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Two words describe Archivist Wasp, in my opinion, confusing and compelling. It's not often a book is equal parts confusing and compelling. Even though I found myself with more questions than answers and lingering confusion, I couldn't stop reading Archivist Wasp. Two more words to describe the book? How about post-apocalyptic and ghosts?
Our heroine is an archivist calling herself "Wasp." I'll be honest, Wasp doesn't have the best of lives, even, when she's not fighting for her life, fighting to stay the Archivist. (She's challenged every year by three Upstarts. That's how she got the job as well, by killing the previous Archivist.) Archivists have a marginally better life than Upstarts. But essentially, no one in this post-apocalyptic world has a happy, easy life. The villagers, well, they have their problems too. But at least they aren't tortured/tormented by the Catchkeep's Priest and brainwashed into a life of hate and violence.
So what does an Archivist do? She hunts ghosts, recording what she learns from each ghost, disposes of ghosts after studying, except, for when a villager wants to buy a ghost for whatever reason. It's a bleak, lonely life. And Wasp does spend a good bit of the book recovering from various injuries.
So the book is about what happens when Wasp meets an out-of-the-ordinary ghost, one that is actually able to communicate with her, one that has a tragic tale to tell and a huge request for her. This nameless ghost (he can't remember his identity, I believe) wants her help in finding another ghost, Catherine Foster. He wants them both to travel to the underworld and search the spirit-world. She agrees, and, in the process learns that life below isn't any more bleak than life above. In fact, in some ways it might even be slightly better. But the search won't be easy. And it will have its own dangers.
The book is about what she learns through this search, it will change her certainly....
Do I understand everything that happened in Archivist Wasp? Not really. The quest was really confusing in places, and, she is thrown in and out of other people's memories. She sees the past on her quest, in bits and pieces, and probably not sequential flashbacks either. She has to piece it all together. And she does a much better job than I did with that!
THE SCORPION RULESby Erin BowSeries: Prisoners of PeaceHardcover: 384 pagesPublisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (September 22, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
In the future, the UN has brought back an ancient way to keep the peace. The children of world leaders are held hostage—if a war begins, they pay with their lives.
Greta is the Crown Princess of the Pan Polar
An Ember in the Ashes. Sabaa Tahir. 2015. Penguin. 446 pages. [Source: Library]
I definitely enjoyed reading Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes. This young adult fantasy is a quick, compelling read with two narrators. Laia is a slave from the conquered Scholars tribe. Elias is a Mask, a soldier from the dominant (conquering) Martials tribe. The chapters alternate points of view. Which is good and bad. Good in that both narrators have action-packed stories that sometimes happen to collide. Bad in that the action is interrupted oh-so-often. And when you're all caught up in the moment, the last thing you want to do is switch narrators! Even if you know that in just a page or two you'll be swept right back up again. But at least both stories are fast-paced and action-packed. It could be a lot worse.
So. The world building is interesting. And the world-building is gradual in a way. You keep learning more about the world as the plot unfolds. It is never so unsettling that you're completely confused. But you know that the world is unique from the start.
So what is this one about? Laia turns to the rebel resistance when her brother is arrested and put in prison. She has no spy-skills to speak of, but, she's determined to do whatever it takes, no matter how hard, no matter how risky, to free him. She's placed as a spy within Blackcliff, the soldier-school, and her mistress is cruel. (She's also the Commandant.)
Elias is planning an escape of his own. He may have trained as a soldier--as a mask--but he's never bonded with his mask. He doesn't see himself as a cruel, heartless soldier who rapes and kills and follows orders. But he hesitates at the last minute, and decides to become an Aspirant instead. There were four named. Two will die. One will be the new emperor. One will take an oath to serve the new emperor until death. And the four trials will be more challenging, more risky, than anything he's ever faced before.
Both Elias and Laia are absolutely miserable and are facing huge challenges daily...
I liked it because sometimes you just need an intense, compelling read.
Review by Paola
MATERIAL GIRLSby Elaine DimopoulosHardcover: 336 pagesPublisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (May 5, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves.
The heavy blade hung high above the prisoners, glinting against the stars, and then the Razor came down, a wedge of falling darkness cutting through the torchlight. One solid thump, and four more heads had been shaved from their bodies. The mob around the scaffold roared, a sudden deluge of cheers and mockery that broke like a wave against the viewing box, where the officials of the Sunken City watched from velvet chairs. The noise gushed on, over the coffins, around bare and booted feet crowding thick across the flagstones, pouring down the drains and into the deep tunnels beneath the prison yard like filth overflowing the street gutters. The city was bloodthirsty tonight.
If you love The Scarlet Pimpernel, Rook may appeal to you. Though I can't promise you'll love of it, of course. Rook is a loose retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. It's not set in France and England, but in the "Sunken City" and the "Commonwealth." Also, it's not historical fiction set during the days of the French Revolution, but, is set at least eight hundred years in the future. Perhaps a love of dystopia would add to the book's appeal. But for those readers who happen to love both, well, this one has a great premise.
Did I LOVE everything about Rook? I'll be honest, I didn't LOVE, LOVE, LOVE every little thing about it. I thought, however, that it worked more often than not. That overall, it was an enjoyable, mostly compelling romantic adventure.
Sophia Bellamy is the heroine of Rook. She keeps herself very busy, mainly by saving as many as she can from the Razor, all undercover, of course. Her father has arranged a marriage for her, not that he's concerned with her happiness or her future. But a good marriage will bring in enough money to pay off his debts and keep the property out of the hands of the Commonwealth. I don't often want to boo, hiss characters, but I must say that I was oh-so-tempted here. For he not only hurts his daughter, but, his son, as well by his words and actions. Rene Hasard has his own reasons for wanting the marriage.... Both Rene and Sophia have a few secrets they'd like to keep secret until they know the other person much, much better.
One thing, however, is obvious. Rene's cousin, Albert LeBlanc, is TROUBLE for Sophia. For it is his main goal in life to find the Red Rook...and bring "him" to justice.
Action, adventure, intrigue, betrayal, drama, and ROMANCE. I wouldn't mind a good adaptation of this one!
Here's how Scarlet Pimpernel begins so that you can compare:
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant raised an undying monument to the nation's glory and his own vanity. During the greater part of the day the guillotine had been kept busy at its ghastly work: all that France had boasted of in the past centuries, of ancient names, and blue blood, had paid toll to her desire for liberty and for fraternity. The carnage had only ceased at this late hour of the day because there were other more interesting sights for the people to witness, a little while before the final closing of the barricades for the night. And so the crowd rushed away from the Place de la Greve and made for the various barricades in order to watch this interesting and amusing sight. It was to be seen every day, for those aristos were such fools! They were traitors to the people of course, all of them, men, women, and children, who happened to be descendants of the great men who since the Crusades had made the glory of France: her old NOBLESSE. Their ancestors had oppressed the people, had crushed them under the scarlet heels of their dainty buckled shoes, and now the people had become the rulers of France and crushed their former masters—not beneath their heel, for they went shoeless mostly in these days—but a more effectual weight, the knife of the guillotine. And daily, hourly, the hideous instrument of torture claimed its many victims—old men, young women, tiny children until the day when it would finally demand the head of a King and of a beautiful young Queen.
Review by Meghann
Title: Nil Unlocked
Series: Nil #2Author: Lynne MatsonPublisher: Henry Holt and Co., an imprint of MacmillanGenre: Young Adult Fiction - Science Fiction, DystopianRelease Date: May 12, 2015Source: ARC provided by the publisher, opinions are honest and my own.
On the island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die. Rives is now the
THE MEMORY KEYby Liana LiuHardcover: 368 pagesPublisher: HarperTeen (March 3, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
Lora Mint is determined not to forget.
Though her mother's been dead for five years, Lora struggles to remember every detail about her—most important, the specific events that occurred the night she sped off in her car, never to return.
But in a world ravaged by
TRACKEDby Jenny MartinAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 400 pagesPublisher: Dial Books (May 5, 2015)Goodreads | Amazon
The Fast and the Furious gets a futuristic twist in this action-packed debut!
On corporately controlled Castra, rally racing is a high-stakes game that seventeen-year-old Phoebe Van Zant knows all too well. Phee’s legendary racer father
Reviews by Andye
RED QUEENRed Queen #1by Victoria AveyardHardcover: 400 pagesPublisher: HarperTeen (February 10, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her
It was an era that began with the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars. The years that followed were marked by internal conflict and political disagreement.
Life was hard. Wealthy land owners and nobility controlled nearly all of the land. Most people were farmers, living in rural areas. Books were few and few people could read them. Serfdom kept many people poor.
This was the time of the cumbersomeGerman Confederation, created by German princes to retain their control in a time of growing upheaval and conflict.
The shifting sands of power lay in 37 principalities and four cities. Uncertainty reigned.
Folklore and folk tales were an integral part of people's awareness. Forests played a major role in these stories. The forests were deep and often dangerous.
We know that stories -- folk tales -- were often told by country women when several gathered together in a neighbor's farm home while sewing, weaving and cooking.This was their social life. Perhaps men told these stories in markets, or taverns, or around a campfire.
The stories that were told were collected by the Brothers Grimm and remain today the foundation of our children's fairy tale literature.
Next month, on February 24, we will see the publication in English of over 70 tales collected in Bavaria by a contempoary of the Grimm Brothers, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth. The Grimm's admired Schönwerth and his work.
The collection is now entitled The Turnip Princess, The book has been translated by Maria Tatar, author of many books on children's literature, blogger (Breezes from Wonderland), and chair of the Program on Folklore and Mythology at Harvard.
The painting is by Jean- Francois Millet. The bookcover is by Walter Crane; the translation from German is by Lucy Crane.
The Stories Never End
“It has generally been assumed that fairy tales were first created for children and are largely the domain of children. But nothing could be further from the truth.
From the very beginning, thousands of years ago, when tales were told to create communal bonds in face of the inexplicable forces of nature, to the present, when fairy tales are written and told to provide hope in a world seemingly on the brink of catastrophe, mature men and women have been the creators and cultivators of the fairy tale tradition...."
Inevitably they find their way into the forest. It is there that they lose and find themselves. It is there that they gain a sense of what is to be done. The forest is always large, immense, great and mysterious. No one ever gains power over the forest, but the forest posses the power to change lives and alter destinies....”
The illustration is by Arthur Rackham
The above quotations are byJack Zipes, theauthor of many books on myths, folklore, and children's literature including The Brothers Grimm, From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World.
Recognized as a pioneer in the field of children's literature, Zipes latest publication is a translation of the first edition (1812-1815) of the The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (see the Guardian article below). The first edition (Volumes One and Two), of 156 tales, had previously never before been translated into English. By the time of the Grimm's final edition in 1857, "immense changes had taken place".
The original edition of the Grimm's fairy tales incorporated oral tales, legends, myths, fables and pagan beliefs. The book was intended for adult readers. This edition is illustratrd by Andrea Dezso.
Writer for the Guardian create leading edge articles on fairy tales, folklore, and children's literature. Philip Oltermann recently wrote about von Schoenwerth, The Turnip Princessand Maria Tartar. Alison Flood wrote about Jack Zipe's translation of the first edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.
Both of these books are major events in the world of folklore, fairy tales, and children's literature..
Illustration by Alexander Zwick
Here is an excerpt from Oltermann's article:Forgotten Fairytales Slay the Cinderella Stereotype...
The stash of stories compiled by the 19th-century folklorist Franz Xaver von Schönwerth – recently rediscovered in an archive in Regensburg and now to be published in English for the first time this spring – challenges preconceptions about many of the most commonly known fairytales...
Harvard academic Maria Tatar argues that they reveal the extent to which the most influential collectors of fairytales, the Brothers Grimm, often purged their stories of surreal and risque elements to make them more palatable for children.
“Here at last is a transformation that promises real change in our understanding of fairytale magic,” says Tatar, who has translated Schönwerth’s stories for a new Penguin edition called The Turnip Princess. “Suddenly we discover that the divide between passive princesses and dragon-slaying heroes may be little more than a figment of the Grimm imagination.”
Here is the headline from Alison Flood's article: Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales Have Blood and Horror Restored in New Translation....
The original stories, according to the academic (Zipes), are closer to the oral tradition, as well as being “more brusque, dynamic, and scintillating”. In his introduction to The Original Folk andFairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, in which Marina Warner says he has “redrawn the map we thought we knew”, and made the Grimms’ tales “wonderfully strange again”, Zipes writes that the originals “retain the pungent and naive flavour of the oral tradition”, and that they are “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious”, with the Grimms yet to add their “sentimental Christianity and puritanical ideology”.
The Frog King or Iron Henry...an Excerpt from the new Jack Zipes translation of the Brothers Grimm...
"The princess became terrified when she heard this, for she was afraid of the cold frog. She didn't dare to touch him, and now he was to lie in her bed next to her. She began to weep and didn't want to comply with his wishes at all. But the king became angry and ordered her to do what she had promised, or she'd be held in disgrace. Nothing helped. She had to do what her father wanted, but she was bitterly angry in her heart. So she picked up the frog with two fingers, carried him upstairs into her room, lay down in her bed, and instead of setting him down next to her, she threw him crash! against the wall. "Now you'll leave me in peace, you nasty frog!"
"The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep to one version or one translation alone is to put a robin redbreast in a cage. A fairy tale is not a text..."- Author Phillip Pullman
Wonder Tale...An alternative term for “fairytale” is “wonder tale”, from the Germanwundermärchen, which catches a quality of the genre more eloquently than “fairytale” or “folk tale” because it acknowledges the defining activity of magic in the stories. The suspension of natural physical laws produces a heightened and impossible state of reality, which leads to wonder, astonishment, the ’ajaib(astonishing things) sought in Arabic literary ideas of fairytale... An excerpt from How Fairy Tales Grew Up, by Marina Warner, author, critic, in the Guardian
A Fair Shake for Youth... uses therapy dogs to help disadvantaged children "build empathy, self-esteem and reduce bullying...
"31% of New York City youth are living in poverty - often facing challenges of inadequate housing, under-performing schools, violence and fractured families. Many kids see few possibilities for the future...
A Fair Shake for Youth partners with schools and community organizations to bring therapy dog teams to disadvantaged and vulnerable middle school-aged youth...The kids discover (the) social tools and build a view of themselves that enables them to envision greater possibilities for their lives...
Hands On and a Curriculum that Resonates
The Fair Shake program can be integrated into the school day, after school, weekend or summer camp programming. The ten-week curriculum includes hands-on work with the dogs and dog-related topics covered by speakers, demonstrations"...read more about this excellent, results-oriented program at Fair Shake
Video: See Fair Shake in action when Isabella and Samantha, two young girls, tell us, in their own words, of their experiences with the dogs and the Fair Shake for Youth program.
A Fair Shake for Youth has been the recipient of a grant from the Planet Dog Foundation
The following is by librarian Liz Burns, excerpted from her outstanding blog, A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
"I read for fun. Not for enlightenment, not to be a better person, not to learn about the universal human experience. I read to get scared, I read to fall in love, I read to feel less alone, I read for adventure, I read for so many reasons that all fall under.... because I want to.
And if that's why I read, why shouldn't that be OK for teens and kids?
Oh, I get that just like I have things to read with a purpose for work, they have things they have to read with a purpose for school. But that's not the only way or reason to read. And, especially outside the school environment, reading for fun, rather than reading "because", should be championed.
It shouldn't be a guilty pleasure.
It should just be ... a pleasure."
A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy was founded on April 2, 2005 with a welcome post that set forth a mission statement: to write about "story. Because it's all about story: the stories we tell, the ones we believe, the ones we read, the ones we watch. The ones we want to believe in; the ones we're afraid of. The stories we tell because we're afraid. While the majority of my posts are about children's and young adult books, I also write about television and film, sometimes adult books, as well as publishing and library news." - Liz Burns
In the photo by Susan Purser, Chase reads with his friend, therapy dog Rose
Aesop's Fables Never End
"No author has been so intimately and extensively associated with children's literature as Aesop. His fables have been accepted as the core of childhood readingand instruction since Plato, and they have found their place in political and social satire and moral teaching throughout medieval, Renaissance, and modern cultures...
...Fables have long ago escaped the confines of the nursery and the schoolroom. Their readerships have included parents as well as children, masters as well as slaves. rulers as well as subjects..."
Seth Lerer writing onAesop's Fables and Their Afterlives in his book,Children's Literature, A Reader's History From Aesop to Harry Potter
The Loyal Dog and Her Not-So-Loyal Owner
Ann Staub, a former vet tech, caring person, mother, and blogger on Pawsitively Pets (dedicated to all things animal), wrote a touching account of finding a lost dog, and the sad aftermath. Here is an excertpt and link:
My hopes and dreams of a spectacular reunion were destroyed with what I learned next. The family member I was helping didn't want the dog back. He "wanted his friends to adopt her from where ever she was at"...
There would be no reunion between loyal dog and not-so-loyal owner. And I find it both depressing and infuriating.
I'm not an emotional person. I don't get teary-eyed over things that most people do. Perhaps this is one of the "strengths" that allowed me to become a good veterinary technician. This, however, made me cry.
This dog was adopted from the animal shelter about 3 years ago. After about a year, those people no longer wanted her so my family member took her in. Now, he no longer wants her so someone else will take her. How many more times will she face this same situation? Will she be thrown out like trash again when she's old and sick?...This is a good dog and she deserves so much better than this.
So I guess it's up to the people who know better to educate those who don't. If you have a friend or family member that wants to get a new pet, tell them that pets are a lifelong commitment. Ask them if they are prepared to care for that animal during the entire duration of their life.
Here is a link to read the entire article and see photos...Ann Staub
LitWorld celebrated World Read Aloud Day with disadvantaged children in over 75 countries last year..." motivating children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creating communities of readers...showing the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people."
The photo was taken in Suriname.
KidLitosphere has helped many readers find their way to these pages. Here is an excerpt from their home page...
"Some of the best books being published today are children’s and young adult titles, well-written and engaging books that capture the imagination. Many of us can enjoy them as adults, but more importantly, can pass along our appreciation for books to the next generation by helping parents, teachers, librarians and others to find wonderful books, promote lifelong reading, and present literacy ideas."Here is a link to Kidlitosphere.
The illustration from Planet Of The Dogs is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty
Our story begins long, long ago, before there were dogs on Planet Earth.
There was plenty of space in those days for people to settle and grow things. Many of the places where people lived were very beautiful. There were clear lakes and cool streams with lots of fish. There were fields and woods with game to hunt. And there were rolling hills and open plains with plants growing everywhere. Many people settled in these places of abundance and prospered.
And then, invaders came. Where once there had been harmony and friendship, there was now fear, anger, and unhappiness. Something had to be done -- but what could anybody do? No one knew it at that time, but help would come from the Planet of the Dogs.
Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore or via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...
Librarians, teachers, bookstores...Order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
Therapy reading dog owners, librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs -- you can write us at email@example.com and we will send youfree reader copies from the Planet of the Dogs Series...Read Dog Books to Dogs...
The map of Green Vally and the illustration of Stone City are by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty
"Any one of these books would make for a delightful—and one would assume cherished—gift for any child. All three would be an amazing reading adventure."Darlene Arden, educator, dog expert, and author of Small Dogs Big Hearts.
A Master of Childhood Dreams...His Stories never End Miyazaki Wins Again, After 11 Animated Features
Hayao Miyazaki was given an honorary Oscar on Nov. 8 at the Governors Awards ceremony, one that he can put on the shelf next to the statuette he won in 2003 when his masterpiece, “Spirited Away,” was named best animated feature...
What makes his films so memorable — from the great ones, like “Spirited Away,” which is a coming-of-age tale, and the ecological fables “Princess Mononoke” and “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” to less profound but still captivating works like“Kiki’s Delivery Service” and the mesmerizing “My Neighbor Totoro” — is something that’s harder to label. You know it when you feel it: the mastery of tone and emotion, embodied in every gesture, expression, movement and setting, that give the films a watchfulness, a thoughtfulness, an unaffected gravity. To watch a Miyazaki movie is to remember what it was like to be a smart and curious child..."
The Hunger Games-Mockingjay Part One
This third episode of Hunger Games is relevant to disturbing real world events. Like like the to earlier films it is entertaining . However, this episode has more substance as Andrew Lapin writes in his excellent and thoughtful review for NPR, "all of these images have resonance in real events of this year." The film has grossed over $700 million worldwide thus far and still drawing audiences. Here is an excerpt from his Andrew Lapin's review:
"When producers were laying track for the Hunger Games series years ago, they couldn't have foreseen how discomforting author Suzanne Collins' descriptions of a war-torn authoritarian state would look on the big screen in 2014. In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One, Jennifer Lawrence witnesses and/or learns of: towns reduced to rubble, refugee camps next to mass graves, public executions of innocents with burlap sacks over their heads, law enforcement gunning down protesters in the street, and a military bombing a hospital filled with civilians. All of these images have resonance in real events of this year, generations before Collins predicted civilization would devolve into a regime that maintains control over its citizens with televised death matches..."
Fairy tales are combined in this Walt Disney adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's broadway musical hit...71% of the critics (Rotten Tomatoes) wrote favorable reviews. However, there were often reservations in the reviewer's responses.
"It is rated PG. But kids watching the film in my local theater seemed dampened by the mopey second half. They laughed at the cleverness of the first act, as well known storybook characters crossed into each other’s stories and interacted; still, it should be said that when it comes to clever fairy-tale mash-ups, “Shrek” does it better. But as for the second act’s dreary sharing of existential facts (regarding mortality, adultery, etc.), all in the name of growing-up and becoming undeceived, well, kids aren’t big on Weltschmerz. And that’s because, as James Barrie complained in “Peter Pan,” the young are gay and heartless."
Peter Jackson has had enormous box office success with films inspired by Tolkien's Middle Earth books. It seems, however, that Tolkien's ideas have again been overcome by Jackson's computer generated violence. Here is the opening of Andrew O'Hehir's review in Salon...
"Presumably everyone now understands that Peter Jackson’s bloated “Hobbit” trilogy has only an arm’s-length, tangential relationship with the classic children’s novel that J.R.R. Tolkien first published in 1937, essentially launching the epic fantasy genre that now dominates so much of popular culture...
And here is an excerpt from Nicolas Rapold's review in the New York Times....
"What this adaptation of “The Hobbit” can’t avoid by its final installment is its predictability and hollow foundations. It’s been said before, but Mr. Jackson himself is still haunted by the past: For all the craft, there’s nothing here like the unity and force of “The Lord of the Rings,” which is positively steeped in mythology and features (wonder of wonders) rounder characterization than the scheduled revelations on display here..."
Nancy Houser, has several posts on her Way Cool Dogs blog about puppies, from "Taming Puppy Aggresion" to "Wonderful Small Puppies for Children". Here is an excerpt and link from : 6 Incredible Reasons to Get a Rescue Puppy
"When you save a rescue puppy, you are saving its life. Many shelters have to put dogs to sleep because they can’t afford to keep them. When you decide to take a rescue animal home with you, you are giving it a second chance in life. Many rescue dogs used to have owners, but their owners treated them poorly or abandoned them. Pets deserve better than that. You have a chance to make a real difference to an animal’s life, and so you should take it..."
I haven't seen The Giver (released in theaters last year) nor read Lois Lowry's YA book, The Giver (1993). However, it was favorably cited by Jerry Griswold, Director of the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature, and author of Feeling Like a Kid, Childhood and Children's Literature. Therefore, I did some research...
I found enough information on the internet to be intrigued. The Giver is a different take on a dystopian future; relying more on concept than violence. The trailer and descriptions/synopsis provide a provocative look at a different approach to dystopia, quite at variance from the strife ridden simplicity of YA films like Divergent and the Labyrinth.
The book of The Giver was well received as a young adult book, winning a Newberry Award in 1994 as well as awards from the ALA, the NEA, and the School Library Journal. It has sold over 10,000 copies. The film, however, didn't fare well at the box office and has already been released as a DVD. Here is the Film Critics Consensus according to Rotten Tomatoes: "Phillip Noyce directs The Giver with visual grace, but the movie doesn't dig deep enough into the classic source material's thought-provoking ideas."
Empowerment for Animal Advocates in C.A. Wulff's Book
How to Change the World in Thirty Seconds, is empowering...it's the internet made easy, the internet as a tool, the internet as a dog's best friend... a book and a way to make a difference... for dog lovers, animal advocates and anyone who wants to make the world a better place.
Here is an unedited Amazon review excerpt by Johanna:"This is probably the best "how-to" book I have ever seen. It is written in a very conversational manner while being extremely educational. Along with giving step-by-step instructions on how to use each advocacy tool, Cayr gives some background on each website, organization, and group, and explains how each is set up and how the different helping processes work. She walks you through the necessary steps and gives tips...
Rocket Boy, the dog in the photo by C.A. Wulff, one of her pack of rescued dogs.
YA Book Preview of The Motherless Child Project by Janie McQeen and Robin Karr.
I don't often discuss YA books. However, I have long admired Janie McQueen's previous Magic Bookshelf books and I am currently reading (report coming in my next blog) her poignant new book The Motherless Child Project.
Meanwhile, I am posting an excerpt from Midwest Book Review:
"To say that The Motherless Child Project is a book about change and self-discovery would be doing it an injustice: it's so much more... Any teen reader looking for a powerful, compelling story--especially those who are motherless themselves, whatever the reason--will find The Motherless Child Project a powerful saga worthy of attention and acclaim."--
D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Jingles...a book, a toy, and dog rescue
The Story of Jinglesis the first book in the newly launched Operation ResCUTE series. Each Book comes with a Stuffed Animal Set. And each purchase helps to rescue a dog!
Here's the review by C.A. Wulff in the Examiner...
"The book, authored by Jingles, is 24 pages long, with full color illustrations. It comes adorably packaged in a window box with a stuffed animal of Jingles and an “I am a ResCuter!” Operation ResCute sticker for the child. The second book in the series will feature a rescue dog named Tanner. Operation ResCute has a contest underway to find a third dog and his/her story.
Kids will love the book and the toy, and parents will love the message. Giving this as a gift will make you feel great, too, because 100% of the proceeds go directly to animal rescues."
The ResCUTE books and stuffed animals are not available in retail stores, but can be purchased on amazon and through the organization’s website."
The Hugging Bears (from the Guardian)
"Inspired by the delightful statue of two bears on display in Kensington Gardens in London, "The Hugging Bears" is the story of two bear cubs, Ruggley and Teddi, who live with their mother in the wintry wilderness. A sudden and violent encounter with humankind changes the cubs' lives forever.
Told with great simplicity and much heart by Carol Butcher, and featuring charming colour illustrations by Sue Turner, "The Hugging Bears" will be enjoyed by young children everywhere. The book also has a useful message about human's often unkind treatment of wild animals."
The profits from this book will go to the charity Happy Child International, which supports the street children of Brazil.
"Fences for Fidois a group of volunteers who get together to build fences for dogs in Oregon who are currently living out their lives on a chain. They do fundraisers and accept donations in order to make this work possible. On their facebook page, Fences for Fido share many inspirational photos and videos of the building process, and especially the happy dogs taking their first off-chain run in their brand new yard- always great! I love how this organization focuses on the positive aspects of what they are doing, and come from a non-judgmental approach. I believe these two things are the key to their success so far..."
The above information is from She Speaks Bark, Kaitlin Jenkins dog-loving blog. Kaitlin wrote about this being National Unchain a Dog month; as part of the article, she wrote about Fences for Fido. I, too, much admire the work they do, having previously written about them in this blog. Here is the link to read more of her excellent post about the wonderful work of Fences For Fido:KaitlinJenkins
The Walled City UNABRIDGED By Ryan Graudin Narrated By Eugene Kim, Kim Mai Guest, Janet Song Length: 10 hrs and 28 mins Release Date: 11-04-14 Publisher: Hachette Audio Goodreads | Audible | Amazon
730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.
DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin
THE JEWELby Amy EwingSeries: Jewel (Book 1)Hardcover: 368 pagesPublisher: HarperTeen (September 2, 2014)Goodreads | Amazon
The Jewel means wealth, the Jewel means beauty—but for Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Born and raised in the Marsh, Violet finds herself living in the Jewel as a servant at the estate of the Duchess of the Lake. Addressed only by her number—#197—Violet is
The 5th Wave. Rick Yancey. 2013. Penguin. 457 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Why reread The 5th Wave? Well, I wanted to reread The 5th Wave before beginning the second book in the series, The Infinite Sea. Also, it made sense to reread it for the Sci-Fi Experience!!!
If you're considering reading it for yourself in the near future, you might want to skip this review. Not because I'm planning on including spoilers. I'm not. But because some books should just be experienced as they are--no expectations, no hype.
So what is it about? Alien invasion. Humanity's fight to survive. It's a sci-fi thriller. It's intense and action-packed. Yet not without heart and soul and substance. It's action-packed and emotional. (Not always easy to balance the two to every reader's satisfaction.)
What else should you expect? Well. It's told through multiple narrators. Cassie, "Zombie," and "Nugget" to name a few. Normally this tends to irritate me. But I actually really enjoyed it in The 5th Wave. Yes, it was a bit disconcerting the first transition or two. But overall, it adds to the suspense and tension. The novel is better because of it.
Choices. To trust or not to trust. That is what The 5th Wave is about. Human survivors forced into difficult situations. Should they trust any survivor they come across? Should they assume the worst, and kill before they can be killed. Kill without question, without thinking, no exceptions. Or should they risk their own lives by clinging to hope that their are other survivors out there--survivors that are very much still human? Misplaced trust could prove deadly after all. But becoming a killer robs you of who you were.
This is what the Others have done to us. You can't band together to fight without trust. And without trust, there was no hope. How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.
It was Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol that transformed Christmas, first in Victorian England as the industrial age was barreling ahead, and then throughout Europe. Dicken's notion that the true Christmas spirit embodied caring and generouisity -- especially for those less fortunate -- influenced the thinking of multitudes and transformed the holiday.
The ancient orgins of Christmas and of Santa Claus have been traced to many cultures including Scandanavian (especially Danish), Germanic, Dutch and British.
The legend of Santa Claus, himself, was greatly enhanced by the poem A Visit from St Nicholas, written for his children, by the American, Clement Clarke Moore, in 1823.
Images by some of the great illustrators have deeply influenced perceptions of Santa and Chistmas. This is especially true for children. However, significant impressions in the minds of adults were also made by the Dicken's illustrations of John Leech (and later by Arthur Rackham) in Great Britain, and the yearly illustrations by Thomas Nast of A Visit From St Nicholasin the USA.
With the passing of time, the spirit of Christmas has changed. The idea of gifts for children, and then others, has evolved with stories, TV, films, merchants, and ceaseless marketing into an often overwhelming distortion of the original spirit of A Christmas Carol. But the spirit does live on.
A Christmas Carol
"Few works in the history of popular culture have had as much pronounced effect as Charles Dickens’s AChristmas Carol, first published in 1843. While Christmas Day had always been a sacred, solemn feast day within the Christian faith (just as the Winter Solstice had been in many pagan cultures before it), it wasn’t until the middle part of the 1800s that many began to see it less as a site of religious devotion than as a holiday to be celebrated, and to be celebrated most specifically through the act of giving. While A Christmas Carol didn’t spawn this tradition itself, it, more than any other force, popularized it throughout the western world. Through its powerful, secular story of redemption through charity and love, Dickens imparted to all that Christmas was a time to celebrate all that was worthwhile about the human race, most specifically our love for one another, and our compassion for those less fortunate."...
To read the rest of this excellent article by Jonathan Morris, theAntiscribe, follow this link It will take you to his comprehensive and instghtful article on the significance and lasting impact of Charles Dicken's and A Christmas Carol.Morris also provides, in this article, informed reviews of multiple film and TV versions of A ChristmasCarolthrough the years; he includes photos and video links.
This link will enable you to download/read the original version of A Christmas Carolby Charles Dickens"
This link will take you to the 1971 Annimated version of A ChristmasCarol produced by Chuck Jones, directed by Richard Williams, and with the voice of Alister Sim as Ebeneezer Scrooge. This is a classic and a favorite of Jonathan Morris:Annimated Christmas Carol
The top two illustrations on the left are by John leech. The illustration, on the right, is by Thomas Nast. The illustrator of the bottom left Christmas scene is unknown.
"I don't know what to do.' cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his stockings. `I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody. A happy New Year to all the world. Hallo here. Whoop. Hallo.' "--
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
A Foxwoods Holiday Celebration
This wonderful illustration is by Brian Fox-Patterson for a series of children's books by Brian and his wife, Cynthia. To see more of his delightful illustrations, visit Foxwood Tales Illustrations.
"Their first story was published in 1985, and seven more followed. Since then the series of eight children's books have become modern classics. Over 1.3 million copies have been sold across 18 countries." (Wikipedia) For summaries of six of the books, visit loveReading4Kids. A compilation of four of the Tales can be found in the book, A Foxwood Treasury.
I discovered the Foxwood Tales through the illustrations. I haven't read the books, but I wanted to share the superb illustrations.
"The year 2014 will see the 48th annual Kwanzaa, the African American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1. It is estimated that some 18 million African Americans take part in Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, nor is it meant to replace Christmas. It was created by Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga, a professor of Black Studies, in 1966. At this time of great social change for African Americans, Karenga sought to design a celebration that would honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans who were working for progress.
Kwanzaa is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years."...Kwanzaa ends with a feast and gift giving... Holidays are forever
“One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Spirit of Christmas Embodied in a Therapy Dog
This is about Susan and Rose. That's Rose in the photos. It is also about the thousands of therapy dogs bringing unconditional love to young and old. Susan Purser is a retired teacher and has been working for several years with Rose in schools , hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. These are Susan's comments about working with Rose.
“No matter who you are or why you do pet therapy, it is the dog that opens the door…doors that would otherwise be closed to a well meaning human...
“I consider myself a facilitator…if my dog could drive, she would not need me. Rose seems to enjoy seeing people multiple times and developing a relationship with the people… She is a working dog by nature and she just loves these jobs. I am constantly amazed at the doors that Rose opens…she goes to places I could never get without her…reaches beyond my reach, touches a person deeper than my touch. The restless or agitated patient who is calmed by Rose’s touch...the child in the classroom who won’t settle down and get to work but when Rose sits by them, they quiet right down and the hyperactivity seems to dissipate. The child getting excited about reading to Rose every week; they wouldn’t do that for me, but they do it for Rose...
It is their touch or look that gives people that inner peace when their world is shrinking or spinning so fast they have lost control. When doors begin the final closing, there is that one last smile, nod, a hand that reaches for a dog that allows some of them to say good bye and close their eyes in peace.” The photos of Rose are courtesy of Susan Purser.
The Gift of Reading from LitWorld
Here is a joyous video from Litworld, celebrating the joy of reading, the joy of being somebody, the joy of hope. LitWorld gives the gift of readingto disadvantaged and at-risk children around the world...and they do this not only during the Christmas season, but throughout the year!
LitWorld supports hopes, possibilities and lives in fourteen countries around the world! This link will take you to an interactive map of where Litworld works, from Columbia to India and from Kosovo to California. Interactive Map.
Interview With Santa
This interview was conducted as part of a program to determine the truth behind the incredible story of The Snow Valley Heroes....
Interviewer: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and clarifying things.
Santa: I’m happy that the story is finally coming out.
Interviewer: Is it a true story?
Interviewer: Why haven’t we known about it before?
Santa: I think it was lost in the mists of time…It took place hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
Interviewer: Is it true that there was to be no more Christmas?
Santa: I’m sorry to say that it’s true. Until the dogs arrived.
Interviewer: The dogs?
Santa: It was a surprise to all of us in Santa Claus village. None of us, and that includes all the elves,had even heard of dogs.
Interviewer: Is that because you were so far North and rather isolated?
Santa: Well, that and the fact that dogs has just started arriving on planet earth. Prior to that time, there had been no dogs on Earth.
Interviewer: Really! Where did they come from? And how did they find you?
Santa: They had started coming down from their own planet – the Planet of the Dogs. They came down to help people. Somehow, they had heard we were in trouble, and one day, there they were, just like that...
The illustrations from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, are by Stella Mustanoja McCarty
Free copies of Snow Valley Heroes, a Christmas Tale; Planet Of The Dogs; and Castle In The Mistare available for therapy dog owners and organizations, as well as librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your postal address.
All of the Planet Of The Dogsseries of books are available through your favorite independent bookstore and online through Barnes&Noble, Amazon, and many other sources.
"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
―Dr Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Finding Fido for Doglovers
"Finding Fido is a book that we believe each and every PetParent should not only read, but own. Finding Fido is a PetParent’s guide to: preventing the loss of their pets in the first place & also serves as a guide to PetParents for essential steps to recovering their pets if they ever are lost. If you’re a first time Pet Parent or a long time, seasoned Pet Parent, there are tips and tricks in here that will be helpful to you!...
As great as this book truly is, we’ve got one detail to share that completely sweetens the pot…the cherry on top if you will. All proceeds from the sale of Finding Fido are donated toward the Beagle Freedom Project" Kaitlin Jenkins- PetParent The cover design and content are by author and dog advocate C.A. Wulff
Holiday Season at the Movies
Fun stories.fantasy and imaginative annimation characterize the holiday movies for children...while dystopia, conflict and bloodshed continue to pour out of YA films.
My hope is that children will see the films intended for them, and stay away from the violence of current YA movies, designed, as Christopher Tolkien says below, as action movies for young people 15 to 25.
JRR Tolkien's son, Christopher, believes that the quest for commercial success by Peter Jackson and the movie industry has destoyed the essence of what his father wrote about the world of Middle Earth in the Hobbit books. Here are excerpts from a post regarding Christopher Tolkien's deep disappointment that appeared on Worldcrunch. The quotes by Tolkien are from an interview he gave to le Monde.
"Invited to meet Peter Jackson, the Tolkien family preferred not to. Why? 'They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25,' Christopher says regretfully. 'And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.'..
This divorce has been systematically driven by the logic of Hollywood. 'Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time,' Christopher Tolkien observes sadly. 'The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing' "....
The illustration,"Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raftelves, is by JRR Tolkien.
The Hobbit, Battle of the Five Armies, opens Dec 17. Here is a link to the trailer: Five Armies:
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay1
The story of the Hunger Games continues through the Holiday Season and beyond, with Mockingjay 1.It opened in late November and is off to becoming another huge financial success. Audiences seem to like the film despite the fact that many critics were dissapointed.
Here is an excerpt from the review in the Atlantic by Christopher Orr entitled, Hunger Games: Mockingjay1, Darker, More Relentles than Ever.
"Is the film a bit baggy in places? Sure. Might it have been better if they’d squeezed the whole book into one movie? Probably. Nonetheless, Mockingjay Part 1 is a fine entertainment, shot through with moments of surprising emotional impact."
The dystopian story appears to be a theme for success in today's YA film market. In reviewing The Maze Runner, Jack Cole wrote that The Maze Runner doesn't separate itself from its YA dystopian bretheren. Here is the headline and an excerpt from Cole's insightful review:In 'The Maze Runner,' the maze itself is a letdown and the film presents boring explanations to the plot's mysteries. By Jake Coyle, Associated Press.
Has a cottage industry ever sprung up as fast as the YA land rush brought on by "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games"? I'd like to use a mortal instrument to put an ender to this game. Please, giver me a break.
But to be fair, there isn't anything inherently wrong with "The Maze Runner," directed by special effects-veteran Wes Ball. It's just that it does so little to find its own path separate from its dystopia brethren. All of the recent young-adult formulas are adhered to here: the teenage rebellion against tradition, the coming-of-age metaphors, the heavy sequel-baiting.
Here is a link to the trailer for The Maze Runner. The film has grossed over one hundred million dollars and continues to play. It was not expensive to produce. There will be a sequel.
Movie Violence and Children...
I believe that films with relentless violence, surround sound, fearful images and often in 3-D, will disturb children. How many children, twelve and under, are seeing the current crop of violent dyustopian films?
I presume the producers of these films, and to a lesser extent, the writers of the book series on which they are based, see violence as an important aspect of marketing and audience appeal.
Perhaps, many young adult viewers, after watching the Hunger Games, are more appreciative of the world they live in and of the fact that they are not one of the 25 million refugee children across the world.
After reading Jerry Griswold's enthusiastic comments about The Giver in the Unjournal of Children's Literature, I decided to research the movie and write about it. The film was based on a controversial, but well received book by Lois Lowry.The book was published in 1993 and the movie was released in July, 2014. The Giverhad a different take on dystopia and the use of violence.
I have now decided to see the movie before writing further about The Giver. To be continued...
Into The Woods
Into the Woods, which seems to be a Disney family film for children, YA, and parents, is now opening on Christmas Day, 2014. The film's slogan, "Be careful what you wish for", relates to the witch, a central character, played by Meryl Streep. Music by Stephen Sondheim, adds to the story, as it did in the original long running Broadway production.
In the story, the witch uses her magical powers to teach lessons in living to Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk. The original production was a big hit with audiences.
Opens Dec 18... Annie, a family movie, is based on the hit Broadway musical. The cast includes Jamie Fox, Quvenzhane Wallis and Cameron Diaz...Here is a summary from IMDB where you will also find more information, photos and trailers.
Annie looks joyous and entertaining in the trailer preview.
"Annie is a young, happy foster kid who's also tough enough to make her way on the streets of New York in 2014. Originally left by her parents as a baby with the promise that they'd be back for her someday, it's been a hard knock life ever since with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan. But everything's about to change..."
Holiday Children's Movies Galore
Here are three more kid's films that look good in their trailers and have been generally well received by reviewers. I have previously posted good notices for the following recently opened movies: Box Trolls, Book of Life, and Hero of Color City --
Big Hero 6
Critics Consensus from Rotten Tomatoes : "Agreeably entertaining and brilliantly animated, Big Hero 6 is briskly-paced, action-packed, and often touching." In 3D. Now Playing. Box office: 200 million thus far. Here is the trailer for Big Hero 6 ...Looks like fun.
Paddington Review...Here is an excerpt from the 3 star review by Xan Brooks in the Guardian
"Paddington, directed by Paul King from the original Michael Bond stories, spins the tale of a small bear (voiced very ably by Ben Whishaw) weaned on marmalade jars and idealised notions of England. The film is as warm as an eiderdown and as fluffy as its feathers. Cast out of his forest home, Paddington hops a cargo ship and comes to London, where his decorous dreams bump up against modern reality"
Opening December 12. Here is the trailer: Paddington Adopted from a classic children's book.
Critics Consensus from Rotten Tomatoes: "Penguins of Madagascar is fast and brightly colored enough to entertain small children, but too frantically silly to offer real filmgoing fun for the whole family."
Christmas Lights Moving Through the Hills
A Holiday treat, and a wonder to behold, the moving lights are on hundreds of sheep, running in the darkness, guided by sheepdogs...this is a classic video...Moving Lights
From Rescue to Reading...A Holiday Salute
We Salute the Planet Dog Foundation for their years of support for "the exemplary work of non-profit organizations training and placing dogs working to help people in need all over the country."
Through the years, they have given over one million dollars; in 2014, alone, they have given over one hundred thousand dollars.
The photo is from Brigadoon Youth and Service Dog Programs in Bellingham,WA
Circling The Waggins at Christmas
Here is an an excerpt from the doglover's book, Circling the Waggins, by CA Wulff. The dogs seen in the ebook cover (below) are the current residents of the cabin in the woods wherein this saga of a life with rescued dogs takes place.
"I feel like we are haunted by the ghost dog of Christmas past.The season brings a million reminders of our Troll, a dog who had loved Christmas more than any other time of year. He would get excited at the first signs of holiday decorations, and his eyes would shine with a child’s wonder. On Christmas morning, he would race to be the first dog under the tree, to tear at the packages full of biscuits and rawhides. Each of the dogs would tear at a package, but Troll unwrapped with such gusto and fervor, that they would all abandon their presents to stand back and watch him, and then make off with whatever treats he had revealed."
CA Wullf also created the cover for her book.
Way Cool Dogs On Finding a Puppy That's Good for Kids
Choosing the right puppy is a critical decision...here is an excerpt from a helpful article on Way Cool Dogs.
"How do you choose a puppy that is good for your children? It is a question every parent should ask before deciding to adopt one of the small puppy breeds for their child. Toy puppies can make great companions for kids if they are chosen properly, and the child is trained to handle small puppies properly. And to be fair, a child is the only one who can keep up with the boost of energy that puppies seem to be born with!
The good news is that you have a variety of small puppy breeds to choose from: mini Yorkies, Maltese, Havanese, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and many others. Smaller dogs seem to be less intimidating around children. If the puppies are small, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be aggressive with children. You just need to be careful when choosing a perfect small puppy for your home...
The illustration, from Planet Of The Dogs, is by Stella Mustanoja McCarty
Sunbear Squad guides good hearted people like those who sent Sunbear this post....
Christmas Rescue of a Lost Rescue Dog
Are you ready for a sweet Christmas story about a little lost doggy? We were walking our two dogs a few days ago and saw a little scared pup that looked like a Shitzu/Llasa Apso mix. He was limping, his hair was shaved, he had no collar. We scooped the little guy up and brought him home with us. We drove to Petco and Petsmart to ask if they recognized him. No one did. So we had him scanned to see if he was microchipped. He wasn't. So we listed the little fella on Craigslist and a lost and found pup website also. No luck. We called around to a few vet clinics in our area ... to no avail. So we took care of this little lost boy in our home for a few days.
We named the little guy Buddy. He was so sweet. He stayed with us and my two little dogs who played and slept and ate along with him. He seemed to limp a little less as the days went by. We wondered how his life was before he met us. We wondered if he was limping because he may have been a caged dog used for breeding because he was not neutered. We wondered if he came from a loving home or an abusive home. We were getting worried after our fourth day of loving on the little guy...
THE WALLED CITYby Ryan GraudinHardcover: 448 pagesPublisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (November 4, 2014)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out.
DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key
Review by Becca
CAPTIVEby Aimee Carter Series: The Blackcoat Rebellion (Book 2)Hardcover: 304 pagesPublisher: Harlequin HQN (November 25, 2014)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
The truth can set her free
For the past two months, Kitty Doe's life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, in a hostile meritocracy on the verge of revolution, Kitty sees
Review by Andye
THE BOOK OF IVYThe Book of Ivy #1by Amy EngelAge Range: 12 - 18 yearsGrade Level: 7 - 12
Audiobook Publisher: Random House AudioPublisher: Entangled: Teen (November 11, 2014)
Goodreads | Amazon | Audiobook
What would you kill for?
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more
But both Children of Men and Snowpiercer come crashing down to almost identical final moments. When the smoke clears and the countless bodies are carted off, what we’re left with is the same take-away: Bearded white dude saves humanity, in both cases represented by a woman and a child of color, both helpless and in need of saving, at the cost of his own life.
Basically, Older says, Snowpiercer and Children of Men are white savior movies. He proposes an alternative: "Imagine if the desperate rebels paused and elevated Tanya to leadership instead of Curtis. Snowpiercer would’ve become something truly subversive, a story some of us have been trying to tell for a very long time."
I think Snowpiercer is already pretty darn subversive, so I would replace the "truly" there with "even more", and I wouldn't call Yona in Snowpiercer helpless, really (she's smart and even seems to have some super powers). But yes, Snowpiercer could have offered an alternative to white supremacy (both the structural white supremacy of the train and the apparently internalized and patriarchal white supremacy of the rebels) instead of something closer to a satire of white supremacy ending in its own destruction — a futile destruction if you consider the likelihood of Yona and Tim's survival or the likelihood that some disease would kill off their ancestors. (For more along this line, and for thoughts on the implications of the film's take on revolutionary politics, and much else, see Aaron Bady's "Snowpiercer Thinkpiece".) It could have been a more deeply subversive, even utopian movie. It is not.
But as a savior, Curtis is pretty crappy. He's wrong about the revolution, most of the tailenders he's trying to liberate end up dead, and though he may have sacrificed his life for a woman and boy, the woman and boy are in all likelihood only going to outlive him by a day or two at most. And it's not like he set out to sacrifice his life for them. Nam and Yona caused the explosion. He just chose, along with Wilford, to see if his body might shield Yona and Tim's bodies from the blast. If you're going to die, you might as well make your death a potentially useful one, and that's what he does.
I've already proposed one way of thinking about the racial politics of the ending, and this is at least somewhat at odds with Older's reading, but I like texts that can be interpreted richly, and it's entirely likely that soon I'll think my first take was wrong. I like thinking about the lineage of white savior movies, because when I do, they give me a little bit more hope for progress than the ending of Snowpiercer does, because if we can see such stories as white supremacy talking about itself, then it's having a crisis of confidence and thinks it's going to die pretty soon.
(Obviously, it is the nature of white supremacy to make itself the center of conversation, and I am perpetuating that here. White supremacy's representations interest me. But I entirely agree with Older that we need additional storylines. Please please please somebody give Danny Glover the money to make his Toussaint L'Ouverture movie, for instance!)
There are some noticeable differences between the ending of Snowpiercer and the ending of Children of Men, but before getting to those, I want to bring up one other white savior movie, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, which I once called "a white savior movie that questions the whole idea of a white savior movie, or, at least, that wants to put an end to itself."
One of the things that I think is important to consider when viewing a white savior movie is its desired emotional effect. Where does it want the audience's sympathies to fall? What does the film seem to want us to feel, and how? In a classic white savior movie — think Dances with Wolves or The Blind Side or [insert your own title here] — the white savior becomes ennobled through their encounter with the non-white supporting character(s). They learn to be more caring, less bigoted, etc. (Yay, white people can be better! Hooray for White Guy 2.0!) The journey is fundamentally that of the white protagonist, and the audience's greatest interest should be in the white character. (This is one of the things I thought was so excellent about 12 Years a Slave, which is in the end, yes, literally a white savior movie — without Bass [Brad Pitt], Solomon Northup might never have been freed — but not at all about the redemption of white people. But that's tangential to this discussion...)
Though Gran Torino is at least partly about the end of the old white savior, it nonetheless sticks with the redemption narrative. The future is given to nonwhite characters, and those characters are shown to be the closest to a traditional (conservative) sense of American values, but grumpy old racist Walt ends up not just learning to care deeply for people he'd previously spurned, but sacrificing himself for them. And not just any sacrifice. He lands on the ground with his arms outstretched like Jesus on the cross. Like Snowpiercer, Gran Torino proposes that the future will not be white, but in Gran Torino the white savior is still pretty awesome, even if he's a relic.
In Children of Men, Theo is much less heroic than Walt. He's pointedly unheroic in his presentation. But his character arc is toward heroism — through helping Kee, he discovers something to live for, something to fight for, and he becomes somebody worth shedding a tear for when he dies. For me, it's not as big a tear as Gran Torino seems to want us to shed for Walt, but that's partly because it's not hard to imagine Theo going back to being a cynical or apathetic drunk even if he lived. Walt's death feels momentous, like a tremendous (if necessary) loss; Theo's death is sad for a moment, poignant more than devastating.
With Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón did make interesting changes to counter the whiteness of the source material (a P.D. James novel), but the character we follow from beginning to end is, indeed, a white guy who saves a pregnant black woman and her child. Here, though, Kee is, like Thao and Sue in Gran Torino, a kind of representative of the future — if humanity is to survive, it's surviving because of a black woman, and the white savior is gone from the picture. (Although everyone we see on the Tomorrow ship that picks her up looks white, so who knows what will happen later...)
Snowpiercer also kills off the white savior(s) and proposes that the future of humanity does not lie with white people, but here the journey of the white savior is even less heroic than that of Walt or Theo. At least Walt and Theo are successful saviors.
Curtis's journey is in many ways the opposite of Walt's and Theo's. Walt and Theo begin cynical (or worse) and come to see the value in being a savior. We end up feeling good about them, and proud of them for their sacrifices. Curtis starts out at 2nd in command of the revolution (though Gilliam repeatedly suggests that Curtis is really in charge, even if Curtis doesn't want to face that fact) and ends up finding out that the revolution was a sham and that his actions all served to help Wilford's overall goals. Curtis has helped lead everyone he most cares into death for an illusion. Oops.
Do we shed a tear for Curtis?
I don't know about you, but I certainly didn't. Sure, there was the monologue toward the end where he talks about how he became a savage and then couldn't cut his arm off, etc., but it's important to remember what comes next: Nam's deflating reaction — Curtis clearly thought he was sharing his deepest, darkest secret, and Nam's response was little more than, "Uh huh." He's not bowing down to this white savior, not giving in to his emotional tug.
Curtis was interesting as a protagonist, as a figure to carry the force of the action, but my own emotional commitment was far more toward Nam, Tanya, Yona, and then Tim. (Tanya's death was, for me, the most affecting.) Curtis just isn't a very interesting character; he's a foil for the other characters and a device to get the story out. The relatively bland main character is an old tradition in narrative, and it serves a similar function to a straight man in comedy. So Curtis's death is not a moment that is, for me at least, more powerful than the deaths of so many other people on the train. It's easy for my plot interest to shift to Yona and Tim because that's where my affectual interest has been all along.
Gran Torino gives us the white savior who wants to end all white saviors, but it wants to us to pause and feel real sorrow for his death. Children of Men gives us an unheroic white savior who finds some shreds of heroism and dies to save the (at-least-partially) nonwhite future; we end up sort of sad for him, but the stronger emotion is likely happiness that Kee and her child lived. Snowpiercer gives us a white savior seeking the wrong revolution, ending up a savior as much by accident as intent, and the movie drains much of the emotional power from the savior figure, while proposing that if humanity has any future (unlikely), its future isn't one with white people in it.
The One. Kiera Cass. 2014. HarperCollins. 323 pages. [Source: Library]
One thing I can definitely say about all three books in this series is that they are all super-quick reads. Once I start reading, I don't want to stop. That being said, I can't say that I actually think about the books or the characters or the story after I'm done. I don't forget the story or the characters mind you. I've always liked that I can pick up the next book without any worries or confusion. That could be because the books aren't all that complex though.
In the third book, readers spend time with Prince Maxon and America Singer. She's one of four young ladies still in the running to be the next princess. The others are Celeste, Kriss, and Elise. Prince Maxon and America have always, always argued with one another. He brings out the fight in her. And he can't get enough of her honestly. Perhaps because she is so very different than his mother?
America (finally) admits to herself that she is really, truly not-kidding-around in LOVE with Maxon. Does she tell him? Are you kidding? She wouldn't dream of actually communicating with him. She'd rather nag, nag, nag him for keeping the other girls around. His excuse? You never, ever show me how you feel about me, you just yell at me. He has a point. But I suppose she does as well.
Communication is something that America fails at, I have to say. Even though America knows that she doesn't love Aspen anymore in that way, she is not telling him that. And she's not telling Maxon that she loves him. And then she realizes that sooner or later, Maxon may need to be told that at one point in her past, Aspen was a love interest.
The trilogy is definitely predictable and a bit silly. But it's almost an irresistible silly.
Dystopias are trending in contemporary popular culture. Novels and movies abound that deal with fictional societies within which humans, individually and collectively, have to cope with repressive, technologically powerful states that do not usually care for the well-being or safety of their citizens, but instead focus on their control and extortion. The latest resounding dystopian success is The Hunger Games—a box-office hit located in a nation known as Panem, which consists of 12 poor districts, starved for resources, under the absolute control of a wealthy centre called the Capitol. In the story, competitive struggle is carried to its brutal extreme, as poor young adults in a reality TV show must fight to death in an outdoor arena controlled by an authoritarian Gamemaker, until only one individual remains. The poverty and starvation, combined with terror, create an atmosphere of fear and helplessness that pre-empts any resistance based on hope for a better world.
We fear that part of the popularity of this science fiction action-drama, in Europe at least, lies in the fact that it has a real-life analogue: the Spectacle—in Debord’s (1967) meaning of the term—of the current ‘competitiveness game’ in which the Eurozone economies are fighting for their survival. Its Gamemaker is the European Central Bank (ECB), which—completely stuck to Berlin’s hard line that fiscal profligacy in combination with rigid, over-regulated labour markets has created a deep crisis of labour cost competitiveness—has been keeping the pressure on Eurozone countries so as to let them pay for their alleged fiscal sins. The ECB insists that there will be ‘no gain without pain’ and that the more one is prepared to suffer, the more one is expected to prosper later on.
The contestants in the game are the Eurozone members—each one trying to bootstrap its economy out of the throes of the most severe crisis in living memory. The audience judging each country’s performance is not made up of reality TV watchers but of financial (bond) markets and credit rating agencies, whose supposedly rational views can make or break any economy. The name of the game is boosting cost-competitiveness and exports—and its rules are carved into stone in March 2011 in a Euro Plus ‘Competitiveness Pact’ (Gros, 2011).
Raising competitiveness here means reducing costs, and more specifically cutting labour costs, which means lowering the wage share by means of reducing employment protection, lowering minimum wages, raising retirement ages, lowering pensions and, last but not least, cutting real wages. Economic inequality, poverty and social exclusion will all initially increase, but don’t worry: structural reforms hurt in the beginning, but their negative effects will be offset over time by changes in ‘confidence,’ boosting spending and exports. But it will not work, and the damage done by austerity and structural reforms is enormous; sadly, most of it was and is avoidable. The wrong policies follow from ‘design faults’ built into the Euro project right from the start—the creation of an ‘independent’ European Central Bank being the biggest ‘fault’, as it precluded the necessary co-ordination of fiscal and monetary policy and disabled the central banking system from providing support to national governments (Arestis and Sawyer, 2011). But as Palma (2009) reminds us, it is wrong to think about these ‘faults’ as being caused by perpetual incompetence—the monetarist Euro project should instead be read as a purposeful ‘technology of power’ to transform capitalism into a rentiers’ paradise. This way, one can understand why policy makers persist in abandoning the unemployed.
Last fall, Tu Books released Killer of Enemies, a post-apocalyptic steampunk adventure by Joseph Bruchac. Readers were introduced to seventeen-year-old Apache hunter Lozen, a kick-butt warrior who kills monsters to ensure the safety of her family.
Set to be released next month, Joseph Bruchac has written an e-novella that’s a prequel to Killer of Enemies, titled Rose Eagle.
Rose Eagle is set in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where readers are introduced to seventeen-year-old Rose Eagle of the Lakota tribe who is trying to find her place in a post-apocalyptic world.
Before the Silver Cloud, the Lakota were forced to work in the Deeps, mining for ore so that the Ones, the overlords, could continue their wars. But when the Cloud came and enveloped Earth, all electronics were shut off. Some miners were trapped in the deepest Deeps and suffocated, but the Lakota were warned to escape, and the upper Deeps became a place of refuge for them in a post-Cloud world.
In the midst of this chaos, Rose Eagle’s aunt has a dream: Rose will become a medicine woman, a healer. She sends Rose into the Black Hills on a quest to find healing for their people.
Gangly and soft-spoken, Rose is no warrior. She seeks medicine, not danger. Nevertheless, danger finds her, but love and healing soon follow. When Rose Eagle completes her quest, she may return with more than she ever thought she was looking for.
Thanks to the following blogs for participating in the Rose Eagle cover reveal:
The Maze Runner (Book 1)
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: The Maze Runner Series (Book 1)
Paperback: 375 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press; Reprint edition (August 24, 2010)
If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.
Nice to meet ya,
Is Panem modeled after ruthless dictatorships of the past?
Is the harsh world of the Grimm's more than a reflection of the past?
Does children's literature, in books and movies, bring the past into the present?
Can childhood stories open the doors of the mind to the present -- and the future?
High Stakes of YA Dystopia.
In earlier eras, there were adult works of literature set in dystopian milieus... they includeThe Trial, Brave New World, Animal Farm, 1984, Childhood's End, The Quiet Ameriican, The Naked and the Dead, A Rumor of War, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Farenheit 451, All Quiet On the Western Front, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and many more.
To one degree or another, these books are classics. And like children's and young adult (YA) books of our current era, many were reinvented as theatre and movies.
Today, we seem to have a run of dystopian-centered books and films for young adults (YA). Many are in the form of a series and are followed by films -- also in series. The books, although some may be well written, do not pretend to be literature. Rather, the books, like the films, seem primarily designed to be popular and succeed in the marketplace.
Controversy has followed...most of the films are characterized by great violence; and they all seem to have teen age protagonists who are themselves commiting violence (usually for survival).
Crossover. I don't know if the term YA, and the definition (12-18 year olds) came from marketeers or librarians, or both. I do know that the lines have been blurred, with children and adults both crossing over into the realm of YA.
I doubt that there will be clear lines in the future. The finacial stakes are too high. YA books and movies are a multi -billion dollar business.
Personally, I don't care if adults read YA books. Hopefully, they do so with discernment.
I do care about the amount of over-the-top violence that children are subjected to in YA movies.
For any child, there is a huge difference in the impact found in the brief mention of Gretel pushing the murderous witch into the oven, when compared to the long, unrelenting, realistic, hardcore violence (supported by thunderous sound and music) of the Ring movies.
Hopefully, Alice In Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh, Snow White, HisDark Materials, Tales from the Brothers Grimm, and other classics -- themselves often fraught with danger, fear, and violent events -- will continue as the main source for bringing the past -- or the future -- into Children's minds.
Dystopia and the Grimms
The world of the Grimm's fairy tales is filled with fearful events, dark forests, curses by evil witches, and cruelty -- dystopia, but always relieved by magic, marvels, courage, beauty and happy endings...
"The unsparing savegry of stories like the Robber Bridegroom is a sharp reminder that fairy tales belong to the childhood of culture as much as the culture of childhood...they capture anxieties and fantasies that have deep roots in childhood experience"- Maria Tatar,The Grimm Reader: Classic Tales of the Brothers Grimm.
"It is worth noting that the lives of all people in the land of the Grimm's was in was in constant turmoil and change during the time that the Grimm's collected, wrote, and published their books." - Seth Lerer, Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter.
The illustration from The Robber Bridegroom is by John B. Gruelle
"'Well, dear little children. How in the world did you get here? Just come right in, and you can stay with me. You will come to no harm in my house.' She took them by the hand and led them into her house...The old woman had only pretended to be kind." - Hansel and Gretel meet the Wicked Witch
"For children in their most impressionable years, there is in fantasy, the highest of stimulating and educational powers." -Arthur Rackham
Kaitlin Jenkin's has two blogs, She Speaks Bark and Pet Parent.Kaitlin has a background of working in many dog related jobs, including foster care and 7 years as a shelter worker. She has two adopted dogs (seen on the left), Bear and Scooter. She recently wrote an excellent and informative review of C.A. Wulff and A.A. Weddle's book for dog owners, Finding Fido. Here are excerpts...
"The thought of Bear or Scooter going missing, or being stolen is one that I don’t let my mind entertain. To say I’d be devastated doesn’t even begin to cover it, and I know you all feel the same about your pets! Would you know what to do if your pet suddenly went missing? Where to begin? What to do first?
Finding Fido is essentially a Pet Parent’s guide to preventing the loss of a pet, as well as a guide on exactly what steps to take should that awful moment ever happen to you. Authors C.A Wulffand A.A.Weddle are the administrators of the Lost & Found Ohio Pets service and they collaborated on this helpful guide in order to address the sad reality of so many lost pets in America....
If our pets were to become lost, it would be absolutely devastating. We may not even be able to think logically in order to act effectively to work towards their return. That’s why this book is great- it’s literally a step by step guide to finding your lost pet. Full of resources for Pet Parents to utilize, and all at the turn of a page.
... I think that Finding Fido is a great read for all Pet Parents and pet lovers. If you’re a first time Pet Parent or a long time, seasoned Pet Parent, there are tips and tricks in here that will be helpful to you! Everyone should read the sections entitled ‘Before You Lose A Pet‘" ...
Adults Continue to Cross the Borders of Imagination Into Y.A.
As part of a post that I wrote in our September blog about the trend of adults reading Y.A. books, I quoted journalist (Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe) Ruth Graham'sarticle in Slate with this headline: "Read whatever you want. But you should be embarrassed when what you're reading was written for children."
Graham's article provoked substantial controversy including a very thoughtful rebuttal, in Hairpin, by journalist and author(Save The Date ) Jen Doll: The Trouble With Reader-Shaming: A Y.A.Book List Here are excerpts from Jen Doll's rebuttal:
"The great debate over whether grownups should read young adult literature—and further, what the nature of reading should be—has come up again, thanks to a piece in Slate telling adults they should feel ashamed about reading books for kids...
"What the piece itself rails against—that Y.A. offers pat, easy or at the very least "satisfying" solutions aimed at kids and doesn’t make adults think—could be said for the very type of internet writing it embodies. Here, precisely, is how you should feel, it says. Here are the answers, tied up in a bow: You be embarrassed for wasting your time reading Y.A., because Y.A. is not for adults, and you should be reading something appropriate to your age. It is easy and not challenging. You should not be "substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature." This is an argument that speaks from a place of truth and rightness, or at least, intends to; there is little room for nuance.
Yet, nuance persists. There are many, many factors that go into what makes something complex, great, or "appropriate to one's age," and most of all this depends on who is reading it—not based in age, because age categorizations do not always match prescribed reading levels; just ask any kid sneaking illicit tomes off her parents' bookshelf because all "her" books have already been devoured—but based in who that person is, what they want, and what they bring to the table..."
Update: Jen Dollis now writing a column of YA book reviews for the venerable New York Times: "Y.A. Crossover". The Times they are a changing. Congratulations, Jen Doll.
The Photo is of Ms Doll. The two books pictured are from Ms Doll's Y.A. Book List.
KidLitosphere is the best source that I have found for locating children's literature blogs. KidLitosphere has helped many readers find their way to these pages. Here is an excerpt form their home page..."Some of the best books being published today are children’s and young adult titles, well-written and engaging books that capture the imagination. Many of us can enjoy them as adults, but more importantly, can pass along our appreciation for books to the next generation by helping parents, teachers, librarians and others to find wonderful books, promote lifelong reading, and present literacy ideas."
Geno is retiring. An 8 year old German Shepherd, Geno is highly regarded by the Kane County Sheriff's Office for his loyalty, courage and intelligence. Here are excerpts from his bio as posted by the Sheriff's Office:
"Geno has served with the KCSO since 2009. Deputy Bill Gatske, Geno’s handler, has served with the KCSO for 15 years and Geno will continue to live with Gatske and his family in retirement. Over his career, Geno has... performed numerous dignitary and presidential protective sweeps and participated in sweeps before games at Soldier Field in Chicago along with conducting countless explosivedetection searches, suspect apprehensions and missing person searches. Geno may be most remembered, though, for his appearances with local area children where he taught the value of policing and reinforced the fact that law enforcement officers exists to serve their community"...
The cost of replacing Gino with his special skills in explosives detection, tracking, missing person searches, and more is very expensive. Once again, Planet Dog Foundation is providing support for a service dog. They have come together with theSpirit of Blue Foundation to award the Kane County Sherrif’s Office a $12,500 grant to acquire and train a new explosives detection K9 to replace the very special Geno.
The Planet Dog Foundation has awarded over a million dollars in funding to support dogs helping people in need.
“We dogs are happy and help each other because love is the most important part of our lives. When you give love,” she said, “You bring out love in others. If we come to Planet Earth, and people spend time with us, there will be fewer lonely people and more happy people.” - Miss Merrie, Queen of the Dogs
“But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, but can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty in it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties.” -- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows Illustration by E.H. Shepherd
Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale at the Independent Publishers of New England Exhibits (IPNE)
If you are a New England librarian and headed to Boxborough, MA, for the NELAConvention (October19-21), we invite you to visit the Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE) exhibit where you will find Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale.
If you are a New England book lover and are headed to the Boston Book Festival (BFF) 0n October 25, we invite you to the Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE) exhibit where you will also find Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale.
Children's Literary Salon...New York Public Library
Saturday, November 1, 2014, 2PM, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium...Speaker: Howard Scherry...Hosted by Elizabeth Bird
Margaret Wise Brown & Antoine de Saint-Exupery: Parallels in Their Life, Comparison in Their Literature...free admission
The Past is Always Present
UPDATE: Y.A. Distopian Movies Keep Coming -- And Making Money...Variations and Reinterpretations of Books of the Past by Movies are Omnipresent ...
No one is safe...not family, nor friends, nor any of the good folks in Katniss' "hometown" -- District 12. Empire. Oppression, and teen warriors again prevail as the Hunger Games story of resistance and survival continues. Dystopia will mean box office dollars when this third episode (there will be one more) of the Hunger Games, Mockingjay-Part1, opens in theaters worldwide, starting on November 19 -- November 21 in the USA.
For some perspective on the Hunger Games series, take a look at this review from Salon by Andrew O'Hehir "Whose Revolution Is It It?"
"Much of the genius of the “Hunger Games” franchise lies in its portrayal of a dystopian future society that lacks any specific ideological character. Panem, the deep-future dictatorship that has apparently replaced present-day America after an unspecified combination of civil war, social meltdown and ecological catastrophe, has the semiotic appearance of fascism – white-helmeted storm troopers and barbed-wire walls – but is really more like an old-fashioned feudal society, concerned entirely with maintaining its internal order. In reviewing the first “Hunger Games” movie, I observed that the relentless media onslaught of the Information Age has been rolled back, in author Suzanne Collins’ fictional universe, to one TV network and one reality show. Politics has been stripped down too: There is nothing except Empire and Resistance."
The Hunger Games Films have thus far grossed over 1.5 billion dollars
The critics were generally hard on Divergent, but the Box office has been excellent - over 288 million dollars thus far - and two sequels will follow. Based on a very popular Y.A. series by Veronica Roth. Here is an excerpt from a review by Brad Keefe in ColumbusAlive.
... “Divergent” is an adaptation of a popular young adult fiction trilogy featuring a smart, underdog heroine who fights against a corrupt power system in a dystopian future.
If you haven’t read the books, you’ll see “Divergent” as a convoluted “Hunger Games” knock-off. If you have, you’ll find the production values and performances are solid. But the movie is still convoluted.
In the crumbling ruins of a near-future Chicago, a post-war society has established peace by creating five “factions” of the population based on character traits (brains, brawn, compassion, etc.). Teens are tested for their aptitude in these fields, but they can choose their own faction (as long as they don’t mind leaving their family).
It’s like society based on a high-school clique system, so it resonates with teens (along with themes of non-conformity). And our heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) embodies that moment of 'what do I do with my life' confusion." ....................................
Earlier this Fall, we had The Maze Runner, another YA movie set in a YA Dystopia. In less than a month, the Maze Runner has grossed over 83 Million dollars.
Also based on a successful book series (by James Dasher), it was described by Ben Kienigsberg in the International New York Times as a "perfectly serviceable entry in the young-adult dystopian sweepstakes. It combines elements of “Lord of the Flies” with the Minotaur and Orpheus myths, but it plays as something closer to “The Hunger Games” experienced through a dissociative fog. Much suspense comes from wondering which favored Hollywood twist the movie will employ...." .............................
Even if one adjustedthe figures for inflation etc, I doubt if the combined monies made by the books of Anderson, Dodson, St. Exuprey, the Brothers Grimm et al could compare with the box office receipts of these Y.A. movies.
More violence arrives in time for Christmas. The Hobbit, Battle of the 5 Armies opens on December 17. Here is a link to the trailer: Battle
If you've had enough of YA Dystopian Violence there is good news for children's films...
Boxtrolls is doing well and the Tale of Princess Kaguya, from Ghibli Studios is coming. Advance reports on Princess Kaguya suggest another outstanding film from the studio that gave us Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away.
Building Blocks in the past...Minecraft today and tomorrow
In case you were unaware of the scope of Minecraft, here is the opening of the excellent and comprehensive article by Stuart Dredge in the Guardian. The article is entitled: Minecraft movie will be 'large-budget' but unlikely to arrive before 2017. The article also contains videos that will take you into the digital world of Minecraft.
"What is Minecraft? It’s a game, obviously: one that its developer Mojang has sold nearly 54m copies of across computers, consoles and mobile devices so far.
But Minecraft is also an educational tool in schools through the MinecraftEduinitiative, and the driver for Block by Block, a partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme to get young people involved in planning public urban spaces, starting with a pilot in Kenya.
Minecraft is also one of YouTube’s most popular video categories – right up there with music – fuelling hugely popular channels..."
Amazon-Hachette Battle Continues with Authors United
Power, money, books, writers and control are all involved as this battlle continues...Here are excerpts from a New York Times article by David Streitfeld.
"Amazon is at war with Hachette, and it sometimes seems as if it has always been that way.
As a negotiating tool in the battle, which is over the price of e-books, Amazon is discouraging its customers from buying the publisher’s printed books. After six months of being largely cut off from what is by far the largest bookstore in the country, many Hachette writers are fearful and angry. So...they are trying a new tactic to get the ir work unshackled.
Authors United, a group of Hachette writers and their allies, is appealing directly to Amazon’s board. It is warning the board that the reputation of the retailer, and of the directors themselves, is at risk.
UPDATE...This battle has expanded to include many prominent writers who are not published by Hachette. David Streifeld continues his coverage in what has become a series in the New York Times. Here is an updated excerpt...
"Now, hundreds of other writers, including some of the world’s most distinguished, are joining the coalition. Few if any are published by Hachette. And they have goals far broader than freeing up the Hachette titles. They want the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for illegal monopoly tactics..."
The Hero of Color City
This film opened in early October to mediocre reviews,but very young kids seem to like it.You be the judge. Here is the trailer: Hero of Color City
Complimentary Holiday Dog Books for Therapy Reading Dogs…
Christmas is coming and Barking Planet Productions is sending complimentary reader copies of ourholiday book,Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, Volume 3 in the Planet of the Dogs series, to libraries and teachers participating in therapy reading dog programs and to therapy reading dogs owners and organizations.
To receive your copy, email us at email@example.com
Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, is an illustrated first chapter fantasy-adventure book for children 6-12 and dog lovers of all ages.
Long, long ago, there were no dogs on planet Earth. It was during that time that two of Santa’s reindeer went missing and there could be no Christmas.
Far out in space is the Planet of the Dogs. Dogs have always lived there in peace and happiness.
When the dogs learned that there would be no more Christmas, they came down to planet earth to challenge the King of the North, free the reindeer from the Ice Castle, and save Christmas for children everywhere.
To read sample chapters, visit: www.planetofthedogs.net.
Insights on Visual Storytelling
Lizzy Burns is a proilfic, outspoken, caring and engaging blogger (A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy )
She usually reviews YA booksand strongly supports those she likes. I'm interested in younger readers, however, I find her YA reviews to be insightful and very lively reading.
I have excerpted comments on her emotional response to the Y.A. book and movie, If I Stay, and her insights into visual storytelling...
"Here is the thing. I cried at the trailers for this film. I cried when I read the book. I knew all the plot points. There were no surprises. And yet...I cries through the whole film.
Because sometimes, it's not what happens. It's the emotional journey. And no matter how many times you go on that journey, it remains heart wrenching...
One thing I like about visual storytelling is it can show me things, reveal things, that I may not have picked up in the book. And yes, sometimes this is because of changes in the adaptation, but i t's often about staying true to the spirit of the book if not the text. So, for me, the movie made me understand more how Mia viewed her father leaving his band to pursue a job that was more stable as something he did because of her younger brother, Teddy -- never realizing it was also for her.
The movie is true to the book, but something happened at one point where I both feared and hoped that a change had been made and I said to myself, please please please even though there was no way, no way, and it was just like in the book BUT STILL MY FOOLISH HEART, IT HOPED...."
Here the link to her review/article of If I Stay. When she isn't blogging, Elizabeth Burns is the Youth Services Librarian for the New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center. Here is a link to her blog.
Nancy Houser has another excellent article that solves questions about feeding dogs and taking into account breed, age, health condition -- and she's not selling dog food, not pushing a brand. Here is an excerpt and a link:
"Dog diet is one of the most confusing aspects of taking care of your dog, a vital part of its care. Deciding on the correct dog diet and how to feed your dog is considered a highly complicated task.
Editor's Note: Kim Shuck and Beverly Slapin submitted this satirical "how to" piece in response to my review of Neal Shusterman and Michelle Knowlden's short story, Unstrung. Shusterman responded to that review (see point 13 below). I am currently working on a review of the first three books in Shusterman's series.
HOW TO WRITE A DYSTOPIAN YOUNG ADULT NOVEL (or short story)
WITH NATIVE CHARACTERS FOR FUN AND PROFIT
by Kim Shuck and Beverly Slapin
Strive to know nothing about the real lives and histories of Native peoples. Knowing is counterproductive and can be used against you if you accidentally let something real slip in. Do not do any research at all.That way, your tribe will be a genuine object of your invention, and no one will be able to accuse you of cultural appropriation.
Invent a tribe. Give it a name that sounds kind of sort of like an Indian word. Or forget it—don’t give your tribe an actual name. Rather, refer to your tribe in a way that relates to a well-known stereotype. “People of Chance,” as an example, works well, because it will remind readers of casinos and how wealthy Indian people are. If you’re a little unsure, feel free to work in a backstory about gaming and skilled tribal lawyers.
Write as though your invented tribe is just like any other transplanted culture with the exception of periodic decorative localized mythology. There should be no long memory stories of things that have happened where your tribe lives. Rather, for instance, you might go on and on about your tribe’s ostentatious show of material wealth—curbs that “gleam with gold,” an abundance of luxury cars, “gold plaques embedded in the adobe walls” and everyone wearing business suits “finer than the best designer fashions.”
Assign at least some of your tribal characters names that sound vaguely “Indian.” To do that, make sure that the names contain lots of vowels; something like “Chowilawu” might be a good example. Don’t worry that someone might think the names of your Indian characters mean something. They don’t have to—they’re Indian.
Describe your tribal characters as having small but important Indian mannerisms. For example, make sure that at least one of your Indian characters sits cross-legged on an animal skin. That will remind readers of the good times in kindergarten when they were instructed to sit “Indian style” for long periods of time.
Make sure that the main character (preferably white and male) bonds with a member of your invented culture. Your Indian character need not be developed in any sense, because his only purpose is to teach your main character a major life lesson, after which he expires or goes back to whatever mystical land he comes from. Feel free to use this Native mentor in the style of any of the old tropes: Black nanny, Asian martial arts master, or supernaturally animated Indian doll who lives in a cupboard.
Create new racial slurs to take the place of discredited old ones. “Redskins,” for instance, would be totally last century for a dystopian story. Try something like “slot monger,” or something else that you can make sound vaguely sexual, yet have a backstory that creates deniability.
Put the power in the hands of your invented culture. Make sure that some of the members of your tribe express xenophobic opinions, such as referring to other tribes as “Low-Rez.” This will make the point that xenophobia is logical when it exists in empowered communities.
Because there is no cultural attribution, feel free to use whatever stereotype or debunked expectation you may envision. It’s totally appropriate in this case to evoke offensively weird stories as long as you don’t name your tribe. For instance, you can have characters in your tribe hunting for a male mountain lion in order to transplant his heart into a dying Native elder for whom this animal is his “spirit guide.”
Make sure to work in tropes that are pseudo-spiritual-cultural givens for your tribe: spirit animals and vision quests, for instance. And, above all, make sure that your main Native character, despite—or because of—his otherworldly psychic gifts, gets killed off.
Now, take out your checklist. Invented tribe—check. No real reference to land, language, culture, community–check. No history or memory stories—check. No Indigenous meaning to names or anything else—check. Stereotypical mannerisms—check. Trope-type mentor—check. New racial slur to replace old ones—check. Xenophobic power—check. Offensively weird rituals—check. More tropes—check. Main Native character gets killed off—check.
Done! Now sit back and collect your starred reviews for creating a multicultural dystopian novel with mystical Indian characters whose only raison d’etre is to interact with a white hero in a mentor role worthy of inclusion in a 1950s flick.
On the off chance that you are criticized for inaccuracy, cultural appropriation, racism, or just plain abysmal writing, make sure to respondimmediately—preferably with a vague reference to political correctness, reverse racism and/or the humorless nature of the critic. Mention how sensitive you tried to be. Use the phrase “considered carefully” to insure that everyone understands how hard you worked at appropriate representation. You can always fall back on the fact that you invented your tribe and therefore are immune to criticism, but it is worth trying to put the reviewer on the defensive—especially if the reviewer happens to be Native and has worked in the area of American Indians in children’s literature for many years.
—Kim Shuck and Beverly Slapin
(We would like to acknowledge Neal Shusterman and Michelle Knowlden—and the many other authors of “children’s books about Indians” [you know who you are]—without whose important research and writing these helpful hints would not have been possible. Wado, y’all!)