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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. Albert Marrin’s A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery

I confess, until recently what I knew about John Brown was pretty much limited to a vague awareness of his foolhardy attack on Harper’s Ferry. Then, last summer, I read this review of James McBride’s historical novel about Brown, Good Lord Bird,  listened to it, thought it terrific, and  was very pleased when it won the National Book Award. And so, having Brown much more on my radar, when I first saw Albert Marrin’s nonfiction book A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War Against Slavery I was eager to read it. Having now done so I can say without reservations that it is excellent.

The excellently-titled A Volcano Beneath Snow is a book that is much more than a biography or history of one man. Rather, it is a book about slavery (both in history and in the United States), about politics, about war, about Lincoln, about religion, about history, about belief, and about terrorism. By placing Brown deeply within the context of his time, Marrin gives a unique and fascinating perspective on familiar and less familiar aspects of actions, people, and the ideas that led up to the Civil War. His portraits of Brown, Lincoln, and many other players are highly complicated, fascinating,  and thought-provoking. While the concepts in play are not always simple, Marrin writes about them clearly and elegantly, trusting in the intelligence of his young readers. This is a book that makes you think. Hard.

Highly recommended.

 


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2. Ah, those fairies, they do seem to like to be photographed

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I’ve long been besotted with the story of the Cottingley fairies (those that two little girls supposedly photographed quite a while ago, one of which is above).  So, of course, was amused to see the most recent photographs of those little beings.  This time it is the Rossendale fairies as photographed by adult college lecturer John Hyatt. (One of his photographs is below).

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While I don’t think I’m particularly fluffy-headed about fairies and such, I admit this lacks the magic of the Cottingley story. That one appeals to me due those two young girls’ imagination going hogwild.  This business by an adult is seems something else entirely.  (That said, I love to think what Elsie and Frances could have done with theirs using today’s technology!)


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3. 26 Characters at Oxford’s Story Museum

In Oxford, England, there is  a wonderful unique museum situated  blending art, performance, telling, viewing, and pretty much everything else story-related in imaginative ways. This is the Story Museum. Here’s a bit from my post  reporting my visit there a couple of years ago:

Yesterday, Philip Pullman who is, unsurprisingly, one of their patrons took me to the museum where we got a fascinating tour with co-director Kim Pickin.  The physical space is a remarkable warren of rooms of all sizes with a fascinating history and, if they do even a smidgen of what they dream to do, it will be extraordinary. They’ve got some massive Alice cut-outs peering out of the windows, a dinosaur, some scary vaults (part of the space used to be the post office and there are rumors that gold bullion was stored there at one point), some very old printing presses, and lots of energy .

I’ve followed  them on twitter ever since and have often wished I could go visit their unique exhibits.  The one that just opened, 26 Characters, looks absolutely wonderful. They invited a number of familiar children’s book creators such as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett  to “transform themselves into the characters they most loved as children.”  The resulting exhibit of photographs by Cambridge Jones is  “a gallery of rogues and rascals, wizards, witches and wild things, which unfolds through the Story Museum’s atmospheric and unfinished buildings.

Highlights include:

- see portraits hung in interactive themed spaces

- Listen to story extracts recorded by award-winning actors Olivia Colman and Christopher Eccleston

- Hear new stories specially created by Jamila Gavin, Geraldine McCaughrean, Kevin Crossley-Holland and Alex Kanefsky

- Listen to authors talking about their choice of hero and why they love stories (you can also hear them online here)

- Browse through everybody’s books and discover more in our comfortable library

- Dress up and have your photo taken for our digital gallery

- Make friends with our talking throne

For a taste, here’s Neil Gaiman as a Badger. Sure wish I could go!

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4. Deborah Wiles’ Revolution

Deborah Wiles’ Sixties Trilogy is set in the time of hers (and my) youth.  The first book, Countdown, is a vivid, compelling, and moving view of the Cuban Missile Crisis seen through the eyes of  eleven-year-old Franny and was, I thought, splendid causing me to wait on tenterhooks for the next one.  When I saw that the second book was coming out this year I was both elated and nervous. Could Wiles pull it off again?

Here’s my tweet after reading it:

 Mar 31 I spent most of the weekend reading ‘s Revolution and it is fabulous.

So, yes, Wiles pulled it off again. In spades.

A companion novel to Countdown, Revolution is set during the civil right’s movement’s Freedom Summer of 1964. Two smart young people are at the center of the novel, observing and wondering and questioning the vicious racism and segregation that has ruled their Mississippi community for so long. We meet our protagonist, white twelve-year-old Sunny as she and her slightly older step-brother take an illicit nighttime dip in the municipal pool. Relishing the cool water and thrill of doing something slightly dangerous, Sunny is mulling over the pleasures of the forthcoming lazy summer when she has an encounter that jerks her out of reverie and onto a path of profound knowledge and change. It is a path that Raymond also travels, a boy all too aware of what it means to be young and black in 1964 Greenville, and who wants to do something about it.

Greenwood has been filled with “invaders” as Sunny calls them, young civil rights activists who have come to do voter registration, set up Freedom Schools, and otherwise support local blacks in gaining their rights. Wiles does a superb job weaving in the many threads of life for white and black Greenwood citizens at this time, vividly and, sometimes brutally, evoking real life events. She also brings in wider pieces of the time, the Vietnam War, the Beatles, and Willie Mays among others.

Sunny and Raymond are beautifully drawn — highly believable young people of their time and place. There isn’t a false note.Those around them are nuanced too, from the young northern civil rights workers to those in both of the young people’s families who are responding in different believable ways to the changing events. And Wiles excelles at sensory detail, giving readers the sounds of the young people’s different neighborhoods, the feeling of summer heat, those fans and the occasional air conditioner, the shiny floors of the courthouse, and much more. Using present tense, she creates scenes of drama and action and others that are quiet and pensive, all moving and unforgettable.

Then there is the nonfiction material that, as in Countdown, is interspersed throughout. Photos, quotes, excerpts from documents and news articles, song lyrics, and more are vividly presented, deepening and making even more real  what is going on around Sunny and Raymond.  The back matter offers more along with a solid biography. But for those who want to actually hear and see more I encourage them to explore Wile’s pinterest page.

Revolution is one spectacular novel. I highly, highly recommend it.


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5. In the Classroom: A New Teaching Tool

TeachingBooks.net has just announced a new app, Author Morph, that works on a wide variety of platforms used in classrooms. With it you can really get insight as to what it is like to be in an illustrator’s studio by….going right to one! For real!  Cool, right? You can learn more about it here:


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6. Margi Preus’s West of the Moon

Mixing fairy and folktale with harsh historical reality, Preus has created a gorgeous story of migration set in 19th century Norway. So many stories of immigrants to America focus on their lives when they arrive. Here is one about the old country inspired by something Preus read in a diary her great-great-grandmother wrote as she traveled to America.  Thirteen year-old narrator Asti is a complicated girl: brave, smart, difficult, angry, foolhardy, imaginative, and in the end, endearing. I dare you not to read her story and not care deeply about her. Asti and her younger sister Greta have been stuck working for their aunt and uncle on their hardscrabble farm after their father has gone off to America, promising to send for them when he has the money. The girls’ lives are harsh and miserable; the lack of any letters from their father makes it challenging to hold onto hope. But they do, Asti fiercely. But then, although it would seem to be impossible,  things get worse. Asti is sold to a truly horrific goat man and this remarkable tales takes off from there. Swirling in and out of Asti’s narrative of her harsh life with the goat man, her escape, and her efforts to get to America with her Greta are the stories she tells, ones of folk, of enchantment, and of magic. Beautifully considered and written, I can’t recommend this book enough.


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7. Thoughts on Newbery: Patrick Ness’s CBAITS

Some of you may bristle (or already have) about this topic, but I think it is one to take very, very seriously. It is Patrick Ness‘s provocative point in his SLJ Battle of the Kids’ Book decision this week about what  he has termed CBAITs:

Crappy Books About Important Things; you know exactly what I’m talking about: books with either important subject matter or important formats that are so terrible-but-worthy they turn reading into medicine for young people.  People tend to be far too afraid to give these books bad reviews and they often go on to win prizes.

I think Patrick has a point, an important and enormously complicated one. First of all, what Patrick may consider a CBAIT may not be what someone else does. That is, our criteria may be different, our idea of what is good, our taste, and so forth. Which is why, presumably, some end up winning prizes. That is, enough people on a particular award jury may have the same sense of what is good even if it isn’t what others think. And so they are going to give an award to a book they sincerely think is good not crappy.

And that gets to the heart of Patrick’s issue: what do people consider to be a good book? Many indeed think a book is good if it takes on an Important Thing and will dismiss questions about the quality of sentence level writing that would be something I’d be paying attention to . While Patrick and I probably would agree that something with painfully poor sentence level writing is crappy there are some who might feel differently. Not to mention what I might consider overwrought writing might be something someone else would think is wonderful, and vice versa.

That said, I do think there is a tendency for those of us who review and/or participate in selecting best books, award books, and such to pay a lot of attention to books that deal with topics that we feel need to be more known. And sometimes we excuse weaknesses in such books because we think they are so important. Because they are so few and because we so badly want young people to take in the topics, to know about these Important Things.

I think this has special resonance when considering the Newbery award. While the criteria are clear that it is for literary merit not popularity or didactic intent, I suspect most  of us can look back at the books that have received the medal and find one we’d call a CBAIT.

Thank you, Patrick, for pointing out that metaphorically children’s book award emperors sometimes have no clothes.

 


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8. The New Book Group Facilitator

Ms. Trivas represents a new phenomenon: the professional book group facilitator. A writer with a master’s degree in English literature from Middlebury, she presides over three adult groups, for which she charges up to $300 per session. She also runs a group for children, who nestle under a tree with their parents and read books like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

“They felt empowered sharing their opinion of the book,” she told me. “I asked them who they would rather have a play date with: Veruca Salt or Augustus Gloop. And if they could make up a different ending.”

From the NYTimes piece, Really? You’re Not in a Book Group?.

Just to let the world know, I’d considered taking a bit  less than $300 an hour to “facilitate”  a children’s book group. After all, I’ve been doing it for around three decades. I call it  ”teaching.”


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9. Kalte Krieg and Kaisers, My Trip to Berlin

I’m German Jewish — my parents left Germany as teens due to the Holocaust, but my father then became a specialist in post-war German politics. As a result we visited and lived there a lot when I was a child. I’ve close family friends and third cousins galore there. (We also have the results of the Holocaust. My grandfather was deported and killed; my nationalistic great-aunts who couldn’t imagine what was happening commit suicide rather than being deported; others went to England and Brazil;and some ended up in, but survive the camps.) My mother cooked German food. We did Christmas and Easter. I wore dirndls. I was required to knix to adults when I shook their hands. And so I often returned to German as an adult.  I speak a messy childish German, but fairly fluently. If I lived there I’d quickly become truly bilingual.  But until last week I hadn’t been there for a long time — the last visit was with my father  in 2005 to his hometown of Frankfurt to celebrate my great-grandfather’s 150th birthday and his Edinger Institut.

Craving some time in Germany I went to Berlin last week. I’d been there three times before, the first in 1965 when I was eleven with my mother who was from there. She left in early 1939 and so I was absorbed during that visit seeing where the family home had been in the Tiergarten,  visiting to her school, seeing the Wall and having her tell me how different the streets were when the city was whole, going to East Berlin, and much more.  I first returned in 1992 and was amazed to get a sense of the whole city as that had not been possible with the Wall.  There were destitute former Soviet soldiers everywhere, I recall, and a strong sense of the differences between East and West. While less pronounced, that sense was still there when I went again in 1999.  This time though it seemed almost completely gone.

What struck me most was how similar Berlin now is to other big cities — so many of the stores and such are the same everywhere. Happily there were still aspects that were distinctly German — all the wurst, the afternoon tradition of coffee and cake, and so forth.  What also struck me was the incredible focus on the DDR as history. That was absolutely fascinating to me.

My excellent hotel was just down the street from Checkpoint Charlie. the best-known crossing point between West and East Berlin during the time of the Wall. When I was in Berlin in 1965 we traveled between the two parts of the city by subway so I had never even seen this bit of the city until last week. And found it to be a good example of the way the Cold War has become a tourist attraction, partly well–presented via thoughtful museum exhibitions and partly incredibly kitchy. The later absolutely fascinated me.

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For example, you could get your picture taken (for a small fee) in front of a re-creation complete with sandbags and men dressed up as soldiers.

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Or buy an “authentic” piece of the Wall. How these are certified as authentic I can’t imagine. Awfully interesting that all of them have color on them. The piece I have (given to my father right after it came down from someone who was there) is grey. After all, only some of the wall was graffitied and much of it was just plain concrete and brick like my piece. Say like this section below.

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Lots of fake gas masks, helmets, and uniforms to buy.

 

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Even the local MacDonald’s had a Wall graffiti decor. Outside on the terrace were khaki-colored umbrellas.

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Also related to the Cold War, but in a completely different way was the abandoned amusement park at Spree Park. Tours (in German) are available on the weekend so I went on one. And I discovered that it is all about DDR nostalgia. The guide and many of the others on the tour had been to the park when it was open. So they were there to remember. Others were there because they are simply fascinated by DDR life. As far as I could tell I was the only non-German in the group.  Fascinating in two completely different ways.

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Having just seen the Divergent movie and read the book at last, this now makes me think of that!

At the train station near the park we came across a Berlin St. Patrick’s Day celebration.  A bit odd to say the least.

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Having been raised with German food and fond memories of it in Germany itself, I was glad to see many aspects of it still intact. For instance, German Starbucks, along with the usual global fare,  have German-specific cake for the afternoon ritual known as “Kaffe und Kuchen.”

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And there is still loads of wurst everywhere!

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At the wonderful 6th floor of the KaDeWe department store I discovered that Germans see candy canes as a yearlong delicacy.  (I should say I stocked up on Haribo, a beloved childhood treat, as the German-made bears taste very different from what is available in America.)

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Fun to see the German editions of this. Translates as “The Tribute from Panem: Deadly Games.”

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We spent the final day on a tour of Potsdam. I’d been there in  1992 when it was still full of destitute Russian soldiers selling whatever they had. (I’ve a couple of pins.)  The German government finally, a couple of years later, paid to send them home since Russia wasn’t about to.  This time the tour was about the Cold War and Kaisers (the Kalte Krieg and Kaisers of the post heading).  Our guide gave us this and told us to study up as there would be a test at the end. I actually found all the stuff about Fredrick the Great and his relatives to be completely fascinating. But the Cold War stuff was equal to that. Again, the tour seemed to be 99% Germans there for nostalgic reasons.

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This was where the Potsdam Conference took place; where  Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt divided up Germany and sort of the first bit of what would become the Cold War. Check out the Soviet red star in this very old space.

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Not the circus that was Checkpoint Charlie, but equally important — at the Gienicke Bridge, prisoner trade-offs occurred causing it be called “Bridge of Spies”.

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Then there was the Kaiser part of the tour, focusing on Fredrick the Great and his summer palace, Sanssouci.  It is gorgeous, but my photos aren’t so I suggest going elsewhere if you want to get a feel for the place. I was again moved by his burial with his dogs. Those little things are potatoes because evidently he popularized them in Germany.

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They are cleaning a lot of the statuary, but all I could think of seeing these was Dr. Who’s weeping angels.

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We did a bunch of other fun things. Say attending  the Berliner Ensemble’s current production of The Three Penny Opera, directed by Robert Wilson. It was fabulous, but also — what a wonderful theater!  We had something to drink beforehand in the canteen and saw many of the actors in make-up scarfing down meals before starting.  There were photos in rooms around the theater including this one of their original production.

IMG_1454 And, most of all, it was wonderful to be with Hanne Pollmann, a very, very close family friend, someone I’ve known most of my life.  She was with me the last time I was in Berlin and it was wonderful to be back there with her again.

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10. The Story of Dido Elizabeth Belle

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I’ve long been interested in the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle who lived in the late 18th and early 19th century. The child of the British admiral John Lindsay and an enslaved African woman (possibly named Maria Belle), she was sent to Kenwood House, the home of her great-uncle, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield as a young child.  The earl was already raising his great-niece, Lady Elizabeth Murray who was the same age as Dido and so the two girls grew up together with Dido evidently becoming Elizabeth’s personal companion.  While in his rulings as Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Mansfield indicated his distaste for the institution of slavery, in his own household there is evidence that Dido was treated in demeaning ways, clearly not viewed as equal to Elizabeth and others in the family.  You can learn more about her here and here.

Now there is a movie about Dido, Belle, due to be released here soon. Variety has given a favorable review, noting that while it will appeal to Austen fans it doesn’t shy away from addressing the harsher topic of slavery.  The Guardian also weighed in, And below is the trailer. I’m eager to see it and learn for myself as to how successful it is.


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11. This Week in Children’s Books: Keith Richards and Rush Limbaugh

Keith Richards is penning a children’s book and  the Onion got some people-on-the-street reactions.

And then there is the successful children’s book author Rush Limbaugh turning up on the Author of the Year shortlist for the Children’s & Teens Choice Book Awards.

Since Author of the Year finalists  ”… are selected by the CBC from a review of bestseller lists with an emphasis on Bookscan” I wondered what Keef’s chances are once his book comes out.

 


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12. 2014 SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books is Underway!

It is the 6th year of the BoB and we’ve already had smashing decisions from three terrific judges along with clever graphics again from SLJ’s art director Mark Tuchman, smart commentary from kid commentator RGN, and wonderful responses from our loyal followers. Be sure to check it out!


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13. Africa is My Home: A 2014 Children’s Africana Book Award Winner

Yesterday I was over the moon after learning that Africa is My Home had been honored with a 2014 Children’s Africana Book Award (also know as CABA). I have long been familiar with these awards and have often discovered new books through them. So to be honored with one myself is amazing.

Here’s more about them:

In 1991, Africa Access in collaboration with the Outreach Council* of the African Studies Association created the Children’s Africana Book Awards  with three major objectives (1) to encourage the publication of children’s and young adult books that contribute to a better understanding of African societies and issues, (2) to recognize literary excellence, and (3) to acknowledge the research achievements of outstanding authors and illustrators. The first CABA was presented in 1992. Today over seventy-four titles have been recognized and more than 100 authors and illustrators are members of our Winners Circle. Each winning title has been vetted by our awards jury which is composed of African Studies and Children’s Literature scholars.

There will be an award ceremony on Saturday, November 8, 2014 the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. From this cool slideshow of last year’s celebrations, I’m expecting that it and the other related activities are going to be wonderful.

My great thanks to the committee for honoring Africa is My Home this way.

 


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14. William Grill’s Shackleton’s Journey

I have always been fascinated by polar expeditions. I’ve viewed many documentaries, visited museums such as Oslo’s Fram Museum and Tromso’s Polar Museum, and read a lot. One story that has long enthralled me is that of Earnest Shackleton’s extraordinary 1914 expedition and successful attempt to get his whole crew to safety after their ship was consumed by the ice. This story has been told many times and many ways, say by Jennifer Armstrong in  Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World and by the American Museum of Natural History in their exhibit years ago where they created an awesome room with the James Caird (the small boat Shackleton used) itself featuring huge images of waves on every wall and sound effects. Now it is being told anew by William Grill in his gorgeous new book, Shackleton’s Journey.

This is a large, beautifully designed and produced book from Flying Eye Books, a small newish publisher doing absolutely terrific stuff. With a unique illustrative style, Grill balances small images with massive ones to evoke vividly Shackleton’s preparations, the early days of the expedition, the closing in of the ice on the Endurance, and their subsequent efforts to survive, and travel to safety. Grill’s text and images do a fabulous job communicating this incredible story. The large size of the book, the ample use of white to evoke the snow and ice of the region, and some jaw-dropping full-page images make this a book to look at over and over.

My one reservation is the lack of documentation.  There are several quotes, a glossary, and much provided to learn about Shackleton, his men, the ship, polar exploration, and so much more, but there are no citations. I would have dearly loved to have seen even a brief list of sources.

That said,  the book is absolutely spectacular and worthy of owning. Kids and adults are going to pour over it and, hopefully, want to then go learn more.


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15. Africa is My Home: In Sierra Leone

Two friends who also served in Sierra Leone in the Peace Corps recently returned for a visit bringing along several copies of Africa is My Home as gifts. But what a gift they gave me by sending this photo of Peggy reading it to the people of Kenema Blango. I get weepy every time I look at it.

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16. SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books at the Nerdy Book Club Today

For those wanting a good overview of SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books, I’ve a post on it up at the Nerdy Book Club today.


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17. Yuyi Morales on Winning the 2014 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award


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18. Africa is My Home: Interview

Recently, Debbie Glad at Smart Books for Smart Kids interviewed Robert Byrd and me about Africa is My Home and you can now read it here. I enjoyed doing it immensely. Thanks, Debbie.


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19. Markus Zusak on The Book Thief Movie

The biggest hurdle for the film-makers was what to do with Death. In the book, and it makes me so grateful to be a writer of books, you make it all happen on the page and it costs nothing. In the film the hardest decision was whether to have someone on screen or not. Effectively, in a book 99% of the book is voiceover with dialogue in between. You just can’t do that in a film. So the first thing they had to do was pare back Death and try to achieve that effect in different way, such as quite high camera angles. Choosing the right voice was another issue and I didn’t envy them that task! Every reader of the book has their own version of Death and its voice – in my case, Death speaks in an Australian accent.

From this very interesting interview with Marcus Zusak about turning The Book Thief into a movie. 


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20. In the Classroom: Rum is for Funerals

As part of a year-long exploration of immigration, I’m currently teaching a unit on African Immigration at the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  And thanks to Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos’s Sugar Changed the World, I’m much more informed about sugar’s place in all of this,  notably in the West Indies, today better known as the Caribbean. Thus, my wary interest in “On the Caribbean Rum Trail” in today’s Travel Section of the New York Times. At first there seemed to be next to nothing about the hideous history behind rum’s creation in this part of the world, but then as the article goes on, the reporter shifts gears, focusing more on history.

Nearby Saint-James [a Martinique distillery], the biggest, was overrun by French tourists lining up for rides through the cane fields on a Disneyesque “sugar train.” In its museum in a 19th-century Creole house, I pondered rum’s iconography: old ads depicting happy plantations with cheerful slaves, women with madras headwraps and seductive smiles.

My musings led to a dialogue with Michel Fayad, distillery manager and former history teacher. “Our whole history is wrapped up in this alcohol,” he said. “But what is it? Depends who you ask, yes? For the European visitors, it’s holiday. To the bekes” — white Martinicans, colonial descendants who still run the bulk of the island’s economy and all but one of its distilleries — “rum is pride. To blacks, locals, it’s also colonialism, slavery, alcoholism, sadness. We drink Champagne at weddings. Rum is for funerals.”

And powerfully ends it with this:

But during an audio tour that thoroughly covered rum history and production — maps, diagrams, photo exhibits, French-accented voice-overs — I decided that here lay the educational apex of distillery-hopping. I wandered through the plantation’s sculpture garden and, reflecting on the legacy of the liquid I’d been trailing, spotted something remarkable: blood on the leaves. A massive red statue of the word “Blood,” poised before a picture-perfect cane field. It evoked, of course, the Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit,” about lynchings in a pastoral Southern landscape: “Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,” she sang. This scene, stunning yet haunted by perennial pain, struck me as perfect homage: Behold a spirit whose legacy contains all the paradoxes and complexity of the wistfully beautiful region that gave birth to it so long ago.


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21. Learning About Africa: Volunteerism

Before you sign up for a volunteer trip anywhere in the world this summer, consider whether you possess the skill set necessary for that trip to be successful. If yes, awesome. If not, it might be a good idea to reconsider your trip. Sadly, taking part in international aid where you aren’t particularly helpful is not benign. It’s detrimental. It slows down positive growth and perpetuates the “white savior” complex that, for hundreds of years, has haunted both the countries we are trying to ‘save’ and our (more recently) own psyches. Be smart about traveling and strive to be informed and culturally aware. It’s only through an understanding of the problems communities are facing, and the continued development of skills within that community, that long-term solutions will be created.

Indeed. From “The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys): Why I Stopped Being a Voluntourist.”


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22. Housing Works’ New Book Group for Middle Grade Kids

Housing Works, a terrific NYC organization that ”provides housing, medical, prevention, support services” does all sorts of out-of-the-box things. One of their latest is “Face-to-Face: A Middle Readers Book Group.” Here’s the scoop:

When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see one another.” –Kate DiCamillo
Face-to-Face: A Middle Readers Book Group
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe is proud to offer our newest book group, and our first one for young readers! Face-to-Face: A Middle Readers Book Group is a monthly reading group for kids ages 8-12.  Explore the world of books outside of school, meet fellow readers, and discover new titles and authors. All members of the group will help pick the books we read and determine the direction of the club. Come early or stay late to grab a treat in the cafe and browse the shelves. (Special 10% discount on Children’s and Young Adult books for reading club members!)
Join us:
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg,
Sunday, April 6th at 11:30 am
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
In our first meeting, we’ll discuss Konigsburg’s classic, talk about our favorite books and the kinds of titles we want to read together, and pick our third book!
Purchase a copy of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg from Housing Works Bookstore Cafe before the first meeting, or borrow a copy from the NYPL Mulberry branch down the street.

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23. Patrick Ness’s Hogwarth’s Story

I am not sure who started #MyHogwarthsStory , but Patrick Ness ran with it on Twitter yesterday. Here’s a taste:

@Patrick_Ness I’d have been a relentless, nauseating suck-up to MacGonagall. She’d have reluctantly written me a college recommendation #MyHogwartsStory

‏@Patrick_Ness  I’d have gone to that winter ball thing, platonically, with a socially-awkward centaur. We’d have left early to read. #MyHogwartsStory

@Patrick_Ness After graduating, I’d have emigrated, probably to Canada, and humblebragged constantly about going to Hogwarts #MyHogwartsStory


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24. Edgar Eager, Yes!

From this week’s NYT’s By the Book with Laura Lippman:

Sell us on your favorite overlooked or underappreciated writer. 

Edward Eager wrote a series of children’s books that are in danger of being forgotten. But they’re divine, stories about ordinary kids who stumble on magical things — a coin, a lake, a book, a thyme garden, a well. The magic changes them, they try to change the magic, the magic moves on. Great female characters, too — strong, smart, capable, not killjoys. “Half Magic” is his masterpiece, but I have a soft spot for “Knight’s Castle,” which is set in Baltimore.


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25. In the Classroom: Not Mine This Time, but Lolly’s

There is a terrific new blog out there, Lolly’s Classroom. Here’s how the blog creator,  Lolly Robinson, of the Horn Book who also teaches a course in children’s and adolescent literature at Harvard’s School of Education, describes it:

Lolly’s Classroom will look at books and reading from a teacher’s perspective — but we’re hoping to get plenty of non-teacher readers as well. There’s no question that book discussions become richer when the people discussing them come from a variety of backgrounds. So really we’re calling on all of you to come over and join us in the Classroom.

Two interesting posts are already up; one on the books Lolly uses in her class and another from first grade tacher Whitney Gruenloh on her pairing of Martin’s Big Words with Freedom Summer . There is also this welcome post with more about the blog and a suggestion box too.

While they already have a  wide variety of teachers set to blog on their use of books in the classroom, they have a call out for more so if you are interested email  a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to Lolly Robinson (lrobinson at hbook.com).

 

 


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