Thursday, June 30, 2005

Movie: Stormbreaker

Tip from Achokablog: Alex Pettyfer will play Alex Rider in the movie version of Anthony Horowitz's book, Stormbreaker. If the movie is a hit, count on more movie sequels from the popular series.

I cannot quite see Alicia Silverstone as Starbright...but Ewan McGregor as Uncle Ian is a nice idea.
I daresay, photos of Pettyfer will not be so difficult to find in the future.

Posted by Hello

Graphic novels and comic books

I love watching first graders walk into the building in the fall. They are so excited that they are going to learn to read. By the end of the year, most of them ARE reading. What an amazing accomplishment! They have learned to translate the ink markings and squiggles on a page into a word on their lips and a picture in their mind.

I have watched all kinds of readers and non readers choose library books. I prefer to be in the middle of them, pointing out a title here, a series there, steering them to the car, bat, skateboarding, dog, disaster, (insert nonfiction interest here) books.

Often the books of choice for my struggling readers are the drawing books and the I Spy series--Calvin and Hobbes too of course. On the other hand, have you ever noticed how "reluctant" readers can RECITE multiple volumes of Garfield to you from memory?

Why do some kids catch the reading bug and others do not? That is the question that makes being a school librarian so interesting. What can I give this student to make reading easier and more fun? It is always a matter of the right book at the right time and the right child but timing is everything.

I see students who can read the words but the movie and pictures the words paint do not "play" in their imaginations as they read. Getting that movie to play takes lots of listening and reading practice...which is why I love comic books and graphic novels. I think they support and bridge that gap between the imagination and the words on the page.

Reaction to graphic novels has been huge. Here is a great article discussing this trend.

"There's such a stigma against comics but we're endorsed by Reading is Fundamental," said Liza Coppola, vice president for sales at Viz Media, referring to the organization that promotes children's literacy in the United States.

"They picked up this category because they found that they can get the kids with Dr Seuss, but at a certain point they lose them to video games. But this is such a visual medium, it draws them in," she said in an interview at Book Expo America...

Finding books that fit in an elementary collection is challenging because many of them trend towards YA. Sidekicks has an excellent list of graphic novels that will fit AOK with elementary grade folks.

It is part of No Flying No Tights for Teens.

Book Biz

The Narnia displays are coming...
HarperCollins, which owns the rights, has 145 Narnia-related books to choose from. Some have been available for years, but with Hollywood coming into play, an additional 24 movie tie-ins have been added to the lineup.

At Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Ill., the front window is all about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (due July 16), but a life-size blowup of Narnia's lion king, Aslan, has already taken pride of place in the store near a table filled with Narnia books. Every person who buys Harry Potter will receive a Narnia bookmark.

Owner Becky Anderson says that soon after the Potter book goes on sale, she'll waste no time transforming store windows into a winter-like "Narnia world."

Interesting fact: 27 million copies of J.R.R. Tolkien books were sold as the result of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. HarperCollins is hoping for a similar effect on their sales.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Soul Making

Maurice Sendak's talk, Descent into Limbo, from April 5, 2003 is online.

Sendak discusses his childhood and family. Beginning his career under the eye of Ursula Nordstrom and Ruth Krauss he describes the exuberant atmosphere of their "weirdo little kiddie book department" where his creativity flourished.

Mantegne's Descent into Limbo.

He says music is his passion and he cannot live or work without it. When he had an opportunity to design the opera The Magic Flute he found inspriation in Mantegne's painting Descent into Limbo.

It is always so interesting to hear authors and artists talk about their work. Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are changed the world of children's publishing.

You will need an hour plus...

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

King Kong

This will make a great graphic novel. The trailer for Peter Jackson's King Kong is out.
Listen to Kong's roar!! has very interesting production diaries by Jackson. Our boyo has really slimmed down.

Sound search

NPR has a very interesting interview with Randy Thom who is a "sound designer" for the film industry. He describes the art of sound and is asking for the public's help to identify new sounds for the movies.

Worth a listen.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Author: Rick Riordan

Interesting coincidences:
I have been hearing a lot about Rick Riodan's books recently and it turns out he will be in town at Blue Willow Bookshop tomorrow at 4 p.m. I am going to round up my reading entlings and head over there. I am very intrigued with the premise of his books. From his website:
What if the gods of Olympus were alive in the 21st Century? What if they still fell in love with mortals and had children who might become great heroes -- like Theseus, Jason and Hercules?

What if you were one of those children?


Music is well said to be the speech of angels -- Thomas Carlyle

Thank goodness for young musicians who perfect their embouchures, relax their jaws, curl their fingers over the piano keys, improve their pitches and rhythms, practice countless scales and intervals and put in h-o-u-r-s of practice and rehearsal.

Posted by Hello
We attended a young artist performance at The International Festival-Institute at Round Top on Saturday. The musical performances were fresh and full of life. I have not attended many chamber music concerts so the pieces were new to my ears.

It has been several years since my last visit so I was amazed at the on-going enhancement of the concert hall. I saw the crystal plate that inspired the wooden lattice design on the ceiling and learned it takes 36 saw cuts to produce one of the countless diamonds that line the walls. The whole day was a treat for the senses.

It put me in mind of children's fiction that focuses on young musicians and their passion and commitment.

The bat boy & his violin
by Gavin Curtis ; illustrated by E.B. Lewis, c1998
A young boy's love for his violin is a concern for his father who manages a team in the National Negro League and would prefer that his son focus on baseball. Lewis's fragile water colors lend poignancy and an exquisite beauty to the story.

The gorillas of Gill Park
by Amy Gordon, c2003
Music in a park, an amazing tree house, gorilla costumes and baseball. More

Lookin' for Bird in the big city
by Robert Burleigh ; illustrated by Marek Los, c2001
What if...teenagerMiles Davis went on a search for Charlie "Bird" Parker in NYC?

The Mozart season
by Virginia Euwer Wolff, c1991
A book that inspired at least one musician I know. A young violinist prepares for a music competition.

Zin! zin! zin! a violin
by Lloyd Moss ; illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, c1995
A classic about the orchestra and the joy of playing music together.

Play to the angel
by Maurine F. Dahlberg, c2000
WWII, a brother's death, a young girl's talent and love for the piano. More

Handel, who knew what he liked
by M.T. Anderson ; illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, c2001
Music teachers' favorite, delightful story, lively illustrations from the incomperable Kevin Hawkes

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Book Moot is one year old this month

Well, we've been so busy, I forgot that Book Moot is a year old this month.
Time flies when you are having fun!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Narrator: Jim Dale

Our copy of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, cover gone, taped spine, well thumbed pages...loved.

We just finished listening to the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. Unlike my daughters I have not reread the series multiple times but with book 6 soon to arrive, it seemed like a good opportunity to review.

Listening to Jim Dale bringing the character and stories to life is M-A-G-I-C-A-L. I have been struck by Rowling's wonderful descriptions, character names and humor. Dale is a brilliant narrator. He gives different voicings to the characters but it is never forced or artificial sounding. I can hardly wait to listen to the next one.

Janis Campbell at has an interview with Jim Dale. The audiobook of The Half Blood Prince will be available on July 16 along with the hardcover. It is an excellent interview. Dale describes how he works and the secrecy surrounding the next book.
He did it 100 pages at a time. Because the audiobook has to hit stores when the book is released, Dale had to record the book in a hurry back in April. Dale says he got the book to start reading over a weekend, and on Monday he recorded the first 100 pages. On Monday night, after leaving the studio, he read the next 100 pages and practiced the voices or invented new ones if the section he was working on had new characters. On Tuesday, he was back in the studio, working on the next big section of the book. Dale said he didn't have time to read the book through before he started recording it, so it was fun each day to see how the story was unfolding.

Dale says most days he was in the studio from 9:30 a.m. until 4 or 4:30 p.m., or "as long as my voice held out." As a trained actor, Dale knows how to take care of his voice. One of his tricks for soothing this throat is tea with honey. Dale even raises his own bees at his second home to make honey, which he enjoys, and gives as gifts to friends.

Movie: Guardians of Ga'Hoole

My young reading friends will be very pleased that one of their favorite series is coming to the big screen. This series is a favorite with my Redwall readers. Sounds like author Kathryn Lasky will be doing the screenplay.
From Monsters & Critics:

Warner Bros. has acquired film rights to Kathryn Lasky's fantasy series Guardians of Ga'Hoole.

Variety reports the studio plans to make a CG-animated movie from the books with Donald De Line producing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Charlie Bone series

Kelly at Big A little a is intrigued by the Charlie Bone books by Jenny Nimmo. Today in the Dallas Morning News, Nancy Churnin has an article about this series (Children of the Red King) and the author. Because Charlie goes to a special school for talented kids, comparisons to Harry Potter are inevitable. I think the school is more like Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters -- only dark and malevolent.
Ms. Nimmo has made it a point not to read or be influenced by Harry Potter. (She looks forward to reading the Potter books when her own series is done.) She relies on her editor to tell her if she has written anything that will remind readers too much of Harry.

Once, she had to rewrite her first choice for Charlie's birthday – her son, Ianto's, birthday – because it was too close to Harry's July date. Instead, she made Charlie's birthday Dec. 31.

I love these books. Kids who enjoy fantasy, like these stories and I think they are more accessible to kids than HP. Charlie has a special ability to hear what people in pictures are saying. There is also an ongoing mystery about the disappearance of his father and the question my nephew asks, "Why are his aunts so mean?"

There is a great deal of Jenny Nimmo in this series. She identifies with many of the characters in the books.

Charlie's tall, quiet Uncle Paton – her favorite character – was modeled on the kind, reserved guardian who helped raise her. But the character she identifies most with is Billy Raven, who yearns for a home.

"I had no home," she says. "My mother moved 12 times. And every time she moved, she threw my things away."

Charlie's father is a pianist, because Ms. Nimmo loves the piano. Her love of animals is also evident throughout the books. Like Gabriel Silk with his hordes of gerbils, she and her family have kept as many as 26 gerbils at one time in addition to hamsters, goats, cats, rabbits and birds. She dreamed up Pets' Cafe because she wished for a restaurant where you have to bring a pet to be served.

Ms. Nimmo lives in an old, converted watermill in Wales. Thanks to Charlie, they finally had central heating put in last year.
Charlie Bone Website

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer, 2005

When we last saw our heroes, at the end of The Eternity Code, Artemis and Butler had submitted to a fairy mind wipe and had no memory of their adventures with the Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance.

Now, arch criminal Opal Koboi has escaped but no one except the elf, Captain Holly Short knows it. LEP Recon thinks Holly has lost her mind and killed her commanding officer and they are trying to capture her. Holly knows she has one chance to capture Koboi but it means saving Artemis and restoring his memories.

Opal has set the human world and the fairy world on a collision course. The very existence of the Haven (the fairy realm) is threatened. Artemis's very cool bodyguard, Butler as well as the dwarf felon, Mulch Diggums are part of the team again. The Lower Elements have their share of bureaucrats and administrative incompetants which frustrate the centaur, Foley who is LEP's technology guru. His technological wonder gadgets give these stories an extra dimension.

One passage in the book made me laugh out loud knowing something about the Colfer's TV preferences.
Holly walked rapidly into the cockpit and strapped herself into the pilot's chair, "Seven and a half hours to save the world. Isn't there some law that says we get at least twenty-four?"

Artemis strapped himself into the copilot's chair. "I don't think Opal bothers with laws," he said.
When Colfer visited Houston recently for a book signing, he shared that one of his favorite T.V. shows is "24."

The story has plenty of action and humor. Trolls REALLY are scary. Colfer described his Artemis Fowl books as "Die Hard with Fairies." I would agree. This is a fast paced and fun summer read.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Toy Theaters

Being a collector of Lord of the Rings "action" figures, I can understand the enthusiasm for spin-off merchandise. It dates back to the Regency period.

An exhibit of Regency toy theatre characters and items will tour several museums in the UK. What beautiful things!

William Palin, Assistant Curator, Sir John Soane's Museum (and son of Monty Python and travel documentarian, Michael Palin) discusses the background of these beautiful "toys" in this Guardian article.
"They were the invention of an extraordinary London shopkeeper, William West, who wore a paper hat of his own design and did a separate line in Bawdy Songster prints - pornography which he sold under the counter."

West toured London's flourishing theatres between 1811 and 1840, commissioning artists to draw the scenery and characters from 146 plays which he then reproduced in miniature.

Young customers poured into his shop to buy characters such as arch-criminal the Black Vulture or Black-Eyed Susan, the feisty farm girl invented by John Gay, author of the Beggars' Opera. "Then they went home and put on their own elaborate plays, often with accessories like gunpowder," said Mr Palin, whose father is the comedian and TV traveller Michael Palin. "One of the lasting favourites was The Miller and his Men, which ends dramatically with an entire windmill exploding."

Sir John Soane's Museum
Toy Theater at Kannik's Korner
Cannon Hall

Monday, June 20, 2005

Magic Treehouses

Kids are not the only ones with a yearning to take to the trees. Time Europe has an article about the luxury pads that grown-ups are constructing amidst the limbs of their backyard trees.
The designers can install anything from kitchens and bathrooms to under-floor heating and electricity. The circular cedarwood dining lodge the company erected in an ash in West Sussex, England, for instance, has all that plus a telephone connection, a spiral staircase, 13 windows and a peaked roof. No wonder the private, $185,000 retreat outdoes any earthbound first-class dining hall. "Forty years ago, nobody envisioned things like jacuzzis and log stoves up in the trees," says John Harris, the firm's founder. "But today, nothing is impossible."

Here in Texas my treehouse would have to be air conditioned.

The Reading Record

Nevada librarians are going for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. They hope to earn the record for reading aloud for 100 consecutive hours.
It took the group 72 hours to read five Harry Potter novels. The rest of the time was spent reading westerns, romances and mysteries.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Napoleon Dynamite Festival 2005

NPR has a story on Preston, Idaho's first Napoleon Dynamite Festival. This movie just makes me smile. The schedule of events is available here.
It includes:
  • Pop-n-Pins Open Bowling
  • Tater Tot Eating Contest
  • Moon Boot Dance Contest
  • Happy Hands Club
  • Rex Kwon Dojo Tour

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, 2001

I know that this series is immensely popular with my friends in junior high school. When I heard the movie was coming out I borrowed my daughter's copy to read.

Shopping for a swimsuit is the ultimate fashion terror but jeans shopping is a close second. Ann Brashare's has cleverly tapped into the female psyche by creating a magical pair of thrift store jeans that look fabulous on four friends who are different sizes and body types. The four girls are separating for their summer activities and decide the jeans are a talisman of luck that they will share during the coming months.

Tibby is working at the fictional Wallman's (think Walmart) for the summer and working on her documentary. Lena is traveling to Greece to stay with her grandparents. Carmen's parents are divorced so she is off to South Carolina for what she hopes will be some personal time with her father. Bridget is an athlete who is attending a soccer camp in Baja California and missing her deceased mother.

Each girl keeps the pants for a week before they mail them off to next “sister.” Things go wrong for all four girls but their letters and support for each other help them through their disappointments. It becomes a summer where the girls learn about themselves. The stories of Tibby and Carmen were very touching.

The magical pants are amazing but the book's success is due to junior high girls' yearnings to have a group of friends as kind, helpful and supportive. Hey, most folks would be happy with one dear friend like this. (Most of the girls I know like the 1st and third books the best.)

We saw the movie yesterday and really enjoyed it. There have been some modifications to the storyline for the big screen but the spirit of the book has translated well. The young actresses are excellent. My daughter has read all the books but her friend had not read any and enjoyed the movie equally. A good mother daughter outing, take a tissue or two.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards 2005

One of the most original novels I have read this year is the winner of the Fiction andPoetry catagory. Hooray for Schwa!

From The Horn Book:

Picture Book:
Traction Man Is Here! by Mini Grey (Knopf)
Fiction and Poetry:
The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman (Dutton)
The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose (Kroupa/Farrar)

How to pick a winner

Tip from Achockablog:
Barry Cunningham. founding publisher of Bloomsbury Children's Books discusses the decision to publish Harry Potter and what he looks for in children's literature.
From the Fortune article "How I Make Decisions"--

I didn't know that a dozen publishers had turned it down or that the author, J.K. Rowling, had become utterly discouraged. I think everybody else passed on it for all the wrong reasons: It was long, the title was unusual, and the story is pretty dark. Rowling needed someone to see what it was, a story of bravery and danger and adventure but with great humor—as opposed to what it wasn't, a traditional children's book.

I choose books purely based on what I believe children will react to. If you carry the child within you, that's what works. You need a real ability to feel the hope, wonder, burning sense of injustice, fear, or rage of childhood—an unfettered mind that still dreams, that goes with the truth of story. I absolutely bet on my confidence in what children will like.

Museum review

The Independent Online has a detailed article about the new Roald Dahl museum.

...what would also have pleased him are the many opportunities for the young to create something themselves. A shadow puppet theatre is available for made-up plays, and an Ideas Table is there for writing stories. Animation technology is also at hand, and there are ingenious bottles for recording those extra special dreams. With writer-in-residence Val Rutt there to give advice to visiting groups, it seems certain that this brilliantly interactive museum will be well patronised by children as well as by scholars attracted to what is already one of the largest literary archives in the world. And with the new film version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, due to be released this summer, life in Great Missenden High Street seems set to become even busier in the months to come.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Batman is awesome!

Great movie. I really really really liked it. Gary Oldman is a chameleon actor, I didn't even realize it was him. Christian Bale is a terrific Bruce Wayne and it is always fun to watch Morgen Freeman and Liam Neeson. Michael Caine is a fabulous Alfred, spot on-perfect. The story is so familiar but it seemed new and fresh in this incarnation.

My only quibble with the show was Katie Holmes who was has an every-girl charm but I've just seen too much of her on TV the past week and everytime she was on screen I kept thinking, "she doesn't like Bruce Wayne, she's stuck on that old geezer, Tom Cruise."

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Celebrity Authors

"Does 'Lotsa de Casha' for Madonna Mean Lessa for Other Children's Authors?"

Anna Weinberg of the Book Standard examines both sides of the publishing phenomenon of actors/sports figures/politicians/and other celebrities writing children's books.

Do the sales from these books allow publishers to find and support new authors? Do celebrity books bring attention to important issues? Are they poorly written public relations stunts to bring attention to a publisher's back list and a celebrity's vanity?
... access isn’t the only thing that celebrities get. Jane Yolen, an award-winner many times over, who’s published more than 200 children’s and YA books since 1961, points out that “celebrity-authored books get high advances—usually about ten to twenty times higher than the average children's book author” (which is often about $5,000 for a debut novelist). “[They get] enormous ad budgets—about 100 to 500 times the average children's book author's—and eat up all the available oxygen at the publisher's.”

Weingberg fairly addresses both sides of the issue in this excellent article.

The question that has been debated on the Child_Lit listserv is why children's books? Celebrities could write cookbooks, decorating books, novels, self-help tomes but they are all choosing 32 page picture books. I doubt many of them see themselves as the next JK Rowling but Harry has proven that there is serious money, respect and fame to be had writing for children. Children's books must be serious business. Also, 32 pages isn't so long, how hard can it be to write one?

Child_Lit Archives

Good for them!

The founders of the two leading Harry Potter fan sites received an amazing call from JKRowling recently according to the Times.
Emerson Spartz, an 18-year-old student from Indiana, was asleep at 9am when his telephone rang.

A Scottish voice asked “Hello, Emerson? This is Jo. You believe me, don’t you?” Rowling, who has become increasingly reclusive, handpicked Mr Spartz and Melissa Anelli, a 24-year-old reporter from a local New York City newspaper, to be the only people to interview her individually for the publication of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, because of her admiration for their fan websites.

Mr Spartz runs Mugglenet, a website named after Rowling’s term for non-magical people, and Ms Anelli is the editorial director of The Leaky Cauldron, another highly-regarded source of Harry Potter gossip.

The Leaky Cauldron


by Carl Hiaasen, 2002, Chad Lowe (Narrator)

I was leery of Hiaasen's venture into the children's / YA realm because his previous writing has been for "grown-ups." I am amused by mainstream authors who think they can write for kids yet do not understand their audience. Ultimately most of them are unsuccessful (James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell.)

I listened to this book and really enjoyed it. It is a 2003 Newbery Honor book. It has comedy, drama and an environmental message.

I do wonder how many teens really endorse this book as much of the humor comes from three rather hapless adult characters in the book. They may enjoy the ribbing the characters receive. Ultimately, I think Hiaasen is successful in recounting the adventures of Roy Eberhardt, the new kid from Montana who has arrived at Trace Middle School in Coconut Grove, Florida.

He is the target of an oafish bully and is trying to avoid being killed on the school bus when he sees a boy his own age running barefoot alongside the bus. The image of the kid stays in his head and after lots of investigation he determines that the boy is homeless by choice and the step-brother of a school mate, Beatrice.

Through his new acquaintences he becomes embroiled in an effort to save a group of burrowing owls whose habitat is threatened by the construction of a Mother Paula's Pancake house. The construction site has suffered a series of pranks and light hearted sabotage which has delayed the bulldozing of the construction zone.

As an adult I appreciated that Roy has two loving and supportive parents to contrast the rather bleak homelife of Beatrice and her step-brother, nicknamed Mullet Fingers. The interactions between Roy and the bully Dana Matherson are hilarious. Hiaasen's descriptions of the Everglades and natural places are mystical.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life

Weekend Edition Saturday had an interview with writer Michael Lewis whose book Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life explores the profound impact his high school mentor/coach had on his life.

Lewis is very engaging. He describes his high school coach, Billy Fitzgerald, as a genius for getting the best out of his players on and off the field. Coach Fitz's take on the changing perception of self esteem was right on target.

In the "old" days, a young person started with zero self-esteem and earned it through his actions and accomplishments. Today's parents have the idea that a child is born with only a fixed quantity of self esteem and any criticism or failure from a teacher or coach will reduce that fixed quantity and with it their child's chance for success.

"...tough teachers and tough coaches are finding that in their attempts to hold kids to higher standards, they are encountering resistance, a new kind of resistance from the parents..."

This is a MUST listen.
Sounds like an excellent read for anyone who works with kids and hopes to get the very best out of them.

Hayao Miyazaki and Diana Wynne Jones

NPR has a page and feature devoted to Hayao Miyazaki and Diana Wynne Jones.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Roald Dahl Museum to open

Chocolate-scented doors will open tomorrow, Saturday June 11 2005 and the public will have their first look at the Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.

Sue Davies, director of the centre, said: "There are very few places which present reading, writing and creativity in a fun way. Our venue will rectify that, building on Roald Dahl's work and using that as the beginning of a magical journey into further reading and writing."

After passing under a shadow of the BFG (the Big Friendly Giant), guests walk through the museum's chocolate-coated doors into the main building, being careful to avoid the crocodile cunningly disguised as a bench.

Visitors can also expect to be dazzled by a spectacular array of displays and shows highlighting the life and work of one of Britain's favourite authors.

Guardian Roald Dahl author page
Official Roald Dahl Website

Related articles:
Bucks Free Press
Guardian Unlimited

Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata

The North America premier of Howl no ugoku shiro (Howl’s Moving Castle)

MoMA Film and Media Exhibitions

We would be attending all of these if we lived in NY.

Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata: Masters of Animation
June 3–30, 2005

Thursday, June 09, 2005

More Sendak

USA Today is serving up some interesting articles related to children's books these days. Bob Minzesheimer interviews Sendak at his home in today's article.

Max, resurrected in the new, edgier edition of Bears published this month, "is still a rotten kid," his creator says. Some kids may be cute — sometimes. But "cute" is not an adjective to pin on Sendak, the celebrated children's author and illustrator whose work is rarely innocent or sweet.

Children, he says, "have ferocious fantasies."

Al Capone Does My Shirts

Al Capone Does My Shirts
by Gennifer Choldenko, Johnny Heller (Narrator), 2004

Listening to this book I could hear the sea gulls and feel the chop of the waves beneath the hull of the boat that carried me across the water and back in time. The characters and story begged to be listened to but the real star of this tale is the setting, Alcatraz Island in the year 1935.

Moose Flanagan's family moves to Alcatraz when his father gets a job as an electrician/guard at the famous prison. Moose is homesick and lonely. He must take the boat to the mainland for school each day. His passion is baseball and the game helps him make new friends.

His home life is more problematic. His father works around the clock. His sister Natalie is autistic (although that condition is not identified) and subject to tantrums and unexplainable behaviors. His mother is so driven to get Natalie enrolled in a special school in San Francisco that she is blind to her son's needs.

The unseen presence in the story is the gangster Al Capone who is imprisoned in Alcatraz. The children of the island are fascinated, thrilled and terrified by the convicts. They are obsessed with catching a glimpse of Capone. The warden's gorgeous daughter, Piper is the same age as Moose and seems to have a gift for getting him in trouble.

Choldenko writes with great compassion of the challenges of living with an autistic family member. You admire and ache for Moose as he shoulders the responsibility of watching over his sister when he could be playing baseball in the afternoons. His kindness and love for his sister give the story extra depth.

Johnny Heller's narration is excellent. His voicing of Moose and Natalie are beautifully done. Moose's voice answering "Yes Sir!" to the Warden has lingered in my mind.

Interesting characters, the Great Depression and Alcatraz Island make this one of the most original works of historical fiction I have ever experienced. I loved the ending.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Reviews soon

Just finished listening to and reading 3 very good books: Hoot, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Al Capone does My Shirts.

Reviews to follow soon.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Author/Illustrator: David Macaulay

Cynsations notices that the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature in Abilene, Texas is opening an exhibit, Building Books: the art of David Macaulay on June 16th.

Macaulay's books are so amazing. They include these and many more:

I've have wanted to visit there...if we plan a trip to Colorado...hmmm...

David Macaulay's website at Houghton Mifflin

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Author: Maurice Sendak

Max, in his white wolf suit, is back in Maurice Sendak's new book. He has reworked Ruth Krauss's 1948 book, Bears.

NPR has an interview with Sendak where he discusses his life and work. He lauds Ruth Krauss and her husband Crockett Johnson for their friendship and mentoring which gave him his first break with A Hole Is to Dig.

Reminiscing about his childhood and life he recalls the the reaction to his books. Grown-ups did not "get" Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are but kids did immediately. If you ever read the book to a group of kids you see it. No matter how old they are, when you pull the book out, a happy cheer goes up and everyone settles in for a listen.

Sendak talks about his love for Mickey Mouse and Mozart. He does not like the word "illustrating" but prefers "picture making."
So many good bits, great listening!

Related links:
American Masters: Maurice Sendak
Wild Things: the art of Maurice Sendak

Harold and the Purple Crayon

From NPR:
Lovely tribute to Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. Maurice Sendak says the charm of the book comes from fun.

Harold is just immense fun, that's all, just fun. But also Harold does exactly as he pleases...there are no adults to demonstrate or comes out of the same theory, let the kid do his own thing. Let him have fun, fun-- not to teach--there are no lessons in Harold. You have fun, you do what you like and no one's going to punish you. You're just a kid.

Author: Tomie dePaola

Maine Today has an interview with Tomie DePaola. He has written another "autobiographical" children's book called Stagestruck. I recall hearing him say that he began writing these books when he heard from a young reader who was not allowed to use one a Tomie DePaola book for a book report because it was not a "chapter book." He discusses Strega Nona, trolls and the imagination -- a good interview.

Q: What do people ask you about most when you speak at bookstores and libraries?

A: Kids ask me where my ideas come from. Children today really aren't encouraged to come up with ideas as much. They're too programmed, no time to daydream or doodle or waste time.

Tomie DePaola's website

Friday, June 03, 2005

Undiscovered children's authors take heart

Waterstone's book chain along with Faber and Faber publishers is sponsoring a national (UK) competition called The Wow Factor to discover new writing talent.

They need a synopsis and the first three chapters delivered to any Waterstone's branch between July 15 and 31. Then a full manuscript must be available by September 30.
The winner will receive a publishing deal with Faber and Faber, and their book will be prominently displayed at the front of every Waterstone's store in the UK.

Since I don't live in the UK, the fun part of the Telegraph article is the writing advice from children's/YA authors Philip Pullman, Eoin Colfer, Anthony Horowitz, Louise Rennison, and others.

--Lose the parents, invent swear words, bond with your readers and make your character slightly older than your target age group.--

Pullman put it eloquently:
"...How many kids pestered bookshops and libraries, saying "We wish someone would write a book about Harry Potter! Why doesn't someone write the first Harry Potter book? We can't wait for it!"? Answer: none. It came out of nowhere, and no-one expected it at all.

"The moral is - Don't write what people tell you they want to read, because the truth is that people don't know what they want to read until someone writes it. Instead, write exactly what you want to write. It's not their job to think what books there ought to be, it's yours.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Lord of the Rings Exhibit

Whooo hooo!
The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: the exhibition opens here this weekend!
For an overview of the exhibit click here.

We have our tickets for the symphony in July too!

Exhibition review from the Houston Chronicle
This will be my family--
"When we opened the doors in London, we had people crying in front of Frodo," said Az James, the touring exhibition manager.

Extreme? Not for those who watched and rewatched the nine-plus hours of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and read and reread the book before that. To the Tolkien faithful, standing at a dramatic display of the Shards of Narsil — the shattered blade that hewed the Ring of Power from evil's hand, bringing an era of peace to Middle-earth — can be a religious experience.