's disappearance. A new student at school, Joshua Tilpin has magnetic powers and seems destined to fill Billy's former shoes as spy and student villain. One of Charlie's friends discovers her own magic endowment and helps thwart the bad guys.

Cook, Uncle Paton, the Pets' Cafe, and the dog Runner Bean make brief appearances as do the bad guys, Manfred Bloor and the Yewbeam sisters.

The book was entertaining but not as satisfying as the previous books. The promising leads to Charlie's father's where-abouts are dashed and the story line is not advanced. The red herring Nimmo inserts was disappointing as it would have been a richer story if it had lead to something.

If you are a fan of the series, as I am, you will enjoy the story but it felt more like one of those "extra scenes" that you can view on DVDs--interesting and fun but does not add to the story overall.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two, Master Warden, answered Eowyn. 'And those who have not swords can still die upon them.
-Chapter 5, Return of the King J.R.R. Tolkien

"Sleep! I feel the need of it. Yet my axe is restless in my hand. Give me a row of orc-necks and room to swing and all weariness will fall from me!"
-Gimli, Son of Gloin, Chapter 7, The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien

Author: Mo Willems

More good listening on the Internet.

Leonard Lopate interviews Mo Willems on WNYC.

Willems talks about his work on Sesame Street and his books: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, and Knuffle Bunny.

Willems on writing for children:
  • Can't use irony.
  • Take the kid seriously.
  • Want to make sure that the adult gets a few laughs as well.
  • Tries to actually put as little in them as possible so that the kid will bring their own sensibility to it
  • About Knuffle Bunny: "Everything in that book is true except for the parts I made up."

Mo Willems website

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Author: Cornelia Funke

There is a wonderful interview with author Cornelia Funke on The Connection which originally aired June 27, 2005. Funke is articulate and passionate about her storytelling. The interview is about 45 minutes and a must listen if you are a fan.

Host Dick Gordon is an enthusiastic interviewer though sadly it is apparent that the only Funke book that he has read is Dragon Rider. Call-ins from listeners provoke some very interesting discussions about the role of fairy tales and fantasy in childhood. I am continually amused by grown ups' obsession with "darkness" in children's books as if it is something new.

There is lots of insight into her writing. When asked where her characters come from she said:

The funny thing is, the more I am a writer the more I don't know where I get my ideas from and the characters really "come up." Sometimes I have the feeling I get into my writing room and they are already sitting on the desk and I have no idea where they came from.

Cool things I learned:

  • Her publishers told her that German works would not sell in England or the USA so she paid her cousin to translate her books into English and they sold. Her cousin did Thief Lord but Anthea Bell translates her books now. Funke praises Bell's intuitive feel for the rythym and wit of the stories.
  • Brendan Fraser did the Inkspell audio recording. I knew Funke was a fan of his Dragon Rider reading. I have read that she wants him for the role of Mo in the movie version of Inkheart.
  • Grownups cannot believe that Dustfinger is most kids' favorite character in Inkheart.
  • Funke warns readers that the scary bits get worse in Inkspell which will be published in Sept. 2005.

Author: Mary Hoffman

Mary Hoffman's 'Grace' books never fail to enthrall young readers. Grace is perfectly named and is a young character full of strength and courage. The "chapter books" are a happy addition for readers who want to read MORE about this amazing spirit.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a very interesting interview with British author Mary Hoffman. The good news, there will be a new Grace book.

... Hoffman hasn't finished telling Grace's story and is just starting to write another picture book about her. It is titled "Princess Grace" and is scheduled to be published in 2007.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Horowitz on Dahl

Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider books, has an interesting take on Roald Dahl in the Telegraph.
Dahl was perhaps the first author to take the children's side and to collude with them against the smelly, ugly, stupid creatures that inhabit the adult world. Subversive is the adjective most often used to describe him, but in the end his own name provided a better one. "Dahlish" has come to stand for a cheerful malevolence, a sort of conniving wickedness that leaps unmistakeably off the page. Take the description of Charlie's grandparents - "as shrivelled as prunes and as bony as skeletons" - and ask yourself who else could get away with that sort of writing … and could they get away with it now?
He reviews the mirade of children's books that are under development for the big screen now, including his own Stormbreaker, and has a useful insight:
Children's literature, like no other, exists in the heads of those who read it. Young people have such elaborate, vivid imaginations that celluloid can all too easily fall short of their expectations. Look at the hash that the BBC made of the Narnia chronicles (a Disney version later this year may do better) and the many classics - Alice, Peter Pan, The Grinch, Huckleberry Finn - that have never been filmed with complete success. Indeed, it's surely no surprise that the most successful children's films, from ET through to Toy Story, have been original pieces of work with no literary source.

Movie: Lassie Come-Home

From Time Magazine:

Peter O'Toole will star in the remake of Eric Knight's book Lassie Come-Home.

[Director Charles] Sturridge wrote the part of Lassie's duke to give O'Toole a chance to let loose again. "I wanted a character who was both exciting to children and at the same time dangerous," says Sturridge. "I had Peter in mind, and it has been great to see him use his anarchic energy again." O'Toole appreciates the opportunity but understands that "the film isn't about me, it's about the dog. Admittedly, the dog isn't all that good an actor, but with the right cuts and perhaps a lamb chop, we'll get the job done." •

I love the Rosemary Wells illustrated version of this classic story.