Saturday, May 31, 2008

Illustrator: Mary GrandPre

Splendid interview with Mary GrandPre in Time this week.
Nice Harry Potter insight, book 7 was her favorite to draw.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Danger Season

Well, here we are at the end of another school year.
Awards are being awarded. Kids are auditioning for placement in bands, orchestras, choirs and gifted and talented classes. There are cheers and tears as the results are posted.

Parents are settling in for poignant "end of the year" videos at graduations and banquets and counting up how many times THEIR child appears or, more tragically, does NOT appear at all.
There are some kids who just seem to have a gift for getting themselves into photos but it is really so sad when someone has been in band or theater or 5th grade all year and there is no record of them in the end of year slide show.

Many deserving are receiving plaques for "most improved" or "Best [insert activity here]" and there is great rejoicing or another round of teeth gnashing by students (and the people who love them) who are not recognized. My very wise principal used to tell her teachers, "Don't be stingy with a piece of paper."

Teachers are perceived as brilliant nurturers of talent or sad excuses for educators who never knew [insert name of student here] was in the room.

Librarians are not immune from the danger of "awards season."

As I reflect on this time of year, I recall one year when I totally and utterly, blew it at rewards ceremony time. One of the year end recognitions at my campus was for reading the Texas Bluebonnet books for that year. I made up little certificates and the kids got to come up at the big award ceremony to receive them.

One year, I left the names of two kids off the list.
I don't know how it happened.
I was in a rush, as usual, and somehow, their names became invisible as I checked and double checked the list.

What I did not know, was that one of the kids had read ALL twenty books because their GRANDMOTHER had PURCHASED all twenty, at OUR book fair, with the expectation that they would watch their grandchild march up in front of the entire grade level to receive their well deserved applause.

I did not read the child's name.

Oh, I tried to make amends the next day on the morning announcements, but it was not the same.

I apologized over and over again. I felt terrible. just terrible.
My library aide had to keep sharp objects away from me for the remaining weeks of the school year.
The memory of that child still haunts me this time of year. I can imagine the family's excitement that finally they would see their child receive their due...and I forgot them.

Not long after that I began having trouble with my left knee. I have always attributed it to the time I fell off my bike in college. Now, that I reflect, I daresay, it was that grandmother jabbing pins into an effigy of me as retribution.

You do the best you can but this time of year is really a danger-filled season for teachers.

Movie: Australia

I'm sure it is my enthusiasm for children's lit westerns like, Maude March and Deadwood Jones that first alerted me to this upcoming movie, or maybe it is the fact that our entwood now extends to the continent of Oz.

In any even, this trailer for Australia caught my eye.

Or maybe it was Hugh Jackman with scruffy beard on horseback that um... well... anyway.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Book Trailer: The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones.

Updated: See the amazing images from Barry Moser's Cowboy Stories (Chronicle Books; September 2007) that are featured at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Nice book trailer for Helen Hemphill's The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones that I praised earlier this month.

Friday, May 23, 2008

May 2008

Accomplishments for May:

  • Entlings have been graduated and confirmed.

  • I got to share my "raspy throat/hacking cough" thing with visiting relatives.
    "Gee, thanks for that, Camille."

  • Everyone is on antibiotics now and doing better.

  • The entniece and entnephew have arrived on foreign shores with large stacks of books from Aunt Camille's stash. Aunt Camille came home an found the "other" books she was supposed to tuck into their suitcases.
    Oh well. Books can be mailed.

  • Another entnephew commented on the Percy Jackson books I sent him at Christmas and realized he really had read them and really did enjoy them. He said he had learned more about Greek mythology from those books than he had in his school unit. That is entirely gratifying.

  • Had a "personal best" day of cataloging at local elementary, over 120 items.

  • Still more to do but the end of May is in sight.

Dialed up the internets today to discover this trailer for The City of Ember.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Craig Ferguson

New American citizen, Craig Ferguson, just referred to the new Speed Racer movie as "NASCAR Harry Potter."

I was interested to see what books are available to enthuse young Speed Racer fans.


BookMoot has been and will be on a brief hiatus while entlings get confirmed, graduated and moved. This is going to be a very busy weekend.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Jimmy Coates: on location

Joe Craig, creator of the Jimmy Coates books takes readers on a trip around London to actual locations in the stories.

He has also mapped the books' events on a London city map.

If you are not familiar with the books, here's author Joe Craig's description of the series:

The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones

The paintings of the Dutch masters have always been fascinating to me.These expressive portraits are astonishing. Being a "fabric" person, I find myself looking at the exquisite lace collars. The viewer can almost feel the crisp linen. In the van Miereveld, below, the intricacy of the lace is apparent. The Jan Cornelisz Verspronck at the left details the lace and the patterned damask dress.

How did the artists accomplish this?

In museums I have crept ever closer to see if I can determine the technique that so perfectly evokes the lace and fabric but looking closely, all I can see is blobs of paint and, seemingly, chaotic brushstrokes. At this point I usually see a guard moving determinedly in my direction so I back up, no clearer in my understanding than before.

I invoke this bit of art appreciation because it came to mind as I reached the bottom of page two of Helen Hemphill's new book, The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones. I had to stop reading in order to drive the entling somewhere and as I reluctantly set the book aside I found myself worrying about the young hero, Prometheus Jones. Was he going to get his money for breaking that horse? He sure was a cool customer facing down those loathsome Dill boys.

Wait a minute, I'm only on the second page of the story and I am totally and utterly committed to this young man and his predicament. How did Hemphill do that? Was it her use of verbs or adjectives? Prometheus hasn't even said that much yet, can it be his "voice?" Maybe it is my fondness for Westerns? How did she do it? How did she pull me in so quickly?

Well, however she accomplished it, I cheered, I gasped, I cried for fourteen year old Prometheus as he and his cousin Omer join a cattle drive headed to South Dakota. They plan to make the return trip to Texas with the outfit so Prometheus can look for his father there.

Prometheus has a gift for working with horses. He knows he has to prove himself to the cattle boss, even though the boss is surprisingly free of the prejudice that Prometheus and Omer have frequently experienced as young black men.

Cattle drives are hard work. Difficult river crossings, long hours in the saddle, snakes, stampedes and the threat of Indian attack mean cowboys are on constant alert. Prejudice and frontier justice are equally lethal as Prometheus discovers when he encounters some old enemies who are determined to have him hanged.

Hemphill's character, Sassy, from her book Runaround is a girl you want to hug. Prometheus is a young man whose hand you want to shake. His sense of fairplay, justice and loyalty is admirable and endearing.

In the author's note at the end of the book, Hemphill explains that her inspiration for this story was a 1907 autobiography of Nat Love, an African American cowboy who began working for cattle drives when he was fifteen years old. With Prometheus Jones, the author has honored Nat and cowboys everywhere.

The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones by Helen Hemphill, Front Street, (Nov.) 2008.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

DVD: Slings and Arrows

Treebeard and I finished watching the first season of Slings and Arrows last night. I didn't know anything about the show but Mental Multi-Vitamin recommended it.

This jaw-dropping series from Canada originally aired in the USA on the Sundance channel. NPR billed it as a refuge for Sopranos-mourners. I never watched the Sopranos but I am drumming my fingers waiting for the next DVD of this series to get here from Netflix.

There are so many surprises and astonishing moments in the first six episodes that I almost hesitate to tell you anything about it because part of the delight of this show for me was having no idea what was coming next.

The basics, to pique your interest, (in case my recommendations and M-MV's are not enough) The New Burbage Festival has seen better days. Its productions of Shakespeare are stale, the director and actors are uninspired. When the company finds itself in need of a new artistic director, a former Burbage player, Geoffrey Tennant, reluctantly takes charge despite his history (he had a breakdown while onstage in the middle of Hamlet, years earlier) with the company.

Economic forces are constantly at odds with art. Actors' lives are messy and dramatic. Young movie stars (think Keanu Reeves/Orlando Bloom) seek growth and legitimacy through Shakespeare. There is language and sex (we watched it while the entling was a-promming) but if you let that put you off, you will miss moments like this:

Blast, it is Sunday. No mail delivery today.
... drum, drum, drum...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Waiting for Percy

It has been entling no. 3's and my tradition to buy our copy of the latest Percy Jackson book each year, at Blue Willow Bookshop. Four books ago, we were there with a small group of listeners while Rick Riordan talked about his new book, The Lightning Thief. We bought a copy and the entling disappeared for a few hours to read when we got home. When I finished the book the next day, I told Treebeard, "this man is a rock star" and the rest is history.

Since then, it has been a tradition for us to visit the bookstore and acquire signed copies for us and for the ent-nephew. Last year we dodged lightning bolts and crammed our way into the store which was wall-to-wall fans.

The times they are a-changing.

The next few weeks will mark several family milestones which will keep us hopping, one of which will take me out of town when Rockstar Rick Riordan is at Blue Willow.

Also (sob) the ent-nephew and his family are leaving the continent. He has a long airplane flight ahead of him so I want him to have the new book for the trip and I want him to have a signed copy to go with his others so I will buy his copy on May 6, the release day and the good people at the bookstore are going to ask RRR to sign a bookplate for him when he appears there on May 17.

My priorities may be a little wacky, forget the college graduation, how am I going to get my signed copies of Battle of the Labyrinth?

Percy and friends have made such an impact on the reading lives of the kids I know and work with. They have a real loyalty and love for this series, like an earlier generation did as it grew up with Harry Potter. This bit of news from RRR's blog made me smile:

My publicist emailed today to let me know that Percy Jackson & the Olympians will be #5 on the New York Times children's series bestseller list for next week (before Battle of the Labyrinth is published). Why is this significant? Because it marks fifty-two consecutive weeks that Percy Jackson has been on the bestseller list -- one full year.

This series has been a blessing for all of us.

Also, via Myth & Mystery, I loved the time this young reader put into this video.