Sunday, September 30, 2007

Book to Movie Adventures

I have not poked the wound that is the movie formerly-known-as-The-Dark-is-Rising-formerly-known-as-The-Seeker: The-Dark-is-Rising now-known-as-The-Seeker in a while.

NPR has done a story on the controversy along with a lovely interview with Susan Cooper herself. (You MUST listen to this!) Is it just me or does screenwriter-who-doesn't-like-fantasy John Hodge sound a tad touchy and defensive about what he did to this book?

NPR producer and Cooper fan, Alison MacAdam, has written an eloquent essay on the subject. She beautifully expresses our fears about the upcoming movie:

I'm afraid the movie will steal future readers, too. Often films can reintroduce books to a new audience. That happened with The Lord of the Rings, which hit the bestseller lists when the movies came out. But it's pretty clear The Dark Is Rising was not adapted with such reverence for the books. The director has said in interviews that he had never read The Dark Is Rising before the movie project, and the filmmakers have said the story had to be changed to appeal to kids today.

Fox/Walden and Tom Hanks are producing Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember and while that book does not have the iconic status of Susan Cooper's series hopefully, they are not unaware of the fallout from mishandling and bungling a beloved story.

An interview with director, Gil Kenan , has him actually expressing affection for the source material:
The good folks at Playtone handed me this glowing manuscript that had just arrived from the publishers called City of Ember. I read it and it destroyed my brain and put it back together again because it hit all the points that I wanted to tell in a story. It is exactly the kind of movie that I wanted to make.

So it’s funny, my relationship to this book, because I actually devoured the book that night. Then as soon as I finished it I kind of -- a path for the film took place and it wasn’t totally symmetrical. There’s things that you’ll see in this film that take real turns and most of them involve taking a book that’s very wordsy in it’s puzzle-solving and making it visual.

Finally, cinematical is reporting on the filming of Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse. The movie title is currently The Moon Princess.

says Ioan Gruffudd, Tim Curry, Natascha McElhone and Juliet Stevenson will star in addition to Dakota Blue Richards (The Golden Compass.)

I pray they get Maria's bedroom at Moonacre right. I remember thinking that it was the most perfect room I could ever imagine.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Paint the Wind

Paint The WindPaint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan, 2007

I always enjoy a Pam Munoz Ryan book. Her novels make me hum with happiness and invite me to sit down for a cozy read. She also seems to write about things that I have a personal connection to.

Esperanza Rising is a book that continues to resonate with readers. Just this week, I was with a group of high school girls who sighed with happiness as they recalled reading Esperanza Rising in elementary school and junior high. I always felt a bond with this book myself because Esperanza's mother is treated in the Kern County Hospital where several events in my family's life went down in the 1950s. The fascinating story of Charlotte Parkhurst in Riding Freedom is graced with the compelling cover art of Brian Selznick which draws readers to the book. Becoming Naomi Leon is a sweetheart of a story about family.

So, at a recent library sub job, when I heard a very nice volunteer parent (who happens to work at the local bookstore Blue Willow Bookshop) offering an arc of this new PMR book to the library aide to read, I'm afraid I began to make piteous little mewling sounds which put her in the awkward position of having to offer me the arc first.

The title, Paint the Wind, evokes the beloved, King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry and the book will have great appeal for those same horse loving book readers. The story opens as the mare, Artemisia, is about to give birth. Artemisia is worried about the baby as her last foal was stillborn.

The scene shifts to Pasadena, California (another personal stomping ground) where Maya lives with her stern and autocratic grandmother. Photos of her father abound throughout the house but all images and mentions of her mother are forbidden. Maya has only the haziest of memories of her early childhood but she treasures a box of plastic horses that belonged to her mother.

The grandmother's sudden death brings many things to light, including the news that Maya was supposed to have been spending her summers with her mother's family in Wyoming all these past years.

Emotionally withdrawn after her years with her grandmother, Maya has a hard time responding to the warmth and love of her grandfather, great-aunt and great-uncle. Her keen interest in horses helps her find her place and even tolerate the hostility from her cousin, Payton. He is used to being the only kid at the family camp along the Sweetwater River during the summer. With the help of her Aunt Vi she begins to learn about her mother and family.

Maya's story is inter-cut with scenes of Artemisia, her colt and the rest of the wild mustang herd. Maya and Aunt Vi see the herd captured in a "gathering" of wild mustangs but the mare and her colt evade the round-up. Without the protection of a stallion, the horses are vulnerable to attack from predators so Maya spends long hours in the saddle looking for them. When a disaster traps Maya in a remote area and she must win Artemisia's trust in order to survive and get home.

PMR tells the story in four parts, "Walk," “Jog," "Lope," and "Gallop" which match Maya's emotional growth and happiness. Parts of the storyline felt a little forced. I wondered why Maya’s grandfather had never challenged the custody arrangements for his granddaughter. But again, the author hit another personal note with me as there is a history of ranching in Wyoming in my family.

This is a book for horse lovers. Fans of Terri Farley's books will be familiar with the discussion of the controversial "gathering" of wild mustangs. There is a glossary and a list of websites, media, and books for readers who want to know more about the subject.

Paint the Wind celebrates swimming in a river, days of horseback riding, camp chores and caring for the horses -- a summer vacation that any horse loving kid would give their iPod and Playstation III to enjoy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nerdfighters: Musical Videos

Are you watching wynflete's winsome and heart warming Nerd Fighter: Australia videos featuring John and Hank Green's secret niece and nephew, Natalie and Calvin? Debbie is so creative. Her videos sneak up on you, take your hand and make you want to go skipping down the street.

She took John Green's Nerdfighter song and embellished it to become: "Nerdfighter Live." My family falls into almost every category of nerdfighter she (and John) thought of. Also, do not miss Nerdfighter Storytime.

...and thanks to Arthur Slade, I've discovered a new (to me) musical group, Arrogant Worms. Their song "It's Great to be a Nerd" also tracks our entwood rather precisely.

Children's Song

Rob Paravonian who brought us the brilliant "Pachelbel Rant" has now posted his take on children's songs.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Edge of the Forest

Indefatigable Kelly has edited and published the September 2007 edition of The Edge of the Forest. I have copied her excellent and already linked post.

September issue of The Edge of the Forest is now up. We have many exciting features for you, as well as interviews, reviews, and much, much more. In short, here's what's in store this month:

Don't forget to subscribe to The Edge of the Forest with our Subscribe feature. Just enter your name and e-mail address and you'll receive notification when each new issue is published.

Friday, September 21, 2007


This email is making the rounds but it is funny.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I Am Not Joey Pigza

I am Not Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos, 2007

I listened to the audio version of this new Joey book because there is just NOTHING BETTER than hearing these stories in Gantos's own voice. When I listened to What Would Joey Do?, tears poured down my face as I watched Joey care for his grandmother after she died. Gantos's tender and heartfelt reading of that scene still echoes in my heart.

I think the absence of his voice that is the reason I have not been able to get through my audio book of The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs--as anxious as I was to experience this macabre tale of taxidermy. Lisa Datz ably reads the story but I have found myself unable to get very far in it because I just can't take those "Gantos" moments without him. I will probably end up reading it because then I can supply his intonation in my imagination.

To have a new book appear in a series that we thought was at an end, is a treat. In this book Joey's "thought he was gone for good" father, Carter Pigza, has returned to pick up the reins of family-hood again. He has money because he won the lottery so the family is well off for the first time in their lives. Alas, we know these characters and we know they will not be able to handle it. In one of the most howling-ly funny wedding ceremonies ever, his parents remarry and in honor of their renewal as a family, they change their names to become new people. Carter has adopted Heinz ("You know, Heinz, like the catsup.") as a new surname and he wants Joey to change his identity to become Freddy Heinz. Of course being the Pigzas, they are not actually going through the legal system to do this which sets up a whole new set of problems.

Joey's sense of self will not disappear without a fight though and he is buffeted between wanting to please his parents and his desire and need to hold on to his real identity. And Joey needs to hold on to something as his parents become obsessed with their own lives. His mother's new hobby is spending money and his dad spends his days looking for portents and signs to guide him in picking new lottery numbers.

The writing pulls you into side-splitting laughter and then deep emotional empathy for Joey. There are also more of those signature moments that leave the reader shrieking. Joey's idea of recreating a ride over Niagara Falls using a refrigerator box and the porch roof is a scene that will have readers and listeners covering their eyes. His visit to his grandmother's resting place in St. Mary's Cemetery is at once dear and strange. He has collected cigarette butts to sprinkle over her grave because she loved smoking so much and brought along a can of silver spray paint. After his beautification efforts, his moving talk with her sent me in search of tissues.

I have always loved Joey as a character. Despite his ricocheting attention span and crazy impulses, he is always trying. He understands better than his parents that you have to know and like yourself before you can change for the better and you cannot do it for someone else. He is full of love for his mother, his granny and his dogs and he wants to forgive and love his dad.

The Joey Pigza books are classics. Joey is a character for the ages. We cheer for him because he is just a wonderful kid.

Must Reads:
Jules at 7 Imp has written a most-excellent review of this book.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff
by Jennifer Holm, illustrated by Elicia Castaldi, 2007

So, the blasted drive-through shorted our dinner order, no coleslaw. As I scrabbled through my purse to find the receipt proving I had paid for it, the flotsam and jetsam of my life floated out too. There was a post-it note with a phone number I needed, a receipt for the dog's visit to the vet, fast-acting glucose tablets, my daughter's class schedule, a flash drive and various other artifacts and odd bits of life that really do tell the story of my daily existence.

As I picked up Jennifer Holm's book, Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff and began to read, my purse's contents flashed through my mind. Using notes, programs, hair salon receipts, report cards, post-it notes, greeting cards and newspaper clippings in a scrapbook format, Holm weaves the story of Ginny Davis. Ginny thinks the worst thing she is facing in seventh grade is the school meatloaf. Through IMs to her friend and in school papers we learn about her family. We learn that she loves ballet and hopes her mother will remarry. We understand that her older brother is a mess and makes his family's life difficult. When her mom remarries, Ginny could not be happier but a mistake puts her into a tail spin emotionally and academically as her family life gets crazier.

I do not want to give away too much of this story because the humor and emotion build with each item on the page and it would not be fair to the story to spoil the surprises.

I will confess that I was reading the book while I was fixing its MARC record. I became hopelessly involved in the story though and when I saw the image of the program for Ginny's ballet recital I gasped so loudly the library aide wondered what was wrong with me.

Jennifer Holm has a gift for creating characters that readers care deeply about. May Amelia, Penny, Babymouse and now Ginny are girls that stay with me even after I finish their stories.

Elicia Castaldi has created the look and feel of real items in an actual scrapbook. She has designed and positioned each item so the story flows naturally. Matt Holm has an illustrator-cameo, contributing some cartoon panels dealing with Ginny's brother.

This novel is very accessible for readers of all levels and strengths. I would start waving copies of this book ASAP at reading specialists and teachers. Since the story is told in mostly short bursts of information it would build reading confidence and help readers "see" the story in their imagination as it plays out.

This is a sweet story, cleverly told, that will find an eager audience. Get it on the shelf and stand back. This is going to be a hit.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Still here: almost back among the living

Some quick looks around the kidlitosphere neighborhood:

  • Bloggers are on the move for Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure thanks to 7 Imp . We want to do all we can to honor Robert Mercer and Grace Lin.
    Read more about it!

  • Alan Silberberg, author of Pond Scum, says his Disney Channel movie is about to swing into production in Utah. The folks who made High School Musical need 1400 Extras for the projects so here's your big chance!

  • J.L. Bell is wondering if Crocs footware is here to stay and is checking for them in picture books.

  • Journey Woman is running a fun contest: High Culture meets Pop Culture
    Here is your mission, if you want to play:

    Submit your comments here with examples of TV shows, popular songs, or movies that used references or quotes from famous poets or authors in a way that may have caught people by surprise. Caught by surprise? I mean, don't include the movie Sense and Sensibility, where half of it was quotes from poetry because two of the characters sat around and read each other poetry throughout. Don't include Shakespeare in Love or Hamlet, where of course there will be a lot of, um, Shakespeare.

    Give me movies like Porky's II, or songs like Dire Straits "Romeo and Juliet." Better yet, give me quotes from The Simpsons. Any extra explanation you can include, similar to mine above about Porky's II, will gain you extra points.

    Almost any episode of Frasier would I have to think of a specific instance. For that matter Stephen Fry's Jeeves throws off classical references with alacrity...

    Oh well, this is too much for me to think of now. Off to have some chicken soup. That cures everything, doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Scrub your hands!

For all librarians, aides and volunteers...

School children love their library books,
They tote them everywhere.
They read them during d.e.a.r time
Absorbed and unaware.

They just can't help the dirt and germs
They transfer to the covers.
They sneeze, they hack, they drool on them,
They are library book lovers.

So if you work in a library,
It is important to think about
The nasty, filthy, library books
You are checking in and out.

Don't touch your face, don't scratch your nose,
You can't wash your hands too often,
The back-to-school virus will get you
If your guard begins to soften.

I thought I was being careful,
I was not sick at all last year,
Alas, the virus got me.
My immune system is in low gear.

No "pleasant land of counterpane"
This is Shel Silverstein "Sick"
So until my breathing is restored,
No computer mouse will I click.

It is time to take some medicine,
So, I will take a bow,
And I will leave you with these words of advice,

Sunday, September 09, 2007

AR Tanka (not a love poem)


Accelerated Reader for Parents

AR is a tool
to make children want to read
not a measure of
a parent’s value or worth...
It is your child’s reading life

AR is a means
to help struggling readers
Points do not belong
in a parent’s bank account...
You cannot spend them yourself.

AR is a way
for some children to compete
in reading as sport
They may not understand math...
They remember Redwall books

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sadness: Madeleine L'Engle

New York Times tribute.

A childhood memory by John Podhoretz who lived in the same apartment building as L'Engle:

I wrote her the first fan letter of my life and, heart pounding, rode the elevator to 9 and slipped it under her door. Within hours a package was left at our door with an inscribed copy of its recently published sequel, A Wind at the Door, a box of baked chocolate chip cookies, and a response that was so appreciative I could hardly believe it, it was so gracious and thoughtful.
NPR Tribute

My Faith in Literature book group is reading A Small Rain (recommended by Semicolon) by L'Engle in October.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Composer is Dead

Entling No. 2 wanted me to know that the Dallas Symphony will perform The Composer is Dead next June. This orchestral work is a collaboration of A Series of Unfortunate Events author Lemony Snicket and composer Nathaniel Stookey. The work premiered in San Francisco a year ago. The book and CD are to released in 2008. The news release from HarperCollins describes the work:

The Composer Is Dead engages listeners with a gripping plot—in this case, a whodunit murder mystery—while the music and Snicket’s narration work together to provide an entertaining introduction to the instruments of the orchestra, in the vein of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

Mr. Snicket adds:

“Ever since I was a boy, classical music has made me weep uncontrollably. I hope The Composer Is Dead does the same for a new generation. It’s certainly either alarmingly original or originally alarming.”

G. Schirmer music publishers website.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sadness: Robert Mercer

Grace Lin's husband, Robert Mercer, passed away this past week. A tribute to him appears at Blue Rose Girls. Our hearts go out to Grace and her family.

In 2004, Grace and Robert were inspired to begin Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Beautiful, one-of-a-kind snowflakes were created by children's book illustrators and auctioned to raise money for cancer research.

In lieu of flowers, Grace and Robert's friends and families have requested that donations be made, in Robert’s name, to:
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund
Attn: Lauren Nash
10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor
Brookline, MA 02445-7226
Please make checks out to "Robert's Snow."

The Robert's Snow online auction will be held in November and December 2007. Gail Maki Wilson has a post at her blog Through the Studio Door listing some of the artists who have created a snowflake for auction. You can get an early look at many of the snowflakes and the process of creating them.

Monday, September 03, 2007


A blog can get you into trouble.

BookMoot's wise and kind maternal parental unit has expressed surprise accompanied with a whiff of admonishment (really, just a trace, a soup├žon, a smidgen) that I referred to BookMoot's estimable brother as Principal Blandsworth. BookMoot's parental units were unfamiliar with the Miss Nelson Is Missing! books so they looked up the reference and were surprised by the description.

At the time, and even now, Principal Blandsworth was the only pleasant character that I could think of who was a school principal in children's books. Also, illustrator James Marshall placed the stories in Texas so it seemed like a good connection.

The very nature of the job of a school principal casts them in a certain unavoidable role in children's and YA books. In many ways the role is an archetype.

I would NOT want to refer to BookMoot's brother as Brother Leon from The Chocolate War. Yikes.

Mr. Tanen of Mr. Tanen's Ties is not well known enough.

I guess there is Thayer's, The Principal from the Black Lagoon but she is a girl.

Mr. Klutz Is Nuts! from Dan Gutman's Weird School series is almost too realistic nowadays, given the number of pigs that are kissed, hair that is painted or shaved in exchange for good test scores. Somehow I just could not imagine my brother being duct taped to a wall for reading scores.

I am sure there is a principal in the Arthur books but I don't remember him.

There is the hapless Mr. Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off but that didn't seem fair either.

In the interest of familial harmony, I would just like to state for the record, that no one holds our family's Principal Blandsworth in higher esteem than me. In addition to all his fine personal qualities, he actually reads children's and YA novels. He is the antithesis of the short befuddled character in Allard's and Marshall's books.

Our brother can leap tall buildings in a single bound or at least step over them. He IS faster than a speeding locomotive.

With a hearty "Hi Ho Silver!" each morning, he maintains unfailing good humor and high hopes for his students and faculty.

He remains a a symbol of liberty and justice as he strides the hallways and byways of his appointed campus.

If most parents really knew the trouble that is averted on a daily basis by courageous administrators and educators, we would be sending them flowers on a weekly basis or at least, cupcakes.

That is the truth.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Anime Convention

Well this has been a rare and interesting experience. My own little entlings were not in any specific regalia, they just wore t-shirts from their favorite series. Oh my gracious goodness has the people watching been interesting here. The most amazing aspect of this whole experience has been how many characters I seem to recognize.

Apparently some of these characters have worked their way into my passive consciousness over years of video games and cartoon watching. Today I saw multiple portrayals of characters from Full Metal Alchemist, Legend of Zelda (Link and Zelda,) Kingdom Hearts, Bleach, Sailor Moon, Spirited Away.

To my shock I found myself in discussion with Entling no. 2 about a young lady in a brown military uniform.

Me: So which series is she from? Is that from Gundam Wing?
Entling no. 2: No, the only female officer in that show wore a red skirt.
Me: Still, all those medals...
Entling no. 2: I know, otherwise it is a match.
Me: I can't believe I'm having a conversation where I am uttering the words, Gundam Wing.

I also saw a group of Ghostbusters, Draco Malfoy and Luna Lovegood, Princess Peach and a Mario Brother. Captain Jack Sparrow was there as well as multiple kitty cats, and foxes. Every one seems to be clutching a stuffed animal.

What an experience.


Treebeard and I have accompanied Entlings no.s 2 & 3 to an Anime convention this weekend. Blue hair, orange hair, interesting weaponry abound. Everyone seems to have their favorite series...
We are nice parents.

Christmas movie


The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey has been made into a movie. I always thought this was a sweet story. Since childhood, I have always been fascinated by nativity scenes, probably an offshoot of my love of dollhouses as a girl.

Author Susan Wojciechowski's website has some stills.

Movie website