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This blog is about teaching, my life’s work; literature, especially that created for children; history, especially as it is taught to and learned by children; Africa, especially Sierra Leone where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer; and other sundry topics as they come to my attention.
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1. Holly Black and the Twelfth Doctor

Holly Black has joined a stellar line-up of children’s authors (to name a few: Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness, Eoin Colfer and Neil Gaiman) who have each crafted a short tale for every incarnation of the eponymous Time Lord.

When the original run of e-books ended in November of last year Matt Smith was the incumbent Doctor but now acting heavyweight Peter Capaldi has taken on the role it seems apt that he should be featured in a story.

Black’s story, Lights Out, is unique in many respects. She had the exciting but “super intimidating” task of penning an adventure for the Twelfth Doctor who, when she wrote it over the summer, had yet to appear on our screens. She was given scripts to aid her (“Some of it was blacked out for mysterious reasons!”) and relied on images but she seemed somewhat relieved to have been allowed to edit Lights Out after seeing Capaldi’s debut, Deep Breath back in August. “When I actually saw the episode [Deep Breath] I went back and made a lot of changes,” she tells me. “Because there’s just something so different about seeing Peter Capaldi owning the role onscreen.”

Read the rest here.  There is also a fun gallery of jackets for each doctor here. I’ve just ordered this as an audio book— I think it will be a lot of fun to listen to.


0 Comments on Holly Black and the Twelfth Doctor as of 10/22/2014 7:00:00 AM
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2. A Westing Game Movie Directed by Neil Patrick Harris with a Screenplay by Gillian Flynn?

What book would you most like to see turned into a movie?

I have, for years, been a bit obsessed with “The Westing Game,” by Ellen Raskin. It’s a young adult murder mystery, about a group of residents in an apartment building, the death of a millionaire in a mansion nearby and their trying to solve clues left by the deceased to win his inheritance. Apparently it has already been made into a movie, but not by me! I’m dying to direct a really dark, moody version of it. Then I read that Gillian Flynn, of “Gone Girl” fame, loved this book growing up, as well. So now my infatuation has rekindled — I want to get her to write the screenplay. Fingers crossed.

Fingers crossed indeed! From Neil Patrick Harris: By the Book.


2 Comments on A Westing Game Movie Directed by Neil Patrick Harris with a Screenplay by Gillian Flynn?, last added: 10/18/2014
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3. Frank Cotrell Boyce on the Importance of Story

I love visiting schools. There’s a humbling, Homeric magic in the sight of a crowd of children sitting down waiting to listen to your story. A few months ago, however, a lovely young NQT stepped between me and that crowd and said: “Now we are very lucky to have Frank with us today. We’re going to use our Listening Skills (she touched her ears) to try and spot his Wow Words (what?) and his Connectives so that we can appreciate how he builds the story.” Imagine going on a date with her. “We’re going to have some proteins. Some carbs – not too many – and conversation. If you make me laugh, that’s a physical reaction so it puts you on the erotic spectrum and you might get lucky.”

That’s from “schools are destroying the power of stories” an extract from Frank Cotrell Boyce’s David Fickling Lecture. And if you don’t know Frank Cotrell Boyce’s work you should.  In addition to being a screenwriter and one of those who came up with the idea of the queen parachuting into England’s Olympic opening ceremony, he is the author of MillionsFramed, and my personal favorite Cosmic (I’m doing my yearly read aloud of it right now) as well as a trio of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang sequels — they are fabulous middle grade books.


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4. A Victorian Wild Thing, Lewis Carroll

I admit to a particular fondness for subversive books and so Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, Peter Sieruta’s Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature would have been right up my alley even if I hadn’t known the three authors long before the book came into being. And so I was pleased as punch when Betsy and Jules invited me to answer a few questions about someone who created my favorite subversive book, Lewis Carroll.

We know that you’ve done a fair amount of research on Alice in Wonderland in your spare time so let’s find out some stories folks might not know very well.  In fact, let’s start at the very beginning.  Lewis Carroll.  We know that name was a pen name and that he had a penchant for early photography.  What don’t we tend to know about him?

The mythology around the creation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland centers on Carroll’s friendship with the real Alice Liddell and her two sisters. What has been completely overlooked is that the girls had an older brother, Harry, who was also one of Carroll’s good friends. The children of the head of the Oxford college where Carroll was a mathematics instructor, it was the nine-year-old Harry who Carroll befriended originally. He took Harry boating, tutored him in math, to chapel, and so on. The friendship was reciprocated in spades; Harry was known to follow the young man around like an eager puppy. However, he soon went off to boarding school as was typical for boys of his time and class leaving behind his three sisters who were educated at home by a governess. And so it was that Alice and her two sisters became the most famous of Carroll’s many child friends with Harry quite forgotten.

The relationship between Alice and Carroll has been the source of much speculation.  Few people pause to wonder what happened to her when she grew up, though.  What did she do with her life?

It seems to have been typical of her time and class. At age twenty-eight she married Reginald Hargreaves in Westminster Abbey and had three sons, one of whom she named Caryl. While she always denied it you have to wonder if she was being subversive and was indeed naming him after Carroll. In 1932 for the centenary of Carroll’s birth she traveled to New York City where Columbia University gave her an honorary doctorate.  A delightful and completely fictional imagining of this event is Dennis Potter’s movie  Dreamchild.

It’s hard to picture the book without also picturing the original illustrations.  Are there any stories there?

The first edition of the book came out in July 1865, but was recalled when Tenniel informed Carroll that he was unhappy with the print quality of the illustrations. So the books were recalled and all who had received presentation copies were asked to return them. The rejected copies were sent to hospitals and other institutions. The handful that exist today are the most desired by collectors and the most expensive. After illustrating Looking-Glass Tenniel declined to illustrated any more of Carroll’s work leading many to suspect the relationship between the two had been a difficult one, but who knows?

Various adaptations of the Alice books have made their way into television shows and feature films.  What’s your favorite Alice adaptation?

I’m still waiting for a completely successful one. So far I’ve liked parts of different ones, but I don’t think any work completely. One that I think actually does a lot quite well is Disney. I dislike his framing story — especially the end with the frightened Alice running back home as the book Alice is not fearful at all. However, many scenes are just wonderful, say the Walrus and the Carpenter.

I get a kick out of Betty Boop in Blunderland.

And I also quite like Alice at the Palace perhaps because Alice is played and sung by Meryl Streep!

But I’m still waiting for a great one.

Is there anything else about the book that you think folks are generally unaware of?

Just that it is a really fun and whimsical book and has an unfortunate reputation as being unduly dark. What it is is deeply subversive, especially for the original Victorian child readers. He makes great fun of so many aspects of their lives, say the didactic poetry they had to recite — the poems in the books are mostly parodies of dreadfully instructive ones Victorian children had to memorize and recite —  as well as what they had to learn and how they had to behave. He respected children enormously and it comes through in the books. I urge people who have been dubious about the appeal of the book for children today to give it another look. Kids who go for other subversive books (Lemony Snicket’s come to mine) and/or those that play with language are really going to like these given the chance.


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5. Girl (AKA Lena Dunham) Wants to Make “Catherine, Called Birdy” Movie

Lena Dunham discussed a wide array of topics with writer and author Ariel Levy during the 15th annual New Yorker Festival on Friday night, including her aspirations to turn Karen Cushman’s “Catherine, Called Birdy” into a feature film….”It’s a really interesting examination of sort of like coming of age and what’s expected of teenage girls,” Dunham said. “I’m going to adapt it and hopefully direct it, I just need to find someone who wants to fund a PG-13 medieval movie.”

From Lena Dunham Wants To Turn ‘Catherine, Called Birdy’ Into A Movie.


1 Comments on Girl (AKA Lena Dunham) Wants to Make “Catherine, Called Birdy” Movie, last added: 10/13/2014
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6. Africa is My Home: Maine Kids’ Present

African drums got the students’ attention in a skit portraying the 9-yearold character Magulu from the book, “Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad,” written by Monica Edinger and illustrated by Robert Byrd. The character spoke to the children about her experience being captured by slave traders and placed on the ship Amistad, where slaves took control of the ship in a mutiny.

“(This is a) dramatic tale of how slaves revolted and took over the boat and were later captured,” the Magulu character narrated. “During my time in America, I never forgot about my home.”

This is so awesome! From this “Loving Literacy” news article.


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7. Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

It wasn’t love at first sight, but now I am completely and utterly smitten with Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam & Dave Dig a HoleI had taken a quick look when I received it, but then last Friday at the very end of the day, after having seen Travis Jonker’s post of theories about the ending, I read it aloud to my 4th graders and all hell broke loose. You want theories? My class had them in spades. I had to practically shove them out the door — on a Friday, mind you!  And then yesterday, having decided to use the book in a project (hopefully something I will be able to share here) I asked them to repeat their theories for a colleague. They went even further this time. One theory generated another one and another and another. I’ve one boy who has his theory divided up into 7 volumes (that is what he calls them). The theories involve alternative universes, wormholes, gravitational pull, dreamlands, and so much more. And so, yeah — I’ve fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.

K.T. Horning clued me in to this charming video of Jon filling a bookstore window with dirt, of course.

And if you haven’t seen the official book trailer, that is adorable too.


4 Comments on Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, last added: 10/7/2014
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8. Congratulations to the Kirkus Prize Finalists

On October 23rd, the winners of the new Kirkus Prize will go home with $50,000. That is one big new prize indeed! Yesterday the finalists were announced and I am absolutely delighted with those in the young readers category. They are:

El Deafo by Cece Bell. I was waiting for the finished copy to post about this fantastic graphic memoir and so will soon. The more I think about it and read about the more I admire it, so much so that I’m now planning to use it with my 4th graders in a literature circle unit later this year. I have never done a whole class look at a graphic novel so it should be interesting.

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus by Jen Bryan, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. I’ve raved here already about this one. It is my top choice for the Caldecott and I think it is a worthy contender for the Sibert as well.

The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos. My professional review for this is forthcoming, but I will say that I am absolutely delighted that the Kirkus jury is celebrating this finale to an original and complex series. Joey and Jack rule!

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnson. I read this ages ago thanks to the recommendation of a goodreads friend and thought it an extremely clever novel indeed. This honor should, for good reason, definitely kick up the buzz that is already building around this highly original title.

The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell.  This is the only finalist I have not yet read, but the enthusiasm even before this honor has made me eager to rectify that as soon as possible.

Avian Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth.  I took a quick look when I first received this and have been meaning to return to read it properly. I recall beautiful illustrations and n. Now must go back and figure it out.

 

 

 

 


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9. Congratulations to the Kirkus Prize Finalists

On October 23rd, the winners of the new Kirkus Prize will go home with a whopping $50,000. While I’m sure that award will be much appreciated it is about the honor as well. Yesterday the finalists were announced and I am absolutely delighted with those in the young readers category. They are:

El Deafo by Cece Bell. I was waiting for the finished copy to post about this fantastic graphic memoir and so will soon. The more I think about it and read about it the more I admire it, so much so that I’m now planning to use it with my 4th graders in a literature circle unit later this year. I have never done a whole class look at a graphic novel so it should be interesting.

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus by Jen Bryan, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. I’ve raved here already about this one. It is my top choice for the Caldecott and I think it is a worthy contender for the Sibert as well.

The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos. My professional review for this is forthcoming, but I will say that I am very happy that the Kirkus jury is celebrating this finale to an original and complex series. Joey and Jack rule!

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnson. I read this ages ago thanks to the recommendation of a goodreads friend and thought it an extremely clever novel indeed. This honor should, for good reason, definitely kick up the buzz that is already building around this highly original title.

The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell.  This is the only finalist I have not yet read, but the enthusiasm even before this honor has made me eager to rectify that as soon as possible.

Avian Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth.  I took a quick look when I first received this and have been meaning to return to read it properly. I recall beautiful illustrations and puzzling over audience. Now must go back and figure it out.

 

 

 

 


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10. In the Classroom: Dealing with Difficult Language

As a longtime 4th grade teacher there are times when racist language appears in our classroom work. Each time I try to educate my students, but in a way that doesn’t seem hectoring, no easy task. For I think it is a fine line we teachers walk — while most of the kids may well take in all that we say, others may be quietly dismissive and go away with the opposite thought.  And I try to keep in mind that what might be horrifying to me because of the history and knowledge I bring to a word, may not be for my young students. I try to consider that even those words that shock me the most may not do the same to my students.  That said, there are certain words I cannot say and I avoid books and work that include them. But sometimes they appear unexpectedly and then there are others, somewhat arguably less charged that also occasionally appear. And I think carefully about those kids and how best to make them aware in a way that helps them throughout their lives.

I’ve been thinking about this because of the conversation over at Betsy Bird’s post about older books that include racist elements and even more so this post by Matt Tavares about his decision to take out a highly racist word in a new edition of his book, Henry Aaron’s Dream.  Because of my classroom experiences I think Matt’s decision is the right one,  discomforting though it is. Here’s my comment on his blog post:

I’m a longtime classroom teacher (31 years at my present school, most of them with 4th graders) and think this is the right decision even as uncomfortable as I am going that way. So kudos to you and Candlewick for making this hard choice.

For me, it isn’t only about the book not getting into its audience hands, but that kids in their own world do take language and own it for themselves and sometimes that can be in extremely hurtful ways. We may not like thinking this, but it can and does happen. The audience for this book is a young one and not yet at the developmental place where they are able to unpack the history around that word (as I would hope those teaching Huckleberry Finn to much older young people would do). And so putting it in may not have them understanding your book as well as you would want.

You might be interested, if you don’t already know it, of the book Desmond and the Very Mean Word — also, it so happens a Candlewick title. I’ve read that to my class and they focus on the result of the word and are fine not knowing what it was.

I really think that we need to be honest about the realities of young children — think hard about what they take in and don’t. Keep in mind where they are developmentally. Additionally, every child’s situation is different — some may know a lot and some may not know so much.

I’ve been faulted for sanitizing the harsher aspects of the Amistad story in my book, but I stand by my choices. Like Matt, I want the story to be known, especially for younger children. Here’s my thinking (in the source notes) about that:

There is no record of Margru’s firsthand description of her voyage from Africa to Cuba. Based on the many other accounts available I can only guess at its dreadfulness and feel it would be presumptuous of me to write about it in detail.  My father, a Holocaust survivor, was not able to talk about certain things and so I imagined that Margru could not either.  I also did not want to frighten the relatively young child audience I have in mind for this book and so tried to communicate the horror without the specifics.

If we want younger readers to know harsh stuff we need to think hard about them, to consider just where they are on their life journeys, what they know and don’t, and what they bring or don’t bring to their encounters with books. Matt, it was a hard decision, but I think you are absolutely right.


3 Comments on In the Classroom: Dealing with Difficult Language, last added: 9/27/2014
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11. In the Classroom: Dealing with Difficult Language

As a longtime 4th grade teacher there are times when racist language appears in our classroom work. Each time I try to educate my students, but in a way that doesn’t seem hectoring, no easy task. For I think it is a fine line we teachers walk — while most of the kids may well take in all that we say, others may be quietly dismissive and go away with the opposite thought.  And I try to keep in mind that what might be horrifying to me because of the history and knowledge I bring to a word, may not be for my young students. I try to consider that even those words that shock me the most may not do the same to my students.  That said, there are certain words I cannot say and I avoid books and work that include them. But sometimes they appear unexpectedly and then there are others, somewhat arguably less charged that also occasionally appear. And I think carefully about those kids and how best to make them aware in a way that helps them throughout their lives.

I’ve been thinking about this because of the conversation over at Betsy Bird’s post about older books that include racist elements and even more so this post by Matt Tavares about his decision to take out a highly racist word in a new edition of his book, Henry Aaron’s Dream.  Because of my classroom experiences I think Matt’s decision is the right one,  discomforting though it is. Here’s my comment on his blog post:

I’m a longtime classroom teacher (31 years at my present school, most of them with 4th graders) and think this is the right decision even as uncomfortable as I am going that way. So kudos to you and Candlewick for making this hard choice.

For me, it isn’t only about the book not getting into its audience hands, but that kids in their own world do take language and own it for themselves and sometimes that can be in extremely hurtful ways. We may not like thinking this, but it can and does happen. The audience for this book is a young one and not yet at the developmental place where they are able to unpack the history around that word (as I would hope those teaching Huckleberry Finn to much older young people would do). And so putting it in may not have them understanding your book as well as you would want.

You might be interested, if you don’t already know it, of the book Desmond and the Very Mean Word — also, it so happens a Candlewick title. I’ve read that to my class and they focus on the result of the word and are fine not knowing what it was.

I really think that we need to be honest about the realities of young children — think hard about what they take in and don’t. Keep in mind where they are developmentally. Additionally, every child’s situation is different — some may know a lot and some may not know so much.

I’ve been faulted for sanitizing the harsher aspects of the Amistad story in my book, but I stand by my choices. Like Matt, I want the story to be known, especially for younger children. Here’s my thinking (in the source notes) about that:

There is no record of Margru’s firsthand description of her voyage from Africa to Cuba. Based on the many other accounts available I can only guess at its dreadfulness and feel it would be presumptuous of me to write about it in detail.  My father, a Holocaust survivor, was not able to talk about certain things and so I imagined that Margru could not either.  I also did not want to frighten the relatively young child audience I have in mind for this book and so tried to communicate the horror without the specifics.

If we want younger readers to know harsh stuff we need to think hard about them, to consider just where they are on their life journeys, what they know and don’t, and what they bring or don’t bring to their encounters with books. Matt, it was a hard decision, but I think you are absolutely right.


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12. Africa is My Home: Come to the Children’s Africana Book Awards this November in DC

The Children’s Africana Book Awards will be celebrated with a festival at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art on Saturday, November 8, 2014.  You can find out more about it as well as register (it is free) here.

The lovely people at Africa Access (who administer the award) created the following for those specifically interested in Sierra Leone and, thus, my book.  I’m pretty excited!

web logo
 
Did you know children were on the Amistad? 
Magulu
(Sarah Margru Kinson)

About 1830, a girl named Magulu was born in     what is now Sierra Leone.

 

At age 9 she was taken captive aboard the

Amistad with fifty-two other Africans.

Read about her in Africa is My Home, A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger.

Meet the author, Monica Edinger at the
Children’s Africana Book Awards Festival
             Washington, DC
       Saturday, November 8, 2014

Free and Open to the Public   Registration Requested

    Book Sale and Signing
 
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WcFZEX6k88lx960iAKPIdCiCdykHoAquYpfwxKn4DnT-F2kS68IQdqS60jL9Ee3P2UkxgCnZ4rXdipIpEiN-Ug-Dg8rsZUXJMYOF4F4ZUoPbKrMOJ5-rWsWisctcaJ6eiazz1RIo1UkEa84gQVwn96LqPS3R8bo4PiHjiqtWdNQ=
Other titles set in Sierra Leone
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WcFZEX6k88lx960iAKPIdCiCdykHoAquYpfwxKn4DnT-F2kS68IQdqS60jL9Ee3P2UkxgCnZ4rXdipIpEiN-Ug-Dg8rsZUXJMYOF4F4ZUoPbKrMOJ5-rWsWisctcaJ6eiazz1RIo1UkEa84gQVwn99W0vLqvQbSRadun7mHZqI8=
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WcFZEX6k88lx960iAKPIdCiCdykHoAquYpfwxKn4DnT-F2kS68IQdqS60jL9Ee3P2UkxgCnZ4rXdipIpEiN-Ug-Dg8rsZUXJMYOF4F4ZUoPbKrMOJ5-rWsWisctcaJ6eiazz1RIo1UkEa84gQVwn97dJGrBNUT3TVI20W-_gVQA=
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WcFZEX6k88lx960iAKPIdCiCdykHoAquYpfwxKn4DnT-F2kS68IQdqS60jL9Ee3P2UkxgCnZ4rXdipIpEiN-Ug-Dg8rsZUXJMYOF4F4ZUoPbKrMOJ5-rWsWisctcaJ6eiazz1RIo1UkEa84gQVwn937TQ5rZairdLpIKUu4am04=
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WcFZEX6k88lx960iAKPIdCiCdykHoAquYpfwxKn4DnT-F2kS68IQdqS60jL9Ee3P2UkxgCnZ4rW4rd0J64oiVqWD-6RPXuJ4lETU_HA_nWoCbT2iv4iisw==

 


0 Comments on Africa is My Home: Come to the Children’s Africana Book Awards this November in DC as of 9/25/2014 7:04:00 AM
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13. Africa is My Home: Come to the Children’s Africana Book Awards this November in DC

The Children’s Africana Book Awards will be celebrated with a festival at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art on Saturday, November 8, 2014.  You can find out more about it as well as register (it is free) here.

The lovely people at Africa Access (who administer the award) created the following for those specifically interested in Sierra Leone and, thus, my book.  I’m pretty excited!

web logo
 
Did you know children were on the Amistad? 
Magulu
(Sarah Margru Kinson)

About 1830, a girl named Magulu was born in     what is now Sierra Leone.

 

At age 9 she was taken captive aboard the

Amistad with fifty-two other Africans.

Read about her in Africa is My Home, A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger.

Meet the author, Monica Edinger at the
Children’s Africana Book Awards Festival
             Washington, DC
       Saturday, November 8, 2014

Free and Open to the Public   Registration Requested

    Book Sale and Signing
 
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WcFZEX6k88lx960iAKPIdCiCdykHoAquYpfwxKn4DnT-F2kS68IQdqS60jL9Ee3P2UkxgCnZ4rXdipIpEiN-Ug-Dg8rsZUXJMYOF4F4ZUoPbKrMOJ5-rWsWisctcaJ6eiazz1RIo1UkEa84gQVwn96LqPS3R8bo4PiHjiqtWdNQ=
Other titles set in Sierra Leone
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WcFZEX6k88lx960iAKPIdCiCdykHoAquYpfwxKn4DnT-F2kS68IQdqS60jL9Ee3P2UkxgCnZ4rXdipIpEiN-Ug-Dg8rsZUXJMYOF4F4ZUoPbKrMOJ5-rWsWisctcaJ6eiazz1RIo1UkEa84gQVwn99W0vLqvQbSRadun7mHZqI8=
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WcFZEX6k88lx960iAKPIdCiCdykHoAquYpfwxKn4DnT-F2kS68IQdqS60jL9Ee3P2UkxgCnZ4rXdipIpEiN-Ug-Dg8rsZUXJMYOF4F4ZUoPbKrMOJ5-rWsWisctcaJ6eiazz1RIo1UkEa84gQVwn97dJGrBNUT3TVI20W-_gVQA=
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WcFZEX6k88lx960iAKPIdCiCdykHoAquYpfwxKn4DnT-F2kS68IQdqS60jL9Ee3P2UkxgCnZ4rXdipIpEiN-Ug-Dg8rsZUXJMYOF4F4ZUoPbKrMOJ5-rWsWisctcaJ6eiazz1RIo1UkEa84gQVwn937TQ5rZairdLpIKUu4am04=
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001WcFZEX6k88lx960iAKPIdCiCdykHoAquYpfwxKn4DnT-F2kS68IQdqS60jL9Ee3P2UkxgCnZ4rW4rd0J64oiVqWD-6RPXuJ4lETU_HA_nWoCbT2iv4iisw==

 


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14. Learning about Africa: Time lapse: Driving through Freetown’s Ebola Lockdown

As heart-wrenching as it is for me, I have been watching this obsessively as the places are so familiar to me.  Just imagine your city or town so deserted for such a reason.


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15. Learning about Africa: Time lapse: Driving through Freetown’s Ebola Lockdown

As heart-wrenching as it is for me, I have been watching this obsessively as the places are so familiar to me.  Just imagine your city or town so deserted for such a reason.


0 Comments on Learning about Africa: Time lapse: Driving through Freetown’s Ebola Lockdown as of 9/27/2014 8:21:00 AM
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16. Gregory Maguire on Writing and Inspiration (especially for Egg & Spoon)

If I can collect a little assemblage of items that put me in a mood of the book, then I find some place in my study where I can put them out. For “Egg and Spoon,” I had some wonderful things. I had a 1940’s era paper mache Baba Yaga’s cottage. It’s only standing on one chicken’s foot; it got broken somewhere along the way. I have a number of matryoshkas I’ve collected over the years. I have a number of painted eggs I’ve painted myself starting 40 years ago; I used to paint one every Easter. Some of them have Russian themes. I have little British foot soldiers. I’ll arrange them on a little altar to the muse. I don’t play with them — I don’t march them around the room and sing little songs — but the fact that they’re there is a clue to myself that the studio is open.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2014/09/20/new-england-writers-work-gregory-maguire/rqPRM7pgCIvI9ZeE8hRnMP/story.html?event=event25

 

via Karen Kosko


0 Comments on Gregory Maguire on Writing and Inspiration (especially for Egg & Spoon) as of 9/23/2014 5:30:00 AM
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17. Gregory Maguire on Writing and Inspiration (especially for Egg & Spoon)

If I can collect a little assemblage of items that put me in a mood of the book, then I find some place in my study where I can put them out. For “Egg and Spoon,” I had some wonderful things. I had a 1940’s era paper mache Baba Yaga’s cottage. It’s only standing on one chicken’s foot; it got broken somewhere along the way. I have a number of matryoshkas I’ve collected over the years. I have a number of painted eggs I’ve painted myself starting 40 years ago; I used to paint one every Easter. Some of them have Russian themes. I have little British foot soldiers. I’ll arrange them on a little altar to the muse. I don’t play with them — I don’t march them around the room and sing little songs — but the fact that they’re there is a clue to myself that the studio is open.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2014/09/20/new-england-writers-work-gregory-maguire/rqPRM7pgCIvI9ZeE8hRnMP/story.html?event=event25

 

via Karen Kosko


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18. Learning About Africa: Ishmael Beal Tells it True “Still, the ways in which Africans are portrayed as less human have not lost the power to shock. “

Ishmael Beah, in “The West ignores the stories of Africans in the middle of the Ebola outbreak” writes bluntly about much I’ve been thinking, but afraid to say.  He begins:

It wasn’t surprising that Western journalists would react with doom-and-gloom when the Ebola outbreak began in West Africa. Or that the crisis would not be treated as a problem confronting all humanity — a force majeure — but as one of “those diseases” that afflict “those people” over there in Africa. Most Western media immediately fell into fear-mongering. Rarely did they tell the stories of Africans who survived Ebola, or meaningfully explore what it means to see your child or parent or other family member or friend be stricken with the disease. Where are the stories of the wrenching decisions of families forced to abandon loved ones or the bravery required to simply live as a human in conditions where everyone walks on the edge of suspicion?

And then he writes some hard truths.

Given our interconnected world, it’s no longer possible to excuse such treatment as a lack of access to the facts. So what is the explanation? To borrow the words of Ni­ger­ian novelist Chinua Achebe, “Quite simply it is the desire — one might indeed say the need — in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest.”

This thinking is so deeply entrenched in the minds of people in the West that it has become a reflex. Still, the ways in which Africans are portrayed as less human have not lost the power to shock. [b0ld is mine] Each new crisis, it seems, offers a platform for some to exercise their prejudices.

And

The hysteria is also fueling racism beyond the continent. In Germany, an African woman who recently traveled to Kenya — far from the affected countries — fell ill with a stomach virus at work; the entire building was locked down. In Brussels, an African man had a simple nosebleed at a shopping mall, and the store where it happened was sterilized. In Seoul, a bar put up a sign saying, “We apologize but due to the Ebola Virus we are not accepting Africans at the moment.” Here in the United States, each time I have been to a doctor’s office since the outbreak, I have noticed an anxious look on the faces of the assistants that dissipates only when I say that I haven’t been to my country recently.

And

For Western media, this is just another one of those stories about the “killer virus” and the “poor Africans” who must once again be saved and spoken for by Westerners. And, always, there is the most important question: Will the virus come to the United States or Europe?

And concludes:

If you are reading this and believe you do not think about us the ways I have described, ask yourself the following questions: When was the last time you saw, and took the time to read, a positive front-page article about an African country? Have you ever met someone from Africa and decided to tell her what you know about her country and her continent, even if you have never been there? Have you ever noticed yourself speaking slowly and using exaggerated gestures while talking to someone from Africa, assuming that he doesn’t understand English well?

 


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19. Books for Incarcerated Teens

Many years ago I first heard Walter Dean Myers speak of his involvement with incarcerated teens. Later, when I found myself with an abundance of YA ARCs, I was pleased to hear that they were much needed for incarcerated teens and looked for a way to get them to them. After some struggles figuring this out (living in NYC I’m carless so getting lots of books places isn’t so easy) I discovered that Karlan Sick, who lives around the corner from me, is now chair of the board for Literacy for Incarcerated Teens. Karlan told me to bring the books to her and she’d get them to the teens.  And so for the last few years, I periodically load up my shopping cart with finished galleys and take them to her building.  For a time I was told they could only take galleys and paperbacks, but more recently I’ve been able to donate hardcovers as well.  It is fabulous program that I associate with Walter as he was so passionate about incarcerated teens and so I was delighted to see the SLJ feature, “Literacy for Incarcerated Teens” and urge you to read it to learn more about this wonderful program.


3 Comments on Books for Incarcerated Teens, last added: 9/10/2014
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20. Thoughts on Newbery: Flaws, Fatal or Not?

Heavy Medal has started up again and some fascinating conversations are well underway.  One aspect of the conversation that has struck me is the idea of flawness (my made-up word). That is, are all books perfect? And if not, how do we grapple with perceived flaws? Can we reach consensus on the degree of their significance?

This came to mind when in her Heavy Medal post on Deborah Wiles’ Revolution, Nina noted that “There is a fatal flaw that I find in REVOLUTION, and that is that Raymond is not as fully realized a character as Sunny, not by a very long shot.” She goes on to thoughtfully articulate why she thinks this and others of us have been discussing this concern in the comments. Now I adore Revolution (you can read my review here) , but had noticed that Wiles has been able to write Sunny through her own personal experience while she couldn’t with Raymond resulting in a more cautious presentation. If I were on the Newbery committee this is something I’d want to explore long and hard. I’d pester a huge range of people, those with different racial and regional backgrounds and historical experiences, to read the book and tell me what they think. I’d have to stand back from my first love of the book to honestly attempt to figure out if this is a flaw and if it isn’t, why not. And if it is, is it fatal? How would I argue that it was or was not when in my deliberations with the Committee?

Then there is Jonathan’s post on A Snicket of Magic which has generated a fabulous conversation about vernacular, about so-called folky literature. By attempting to categorize a collection of titles as being this, Jonathan provoked a wonderful series of comments. For some, I know, a certain sort of voice and heroine are tough going. So when you are on the committee, how do you keep a personal distaste from turning into a fatal flaw?

Thinking about this fatal flaw business made me go to my goodreads Newbery list and add a few more personal favorites, some of which also have flaws…er…blemishes…er..imperfections… (Roget, I need you!)… I’m wondering about. As a result, I’ve now got ten books there, three more than I’d be able to nominate if I were on the committee.  I’ve added Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover as I thought it fabulous –except for the ending.  And I’ve added Cece Bell’s El Deafo even though I have no clue how to make a case for it as it is a graphic novel.  Similarly I’ve added Patricia Hruby Powell’s picture biography, Josephine, although I haven’t figured out how interlaced the text is with the art.  This review of Dana Alison Levy’s The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher got me to add it on as well as I’d love it and just needed Rachel’s push to get me to acknowledge that it belonged on my long list. Does it have a fatal flaw? Not so noticeably that I can figure out.  Finally, I added Jack Gantos’ series finale, The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza. While I don’t think it is flawed, I’m sure there will be some absolutely horrified by Joey’s circumstances as they were with the previous books.

Fatal. Flaws. Fascinating.

 


7 Comments on Thoughts on Newbery: Flaws, Fatal or Not?, last added: 9/16/2014
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21. Some of My Right Words Celebrating Bryan and Sweet’s The Right Word

This is so cool. Thank you, Erdmans!

tumblr_nbsx6vyv7K1soarwno1_500

We thought we should mix Monica Edinger‘s great quote with an image

proving her point that:

“All in all, The Right Word is a

spectacular

brilliant

marvelous

superb

magnificent

dazzling

work of art.”

(Thanks for the love, Monica!)


1 Comments on Some of My Right Words Celebrating Bryan and Sweet’s The Right Word, last added: 9/18/2014
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22. Learning About Africa: Ishmael Beal Tells it True “Still, the ways in which Africans are portrayed as less human have not lost the power to shock. “

Ishmael Beah, in “The West ignores the stories of Africans in the middle of the Ebola outbreak” writes bluntly about much I’ve been thinking, but afraid to say.  He begins:

It wasn’t surprising that Western journalists would react with doom-and-gloom when the Ebola outbreak began in West Africa. Or that the crisis would not be treated as a problem confronting all humanity — a force majeure — but as one of “those diseases” that afflict “those people” over there in Africa. Most Western media immediately fell into fear-mongering. Rarely did they tell the stories of Africans who survived Ebola, or meaningfully explore what it means to see your child or parent or other family member or friend be stricken with the disease. Where are the stories of the wrenching decisions of families forced to abandon loved ones or the bravery required to simply live as a human in conditions where everyone walks on the edge of suspicion?

And then he writes some hard truths.

Given our interconnected world, it’s no longer possible to excuse such treatment as a lack of access to the facts. So what is the explanation? To borrow the words of Ni­ger­ian novelist Chinua Achebe, “Quite simply it is the desire — one might indeed say the need — in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest.”

This thinking is so deeply entrenched in the minds of people in the West that it has become a reflex. Still, the ways in which Africans are portrayed as less human have not lost the power to shock. [b0ld is mine] Each new crisis, it seems, offers a platform for some to exercise their prejudices.

And

The hysteria is also fueling racism beyond the continent. In Germany, an African woman who recently traveled to Kenya — far from the affected countries — fell ill with a stomach virus at work; the entire building was locked down. In Brussels, an African man had a simple nosebleed at a shopping mall, and the store where it happened was sterilized. In Seoul, a bar put up a sign saying, “We apologize but due to the Ebola Virus we are not accepting Africans at the moment.” Here in the United States, each time I have been to a doctor’s office since the outbreak, I have noticed an anxious look on the faces of the assistants that dissipates only when I say that I haven’t been to my country recently.

And

For Western media, this is just another one of those stories about the “killer virus” and the “poor Africans” who must once again be saved and spoken for by Westerners. And, always, there is the most important question: Will the virus come to the United States or Europe?

And concludes:

If you are reading this and believe you do not think about us the ways I have described, ask yourself the following questions: When was the last time you saw, and took the time to read, a positive front-page article about an African country? Have you ever met someone from Africa and decided to tell her what you know about her country and her continent, even if you have never been there? Have you ever noticed yourself speaking slowly and using exaggerated gestures while talking to someone from Africa, assuming that he doesn’t understand English well?

 


0 Comments on Learning About Africa: Ishmael Beal Tells it True “Still, the ways in which Africans are portrayed as less human have not lost the power to shock. “ as of 1/1/1900
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23. Some of My Right Words Celebrating Bryan and Sweet’s The Right Word

This is so cool. Thank you, Erdmans!

tumblr_nbsx6vyv7K1soarwno1_500

We thought we should mix Monica Edinger‘s great quote with an image

proving her point that:

“All in all, The Right Word is a

spectacular

brilliant

marvelous

superb

magnificent

dazzling

work of art.”

(Thanks for the love, Monica!)


0 Comments on Some of My Right Words Celebrating Bryan and Sweet’s The Right Word as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
24. Thoughts on Newbery: Flaws, Fatal or Not?

Heavy Medal has started up again and some fascinating conversations are well underway.  One aspect of the conversation that has struck me is the idea of flawness (my made-up word). That is, are all books perfect? And if not, how do we grapple with perceived flaws? Can we reach consensus on the degree of their significance?

This came to mind when in her Heavy Medal post on Deborah Wiles’ Revolution, Nina noted that “There is a fatal flaw that I find in REVOLUTION, and that is that Raymond is not as fully realized a character as Sunny, not by a very long shot.” She goes on to thoughtfully articulate why she thinks this and others of us have been discussing this concern in the comments. Now I adore Revolution (you can read my review here) , but had noticed that Wiles had been able to write Sunny through her own personal experience while she couldn’t with Raymond resulting in a more cautious presentation. If I were on the Newbery Committee this is something I’d want to explore long and hard. I’d pester a huge range of people, those with different racial and regional backgrounds and historical experiences, to read the book and tell me what they think. I’d have to stand back from my first love of the book to honestly attempt to figure out if this is a flaw and if it isn’t, why not. And if it is, is it fatal? How would I argue that it was or was not when in my deliberations with the Committee?

Then there is Jonathan’s post on A Snicket of Magic which has generated a fabulous conversation about vernacular, about so-called folksy literature. By attempting to categorize a collection of titles as being this, Jonathan provoked a wonderful series of comments. For some, I know, this sort of voice is tough going. So when you are on the Committee, how do you distinguish a personal distaste from a flaw, much less a fatal one?

Thinking about this fatal flaw business caused me to head to my goodreads Newbery list and add a few more personal favorites, some of which also have flaws…er…blemishes…er..imperfections… (Roget, I need you!)… I’m wondering about. As a result, I’ve now got ten books there, three more than I’d be able to nominate if I were on the Committee.  I’ve added Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover as I thought it fabulous –except for the ending.  And I’ve added Cece Bell’s El Deafo even though I have no clue how to make a case for it as it is a graphic novel.  Similarly, despite not having figured out how interlaced the text is with the art, I’ve added Patricia Hruby Powell’s picture biography, Josephine.  This review of Rachel’s of Dana Alison Levy’s The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher reminded me of how I loved it (reviewed it for Horn Book) and so it is now on the list. Does it have a fatal flaw? Not so noticeably that I can figure out.  Finally, I added Jack Gantos’ series finale, The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza. While I don’t think it is flawed, I’m sure there will be some absolutely horrified by Joey’s circumstances as they were with the previous books.

Fatal. Flaws. Fascinating.

 


0 Comments on Thoughts on Newbery: Flaws, Fatal or Not? as of 1/1/1900
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25. Books for Incarcerated Teens

Many years ago I first heard Walter Dean Myers speak of his involvement with incarcerated teens. Later, when I found myself with an abundance of YA ARCs, I was pleased to hear that they were much needed for incarcerated teens and looked for a way to get them to them. After some struggles figuring this out (living in NYC I’m carless so getting lots of books places isn’t so easy) I discovered that Karlan Sick, who lives around the corner from me, is now chair of the board for Literacy for Incarcerated Teens. Karlan told me to bring the books to her and she’d get them to the teens.  And so for the last few years, I periodically load up my shopping cart with finished galleys and take them to her building.  For a time I was told they could only take galleys and paperbacks, but more recently I’ve been able to donate hardcovers as well.  It is fabulous program that I associate with Walter as he was so passionate about incarcerated teens and so I was delighted to see the SLJ feature, “Literacy for Incarcerated Teens” and urge you to read it to learn more about this wonderful program.


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