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The version of The Dark Crystal that was released in 1982 was dark and weird, especially for a kids' movie. But there was an earlier version—darker, weirder, and trippier—that didn't make it to theaters. The earlier cut didn't test well with audiences, so the film was substantially changed to appeal to a broad audience. Voiceover was added, and English dialogue was added to many scenes where the action was previously supposed to be understood through puppets' pantomime.
For the past two years an enterprising fan, 31-year-old Christopher Orgeron, has labored to reassemble that original cut of the movie.
It is just too cold to pull off a decent post this evening. It’s only 5F (-15C) with a brisk wind blowing making it feel even colder. My bus was late on my way home and I had to wait for close to half an hour. Brrr!
I thought I’d tell you about a fun book I just picked up at the library, Knitting for Nerds by Toni Carr. I don’t know if I have ever mentioned before that I knit. I don’t knit a lot, not as much as I used to because of the tendonitis in my wrist, but it is something I still very much enjoy when I can.
Knitting for Nerds is a hoot. It has thirty projects in it inspired by science fiction, fantasy and comics. There is a Doctor Who scarf, hobbit feet slippers, Star Trek Next Generation pullover, a Firefly inspired scarf, socks, and sweater coat, and space princess hats including Princess Leia’s iconic buns. I won’t be making the bun hat, but I do like the Firefly inspired coat and I am nerdy enough to make the Star Trek sweater too. However, given the rate at which I knit these days, it will be a very long time before either of these will be completed. But when they are I will be the coolest seventy-something old lady around!
This is a quick-and-dirty list of homeschooling how-to and reference books I’d love to see in libraries. I’ll prettify it later. Throwing it up hastily now during #ReadAdv and will probably add to it during the discussion.
Shortly before the Civil War exploded in the South, thirteen year-old Ben McKenna is fighting his own war against slavery. He and his family live on his grandmother’s hemp plantation, where his best friend is a crippled slave boy, Josiah.When Ben learns his father is going to sell Josiah, he knows the only way to prevent this is to arrange an escape for Josiah and his parents, Bess and Jesse. With only a few words from his secret Abolitionist grandmother, an old barn with secrets of its own, and a tiny rusted key, Ben plans the escape. When the buyer for Josiah arrives a week early, Ben and the slaves must leave immediately. Without a detailed plan, without even a map of the Kentucky terrain, Ben and the slaves embark on their journey to freedom into a world of hostility, danger, and deception.
Through a collapsing underground tunnel, into a dangerous swamp, and through almost impenetrable forests, Ben and his friends make their way towards the Ohio River. An almost-tragedy for Josiah, deceptive “rescuers” who imprison them for weeks, a daring rooftop escape in broad daylight, and a near capture by Union soldiers add to the many dangers they face. For months, they endure the hardships of hiding in barns, tiny attic rooms, cellars full of rotting fruit and vegetables, and even secret travel in wagons with false bottoms and coffins in a death coach. And always, the slave hunters and their dogs are not far behind.
Free Blacks, Quakers, and a strange young man offer their help to the runaways, sometimes with questionable results. Will they ever reach the Ohio River, and the freedom that is promised on the other side? If they do, will Ben go with them, or will he choose to return home, even though he knows the consequences of his actions could result in prison?
THE FREEDOM THIEF
An Historical Adventure
for ages 10-14
Ben and the slaves are on their final leg of their journey before reaching the safety of the Ohio River, and the man who will get them across. They are hiding in another thick forest, with the Union Fort just ahead of them. The problem before them now is to get beyond the fort, stay out of the moonlight, and onto the beach without the soldiers seeing them.
The forest came alive as a fox yipped in the distance, and somewhere overhead, a night owl hooted and swooped away from its nest. Small animals rustled in the underbrush, a coyote sang, and occasionally, a tiny scream signaled the death of a small animal in the jaws of a predator. A breeze rippled through the trees, bringing a fresh coolness to dispense the daytime humidity. Still, Ben refused to move out.
He crept to the edge of the forest and watched the fort. When most of the lamps within were extinguished and only those on the parapets were lit, he moved back to his friends.
“Okay, we should go now, but we have to be fast and quiet. The moon’s up, which means the soldiers could see us if they’re looking. But there’s only one soldier on the parapet now, so I think it’s the best time. I’ll go first, Bess next. Jesse, you best carry Josiah since he can’t run fast. Be sure to follow exactly where I go.”
They waited at the edge of the forest. The lone soldier was pacing slowly black and forth from one end of the parapet to the other. When he reached the far end, Ben whispered quickly, “I’m going now. Wait until he’s at the same place, then come one at a time.”
He bent over, trying to make his shadow as small as possible, and raced to the wall of the fort. In a couple of minutes, Bess joined him, followed by Jesse and Josiah. They huddled tightly together and Ben knew they were all barely breathing. Even though the fort wall was at least thirty feet high, if the soldier looked down he could see them. He continued his pacing without interruption.
Pressed against the wall, they moved single file toward the end of the fort. Here and there, small patches of snow crunched under their feet and they stopped for fear of being heard. The soldier marched on, thankfully oblivious to their presence.
The wall angled out to the left, toward the river. Closest to them was a huge wooden gate that opened for wagons and soldiers returning on horseback. Now there were two soldiers walking their duty line on the parapet above the gate.
Ben looked out beyond the fort. The bright moon cast light that shimmered on water far down the road. Boats, beached for the winter, were illuminated as they lay against the white sand. A few were still in the water, tied to slips near the riverbank.
Between the end of the fort’s walls and the beach, the area was wide open. Off to the right, at the edge of the forest, only a few trees here and there leaned across the sand far enough to cast even small shadows. This was the dangerous part, running in the open to the limited safety of the beached boats. It was more than a half mile of open ground, easily seen by the soldiers if they chose to look in that direction.
He turned to the others and whispered, “Look, see where those boats are? That’s where the man is going to be.”
He looked around at the beach before them and the edge of the forest a short distance away.
“No matter how we do this, we can be seen if the soldiers start looking down this way. I reckon the best way is to get to the edge of the forest over there.” He pointed to where the sand trickled back into the woods. “Those big trees that lean out over the sand are the only shadows we have, and we’re still going to be in the open between them. But that’s the best chance we have. Let’s go.”
Single file, they ran silently from the protection of the fort wall out into the open and toward the edge of the forest. They had just reached the shadowy edge of the first few trees when Jesse, who was carrying Josiah, slipped on a thin patch of icy ground and fell. Josiah cried out as he rolled away before Jesse could grab him. He hit a rock and lay still.
Immediately, a shot rang out, and a voiced yelled, “Stop! Who goes there?”
For some reason, I’m not fully into the Christmas season yet. I’m sure a lot had to do with the fact that Thanksgiving was so late this year. I’m just startled whenever circulation staff tells patrons that their materials are now due 12/26 (12/28 by the time you read this!). Three weeks!
My inability to grasp the inevitable is the reason why I decided to post about “Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day!” It may not be as well known as Talk Like a Pirate Day, but it does have its own official Facebook page, at least. Even if you decide to not wear a costume for Time Traveler Day, you can mark the occasion by booktalking or displaying time-travel books and/or DVDs, such as the following:
A Holocaust time-travel book might have turned into a cringeworthy and/or exploitative read if written by a less capable author than Jane Yolen. When Hannah opens the door for the Prophet Elijah during her family’s Seder, as is customarily done during the feast, she is transported to Poland. It is now 1942, and Hannah (now Chaya) is captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. Friendship, family, and the importance of memory are themes finely woven into this provacative children’s novel about the Holocaust.
Dan Gutman’s Baseball Card Adventure series is a fast-paced and fun ride through baseball history. Joey meets baseball greats when he travels back in time, thanks to a valuable baseball card featuring Honus Wagner found while cleaning an elderly neighbor’s attic. Additional titles feature Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and other elite players.
I read Home Sweet Rome before I realized that it was the second entry in Marissa Moss’s Mira’s Diary series (the series begins with Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris). Luckily, Moss includes enough background material that reading the series in order isn’t imperative. Mira must rescue her time-traveling mother in Rome; to do so requires Mira to travel back to 16th century Rome, in which she meets Caravaggio and his controversial group of scientist and artist friends. There’s lots of humor and hijinks in Mira’s adventures, but history (including the treatment of Jewish Romans during this time) is learned in adventures that will appeal to a wide variety of readers.
Lottie Stride’s The Time Travelers’ Handbook is a wacky and fascinating look at life throughout the ages. Readers will “learn” how to compete at the ancient Olympics, how to build a Viking ship, and how to fight a samurai, among other skills that would have been very useful in the past. Give this to readers not quite ready for the Worst Case Scenario Survival books.
What are your favorite time-travel books? Tell us about them in the comments!
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’s top 5 Writing Tips
Image by Richard Clifford
Unique characters. Give characters a tag, a physical or emotional something that makes them stand out from the crowd. That red nose, in the context of a reindeer herd, is absolutely astoundnig.
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.
Conflict. The conflict here is the usual playground teasing and bullying of someone who is different. It’s a classic theme because we can all identify with it on some level. Don’t’ be afraid of classic themes; just use them in unique ways.
Also, pile on the conflict. The other reindeer do three things to Rudolph, each an escalation: laugh, call him names, exclude him from games.
All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.
Poor Rudolph. He must have felt All Alone: “I’m All Alone” from Monty Python’s Spamalot
Turning point. After the set up and the conflict, comes the turning point. The crisis here is that Santa must deliver the toys to the children around the world, but the weather isn’t cooperating.
Then one foggy Christmas Eve
The unusual characteristic becomes a blessing. Again, this is a cliched way of handling a conflict and crisis, but it still works. The very thing that sets the character apart, that makes him/her different and weak, is also the very thing that makes the hero able to save the day. Of course, this means we are matching up conflict and resolution, too. Santa also functions as a sort of mentor here, one who is able to recognize the unique qualities of Rudolph for what they are.
Santa came to say:
“Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
Rejoice. It’s not just the climax here, but also the concept of a celebration of successfully completing a quest. Give characters a moment to celebrate. This often comes after a big battle, or a big effort to overcome something.
Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you’ll go down in history!
And, of course, you must end with the famous cowboy Gene Autry, singing Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer in 1953. His original recording hit the top of the charts in 1950.
If you can’t see this video, click here.
Think the story is still a little slight for todays’ market? Here’s why.
Kmart recently launched a new ad campaign for Christmas that features two happy shoppers “giffing out.” I know what you’re thinking: Kmart still exists? If you’re not thinking that, you’re thinking: What the hell is a gif? Well. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite time wasters.
A “gif” is an image format. Unlike the boring “jpeg,” a gif format supports animation. Basically, you can turn any video into a repeating image that repeats and repeats and honestly grows funnier the more it repeats.
Who has time to turn videos into gif files? I have no idea, although I often wonder because they show up so fast. You see something funny on the news? It’s probably a gif before the show even reaches your TV. I mean, these people are fast—like, faster than a Cumberbitch with a camera at The Hobbit premiere.
For me, gifs exist to make me laugh—and they do, often. And who doesn’t need a laugh, right? I’m not a computer nerd, but I did laugh at the new Kmart commercials. I say bravo to them for being hip with computer folk.
True, there are those who think the “giffing out” commercials are immature–but laughing at gifs is immature, so the advertising makes perfect sense.
Thanks honestly to all the insane fangirls, comics, and internet-obsessed who give me the gift of gif. Merry Christmas to me!
We hear tell of cats who went on adventures and travelled far and wide, or cats who bravely opposed injustice and fought for freedom, but in general cats have little truck with that sort of thing. Now and then Alleycat and Bamber go out into the world and show themselves to the neighbourhood, but Pink never goes out at all, and that’s why I think she may be the brains of the outfit. None of the rival cat families ever come into Alleycat’s garden, because if they did Bamber would be straight out of the cat-flap to engage them in heated discussion, and if Bamber failed to impress them Alleycat would plod out and ascend to the top of the highest fence post and stare at them. That usually does the trick. Pink on the other paw stays indoors all day and all night, profiting from the other cat’s exertions. In the cold weather she has prime spot in front of the hearth and she’s allowed to sleep wherever she likes without being disturbed. She can even walk over the heads of the dogs on her bony little feet and they know quite well that they’re not to complain. Pink, for all her pretty ways and her silly habits, may, in truth, be the most Machiavellian and formidable cat of all and easily the cleverest warm-blooded creature living on Nine Foot Way. And that’s a frightening as well as an amusing thought.
For 102 years, NYPL has consistently been producing the same list highlighting some of the best books for kids in a given year. Now we’re pleased to announce our 2013 list and all the myriad titles it holds. Admit it. This is one of the most gorgeous covers on a booklist you ever did see, isn’t it?
Do you crossover and read adult works as well? Of course we've seen many adult authors enter the YA stream. Now watch as YA authors step into the adult market. Sonya Sones did it with her Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, which Meg Cabot called: "Funny, fresh, and heartbreakingly poignant, this book had me laughing and crying at the same time."
Kirkus gave He's Gone a starred review and said, "YA veteran and National Book Award finalist Caletti (The Story of Us, 2012, etc.) makes a striking adult debut with this tale of a husband's mysterious disappearance...Well written, strongly characterized and emotionally complex fixtion."
Well done, ladies! Representing! Rgz, look for these if you read adult, or maybe they are the perfect gifts for those adults you live with. :~) Happy shopping!
Children with runner parents put up with a lot. Mom and Dad head out early for their weekend long runs. Dinnertime table talk could err on the side of TMI compared to other families… “God, I have the WORST chaffage right HERE…” And then there are the runner foods that consume the cupboards.
Enter my latest Runner’s Strip Cartoon Movie Shorts: “Recess Snack Swap” Don’t get me wrong, kids that have runner parents are INSANELY lucky. They have role models that show just how much fun exercise and fitness can be, that adopting healthy habits will make you happier and more productive in other areas of life. Kids that watch their parents set and strive for running goals witness first had how powerful hard work and dedication are. But, Mom and Dad, try to keep in mind Chocolate flavored GU’s don’t go for very much on the playground black market.
Kids with runner parents are much more likely to become self-motivated and persistent individuals themselves. And hey, if they wind up runners themselves…even better!! #spreadtheaddiction
For more Runner’s Strip Cartoons…go HERE!
As of November 20, 2012 (that is, Midnight Eastern Time tonight) I am closed to queries. I will reopen to queries January 7, 2013.
If I already have your work, you should hear from me by January 7. (That's the point of taking the break, I have to catch up!)
I'm sorry to say that I cannot respond to new queries sent during this time.
The exceptions will be: work that I've requested -- conference material -- client or editor referrals -- and people I actually know in real life. If this is you, please be sure you've said so, along with the word Query, IN THE SUBJECT LINE of your email. Otherwise, your query will be deleted.
For all other regular queries, please feel free to try any of my colleagues at Andrea Brown Lit, or else try me again in January.
Thanks again for thinking of me in regard to your work.
It's that time again. Like many families, we start our Christmas decorating in early December. This year, I again plan to use a very special children's Christmas book as one of my table decorations. It's The First Noel, a pop-up book by Jan Pietnkowski, a master of artistry and paper engineering. WHen the book is closed, it gives no hint as to the beauty inside. When you untie the red bow holding the book closed and open the book so wide you can tie the front and back covers to one another, the result is a beautiful carousel book, with five separate scenes in silhouette related to the birth of the Christ child. For more books related to the season, see my December Calendar of Children's Books.
If you’re looking for holiday gift ideas, here are a few suggestions. We’ve compiled our favorite books from the past year into one giant list. Included are titles focused on editorial design, typography, identity work and brainstorming.
A Map of the World: The World According to Illustrators and Storytellers By Antonis Antoniou, R. Klanten, S. Ehmann, H. Hellige / Published by Gestalten 224 pages / 9.6″x13″
A Map of the World is a compelling collection of work by a new generation of original and sought-after designers, illustrators, and mapmakers. This work showcases specific regions, characterizes local scenes, generates moods, and tells stories beyond sheer navigation. From accurate and surprisingly detailed representations to personal, naïve, and modernistic interpretations, the featured projects from around the world range from maps and atlases inspired by classic forms to cartographic experiments and editorial illustrations.
Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs By Tim Hoover and Jessica Karle Heltzel
Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs is a beautiful two-color book that features candid conversations with 30 leading designers who have founded startups, channeled personal passions into self-made careers and taken risks to do what they love.
Gerald Cinamon: Graphic Design Designed by SEA 132 Pages / 170×220 mm
Gerald Cinamon is an American designer who, at an early age, moved to the UK where he would eventually become the chief designer for all paperback typography at Penguin. Heavily influenced by Swiss design, he created book jackets and posters that were bold and iconic – something unique and forward-thinking for book publishing in the 1960s.
A Logo for London By David Lawrence / Published by Laurence King 176 pages / 9.9″x8.7″
The London Transport bar and circle – also known as the bulls-eye or roundel – is an icon of commercial design. Over the last century it has come to represent not only London’s transport network but also the city itself. This book charts the history and development of the symbol from the early 20th century to the present day, and explores its use across the company’s many activities, as well as its wide-ranging cultural influence.
FHK: The Complete Designer By Adrian Shaughnessy / Published by Unit Editions 540 Pages
In the first comprehensive monograph of FHK Henrion, Adrian Shaugnessy highlights the work of this highly underrated designer. Originally trained in textiles, Henrion would later go on to become a skilled poster artist, a noted design educator and quite possibly the father of modern corporate identity in Europe.
The Modern Magazine: Visual Journalism in the Digital Era
By Jeremy Leslie / Published by Laurence King
240 pages / 11″x8″
The last ten years of magazine publishing have been a period of rapid innovation, providing a vital record of the era’s diverse visual trends. The Modern Magazine features the best editorial design, looking in particular at how magazines have adapted to respond to digital media.
30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typografische Monatsblatter Edited by École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), Louise Paradis with Roland Früh and François Rappo 276 pages / English
30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typografische Monatsblätterexamines the years 1960–90, that correspond to a period of transition in which many factors such as technology, socio-political contexts and aesthetic ideologies profoundly affected and transformed the fields of typography and graphic design. The book includes a large number of works from well -known and lesser -known designers such as Emil Ruder, Helmut Schmid, Wolfgang Weingart, Hans-Rudolf Lutz, Jost Hochuli and many others.
The Art of Getting Started By Lee Crutchey / Published by Perigree 160 Pages / English
The Art of Getting Startedis a hands-on guide that offers engaging and empowering challenges and activities to get over those artistic blocks and jumpstart your creativity. Whether it’s perfectionism, procrastination, or plain old fear that’s holding you back, get ready to get inspired.
Designing News: Changing the World of Editorial Design and Information Graphics By Francesco Franchi / Published by Gestalten 240 Pages / 12″x7.6″ / English
In Designing News, award-winning editorial and infographics designer Francesco Franchi conveys his vision for the future of the news and media industries. He evaluates the fundamental changes that are taking place in our digital age in terms of consumer expectations and the way media is being used. The book then outlines the challenges that result and proposes strategies for traditional publishing houses, broadcasting companies, journalists, and designers to address them.
Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space By Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman / Published by Flying Eye Books 64 Pages / 11.5″ x 11.4″ / English
Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space explores topics such as gravity, extraterrestrial life, time, and many other fascinating subjects that will take you and your children on a journey to the very frontiers of space!
Shadow Type: Classic Three-Dimensional Lettering By Steven Heller and Louise Fili / Published by Princeton Architectural Press 352 Pages / 6.75″x9.7″
Introduced in metal type as early as 1815, shadow typefaces were a form of early experimentation among type founders. In the late nineteenth century, the form was adopted in wood type for use in posters and has been embraced ever since by designers looking for ways to communicate a sense of monumentality, a feeling of confidence, or a simple feeling of optimism. Shadow Type presents a broad spectrum of examples: advertising, shop signs, billboards, posters, and type-specimen books featuring the most popular, rare, and (nearly) forgotten dimensional letters from Europe and the United States.
Graphic Autobiography By Italo Lupi 376 Pages / Text in English and Italian
Graphic autobiography by Italo Lupi is a complex, comprehensive book on the work of the architect and master of graphics, images and design who, over the course of his career, worked with some of the biggest names in publishing, fashion, design and architecture.
Irma Boom: The Architecture of the Book Published by Lecturis 800 Pages / English
Irma Boom has become one of the most widely renowned and laureated book designers in the world today. Her often ingenious solutions to individual book productions have gained her international fame and her work is now collected by many leading museums such as the MoMa in New York. Besides book designs she also creates corporate identities, postage stamps and posters. The Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam Library honoured Irma Boom with a major retrospective exhibition of her work, now traveling to Paris. To accompany this exhibition she produced an exceptional catalogue; this miniature book contains a complete overview of her work, now re-printed in a slightly bigger version and with more pages.
Stefan Kanchev: Logo Book By Magdalina Stancheva 208 Pages
From Magdalina Stancheva comes a book on the father of Bulgarian graphic design, Stefan Kanchev. Featured are hundred of sketches, photos and logos from a master craftsman whose work adorned the largest and well-known institutions in Southeastern Europe.
Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.
I get that it is a compliment, to tell authors that you cry. And I get that we want books that make us cry. I do, anyway. Just not necessarily in front of dozens of strangers.
This is why I am proposing a new literary award. It is to be called the SNOT award. Given to STORIES NOT to be read ON TRANSIT, the SNOT shall honor and mark books that will make you ugly-cry while on a crowded cross-town bus.
The SNOT sticker will be gold and embossed, and will stand as both a ringing endorsement and a useful warning.
I just enjoyed a terrific visit to Virginia, three nights, visiting Matoaca Middle School and Davis Middle School. I stayed in Richmond, was treated like a conquering hero, and all I can do is express my heartfelt gratitude one more time. Thank you to three librarians, Mrs. Masters, Mrs. Green, and Miss Warshen (I hope that’s how you spell it). Most singularly: The trip would not have been possible without the near-heroic efforts of Amanda Brata — and all the teachers/administrators who decided to make Bystander a school-wide read for their students. That’s an amazing honor I don’t take lightly.
SIDENOTE: I know I’m forgetting the name of someone who took me around to classrooms on Monday, and it’s killing me. It’ll come to me, promise!
Over three days, I gave eight (fabulous) large-group presentations. I was also offered the opportunity to enjoy several brief classroom visits. One perceptive student asked about how my intentions when it came to creating the character of Griffin Connelly. It was thoughtful question that I tried to answer as best I could. The truth is, I suspect that I write better — clearer — than I talk. So while I was fumbling for an answer, I referenced this blog post about Griffin’s two-faced quality.
Here’s an excerpt of that old post.
Let’s talk about smiles . . .
I began my work on the book that would become Bystander by hanging out in the local library with a composition notebook. At the top of the first page of that notebook I see that I copied a line from Michael Connelly’s Echo Park: “What is the bad guy up to?” I was excited. After writing 30-plus Jigsaw Jones mysteries for younger readers, I finally had a bad guy. It wasn’t going to be all benign misunderstandings and well-intentioned foul-ups; here, I had a character with potential for real darkness.
And right there on that first notebook page I started a list of potential “bully” characteristics. I wrote:
Smart, charismatic, charming, popular, superior, tortures animal?, trouble with police?, lights fires, COLD, raised by grandmother?, non-compliant, poor grades, not affected by discipline, causes fear, lucid, psychopathic?, free of angst, free of insecurities, (later, when caught, self-pity), preternaturally CALM.
I was in the first stages of character development — and for me, I’m at my best when character evolves into story, as opposed to plugging character into plot. That is: character first. With my focus exclusively on this “bad guy,” I even came up with a potential book title: Predator.
It became important to me that my main antagonist, Griffin Connelly, was divorced from the bully stereotypes we often see in books and movies. You know, the bully as gross coward, unlikeable lug, dim-witted brute, dirty, ugly, unpopular. It simply wasn’t realistic, and by turning bullies into one-dimensional characters, we surrendered much of the complexity (and difficulty) of the topic (and story).
A quick plea: There’s a tendency to slot any topical book, such as this, into the bibliotherapy shelf. But Bystander is a story, a page-turner with thriller elements that a biased Jean Feiwel called, “Unputdownable.” It’s not a thesis paper. It’s a good, fast read. I hope boys find it.
Whew. I see that I’m letting this post get away from me, because I’m trying to talk about too much. So I’ll get specific:
I wanted Griffin Connelly to be a great-looking kid, with charm and verbal dexterity and a great smile. He would be, in every sense of the word, attractive. All the surfaces would shine. The ugliness concealed.
His smile was one of the keys to his character. But what is a smile if not a baring of teeth? The smile beams beatifically, but also represents a flashing of fangs. A threat. The wolfish grin. There’s menace under the surface.
Griffin Connelly was the kind of person who would smile at you while he stuck a knife in your back. And maybe, for pleasure, gave the blade a twist. The toothy smile was the mask he wore, this master of the mixed message.
Page 7, when Eric first meets Griffin:
The shaggy-haired boy in the lead pulled up right in the middle of the court, halfway between the foul line and the basket. He stayed on his bicycle seat, balanced on one leg, cool as a breeze. The boy looked at Eric. And Eric watched him look.
His hair fell around his eyes and below his ears, wavy and uncombed. He had soft features with thick lips and long eyelashes. The boy appeared to be around Eric’s age, maybe a year older, and looked, well, pretty. It was the word that leaped into Eric’s mind, and for no other reason than because it was true.
Some random examples now . . .
Words came easily to Griffin, his smile was bright and winning.
Griffin flashed a smile, that hundred-dollar smile he could turn on in an instant. He reached out his fist. “Are we cool, buddy
“Mrs. Chavez!” Griffin exclaimed, smiling cheerfully. “Please let me help you with that . . .”
There was no way Eric could tell Griffin Connelly that story. So he told bits and pieces and white lies. Eric wondered if Griffin sensed it, the whole truth, if somehow Griffin already knew, saw into Eric’s secret heart and smiled.
“You want to hang out, don’t you?” Griffin asked. He smiled, put an arm around Hallenback’s shoulder.
Griffin winked at Eric. Then gave that big Hollywood smile, and swept the hair from his eyes.
“What are you going to do? Punch me?” Griffin taunted, grinning.
“I’ll be seeing you around, Eric,” Griffin said. His smile was like a pure beam of distilled sunlight. His long lashes blinked, his cheeks pinkened. He wore a perfect mask of kindness and light.
Griffin smiled wide, folded his hands together, and said in a soft voice, “We’ll see about that.”
Griffin grinned through the insults.
Presented in this way, it may seem a little much. But in the context of the story, I suspect it’s unnoticed. The accumulated effect, I hope, is creepiness. Here’s a guy you can’t trust. Every threat comes with a smile. White teeth gleaming in the sunlight, fangs bared.