Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Happy Summer Reading

Did you hear that?
Surely you heard that, America.
My ears are still ringing.
The UPS man just arrived with Vendetta by Chris Humphreys (the sequel to The Fetch and second book in the Runestone Saga) and the entling's happy shriek is still echoing.
Happy summer reading, indeed.

Movie: The Dark is Rising

Like Sheila at Wands and Worlds , I also cannot seem to look away from this train wreck a.k.a. The Dark is Rising movie. Sheila found a side by side comparison of the differences we already know about between the book and movie. J.L Bell at Oz and Ends has more dispiriting news here and here on this travesty and reminds us of the the "originality" of fruit cart scenes.
Oh my.

I think this title, "The Dark is Sinking" and this snip from BlogCritics.org, says it all.

During filming in Bucharest, Romania there was a joke on The Dark is Rising set that only three things have been changed from the original 1973 novel: the nationality of lead character Will Stanton, changed from English to American; his age changed from 11 to 13; and everything else that happens in the story.

They have bungled the opportunity to have a franchise à la Harry and Narnia and one can only wonder, what were they thinking?
Fools, fools, fools.

Harry Potter 3-D

School days are looming so we are engaged in a general room toss and scouring of Entling no. 3's room this week. As we began to wade through the morass, I noticed her stack of Harry Potter books. As I looked at the battered and beloved condition of the books, I was overwhelmed by a rush of affection for Jo Rowling. I think these books and their condition speak for themselves, they are a testament to love and a tribute to an amazing reader, Entling no. 3

They made me ponder the recent NYTimes article, "Is Junie B. Jones Talking Trash?" which discussed the familiar story of some parents dislike of Junie B. and Junie-speak.

I have fielded my share of sniffy "well-I-don't-care-for-her-language" comments from parents in my role as school librarian.

As a parent and an educator, I am always flummoxed when folks think their child cannot discern between fiction and reality and will absorb an attitude and a dialect from an early reader. Please folks! Do parents who read murder mysteries or watch CSI: insert-city-name-here on television become inspired to go on crime sprees?

If books had THAT much power then there would never be another diet book published in this country. We would all be skinny pictures of health.

Do parents themselves ALWAYS use perfect grammar? When they do not, do they instigate a discussion with their child to make sure that they understand the scope of the grammatical tragedy and that they are not scarred for life?

Parent: Darling, I'm afraid I just committed a grammatical faux-pas and left a modifier dangling in the run-on sentence I just uttered. I think I may have also employed a double negative while trying to correct to my misuse of a possessive before a gerund.

Now we need to talk about this so you don't think this is proper and begin to split your infinitives too.

When confronted by a parent about Miss Junie, I always voice my support for this wonderful series (if children love them and flock to them, I think they are wonderful) but usually end up with a prosaic comment about other choices and if this one does not fit, try another.

Just looking at my daughter's books though (and there are many many other books in similar re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-read condition on her shelves) made me rethink my answer.

Dear Parents,
As this school year begins anew, you and your children are about to embark on an adventure of a life time. There are math problems to be computed, scientific principles to be acquired and history to be absorbed. A school year passes quickly. There is no time to waste.

The ability to read is essential to your child's success in acquiring all this knowledge. Learning to read means your child can successfully decode printed symbols on a page and comprehend the story or read for information with fluency. Your child needs background knowledge of syntax, semantics, phoneme awareness and other abilities to proceed.

Like any skill, reading is improved with practice. Michael Jordan did not get to be a basketball all-star by practicing just once a week. The more words that pass below your child's eyes, the stronger and more comfortable he or she will become as a reader. We want your child to read books the way you eat popcorn at the movies, continuously and by the handful. Surely, you do not just eat one kernel every fifteen minutes or so?

I know you want your son or daughter to succeed. I have never heard a parent despair, "I wish my child was not such a excellent reader. I wish they did not read above grade level. I wish they did not enjoy reading books."

With so many non-print media sources vying for your child's attention, you should drop to your knees and make offerings of thanksgiving if he or she finds a series of books they are passionate about.

Remember, popcorn!

If they love a certain book, you will not have to "schedule" reading time. They will seek it out on their own. If they love a book, they will beg to read the next one in the series or another one like it. If they love a book, you are not going to have to bribe them to finish it.

Please be tolerant of your child's reading choices. Certainly as a parent it is fun to guide, suggest, offer--but in the end, it is THEIR reading life. Do you really want to get in the way and ruin the experience for them?

When children love what they read, they love reading.

May the school year ahead go smoothly for school librarians who are working so earnestly and fervently to answer that perennial question, "Where are the good books?"

Monday, July 30, 2007

Megiddo's Shadow

Megiddo's ShadowMegiddo's Shadow by Arthur Slade, Wendy Lamb Books, 2006

Arthur Slade dedicates this novel to the memory of the five Slade men who served in World War I, his great grandfather, grandfather and great uncles. The dates of the youngest one jump out at the reader, "Private Percy James Slade, 1897-1918 (KIA.)

If my memory serves, I do not think there is a village or town in France and England that does not have a memorial to the fallen of The Great War. World War I does not loom as large in the memory of Americans. In Megiddo's Shadow, Slade takes the reader to a lesser known front of that war, to Palestine in the Middle East.

Sixteen-year-old Edward Bathe leaves his farm in Saskatchewan, Canada and joins the army after receiving the news that his beloved older brother Hector has been killed in France. All he wants to do is get to the front and kill the Hun who took his brother's life but upon arrival in England he is transfered to the Fifth Imperial Remount unit to break horses. He chafes at the assignment but does meet a horse who will be part of his future when he is reassigned to the Lincolnshire Yeomanry. Slade describes the role of these units on his website :

Yeomanry were different than cavalry--they were trained to be foot soldiers and mounted soldiers. The idea was that they could ride quickly to their destination and dismount and fight. Or they could charge. They were even taught to get their horses to lay down, so they could use them as cover. The regiment was also trained to use the sword or lance in a charge.

Edward and his horse, Buke become part of the British Expeditionary Force in Palestine. The description of desert warfare is unforgettable.

A month later, in July, I was sent to hell...

...We fed and watered our horses, working through the night because the day would be too hot for us to lift a finger. As the sun rose, it revealed a desolation only the Devil could've dreamed up: a low, flat valley of white marl and salt, spotted with swamp, stony plain, patches of dense scrub, and a thin layer of dry grass. The land had never know rain. Lumps of dried flesh--dead camels--lay here and there as though dropped from the sky, a sky that had never seen a cloud. A hot breath of wind drove the salty dust into my eyes. Occasionally, a thirteen-pounder gun would roar just to let the Turks know that His Majesty's troops were still here.

Very much a classic boy-goes-to-war novel in the tradition of The Red Badge of Courage, All Quiet on the Western Front or Fallen Angels, Edward experiences the comradeship of soldiers, a first love and the grim reality of warfare. He faces the loss of those he loves and his faith in God as he struggMegiddo's ShadowMegiddo's Shadowles to find meaning and survive.

Slade relates his grandfather and great uncles' true stories on his website. They are as gripping and heartfelt as the novel and are very much the inspiration for this book. The letter Edward and his father receive about Hector is taken almost verbatim from the real letter the Slade family received about Percy Slade.

Moving, emotional and wrenching at times, this is historical fiction at its finest. I will be reading more of Arthur Slade's writing in the future.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Thomas the Tank Engine

Having enjoyed books with autistic children at school over the years, I thought this article, "Autism group probes why children love Thomas the Tank Engine," was extremely interesting:

Among autistic children, who often have a narrow range of behaviours, Thomas-related play was often their favourite activity, with children repeatedly watching the videos and reenacting whole scenes, including dialogue, with the toys.

"Thomas & Friends is 100 per cent responsible for getting him talking. Thomas was his life," said one parent of a nine-year-old, according to the NAS survey.

Author: Rick Riordan

Rockstar Rick Riordan is publishing his one and only Percy Jackson short story, "Percy Jackson and the Stolen Chariot" on his blog. Just the perfect bite for folks coming out of a post Potter fug.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Narrator: Jim Dale

I spent the better part of this summer listening to Jim Dale read Harry Potter. It was a wonderful way to re-experience the books and refresh my memory for Book 7.

Radio and audiobooks are such an intimate experience because the speaker's voice is literally between your ears and wired directly into your imagination. This intimate connection may account for my reaction to Jim Dale's appearance yesterday. As he took the stage and said hello, tears sprang to my eyes.

He invited the audience to enjoy a "right-o giggle" with him. His energy and personality commanded the stage.

Throughout the program, Dale shared stories about the inspirations for his voices, switching into character instantly. Trelawney is based on actress Penelope Fielding and actor John Houseman was the springboard for Dumbledore. His uncle from Cornwall inspired Hagrid. He shared that he actually lost his voice after a day of reading with Hagrid's voice.

He read five selections from the books beginning with "The Sorting Hat." Hearing him sing the Sorting Hat's song will stay with me forever. As he read the scene where Harry "blows up" Aunt Marge he appeared to expand and float as Marge and then to be pulled off the ground as Uncle Vernon with Ripper clinging to his ankle.

He said he tries to evoke the radio comics of his youth who had such original and unusual voices.
He is proud of his Guinness World Record for the 134 voices he used in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and shared that he was just informed that he had broken his own record with 147 voices for Deathly Hallows.

As a finale, he invited nine children up on the stage, warning the hoard of volunteers that thundered down the center aisle, that they were going to have to read aloud AND act.

In groups of three, he had the kids take turns reading the same brief cut, evoking Dale's earlier performance. They really had fun with "the howler." I admired the children so much. They really gave it their all and were terrific. There was a prize for the one that got the most applause. It was a near thing for all of them.

It occurred to me that this would be a great library/reading lesson. My students loved a chance to perform and the repetition of cuts would support readers, at all levels. Audiobooks by Dale would be a terrific choice to model a wide range of characters (as would Allan Corduner who reads Septimus Heap and Keys to the Kingdom.) The activity would give kids the opportunity to voice and perform the story themselves which is something struggling readers have trouble with sometimes.

Dale is a great advocate for audiobooks and emphasized the difference between the richness of Rowling's text and the Harry Potter movies. With a gleam in his eye he reminded the children that they can keep "reading" after their parents tell them "lights out" by listening to an audiobook in the dark.

Personal giggles:
Entling #3, aka, "Yo" gave him a tiny origami crane as he signed our audiobook, note above photo

Jim Dale performed for the huge crowd in the parish hall of a CHURCH!!!

NYTimes article

Houston Chronicle
Jim Dale Website

Author: J.K. Rowling

Just in case you have not heard:
TODAY will air more of the exclusive interview with J.K. Rowling on Thursday and Friday. Portions are scheduled to air Sunday on "Dateline NBC."

MSNBC article

Love this professor

Professor Ron Hammond, I love you.

From The Daily Herald via Library Link of the Day:
Dismayed at the rising cost of textbooks, Hammond has quit using textbooks in his courses. He has redesigned the courses he teaches to provide his students with a more varied selection of source material for a lower cost.

"I want them to understand where information comes from," Hammond said. "It's a skill they're going to need."

As a librarian who teaches research skills I say "Hoorah!"

As a parent who is paying for expensive textbooks for the entling's classes, I say "Double Hoorah!"

Monday, July 23, 2007

July 2007 Carnival of Children's Literature

If you are coming out of your post Potter fog and looking for something amazing and fun then skip over to Saints and Spinners: The Play's The Thing! July 2007 Carnival of Children's Literature
Alkelda the Gleeful has out done herself!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sounds of Silence

Reading advocates have touted group reads or "One Book" projects for the past few years. This past weekend we have all been caught up in the biggest "One Book" read ever.

One World, One Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The only sound in the house for the past 24 hours has been some classical music playing very very softly. There have not even been the customary noises out on the street, no lawn mowers or blowers or even cars.

We picked up our books at midnight. Entling no. 3 had a plan and provisions pre-positioned for an all nighter. We got home, she kissed up goodnight and disappeared. Apparently she finished around 8 a.m. Saturday morning because she left us a note in the kitchen, letting us know she had eaten breakfast and now needed time to "rest and process."

After waiting so long, I found I had mixed feelings about opening the book, knowing that this was the end. I read for about an hour after we got home and then went to sleep.

I arose early to continue but was wondering about the remote members of our entwood. Happily, I received a call from Entling no. 1 around 10 a.m. letting me know she had just picked up her copy and had no other plans for the day but reading.

I knew Entling no. 2 had ordered hers so I checked in and was happy to hear Amazon had delivered hers by 8 a.m. because that was when she poked her head out the front door to check. She told me she had her preparations in place for the day ahead.
She since checked in confirming her completion of the book with her comment, "Wasn't it something?"

I was now easy in my mind and fell into the story. I finished about 6 p.m.
Treebeard is more than halfway through.
When he is done, we are planning an entmoot via IM.

Can't wait.

More discussions I am looking forward to:
Mugglenet podcast show 100/101
Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone in August

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thanks for the ride!

My first year as a school librarian was the year of Titanic. Those of you who were in the library business the year the movie came out, know that there were not enough books on planet Earth on that subject to fill the demand. I had multiple copies of the Ballard book and a biography of Molly Brown but that was not enough. Over the course of that year, I added every Titanic book I could find. At TLA, I watched librarians almost come to blows over a lovely new cross section book about the Titanic at the Little Brown booth. It was wonderful time. Kids were combing the catalog for books. They were pouring over the encyclopedias and reading everything I had on the topic.

My second year as a school librarian started wonderfully when a colleague asked what I had done over the summer and I answered that I had read this fantastic book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. That was the year of Potter.

Two fantastic years to start a career as a school librarian.

Now we are at the end.

I have steadfastly held my fingers in my ears and chanted "la-la-la-la, not listening" for the past few months whenever HP comes up. These past days though, trying to avoid Harry Potter spoilers and tip offs, is like trying to evade rain drops in a hurricane. I see the cover on television and lunge for the remote because I am afraid I'm going to see or hear something to ruin the ending for me.

There is not much that really surprises me anymore (well, maybe the ending of The Office this season) so perhaps I am looking at Book 7 as an opportunity to experience "Christmas morning" excitement one more time.

After I post this, I think I will be signing off the computer until sometime this weekend when I finish reading.

In advance though, I just want to thank JKR for the fun.

It has been a grand ride.

An alert entling did send me this news article and assured me I could look at it safely.

Courtney Lanahan and Shawn Gordon of Clackamas are heading straight from their wedding reception Friday to a bookstore to get the final Harry Potter book.

My kind of people.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tell an Author You Care Day

I am a day late on this one but what a fantastic idea Emily at whimsy had.

In honor of Tell an Author You Care Day, Book Moot bows to:

Rockstar Rick Riordan -- He really is a rock star. Young men, who I worried would NEVER read for pleasure, have discovered what it is all about thanks to him. Reading the first chapter of The Lightning Thief has also provided me with some of my most meaningful and happy experiences as a librarian.

I also have to thank Gail Gauthier for Happy Kid and the most hilarious reading-aloud my daughter has ever entertained me with while I was driving a car. Also her heroine, Thérèse, from The Hero of Ticonderoga is a character I would like to hug.

Jack Gantos will always have my heart for getting this family through a very emotional time. I wish he still wrote an update to his website. Even once a year, he always made me laugh.

Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm are so gracious to kidlitosperians and have created the most imaginative young mouse in the world. I may have mentioned that I named my IPod, Babymouse?

Audrey Couloumbis has completely won me over with her books about two sisters on the run in the wild west. I find myself asking friends and relations and strangers in dentist office waiting rooms, have you read The Misadventures of Maude March yet?

Thank you, all!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Goodbye Lady Bird Johnson

Texans take their culture seriously. Our landmarks and historic figures are the stuff of legends.

And then there are the wildflowers.
We adore our wildflowers.
We revere our wildflowers.

Pilgrimages to the Hill Country of Texas are obligatory in the spring and the patches of blues and reds and pinks and yellows that edge the interstate highways lift a traveler's spirit. Every child in the Lone Star State has memories (sometimes not pleasant ones) of being plopped down into a plot of bluebonnets and photographed by enthusiastic parents. The first Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes of the season are greeted like celebrities here.

Tomie dePaola's The Legend of the Bluebonnet and The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush are de rigeur reading in elementary schools across the state and it is all because of Lady Bird Johnson.

Kathi Appelt honored the first lady and reminded us that she changed the way we look at the landscape with her 2005 book, Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers. Joy Fisher Hein's joyful illustrations capture the beauty of the flowers and Lady Bird's gracious and loving spirit. Hein shares the thank you letter she had from Mrs. Johnson about the book on her website. Based on the number of copies I have cataloged at various libraries I know that this book has joined dePaola's in every school library in Texas.

As I reflected on Mrs. Johnson's passing this week I recalled that this past spring was one of the longest seasons for flowers that I could ever remember, and I've lived here a long time. Maybe it was the rainy spring weather or maybe it was just a last glorious burst of color to honor her.

As we drove the entling to camp this weekend I marveled at the thick swath of deep orange and red flowers that edged the freeway and thought what a precious gift Lady Bird Johnson gave us.

Kathi Appelt website
Joy Fisher Hein website
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Movie: City of Ember

More cast additions for the movie version of City of Ember:
Tim Robbins, Martin Landau Join 'City of Ember'<

Bill Murray is, as expected, The Mayor of Ember, who the children go up against, and as for the rest of the new cast -- Robbins is Doon's father and an inventor who holds a secret about the city, Landau is Doon's boss in the Pipeworks and Jean-Baptise is a greenhouse worker. Between the talent behind the production and the story itself, I'm itching to see what they make of the dark, electric-lit world.

Narrator: Jim Dale

Narrator maestro, Jim Dale is coming! Narrator virtuoso, Jim Dale is coming! Narrator genius, Jim Dale is coming!

The entling and I snagged our tickets yesterday.

Apparently he is only touring a handful of cities and one of my favorite independent bookstores, Blue Willow Bookshop, got him!!!!

Related: Apparently I live in one of the Harry-est Towns in America!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Honky-Tonk Heroes & Hillbilly Angels

Honky-Tonk Heroes & Hillbilly Angels: the Pioneers of Country & Western Music, words by Holly George-Warren, pictures by Laura Levine, Houghton Mifflin, 2006

I was a fan of Warren and Levine's first collaboration, Shake, Rattle and Roll: The Founders of Rock & Roll so I was ever so pleased to see them take up this music. Holly George Warren certainly has the bona fides to write about the subject.

A book like this reminds me of how much fun a school librarian can have with lesson plans. I can imagine using this to teach "Biography" and sharing these musicians' music along with their stories. Kids today sing "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" but have they ever heard of Gene Autry? Shouldn't they experience the musical virtuosity of Bill Monroe?

Warren has a one page biography on each artist with important dates and milestones from their life and career. She begins the book, appropriately, at the beginning, with a profile on the Carter family.

Laura Levine has painted a full page portrait of each musician with their name worked into the art work. Each member of the Carter family is designated along with "The First Family of Country Music." Bill Monroe is titled "The Father of Bluegrass" and Loretta Lynn's "The Coal Miner's Daughter" appears in the smoke plume coming from a small cabin. Each painting is featured in a period frame so you feel as if you are looking at a grouping of family pictures.

All the greats are included: Patsy Cline, Roy Acuff, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubbs, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Tammy Wynette and more.

I think it would be so much fun during Rodeo time here in the Lone Star State, to turn on some Western (we call it Texas) Swing and share the story of Bob Wills.

Holly George-Warren Website

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

M is for Masterpiece

M is for Masterpiece: an art alphabet book by David Domeniconi and illustrated by Will Bullas, Sleeping Bear Press, 2006

Sleeping Bear Press is known for their alphabet books on various themes. This book shares the framework of the other books with handsome color and good layout.

Will Bullas's illustrations evoke the artist at work as many of the illustrations feature the "artist's" hand creating the picture. "V is for Van Gogh" is a close up of an artist's paint smeared hands painting a swirling sky. Closeups of paint tubes, colored pencils and brushes bring the tools to life.

The book includes the art of many cultures from Native Americans to Easter Island to African masks.

Q is for Quillwork
J is for Japanese Print
Domeniconi's text rides in a column to the side of each spread. His information is excellent. In addition to the traditional explanations for the subject he includes related stories. For example, in "L is for Landscape" he describes the enormous impact the landscape paintings of Albert Bierstadt had on our country as they communicated the grandeur of the West to Easteners. I thought this was an inspired subject choice to illustrate the concept.

My only criticism is that this very interesting text was somewhat difficult to read because of the size of the type. It is an art to balance all the page elements with the amount of text but this was a shade too small for easy reading.

All in all, this is a nice survey of artists, media, techniques and art forms

A side note: I've been interested by Albert Bierstadt ever since the time I saw one of his paintings in an art gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was having fun looking at all the art but I kept going back to one painting on the wall.

It was very small, maybe 12 inches long at the most. It showed a campfire with a few cowboys sitting nearby. The only light in the painting came came from the glow of the fire. I remember thinking it was a very intimate scene even though the great outdoors loomed in the darkness beyond the fire.

When I asked someone how much it was, I learned it cost more money than the price of my house. The gallery person looked at my slack jaw and said, "Well, it is a Bierstadt." Used to his colossal works, I had not realized he was the artist of this small piece.

I sure can pick'em.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The 39 Apartments of Ludwig van Beethoven

The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van BeethovenThe 39 Apartments of Ludwig van Beethoven by Jonah Winter, pictures by Barry Blitt. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2006.

This book begins with a musical score in Beethoven's own hand. The end papers are an actual photograph of Beethoven's working manuscript for the Grosse Fuge in B flat major, Op. 134.

Jonah Winter recounts the story of Beethoven’s pianos and the thirty-nine apartments where he lived in Vienna. So often children's "non-fiction" blurs the line between fact and speculation. Not so in this book. Winter clearly identifies what is fact and what is conjecture and does so with great humor.

Diaries, eviction notices, physical evidence and piano movers' notes are used as a basis for the story he tells. Why did Ludwig change apartments so frequently? Well, there is some evidence to suggest the neighbors complained. As Beethoven moves from place to place, Winter chronicles the music that was composed there. An author's note at the end gives additional information about his deafness and the amazing fact that he composed his magnificent Ninth Symphony after he had completely lost his hearing.

Barry Blitt's illustrations lift the story to a new level. We first see Beethoven as a baby crying in Gothic letters, "wha wha wha WHA." He accurately and humorously depicts the difficulties and incredible logistics involved in moving pianos to the new apartments, over rooftops, through windows and through walls. The composer's effect on his neighbors is depicted in a cross-section where we see the neighbors living above, below and next door to him reacting to the noise coming from his apartment in the middle. Babies cry, dogs bark and people pound on the floor, ceiling and walls as Beethoven plays.

This book is a must have for music teachers, piano teachers and students of music. What a treat!

Books to Movies

The whole distressing news about the "changes" to The Dark is Rising set me to thinking about other beloved books in our Entwood that have been translated to the silver screen.

Nothing compares to the breadth and depth of the story in written form. Most of the time I do note what was left out and what was changed when a book is made into a movie but overall I enjoy seeing another creative mind's interpretation.

I enjoyed Stormbreaker, even though I didn't think the actor fit my idea of Alex Rider but I enjoyed the movie for what it was.

The Harry Potter movies had their drawbacks but I saw them and enjoyed them. When they pop-up on TV (like tonight) I find myself watching them.

Overall I have liked the Walden Media movies I have seen. I even liked Hoot though I felt they got the casting of Mullet Fingers very wrong.

Which brings me to our most beloved of all stories that have been movie-ized, The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson decided, for sake of dramatic effect, to change some aspects of the story and these changes STILL annoy some members of this household. Aragorn's motivations, Gandalf's confrontation with the Witch King at Pelennor Fields, and Denethor's character spring to mind.

But we all knew that Peter Jackson loved the books. We knew he had read the books and had dreamed of bringing this "unfilmable" story to the screen. The involvement of the fans was nurtured from the very beginning of the project. He knew their interest and support was important to the movies' success.

Jackson infused his project with Tolkien's own words and brought the essence and spirit of the story to life. It was a work of love and it showed in every frame.

I reflected on this as I read this interview with John Hodge, the screenwriter for The Dark is Rising:

Are there other elements from the books that you used. With regards to back story or stuff like that?

I haven't dipped into the other books at all.

So you just focused on the 'Dark Is Rising?'

Just 'Dark Is Rising', yeah.

Studios that are trying to achieve their own fantasy franchise à la Harry or LOTR should take a page out of Peter Jackson's play book.

Oh well.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


3-D ABC: a sculptural alphabet by Bob Raczka. Millbrook Press, 2007

Bob Raczka writes terrific books about art for children. His excellent Here's Looking at Me: How Artists See Themselves should be in every art teacher's collection. In 3-D he explores sculpture. Using an ABC book format, he presents a wide range of concepts and media.

His subjects are well chosen to engage young imaginations. Each work is presented with full attribution which includes the title, the artist, the date and the location of the piece. A page at the back gives full credit for the photography in the book too. The importance of properly citing resources and giving credit to the work of others should be and must be continually emphasized to students.

Everything works in this book from the clear typography to the clean layout. The art is beautifully photographed and tagged with a letter of the alphabet.

Concert for Anarchy by Rebecca Horn at the Tate Gallery in London is an inverted grand piano, hanging in midair with the keys spilling downward. It illustrates "U is for Upside Down."

A sculpture can make you look at things differently,

My favorite piece in the book is Spoonbridge & Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN which is also the cover image. It is tagged with "S is for Spoon"

A Sculpture can make you Smile

This books will certainly make you smile and think about sculpture in a whole new way.
It was also nominated for the Cybil Non-fiction Picture Book award.

Bob Raczka's website

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Different Kind of Book Shelf

And now for something completely different.

We Got "Style"

Librarians are hip and with-it and enjoy Dewey Decimal drinking games!

The NYTimes reports on the social group "Desk Set" in their "Fashion and Style" section today.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Positively "hasty"

"But now his slow wrath is brimming over and the forest is filled with it. The coming of the hobbits and the tidings they have brought have spilled it.: it will soon be running like a flood; but its tide is turned against Saruman and the axes of Isengard. A thing is about to happen which has not happened since the Elder Days: the Ents are going to wake up and find that they are strong. -- "The White Rider", The Two Towers
Well, this topic has certainly gotten this entfamily in an uproar. Don't know how "strong" we are but enraged, absolutely.

"When Treebeard had got a few arrows in him, he began to warm up, to get positively "hasty", as he would say." -- "Flotsam and Jetsam", The Two Towers

I tend to think of Entling no. 2 as our resident Lord of the Rings expert but she felt compelled to weigh in on the DiR movie, in particular:

And what of Will's family? His being the seventh son of a seventh son (a fact not readily apparent since the first born died young) is also a very important point. Just how will they make that work if Will has a twin, as one picture suggested?

And they've changed Will's father from a jeweler to a physics professor! His being a jeweler was actually very important to the plot!

Plus: (Mother's note: this is from the kid who chided me for skipping the songs and poems in LOTR the first time I read it)
Will they have the poems?

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.
When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, water from the thaw;
Six Signs the circle, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

It's as if they finally did The Hobbit and Bilbo was no longer a hobbit, but was a plucky young mortal human starting out on a quest with his faithful dog Spot and the wise, cantankerous grounds keeper from his father's estate.

Oh, and the quest is to just get from point A to point B. There's no dragon treasure, really.

And while Gandalf does make an appearance, Radagast is far more important and slightly evil.

--- --- --- --- ---

Camille is now trying to remember who the heck is Radagast?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Movie: The Dark is Rising

Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series was one of the first children's book series I read as an adult. It was BC (before children) and this novel made me want to sleep with the lights on for several nights.

I am also interested in the book-to-film progress of The Dark is Rising because this series was one of Entling No. 1's favorite reads of all time. Her copy of Silver on the Tree was a sight to behold: cover hanging by a thread and then gone all together, pages softened from innumerable turnings. These books "fit her just right" to quote a fan's letter to Susan Cooper.

J.L. Bell always writes thoughtfully about the subjects he takes up so I sent his "The Hype is Rising" post to my No. 1 and asked for her take.

For the record my daughter is a twenty something young professional. She said I could share her thoughts that I received over a course of several emails. They were arriving fast and furious.

First take:
I'm only half way through, but if Will has a twin I'll throw up.

And another thing:
Ok, first of all Will has to come from a big family. One of the important themes is that he's the 7th son of a 7th son (or 11th or some number). That's why he's important. And he doesn't ever complain about it - his brothers and sisters do.

That's what makes Will different. He gets along with everyone, has patience and understanding and is more grown up than many of his older siblings. He worries about what he's getting everyone for Christmas because he loves his big family so much he wants to get all the right presents. He understands and accepts what he has to do at such a young age because he wants to protect his family - there's actually a scene where he wants to leave and give up but then sees The Rider with his sister and it propels him into doing what's right for the cause.

The Walker having a love interest is ridiculous - he's actually one of the semi-enemies in the book, and he's not THAT big a character so it doesn't make ANY sense that they would change that. He used to work for the Old Ones, specifically Merriman, but betrayed them and was cursed.

He learns the hard way that an immortal life is not a blessing, and it drives him mad so he actually works for the Dark until Will and Merriman work to bring him back to the Light.
Making him younger, as this post seemed to suggest, is beyond dumb because it takes away the reason for his suffering - he's lived too long and aged too much, but he can't die. He's mad. Adding a love interest makes no sense.
At all.

Will being an American is not that big a deal, though it seems more like a casting cop-out than an actual plot addition. Of course the reason he's British in the books means he has a physical connection to important people and places from King Arthur's time.

But, oh wait, they don't need that (see next paragraph). I don't know why they made him 14 or 13 instead of 11 - the whole deal in the book is that he's not even a teenager yet - that's why it's so hard for him.

Getting rid of the Arthurian themes is unbelievable. First of all Merriman, as we learn in the later books, is also MERLIN. It also means they won't be making The Grey King or Silver on the Tree, since those all involve KING ARTHUR'S SON!! (brought to our modern times by Guenevere with Merrimen's help.)

And Bran has to be King Arthur's son or nothing else makes sense - for example, that's why he can use King Arthur's sword. He's important because he's King Arthur's son - he's the Pendragon and it gives him more abilities and powers than other people. If you take this away and make him just an ordinary kid, why is Bran more special than Will? Why does it have to be him who has to do everything in The Grey King and Silver on the Tree - just cuz he's Welsh??

That's all I can think of in 10 minutes. I'll ponder more if you want.

And another thing:
As a side note - [Ian MacShane's] whine about Cooper's books being too hard to read obviously never tried to read the Narnia series. Cooper's books are not dense or hard to get through, they are not boring, have plenty of action in them already and don't need any random changes to make them more exciting.

It's not a Die Hard type fight with huge action sequences. The Light and the Dark don't use bombs or guns or plastic explosives or snipers to fight each other. It's a more subtle kind of fight, fought in the old ways with cunning and faith. There are rules each side has to follow, including keeping the fight on the down-lo, or risk getting cast out of the universe or something.

In Silver on the Tree, each of the good guys (Simon, Jane, Barney from Over Sea Under Stone and Greenwitch, Will, Bran and Merriman) take one of the Signs (found by Will in Dark is Rising) and they all stand around the most important tree in the world (not actually named the Tree of Life by Cooper, but the symbolism is there.) And all around them they see the other warriors of the Light and the Dark fighting - King Arthur, etc. And the point is that the Light prevented the Dark from taking control of the tree, which exists out of time. Thus they saved the past, present and future.
Or in other words, the fight is never ending and a lot more complicated than just a random good-guy bad-guy fight.That's why it's a quest - you're supposed to have to think about it - it's not supposed to be easy.

And another thing:
Sorry it's kind of a stream of consciousness. But I LOVE these books and the thought of someone messing them up actually makes me want to cry.

And another thing:
Also, please clean up my typos and grammar errors. That post got me so riled up I just started pounding the keyboard.

And another thing:
Merriman is the only character who appears in all 5 books. If the actor hasn't even tried to read them how true will his performance be?

Sadness: Beverly Sills

An emotional Carol Burnett payed tribute to her good friend Beverly Sills on NPR this week.

Beverly Sills died on Monday, July 2.
I loved Sills's bubbling laugh and glorious voice.

She was an American original.

Beverly Sills Online
New York Times

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Animated Harold

The original 1969 animation of the classic book "Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Crockett Johnson

A Day at the Office

A day at the office at Random House Children's Books? An idea for Dwight and Jim next season on The Office.
...the 1st Annual RHCB Romano Cup Time Trials on the Cooler Cruiser (A racing hybrid -- a cross between an Electric Scooter and A Beer Cooler). The Race Course is one full lap around the inner corridor of the 10th Floor at work.

Book Moot is a beneficiary of Random House review copies.

Monday, July 02, 2007


I am working on several reviews which I am anxious to post but I need to get them "right."

In the meantime, I thought this article about phenomena à la Harry Potter was interesting.

Potter the phenomenon doesn't compare for suspense, but like the wizard's tale, it is unique and extraordinary and well placed in tradition. Like Star Wars and Star Trek, it is the story of how a work of popular art becomes a world of its own — imitated, merchandised and analyzed, immortalized not by the marketers, but by the fans.

"Every phenomenon is a kind of myth unto itself, a myth about how a phenomenon becomes a phenomenon. The story of how the public embraced Potter only gives more momentum to Potter in our culture," says Neal Gabler, an author and cultural critic whose books include Walt Disney and Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality.