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I love this trailer for The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen. The first time I watched it I was very impressed by the voice talent and then learned at the end that it was Neil Gaiman reading, so that explains that.
Everything works together on this trailer - the reading, the use of children to show the demographic, the fact that it's clearly a beautiful book in terms of both text and illustration, the music, and the brevity.
I've got a board on Pinterest called Trailer Park where I am collecting some of my favourite children's book trailers. Suggestions more than welcome!
Was thinking today of the many things my darling boy has made me in relation to my books. There has been a Henry doll, a sequel to the first books (written when I was too slow producing one), an audiobook version of WYWS, a pop-up prototype (a gift to Julie Morstad on her last visit to Montreal). Now he's producing Scots versions of all three of The Henry Books.
My son Euan is on March break and has been making the most of all those extra hours in his day.
His latest project has been to translate my first book When You Were Small into Scots - inspired by the Scots translation of Roald Dahl's The Twits which is quite wonderfully titled The Eejits, as well as a joke Wikipedia page talking "beuks for bairns". He was wondering what my book would be called and then found a British dialect translation site called Whoohoo and patiently plugged in a good chunk of the text (see below). That was thrilling enough but now he has made a new cover to go along with it.
An excerpt from When Ye Waur Wee
Every nicht at bedtime Henry an' his faither hae a caw th' crack. it aye begins th' sam way. "Dad," says Henry. "Teel me abit when Ah was wee."
When ye waur wee ye used tae hae a pit ant an' ye woods tak' heem it fur walks oan a leash.
When ye waur wee we used ye as a chess piece, coz uir chess board was missin' a body ay th' knights an' ye waur th' perfect size.
When ye waur wee we used tae gie ye baths in th' teapot, an' when ye waur dain we coods jist tip it ower an' poor ye it.
When ye waur wee we lit ye sleep in a body ay mah baffies. th' left a body. Ye used a fuzzae wash clootie fur a blankit an' a tea poke fur a pillaw.
When ye waur wee yer maw ance tint ye in th' bottom ay 'er purse. When she foond ye again, ye waur clingin' tois an earrin' she'd tint thee years afair.
When ye waur wee ye wair a thimble fur a hat.
When ye waur wee ye rode oan th' car's back loch ye waur an emperur an' he was an elephant.
When ye waur wee ye used a ruler fur a toboggan.
When ye waur wee we pit ye oan top ay th' christmas cabre insteid ay th' angel.
When ye waur wee ye cooldnae hauld a spoon sae ye used tae sit oan th' edge ay mah porridge bowl an' dip yer heed in loch a bairn spyug.
One of my first-born's favourite books when he was small was Roy MacGregor's The Night They Stole Stanley Cupfrom The Screech Owls series. He owned a bunch of other titles too but that's the one I recall. We had an audiobook version featuring players like Mats Sundin and Doug Gilmour reading which was produced by Frontier College and he listened to it semi-religiously.
We went through a period of years where the boy was obsessed with hockey. Hours and hours of his days were devoted to playing hockey in the parking lot with anyone willing to join in. He did play one year of ice hockey but since he was a Vancouver boy and hockey and soccer are both winter sports there we asked him to choose one. He chose soccer. No more Stanley Cup dreams, it was all about the beautiful game for the next phase of his life.
All this is by way of saying that I was very pleased to see Tundra Books reviving the Screech Owl series and even more pleased that they're letting me give away the first set of six books that are being released this spring - including The Night They Stole the Stanley Cup. We're giving the books away on Kristen Den Hartog's Blog of Green Gables where I've written a guest post about getting boys reading. Pop over and leave a comment if you'd like to be entered in the draw. Meantime, here's a great post by Roy MacGregor on 49th Shelf about writing the Screech Owl books.
I had never written for children, did not read children’s books— had not read many as a child, even, as I much preferred comic books. But Doug Gibson, then publisher of McClelland & Stewart, wanted to talk to me. M&S had heard from librarians and teachers that the reasons boys did not read much was because there were few books out there on subjects that fascinated active boys. He wanted me to consider writing hockey books for kids.
Mine is just one of a number of kids (both boys and girls) who grew up on these books. Many of them may have kept on playing hockey and (better still to my way of thinking) many of them may have also kept on reading. My son did get to have his moment with Stanley Cup after all. A group of uncles and cousins brought the cup across the bridge from PEI to Nova Scotia via limo a few summers ago after his cousin - just a few year's older than he was - was a member of that year's winning team. The kids ate their breakfast cereal out of it. Not a scenario we could have dreamed up all those years ago when he was reading about the thrilling if barely credible adventures of a bunch of Canadian boys.
Edward Gorey was born 88 years ago today and here is just one of the ways he enriched the world before leaving it.
Read more about him here and consider how wonderful it would have been to see how he would have illustrated Neil Gaiman's Coraline. Then go and visit the Gorey Store where you can buy everything from soap to to iPhone cases to jewellry.
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Pride and Prejudice is 200 years old and looking better than ever thanks to a beautiful new board book edition.
I may have mentioned once or twice how much I love the new Cozy Classics series created by Holman and Jack Wang (and published by Simply Read Books).
The Wang brothers are making it their business to introduce the toddler set to the classics of literature through simple 12 word elucidations of the tales accompanied by beautiful needle-felted illustrations.
To give you a sense of how well this works, here's a two page spread from their recently released Pride & Prejudice.
The books are garnering lots of love and I look forward to seeing the shelf of Cozy Classics grow as editions of Les Misérablesand War and Peace will soon be available.
Family Literacy Day is this week. I forget which day so let's just celebrate all week long. Here's a nice poster from the talented Mélanie Watt to remind you. There's also a nice list of recommended books from Canadian Children's Book Centre here.
There's a new book coming from the wonderful Barbara Reid. It's called Welcome, Baby and it looks like a perfect shower or baby gift. Go and see for yourself!
You can take an online YA writing class from Mariko Tamaki at U of T School of Continuing Studies. Details here.
I'm a big fan of Skim which was written by Mariko and illustrated by her cousin Gilliam Tamaki and has one of my all-time favourite covers.
And speaking of covers, who gave Anne Shirley this very ill-advised makeover? Among other horrors, they have de-gingered her!
Son is re-reading Stuart Littleand explaining to me all the ways in which it is better than the movie - primarily its lack of a "mushy ending." He also likes the implication that Stuart is on his way to Canada. We disagree about which origin story is creepier, though. He thinks it's odd of them to go out and adopt a mouse while I have always been mightily freaked out by the idea of accidentally birthing one.
I was interviewed by Chirp editor Katherine Dearlove about a story that ran in their Jan/Feb issue here.
Speaking of Simply Read, they are talking about doing an app for The Henry Books. How cool would that be? The app for Oliver Jeffers's book The Heart and Bottle was narrated by Helena Bonham Carter. I'm just thinking about who my dream narrator might be.
I do love the Heart in a Bottle necklace by Oliver Jeffers for Digby and Iona.
I tried very hard not to buy this book at the most recent book sale.
"Leave it for some young Nancy Drew enthusiast," I told myself.
But then I realised that such creatures may no longer exist and that I probably was the target demographic for this book, having spent one lost summer of my childhood devouring Nancy Drew books at such a prodigious rate that my mother would buy them and hide them from me to dispense as needed.
Nancy Drew saved my life by taking me somewhere else entirely during a time when that was required. And beyond that, she made me think that girls could be clever enough to sort things out for themselves.
Anyway, I turned to the back of this book and saw this postcard collection and knew it was coming home with me. Leave a comment if you'd like me to send you a card!
A Long Way From Verona by Jane Gardam is a brilliantly funny novel about a thirteen-year-old girl named Jessica Vye. I think of all the books I have loved by Gardam this is the one I love best. But I am confused by descriptions of it as a children's book or a young adult novel. It is only a young adult novel in the way that Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a novel for young adults. Like that book, A Long Way from Verona is a Künstlerroman (such a useful word, although difficult to pull off in casual conversation) or a novel of formation of an artist, in this case a writer. I am now going to set aside part of my day to considering what makes a novel a young adult novel and whether it is possible to draw such conclusions from the age of the protagonist. There are many young adult novels that I love deeply: Meg Rosoff's What I Was, Susan Juby's Alice, I Think, and Sonya Harnett's The Ghost Child spring immediately to mind. I have no qualms about the idea of offering those novels up to the thirteen-year-old reader but my fear is that because of their categorization they will be missed by the thirty or forty-something reader who could reap their wisdom in quite a different way. To demonstrate this theory I offer up the painfully funny opening paragraphs of Gardam's novel and suggest that whatever your age you might want to search for a copy of the book for your own enjoyment.
Found this Beatrix Potter Christmas tale in a book sale (for two bits!) and it really is a lovely little thing. Was done by The Horn Book in 1944 and has beautiful woodcut "decorations" rather than illustrations.
Sally Benson, a poor, old woman who lives alone in a little cottage in the country, can't afford to take in her orphaned granddaughter until something wonderful happens, and the ticking of Sally's old clock, Wag-by-Wall, reveals its true meaning.
It's such a dear little book but I do think the photo of the author may be my favourite thing about it.
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I've been thinking about children the last few days - not surprisingly. I've read a few useful things online and a lot of things that are not.
In the useful category is a wonderful piece about joy by Zadie Smith on The New York Review of Books. I agree with her whole-heartedly that there is nothing so terrifying as joy.
A final thought: sometimes joy multiplies itself dangerously. Children are the infamous example. Isn’t it bad enough that the beloved, with whom you have experienced genuine joy, will eventually be lost to you? Why add to this nightmare the child, whose loss, if it ever happened, would mean nothing less than your total annihilation? It should be noted that an equally dangerous joy, for many people, is the dog or the cat, relationships with animals being in some sense intensified by guaranteed finitude. You hope to leave this world before your child. You are quite certain your dog will leave before you do. Joy is such a human madness. The writer Julian Barnes, considering mourning, once said, “It hurts just as much as it is worth.” In fact, it was a friend of his who wrote the line in a letter of condolence, and Julian told it to my husband, who told it to me. For months afterward these words stuck with both of us, so clear and so brutal. It hurts just as much as it is worth.
Also useful and well worth reading is a fantastic piece by Nikhil Goyal about empathy on the Globe and Mail site. The article gives some alarming statistics:
Today, there is a dearth of empathy in young people. After analyzing data among almost 14,000 college students over the last 30 years, a University of Michigan study two years ago concluded that college students are 40 per cent less empathetic than their counterparts in 1979. Indeed, the most significant drop has been in the past decade. What’s more, cases of bullying and suicides are climbing at an alarming pace. That means empathy education is needed more than ever before.
The fact that the article was written by a high school student does give one some hope for the future.
There has been a lot of talk lately about teaching non-fiction in the schools rather than fiction. There seems to be an attitude that there is something frivolous and lightweight about fiction. But it's through reading fiction that people (and young people in particular) learn to apprehend the world as someone other than themselves. They learn empathy.
I've been thinking a lot about Susin Nielsen's The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, winner of this year's Governor General's Award for Children's Text. The novel is about a boy who goes into a school with a gun and does a terrible thing. Only really it's not about that, it's about being related to the boy who could do such a terrible thing and how do you live in the altered world you are left with. Only really it's only partly about that as it's also about a lot of other things: first among them being empathy.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”―James Baldwin
Philip Ardagh writes some of the most genuinely funny books for children you are likely to find.
My elder son was a huge fan and was thrilled to meet the man himself when he was on a reading tour that included Vancouver's wonderful Kidsbooks. That occasion also marked his first publication as a reviewer for The Vancouver Sun, although his career high so far was reviewing one of the Harry Potter books on a 48 hour turnaround. No mean feat for a twelve-year-old boy.
I've written here before about my younger son's love for the opening paragraph of Fall of Fergal and now he has done a first person POV animation of that scene. (Initially he was concerned that he might have to purchase an option on the paragraph but we decided to trust in the author's goodwill.)
The sound effects are particularly good, although we both agreed that the whole thing might benefit from an authorial voiceover reading the opening paragraph. Someone with a nice, deep, Philip Ardagh-ish voice, perhaps?
The very last words young Fergal McNally heard in his life were: "Don't lean out that window!" The very last sounds were probably the air whistling past his sticky-out ears as he fell the fourteen stories, the honk of traffic horns below (getting nearer and nearer, of course), and--possibly--theSPof theSPLAT!he himself made as he hit the pavement. Fergal certainly wouldn't have heard more than theSP, though, because by the time theLAT!part had followed he would have been well and truly dead.
According to google doodle (which is where I like to glean my news of the world), today is Children's Day. This is a new one on me, but I can think of the perfect way to celebrate it - go out and pick up a copy of I Have a Right to Be a Child by Alain Serres with illos by Aurelia Fronty for a child of your acquaintance.
Or donate it to your local library. When it comes to the subject of libraries, I am with Jeanette Winterson who said earlier this week: "“Don’t hand kids over to computer games and wall to wall TV – bring them to books early and see what happens. Give them a library as good as anything Carnegie wanted, and see what happens. It is the best social experiment we could make.”
Here's the Groundwood catalogue copy on the book:
With a very simple text accompanied by rich, vibrant illustrations a young narrator describes what it means to be a child with rights — from the right to food, water and shelter, to the right to go to school, to be free from violence, to breathe clean air, and more. The book emphasizes that these rights belong to every child on the planet, whether they are "black or white, small or big, rich or poor, born here or somewhere else." It also makes evident that knowing and talking about these rights are the first steps toward making sure that they are respected.
A brief afterword explains that the rights outlined in the book come from the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989. The treaty sets out the basic human rights that belong to children all over the world, recognizing that children need special protection since they are more vulnerable than adults. It has been ratified by 193 states, with the exception of Somalia, the United States and the new country of South Sudan. Once a state has ratified the document, they are legally bound to comply with it and to report on their efforts to do so. As a result, some progress has been made, not only in awareness of children's rights, but also in their implementation. But there are still many countries, wealthy and poor, where children’s basic needs are not being met.
The nice thing about church basement book sales is that you always seem to find exactly the thing you didn't know you were looking for. The other day I picked upThe Treehorn Trilogy by Florence Parry Heide with illustrations by Edward Gorey.
I told my son I bought it for him but I was lying of course.
I read it straight off. It was quite wonderful and I did wonder why I'd never heard of it before. Treehorn is a very Grimble-ish sort of boy which is just the sort I like best.
Also wonderful was this little piece by Florence Parry Heide talking about meeting Edward Gorey ("Edward Gorey asked me to call him Ted!") and about writing the books and where the original idea came from:
I was ready to write another story and was sitting at my typewriter ---but look at the time! it's nearly noon, and my five children would be rushing in for lunch any minute now--in those days, kids came home from school for lunch. So I was rushing to fix something for lunch when: in they came. "Can Mike come for dinner tonight, could you call his Mom right now?" "Look, I skinned my knee, I need a bandaid!" "I have to have a quarter for class dues!" And more. And all at once. And I realized that I was saying "That's nice, dear," to each one. And then I thought that I'd probably been saying that every day for ever and ever. And because I had been looking for an idea for a new book, I thought what about a mother who keeps saying That's nice, dear, no matter what's happening. So: something really surprising happens to a boy and his mother just keeps saying things like, That's nice, dear. What might that surprising thing be?
You can read the rest of the piece on Curious Pages here. There's a lovely obituary from the New York Times which talks about her meeting the illustrator of her book Some Things Are Scary, Jules Feiffer.
“I saw her and it was love at first sight,” Mr. Feiffer said. “She was so alive, so gracious. She had all the good qualities that ordinarily make people boring, but with a kind of roguishness that made you like her.”
I'm now going away to #1 be sad that she died last year (before I'd ever heard of her), #2 be happy that she lived, and #3 look for a copy of Some Things Are Scary.
Getting excited about these Cozy Classics board books from Holman and Jack Wang. Coming very soon!
And the latest news is that there are several more Cozy Classics currently in the works. From their website:
Cozy Classics is pleased to announce its next two titles in the series: Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Les Misérableswill debut in early spring 2013, while War and Peace will be released in summer 2013.
How darling is this wee dote? His name is Clem and his mother Vania who blogs here dressed him up as Henry (complete with a thimble hat) from When You Were Small for a previous Hallowe'en. I was thinking today how this was pretty much a high point for me career-wise.
Was also thinking that I would love to see any other children dressed as either Henry or Dot and that I would be sorely tempted to give away some books if anyone rose to this challenge and sent me pictures.
I'm a big Barbara Reid fan and blogged about her earlier here. I also blogged about my son's attempt at claymation there and am re-posting now because his YouTube channel is tantalising close to reaching 100,000 views. So, if you have a moment....