Hansel and Gretel...
Life was harsh for the country people who told this story to relieve the cruel reality of their daily existence.
Hansel and Gretel encounter abandonment, fear, hunger, cannibalism, and magic...they are lost in a cruel world of kill or be killed.
The children must rely on their own courage and ingenuity to survive and prevail.
Welcome to the world of the wonder tale.
Wonder Tales before the Grimms
During the reign of Louis XIV, cultural endeavors in all the arts were encouraged and highly regarded in the court of Versailles. Writers, including Moliere, Racine and Marais, were respected and often admired. Ideas were in the air in the salons of Paris and in the court itself.
Marina Warner, edited The Wonder Tales, Six French Stories of Enchantment, introducing the reader to the European birth of the fairy tale and making a case for calling then tales of wonder. Among the writers with stories included are Charles Perrault, Marie-Catherine D'Aulnoy and Henriette- Julie De Murat. Perrault was perhaps the most influential, if one considers the stories (from folk tales) he published under the title, The Tales of Mother Goose. These eight stories included Cinderella, Blue Beard, Little Red Riding hood, and the Sleeping Beauty in the Woods.
Here are excerpts from the Oxford University Press overview of the book...
"Once upon a time, in the Paris of Louis XIV, five ladies and one gentleman-- all of them
aristocrats-- seized on the new enthusiasm for "Mother Goose Stories" and decided to write some of them down. Telling stories resourcefully and artfully was a key social grace, and when they recorded these elegant narratives they consciously invented the modern fairy tale as we still know it today."
Heroes and heroines are put to mischievous tests, and their quest for love is confounded when their objects of desire change into beasts or monsters. Still, true understanding and recognition of the person beneath the spell wins in the end, for after wonder comes consolation, and after strange setbacks comes a happy ending. In Wonder Tales, a magical world awaits all who dare to enter."
The illustration of Blue Beard is by Gustav Dore.
Good but Grimm Bedtime Reading
Mary Leland, in the Irish Examiner, has written a most insightful and interesting article on folktales and myths and the life and times of the Brothers Grimm. She also writes about Jack Zipes and the significance of his recent translation of the original version of Children's and Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm.
Here is an excerpt from the beginning of her excellent article:
"Many readers may argue with the poet Schiller’s assertion that ‘Deeper meaning resides in the fair tales told to me in my childhood that in the truth that is taught by life.’ Even so, perhaps those same readers will admit that the belief, quoted in Bruno Bettelheim’s master-work ‘The Uses of Enchantment’ (1976) has some validity.
They will certainly do so if they acknowledge the staying power of the fairytales told or read to them in childhood, and if they remember that strange hinterland in which mystery, search, loss, redemption and triumph still bring some imaginative consolation to the perceived injustices of the very young.
The fact is, as Jack Zipes discusses in his fascinating anthology, fairy tales incorporate the truth that is taught by life...."
The illustration of the Elves and the Shoemaker is by George Cruickshank.
The Grimm's Wonder Tales Sweep England in the Nineteenth Century
David Blamires, in a very comprehensive and rather scholarly article for Open Book Publishers, details the impact on readers in England of the Edgar Taylor translation (1823) of the Grimm's original Childrens and Household Tales. The article provides both overview and details of the English versions throughout the 18th Century. Blamires credits the illustrations by George Cruikshank as being very important to to wide popular acceptance.
"Without a shadow of doubt the single most important German contribution to world literature is the collection of traditional tales made by the Brothers Grimm and first published in two small volumes in 1812-15. It outshines Goethe’s Faust and such twentieth-century classics as Mann’s Death in Venice or Kafka’s The Trial by virtue of an infinitely greater readership. Not only have the tales been translated in whole or in part into virtually every major language in the world, but they have generated countless new editions and adaptations and become the cornerstone of the study of folktales not only in Germany, but throughout the world...
When Edgar Taylor made the first translation of the Grimms into English
as German Popular Stories, translated from the Kinder und Haus Märchen, collected by M.M. Grimm, from oral tradition (London: C. Baldwyn, 1823), the fairytale as a genre was very much in the grip of the French. Of course, such truly English fairytales as ’Jack the Giant-killer’, ’Whittington and his Cat’, ’Tom Hickathrift’, ’Tom Thumb’ and ’Jack and the Beanstalk’ had circulated in chapbooks, but English tales were not systematically collected until later. It was the fairytales of Charles Perrault, Madame d’Aulnoy and Madame Leprince de Beaumont that dominated the scene..."
The illustrations of Rapunzel and Cinderella are by George Cruickshank.
Born Without A Tail Returns
The enhanced second edition of Born Without A Tale, by C.A. Wulff will be published later this month by Barking Planet Productions. The book is a heartwarming life journey memoir by of Wulff's never ending rescues, healings, and adventures with a melange of dogs and cats.
Here's a description of the first edition from Amazon:
When your home has a revolving door for abused and abandoned animals, keeping pets takes
on a whole new dimension! Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-rending, Born Without a Tail chronicles the true-life adventures of two animal rescuers living with an ever-changing house full of pets. The author takes us on a journey from childhood through adulthood, sharing tales, (mis)adventures and insights garnered from a lifetime of encounters with a menagerie of twenty remarkable animals.--
And here is an abridged sample of a review...there are many more on Amazon :
"I can't say too much about this book, it's more than a 'dog book' it's a people, animals, life book. I was hooked from the first page and read it straight through... The writer has a great way of drawing you in, making you at home in her world. Anyone who's ever had a heart dog, a misfit cat, ever been touched by the love of an animal should enjoy this book. It's a keeper." -- Bookpleasures.com
Lost Wonders Found In An Immersive Theatrical Experience
Imagine walking into a warehouse converted into an environment of wonder where you find clairvoyant ravens, a runaway princess, and elves with magic powers. I discovered all of this is happening in London when I read a recent post by Kristen in her Tales of Faerie blog. Here is an excerpt...
"Any readers who live in England/will be travelling to the UK this spring? There's a unique fairy tale play going on, Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales for the Young and Old: An Immersive Fairy Tale, adapted and directed by Philip Wilson....
Reviewers seem overall very impressed with the play, especially the format. Instead of an audience sitting in chairs in an auditorium, they follow the characters through a large warehouse with different sections set up as each fairy tale. Props to the creators of this play for not only staying faithful to the Grimm fairy tales, but introducing audiences to lesser known tales, such as "Faithful Johannes" and "The Three Little Men in the Woods" (which seems to be the audience favorite)."
In the words of Philip Wilson (Director & Adapter) of this theater piece:
"I love the fact that, in German, these are known as 'wonder tales' rather than the more twee term 'fairy tales': and so audiences coming to the Bargehouse will find themselves plunged into a parallel universe in which extraordinary adventures happen - and the darker side of these stories will come to light..."
For more information and a video, visit Grimm
Photo by Angela B; Illustration by Hermann Vogel
Paws Giving Independence (PGI) is a multi-faceted, grass roots organization, located in Peoria, Illinois, that does wonderful work in providing service dogs for people with disabilities. Their dogs serve people ranging from the Jesse Brown Veteran's Hospital in Chicago to the Peoria Children's Home Youth Farm.
The photo on the left is of Monty, who recently had his first day of school with his new friend, the young girl in the photo. They are both in fourth grade. Monty now lives with her in her home, and they go everywhere, including the school bus, together.
Monty was trained by a Bradley University student as part of the Wags for Mags program, initiated by Paws Giving Independence (photo on the right).This ongoing program of student volunteers works directly with people and training the dogs for service. Anyone with a disability can apply for a PGI service dog. Saturday, June 6, 2015, is the day for PGI's Running With The Dogs Day.
Dogs As Healers in the Planet Of The Dogs Series
In the first book in the Planet Of The Dogs we are introduced to Bella, the healer lady of Green Valley. And it is through Bella that people have their first experience with dogs as healers...the first Therapy Dogs. Here is an excerpt...
"The next morning, just as daylight brightened their home, Tomas and his family had another visitor, Bella, the healer lady. Bella helped the people of Green Valley when they were having babies, or when they were sick. She had a large garden of flowers and herbs that she used when healing people. All the people in Lake Village, including Omeg, liked her and respected her. Bella had been dreaming of the dogs and understood the reason they had come to Planet Earth.
Before Bella reached the house, Robbie and Buddy, who now slept in the barn, sensed her arrival and ran up the road to greet her. The family was happy to see her and to find that she welcomed the dogs. They were surprised that Bella was so comfortable with Buddy, who lay at her feet while she sat at the table drinking a refreshing cup of mint tea. Bella had an even bigger surprise for everyone. She said, “From my dreams, I have learned that the dogs can help me in my work. I know they have the power of love and the power to help people heal,” she said. Tomas and Sara looked at her in amazement. Daisy and Bean were not so surprised. Then Bella said, “I want to take the little dog to visit Delia, the sad one...”
For sample chapters from Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale -- and more information about all of our Barking Planet books -- visit our Planet Of The Dogs website.
Free copies of the Planet of The Dogs book series for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, and librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs...simply send us an email at email@example.com.
"In PLANET OF THE DOGS, Robert McCarty weaves an enchanting story that will delight the young reader as well as the young reader's parents or grandparents. Parents and grandparents should be forewarned, however, that their young readers will be pleading with them unrlentingly for a visit to Green Valley." Warner V. Slack MD, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Father, Grandfather
All Barking Planet Productions Books are available on the internet at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other booksellers -- as well as your local independent bookstore.
LitWorld and World Read Aloud Day
LitWorld brings literacy, reading, books, and empowerment to disadvantaged children.
LitWorld celebrated their annual World Read Aloud Day on March 5th.
"World Read Aloud Day allows members of our year-round programs to invite more people into their literacy community and brings LitWorld’s messages to the rest of the world. World Read Aloud Day is now celebrated by over one million people in more than 80 countries and reaches over 31 million people online. The growth of our movement can be attributed in large part to our network of partner organizations and “WRADvocates” – a group of reading advocates and supporters taking action in their communities and on social media."
Visit their website and learn more about their wonderful work: LitWorld
The Wind In The Willows
"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, E.H. Shephard
I was drawn to read this book.
The Motherless Child Project is terrific and timely. The central character, Emily Amber Ross, a 16 year old girl, is bright, interesting, conflicted, and very likable. The fact that she lives in a home where there can be no mention of her mother and her childhood becomes a driving force in her life. The story builds into a suspenseful, compelling, poignant rush of events. The ending is exciting and satisfying. I would think that word of mouth will be significant. In addition to being an excellent, and meaningful read -- The Motherless Child Project would make a great YA crossover movie.
Janie McQueen and Robin Karr are the co-authors of The Motherless Child Project
The Unintelligible Truth of Folktales
Laura Miller, in Salon, conducted an excellent interview with Maria Tatar on the occasion of the publication of The Turnip Princess. Here is an excerpt:
What do you in particular find so compelling about this form?
"What I really love about fairy tales is that they get us talking about matters that are just so vital to us. I think about the story of Little Red Riding Hood and how originally it was about the predator-prey relationship, and then it becomes a story about innocence and seduction for us. We use that story again and again to work out these very tough issues that we have to face. My hope is that this volume will get people talking about not just the stories and the plot but the underlying issues.
Milan Kundera has this quote in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” about painting that goes something like: Painting is an intelligible lie on the surface, but underneath is the unintelligible truth. Folktales are lies, they misrepresent things, and they seem so straightforward and so deceptively simple in a way. It’s the unintelligible truth beneath that’s so powerful, and that’s why we keep talking about them. They’re so complicated. We have a cultural compulsion about folklore. We keep retelling the stories because we can never get them right." Illustration by Lancelot Speed
"He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him;”
“It is only with the heart that one can see clearly, for the most essential things are invisible to the eye.”
― Hans Christian Anderson, The Ugly Duckling
Animated Movies and Inspiration from Tales of Wonder
Last year (2014), the Oscar for the best animated film -- Frozen -- was "inspired" by Hans Christian Anderson's classic story, The Snow Queen. In addition to substantive story changes, this Disney fantasy removes the dark fear and danger of the original and substitutes dazzling animation, fast pacing, and romantic gloss. Frozen has a sound track of soaring romantic music. the film also won an Oscar for best song: Let It Go.
Disney achieved their goal. In addition to recognition by their peers in winning the Oscars, the film has been extremely popular and made a great deal of money, grossing $1,274,219,009. That figure represents an incredible number of children and adults experiencing the Disney version of the story.
Here is an excerpt from Anderson's original Snow Queen, which, unlike the film, I find permeated by a sense of the ominous, of danger and events beyond control...
"There stood poor Gerda, without shoes, without gloves, in the midst of cold, dreary, ice-bound Finland. She ran forwards as quickly as she could, when a whole regiment of snow-flakes came round her; they did not, however, fall from the sky, which was quite clear and glittering with the northern lights. The snow-flakes ran along the ground, and the nearer they came to her, the larger they appeared. Gerda remembered how large and beautiful they looked through the burning-glass. But these were really larger, and much more terrible, for they were alive, and were the guards of the Snow Queen... but all were dazzlingly white, and all were living snow-flakes."
Hopefully, many more children, having experienced the Disney version, will be drawn to read the original.
Illustration of the original Snow Queen is by Vilhelm Pedersen.
Little Red Riding Hood...There are many versions and many interpretations in film, TV, theater and illustration of Little Red Riding Hood. The story had a major role last year in Disney's production of Into The Woods, a film inspired by a popular Broadway musical.
On a more modest scale, Cale Atkinson, a talented young Canadian illustrator, created a delightful short animated version (1:37) of Red Riding Hood on Vimeo.
Disney's Big Hero
This year, Big Hero 6 , also a Disney film, has won the Oscar for best animated film. This time , inspiration for the film was inspired by a Marvel comic story. The film is a significant departure from the original. Humor, imagination and outstanding animation bring Hiro, a brilliant teenage robotics inventor, Baymax his robot, and the fantasy future world of San Fransokyo to fun-filled life.
Disney, through the collaboration between Winnie the Pooh director Don Hall, and Chris Williams, director of Bolt, succeeded in adding charm and fun to the original premise; as a result, Big Hero 6 found a large audience worldwide: $546,225,000 (this figure will grow with winning the Oscar).
Here is a link to the delightful trailer: Big Hero 6.
Disney Returns with Cinderella on March 13.
Cinderella back and, once again, has a cruel stepmother ... If Kate Blanchett was my cruel stepmother, I would be most grateful if Helena Bonham Carter was my fairy godmother -- especially if Kenneth Branagh was my director. This comment is based on watching the trailer for Cinderella - the next Disney movie.
See for yourself: Cinderella Trailer...and listen to the soaring music.
The advance reviews suggest this Cinderella will please and delight young girls and their families. Personally, I'm still marveling at the movie created by Linda Woolverton, Robert Stromberg, and Angelina Jolie in Malificent, inspired by Sleeping Beauty.
Alison Flood writes about the drop in popularity of JRR Tolkien's books in the UK in an article for the Guardian. The article suggest that movies have been a primary influence in the reading choices of UK students. Perhaps Peter Jackson's Tolkien-based films don't inspire readers. Here are excerpts...
"Annual What Kids Are Reading report sees dystopian fantasy and larger-than-life comedies dominate...
JRR Tolkien’s fantasy novels have been elbowed out of the annual lineup of the most popular books for schoolchildren by a deluge of dark dystopias and urban fantasies.
The seventh What Kids Are Reading report, which analyses the reading habits of over half a million children in over 2,700 UK schools, revealed today that Tolkien’s books have dropped out of the overall most popular list for the first time since the report began six years ago. In previous years, Tolkien’s titles have featured within the chart’s top 10 places, mostly among secondary-school children.
Instead, this year in secondary schools the most popular title was John Green’s tale of a heartbreaking teenage romance, The Fault in Our Stars, followed by two dystopian stories: Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire, from the Hunger Games series, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent, set in a world where people are classified according to their personality traits...."
Nancy Houser posted an informative article in Way Cool Dogs on Separation Anxiety in Dogs. To people who don't know dogs, this may sound a bit over the top. Dog owners, however, will appreciate this fact-filled article.
"Separation anxiety in dogs is that dreadful moment as they fall apart in front of our eyes as we walk out the door, leaving them … alone. We could be be having a medical emergency, a day of shopping, a day of hard work, an exhausting afternoon at the grocery store … or maybe even a quick trip outside to check our mail. And truthfully, it does not matter. Every situation becomes a period of hell for dogs with separation anxiety, an animal who is a social animal that needs a lot of companionship.
Where and when we go does not matter; what matters is the fact that we are gone and they are not. They are at home, and alone. Mother Teresa once said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” She was speaking of humanity, of course, but current dog studies are proving that dogs not only have intelligence but similar emotions and emotional disorders as we do, and should be treated as such.
What is canine separation disorder?
According to dog experts, canine anxiety is divided into three different categories:
- Noise anxiety
- Separation anxiety
- Social anxiety.
Canine separation disorder is considered to be one of the most common causes of behavioral problems in dogs..."
The article continues to analyze of canine anxiety disorders; Read more:Separation Anxiety. The illustration is by Nancy Houser
The Wonders of Reading for Children
An excerpt from Neil Gaimon's impassioned presentation on the importance of libraries, books and reading:
"There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out,
because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.
Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian "improving" literature. You'll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant..."
This link, Neil Gaimon, will take you to all of this excellent presentation as reprinted in the Guardian. Illustration of Tom Thumb by Alexander Zick.
“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin
How To Greet A Dog...and How Not To Greet A Dog (or cat)....
Unlearn polite human greeting behaviors … greet a dog or cat safely...Here is an excerpt and link to an article by Anna Nirva...
Yesterday at the shelter where I volunteer, a group of new volunteers were being led through the dog kennel room as part of a shelter volunteer orientation tour. I was returning a dog to a kennel after a
walk, and several of the volunteers left the group to investigate the dog as I was leading him toward his enclosure. Two well-meaning people quickly approached the young dog straight-on, with hands outstretched, staring directly into the eyes of the shelter dog. Chief, the dog, a young, sensitive coonhound mix, feeling threatened, immediately moved through the open gate to the back of the kennel with his tail tucked and head lowered. “What’s wrong with him?” one of the new volunteers asked.
I had just found the topic for my weekly post...
In the western world, we are taught at an early age to greet new people by approaching them with upright posture, looking directly into their eyes and offering a hand to shake or squeeze. It becomes second nature to us, so as a result, many of us animal lovers greet every living thing–except bugs–using those same “good manners.”...
We must UNLEARN that set of social rules to avoid frightening dogs, cats, and other animals... read it all on SunBear Squad
The illustration from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty
" You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us." -- Robert Louis Stevenson
Folklore from Germany, Fairy Tales for the World
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 cumbersome German 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 by Jack Zipes, the author 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 Princess and 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 and Fairy 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 reading and 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 on Aesop'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
Stories Never End -- If You Can Read
World Read Aloud Day is coming this year on March 5, 2015
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.
Read Sample Chapters of the Planet Of The Dogs Series.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you free 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
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..."
Here is a link to this insightful review:Andrew Lapin's review for NPR
Into The Woods:
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.
Here is an insightful excerpt from Jerry Griswold's article on Maria Tartar's Breezes from Wonderland blog:
"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."
Here is a link to the trailer:Into The Woods
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
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..."
Here is a link to the trailer: Five Armies
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..."
Read more: http://www.waycooldogs.com#ixzz3OW6latfA
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."
Here is the trailer forThe Giver...
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 Jingles is 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 Fido is 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
When Library Time Means Screen Time
By LUISA COLON...The Stories Do End and the Games Begin: this is the experience of Lisa Colon as reported in Motherlode in the New York Times.
Blog: Barking Planet
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By: Children's Books, dogs, and related matters,
Storytellers and The Oral Traditon
The photo is of a statue of a woman who could recite (sing) 32,000 verses of poetry
from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. Her name was Larin Paraske (1833-1904), one of the last Finnish Rune singer-storytellers. During the Finnish renaisance of the nineteenth century , artists, writers, and composers (including Jean Sibelius) listened to her interpretation of the Kalevala. The Kalevala was passed on for centuries by rune singers. In earlier times, there were hundreds of Rune singers in this land of lakes and forests.
Cinderfellas: The Long-Lost Fairy Tales
Here are excerpts from an excellent article about the soon to be published (February 24), The Turnip Princess. The article is a preview from the New Yorker of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "Lost" Fairy Tales. It was written by Maria Tatar, who also wrote the English translation of the new book.
..."Schönwerth’s tales have a compositional fierceness and energy rarely seen in stories gathered by the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault, collectors who gave us relatively tame versions of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” and “Rapunzel.” Schönwerth gives us a harsher dose of reality than most collections. His Cinderella is a woodcutter’s daughter who uses golden slippers to recover her beloved from beyond the moon and the sun. His miller’s daughter wields an ax and uses it to disenchant a prince by chopping off the tail of a gigantic black cat. The stories remain untouched by literary sensibilities. No throat-clearing for Schönwerth, who begins in medias res, with “A princess was ill” or “A prince was lost in the woods,” rather than “Once upon a time…”
This fascinating article continues, describing the cultural shifts that resulted in the softening of these folk stories, and noting many instances where stories that were originally about boys, became stories about girls.
" ...Boy heroes clearly had a hard time surviving the nineteenth-century migration of fairy tales from the communal hearth into the nursery, when oral storytelling traditions, under the pressures of urbanization and industrialization, lost their cross-generational appeal. Once mothers, nannies, and domestics were in charge of telling stories at bedtime; it seems they favored tales with female heroines."
Tatar offers several examples of these changes. Here is her summary of a change in role that struck me as a vivid example, a precurser of the Princess and the Frog...
"Equally charming is the story about Jodl, a boy who overcomes his revulsion to a female frog and, after bathing her, joins her under the covers. In the morning, he awakens to find himself in a sunlit castle with a wondrously beautiful princess..."
Greater Understanding of Fairy Tale Magic
...Here at last is a transformation that promises real change in our understanding of fairy-tale magic, for suddenly we discover that the divide between passive princesses and dragon-slaying heroes may be little more than a figment of the Grimm imagination."
The illustration of Snow White is by Franz Juttner. The illustration of the Prince and the Frog is by Maxfield Parrish.
Tales Told by People
"...Von Schönwerth spent decades asking country folk, labourers and servants about local habits, traditions, customs and history, and putting down on paper what had only been
passed on by word of mouth. In 1885, Jacob Grimm said this about him: "Nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear." Grimm went so far as to tell King Maximilian II of Bavaria that the only person who could replace him in his and his brother's work was Von Schönwerth."
This excerpt is from an early Guardian article by Victoria Sussens-Messerer reporting on the discovery of a trove of "new Fairy tales" by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth
The illustration of Snow White is by Walter Crane.
The Original Tales of the Brothers Grimm
Jack Zipes has translated into English, for the first time, the original volumes (1812-1815) of folk and fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm.
Zipes, a pioneering scholar and prolific author of books relating to folk tales, fairy tales, legends and myths, has also written an insightful and informative article on the Brother's Grimm, their motivation, methodology, and the world in which they lived and worked. The article, The Forgotten Tales of the Brothers Grimm, was published in the The Public Domain Review.
Here are excerpts...
"...Turning to the tales of the first edition the first thing a reader might notice is that many of the stories...were deleted in the following editions for various reasons, not because they were poorly told but because they did not meet some of the requirements of the Grimms...
...The second thing a reader might notice about the tales in the first edition is that most of them are shorter and strikingly different than the same tales edited in the later collections. They smack of orality and raw contents. For instance, Rapunzel reveals that she has become impregnated by the prince; Snow White’s mother, not her stepmother, wants to kill the beautiful girl out of envy...
...The literacy of the informants, however, did not diminish the folk essence of the tales
that, as the Grimms and other folklorists were to discover, were widespread throughout Europe and told more often than not in dialect. The tales came to the tellers from other tellers, or they read tales, digested them, and made them their own. Indeed, we always make tales our own and then send them off to other tellers with the hope that they will continue to disseminate their stories...
And yet, the Grimms, as collectors, cultivators, editors, translators, and mediators, are to be thanked for endeavoring to do the impossible and to work collectively with numerous people and their sources to keep traditional stories and storytelling alive. In this respect their little known first edition deserves to be rediscovered, for it is a testimony to forgotten voices that are actually deep within us. Hence, the irresistibility of the Grimms’ tales that are really not theirs, but ours. "
The illustration of the wolf about to eat Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother is by Gustav Dore.
Grimm Legacies: The Magic Power of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales by Jack Zipes was published in December, 2014 (Princeton University Press) as a complement to his translation of the Original Fairy Fairy Tales (above). Here is a review:
"In this landmark work of fairy-tale scholarship, Jack Zipes comes to grips with the multiple legacies of the Brothers Grimm in German and Anglo-American cultures. With nuance and inexhaustible insight, Zipes shows how mythmaking, marketing, hype, Americanization, the appeal of collective action, and utopian longing have sustained 'the magic spell' of the Grimms' tales throughout two centuries of use and abuse. Anyone seeking to understand the popularity of the Grimms' fairy tales or their richly diverse reception will do well to begin here."--Donald Haase, editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales
The Rune Singer Storyteller begins Poem 1 of the Kalevala...
"It is my desire, it is my wish
to set out to sing, to begin to recite,
to let a song of our clan glide on, to sing a family lay,
The words are melting in my mouth, utterances dropping out,
coming to my tongue, being scattered about on my teeth."
Translation by Francis Magoun from the Kalevala poems compiled by Elias Lonnrot (1802-1804)
The illustration is from a painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela
Paws 4 Autism is "helping families help their kids connect to the world 4 Paws at a time."
The following excerpt is from the Planet Dog Foundation (PDF) which provided a Grant to help Paws 4 Autism fulfill their mission.
"Paws 4 Autism utilizes specially trained dogs to help children with autism and their
families. The PDF grant will specifically fund the Canine Assisted Social Skills in Education Program (CASSIE) which provides social and communication skills training for individuals aged 6-14 who have autism...Paws 4 Autism is 100% staffed by volunteers."
Visit the Paws 4 Autism website to learn more:
"Paws 4 Autism CASSIE program is currently working with 32 families in Kansas City, with a wait list of over 200 and growing..."
World Read Aloud Day is March 4, 2015
World Read Aloud Day is LitWorld's Celebration of reading. In 2014, over 75 countries participated.
This photo is from Nepal
Every year, on the first Wednesday of March, World Read Aloud Day calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.
"World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their futures: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their stories.
World Read Aloud Day allows members of our year-round programs to invite more people into their literacy community and brings LitWorld’s messages to the rest of the world. World Read Aloud Day is now celebrated by over one million people in more than 80 countries and reaches over 31 million people online. The growth of our movement can be attributed in large part to our network of partner organizations and “WRADvocates” – a group of reading advocates and supporters taking action in their communities and on social media. "
Here is the link for more information or to be a part of this wonderful event, LitWorld.
The photo on the lower left is from a World Read Aloud Day group in the Phillipines.
"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me that any talent for abstract, positive thinking.
The International Children's Digital Library (ICDL)
Free Children's Books on the Internet in a huge digital library. Many of them appear to be from another era. From their site...
"The ICDL has been visited by over three million unique visitors since our launch in November, 2002.
- The ICDL collection includes 4619 books in 59 languages.
- Our users come from 228 different countries.
Free access to high-quality digital books from around the world. Browse by age, genre, book length, character types, or even the color of a book's cover."
Here is the Link: ICDL
Tell Me A Story
SurLaLune , Heidi Anne Heimer's website for Fairy Tales and Folklore is a veritable constellation of fairy tale books, information, annotations, illustrations, and links. Here is a excerpt from an article she posted on folklore, fairy tales and the oral tradition of storytelling.
"...Then there is the whole explanation of how folklore comes from oral storytelling tradition. Be aware that this website and most fairy tale studies deal with literary fairy tales, tales that are once removed from oral tradition, set down on paper by one or more authors. Once the story is written down, it becomes static in that version. It is no longer only folklore, but part of the world's body of literature. In contrast, the beauty of storytelling is how the same story is slightly different each time it is told, even by the same storyteller. Oral fairy tales are elusive creatures that folklorists study, record and try to trace through history. It is an invigorating field of study, but not the one I have pursued on SurLaLune. Note that sometimes the literary fairy tale came first and was then absorbed back into oral tradition, such as with 'Beauty and the Beast.'"...
The illustration of Rapunzel is by George Cruickshank.
The Planet of the Dogs, as the Story Was First Told
Daisy and Bean,who lived on a farm near Lake Falls Village (on planet Earth), found themselves on the Planet of the Dogs. They were the first humans to be there. This was long, ago, before there were dogs on planet Earth.
They had been chosen as emissaries, to help with a transition -- the dogs had decided to come to earth to help people learn again about loyalty, courage and love. And they needed to learn how non-violent solutions could turn back invaders. .
The following excerpt takes place following a huge gathering of the dogs,who had come to hear the decision, by Miss Merrie, Queen of the dogs, and the Dog Council, about helping people on earth....
"Rex, a big shaggy dog -- bigger than Buddy, and very old -- then spoke. 'You must not tell anyone about visiting the Planet of the Dogs. People won’t believe you, and they’ll think that you aren’t telling the truth, or that it was just something you imagined. And some will become frightened and tell false stories about you. And this will interfere with our efforts to help people. You must keep your visit here a secret. Can you do that?' ”
To read more, visit the Planet Of The Dogs
Free Books for Therapy Reading Dogs
Therapy reading dog owners, librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs -- If you email us at email@example.com , we will send you free reader copies from the Planet of the Dogs Series...Read dog books to kids and dogs.
The photo is of therapy reading dog Jezebell, seen here with a reading student friend. They were part of teacher Julie Hauck's pioneering Pages for Preston reading program for second and third graders in the Longfellow Elementary School, Sheboygan, WI.
Up On the Woof
"I’ve been accused of treating my dogs like children, but I honestly see that as more of a badge of honor than a criticism. After all, the more science learns about dogs, the more apparent it is that they are like children. They are as bright as any toddler, and because they are completely dependent on us, it means they stay babies all their lives. That means it’s our responsibility as pet parents to make sure their physical (food, water, shelter, safety, hygiene, play, medical) and emotional (love, encouragement, comfort) needs are met. It means teaching them, and seeing that their lives are enriched and that they are intellectually stimulated."
The excerpt above is by C.A. Wulff, from her Up On The Woof blog. Wulff is a dog loving animal advocate/activist; book reviewer and columnist (Examiner); yelodoggie artist; author of dog world books; and associate publisher at Barking Planet Productions.
In the Spring, Barking Planet Productions will publish an updated and revised edition of Wulff's fascinating memoir, Born Without a Tale.
Your off to great places,
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So...get on your way!
New Cinderella from Disney opens March 13.
Cinderella returns.. Will it be Sugar Coated Survival Skills or will the spirit of Malificent return?
After the success of Frozen, which glossed over Hans Christian Anderson's Snow Queen, it's no telling. However, the director (Kenneth Branagh) is excellent, as is the cast (Kate Blanchett, Lily James, Helen Bonham Carter, Richard Madden).
Frozen, with its romantic music and sugar coated romance, is a favorite to win an Academy Award (February 22).
Here is a link to the trailer: Cinderella
In Defense of Little Girls Who Like Princesses
Lizzy Burns wrote a caring, thoughtful, and very lively blog defending little girls who like playing princess. Here is an excerpt...
"There is nothing wrong -- absolutely nothing wrong -- with your young child liking princesses. Any princess...I get annoyed at the gendering of toys and books -- Legos and science are for boys, feelings and dress up are for girls -- but that is because Legos and science and feelings and dress up are for any child, boy or girl, and problematic messages are sent by calling one "boy" and one "girl."
Princesses (especially pink sparkly princesses) can be problematic not because they are pink sparkly princesses but because what it means to be a princess, to want to be a princess, and how society views that, along with misunderstandings about the nature of play and imagination (and I'd add, that goes for children, teens, and grown ups.)
I'm not the first person to talk about princesses, what they mean, what they don't mean, and the depth and substance that is needed for the "princess talk..."
Here's a link to read it all: Lizzy Burns
The Tin Man Returns in a theatrical perfomance piece invoving actors, puppets, a musical soundscape and innovative staging. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times Review by Laura Collins Hughes...
Led by a Tender Heart, Before It Is Ripped Out
‘The Woodsman’ Tells the Tin Man’s Tale
"Using words is dangerous in this eastern corner of Oz, yet sound is everywhere: the mournful music of a violin, the rasp of a witch, the spooky wind of the woods.
How to Create a YA Phenomenon, in Nine Easy Steps by Amanda Dobbins
Humor, Irony, tongue-in-PC, and truth mix in this article from New York Magazine's Vulture Website. Here's an excerpt...
"The Divergent series has sold 5 million books and is regularly called 'the next Hunger Games' or 'the next next Twilight.'Interested in writing the next next next teen franchise? Here’s a step-by-step guide.
1. Start a blog.
Early online readers got to watch Roth write Divergent, find an agent, and sell it to HarperCollins—all in real time on her website. By the time the book was published, “she was already a social-media phenomenon,” says editor Katherine Tegen.
Pro tip: Blog about lots of things!
A list of non-writing topics mentioned on Veronica Roth’s blog: dead raccoons, traffic lanes, sweet-potato soup, spiders, a OneRepublic CD.
2. Don’t be afraid to be trendy.
The Hunger Games was big at that point, but there were a couple other books that were on the cusp of the dystopian-sci-fi trend—Matched and The Maze Runner. But the timing just worked so that Divergent ended up...Read it all: Amanda Dobbins
"How to find the best vet for your pooch is about providing the best care for your dog. Dogs have a way of working their way into our heart and becoming more than just an everyday pet. If you have a pet dog then the chances are that they have become a firm member of your family. For this reason alone you are going to want to make sure that they receive the best veterinary care, which involves the best choice of vet. You probably wouldn’t visit a doctor with a bad reputation, and you will want the same for your dog..."
Read more on Nancy Hauser's Way Cool Dogs: Best Vet
Motherless Child Project.
The voice of Emily Amber, a 16 year old girl in South Carolina, pulls you in. I rarely read YA books and I'm still in the process of reading The Motherless Child Project. However, I can report that a compelling momentum drives this story. Here is an excerpt from early on in the book...
"...In my house, no one talks about anything concerning my mother, not dad, not Jon, Nicky nor me. The best way I can explain it is like this - when it's a fact in your life that your mother is MIA, and you know you'll never get anywhere by asking where she is because you tried numerous times with bad or worse results, you just move on with your life. What else can you do?..."
I'm looking forward to reading all of the Motherless Child Project and reporting on Emily Amber in the next Barking Planet blog. For more information, visit author Janie McQueen.
On Jan 29, Kaitlin Jenkins, posted an article on her blog, She Speaks Bark, about National Seeing Eye Dog Day. I found her article to be warm-hearted and informative. Here is an excerpt...
"Guide Dogs, or Seeing Eye Dogs as they’re often called, provide support and independence to
visually impaired individuals. Often, the companionship of the seeing eye dogs allows a visually impaired person to take many of their daily tasks back into their own hands. Suddenly a world that was always limiting a person is once again re-opened, and they’ve got a constant companion who is looking out for them at all times. The partnership between a trained guide dog and their person is something to behold, and it’s something I’ve always found incredibly powerful and fascinating."
Her article led me to Guide Dogs for the Blind. This outstanding organization, located in San Rafael, CA, and Boring, OR, offers a lifetime of support to visually impaired people. In their own words...
"We are a passionate community that serves the visually impaired. With exceptional client services and a robust network of trainers, puppy raisers, donors and volunteers, we prepare highly qualified guide dogs to serve and empower individuals who are blind or have low vision. All of our services are provided free of charge; we receive no government funding."
Here is a link to their humorous guide to Blindness Etiquette video...I smiled, laughed and learned.
The photo of the woman and her dog is courtesy of Guide Dogs for the Blind
"She was made to work like a slave from morning to night. She had to get up at daybreak, carry water from the well, clean the fireplace and the fires, cook all the food and wash all the dishes. But that wasn't all, because the sisters did everything they could to make things worse for the poor girl...And when she was done at the end of the day, could she look forward to a comfortable bed? Not a bit of it. She had to sleep on the hearth, in among the ashes and the cinders..."
Cinderella - from Philip Pullman's Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm
A Dog's Life, Outside and Inside
Anna Nirva,in her Sunbear Squad blog, discusses how dogs are
social animals who are happier, and usually healthier, when they live inside. There, they can be part of a pack (people are also members of their pack). Often, however, dog owners choose to keep their dogs outside and this can necessitate -- if humane conditions are to prevail -- the need for a proper doghouse. Here is a brief excerpt:
"If you must keep your dog outdoors, construct an excellent dog house and kennel based on considerations of your dog’s breed, age,
health status, your climate and environment, and safety and health features. Schedule daily activities so that your dog doesn’t become depressed or frustrated, leading to difficult behaviors. Never chain your dog..."
Anna offers detailed, comprehensive, information and considerations ranging from the dog's physical limitations and the local environment to design features that will help the dog to stay safe and healthy. Here is a link to read it all: the Humane Dog House.
The illustration by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty is from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale.
A man may smile and bid you hail
Yet wish you to the devil;
But when a good dog wags his tail,
You know he's on the level.
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The long ordeal of the 33 trapped Chilean miners is finally at an end – and the buzz about book deals and film rights to the men’s dramatic story has already begun.
The miners themselves are reported to have made a pact to collaborate on their own book, but in the UK the first book was signed up on Monday, before the rescue had even begun. Freelance journalist Jonathan Franklin, who has covered the dramatic story for the Guardian from day one, is to pen an account of the saga, provisionally titled 33 Men, for book publisher Transworld.
Franklin, who is an American but has lived in the Chile’s capital Santiago for 15 years, spoke about the book on his mobile phone from Chile, after 48 sleepless hours covering the emotional scenes as the miners emerged.
“This is one of the great rescue stories of all time,” he said, admitting he himself had wept as the first miners were released on Tuesday night. “It’s the reason we all want to be reporters: a remarkable story of the world coming together for a good reason. It taps into human altruism, the desire to work together, perseverance, faith that good things happen, never giving up.” The early chapters of the book, he said, were already written.
As a journalist, Franklin had had “a backstage pass to the whole thing. I was allowed to tape record the psychologist talking to the [trapped] men, I spent last night in the hospital talking to the [newly freed] miners.” He intends his book to reveal the characters of the miners themselves (“You could probably do a book on every one of them”) and reflect their black humour: one of the men played dead, for a joke, during the first 17 days spent in the collapsed mine without food, while another attempted phone sex with the nurse who was attending to him 700m above.
Transworld book publishers, a division of Random House, which bought 33 Men at last week’s Frankfurt Book Fair, said: “As far as I’m aware, Franklin is the only print and publishers journalist in the inner circle at the mine, party to a lot of the strategy and to the stories of the relatives at the top, the wives and girlfriends.” He added: “What I think is really interesting, apart from the drama of the story itself, is the miners’ lives in this isolated outpost in Chile, which is a bit like the Wild West. People seem to live by their own rules, and it’s a very rugged existence – tough people living in a tough place.”
The publication date for the book is still to be confirmed. “It’ll be sooner rather than later, but I don’t want Franklin to compromise the depth and breadth of the story by making it a rush job,” Scott-Kerr said.
Literary agent Annabel Merullo at Peters, Fraser and Dunlop, who is handling the book, said it had also sold to France and Germany, with self publishing film interest from the US.
“It’s happened so quickly,” she said. “When the story broke, we talked about it at the agency and said, ‘Is there a book in it?’ We decided there only was if we could get someone really good to write it. Jonathan’s coverage was so much better than everyone else’s. He has incredible access at the mines and he’s covered the story from day one.”
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McClelland & Stewart Book Publisher (Fiction) and Executive Vice President Ellen Seligman announced Michael Ondaatje’s highly anticipated new novel, The Cat’s Table, will go on sale on August 30, 2011. It will be published in the fall in the US by Knopf and in the UK by Jonathan Cape.
“I am completely blown away by Michael Ondaatje’s stunning and original new novel,” says Seligman. “The Cat’s Table is a surprise and a sheer delight — a brilliantly told story, with unforgettable moments and characters the reader comes to care deeply about. It is perhaps Ondaatje’s most thrilling and moving novel to date.”
The Cat’s Table has received enthusiastic and exited responses as well from Ondaatje’s book publishers around the world including:
“The Cat’s Table is written with wisdom and poignancy, filled with the superlative storytelling we’ve come to expect from Michael Ondaatje. I was completely moved by the way he inhabits the voice of his narrator and conjures the innocence of childhood and the challenges of making one’s home in a strange land. The novel resonates on many levels.” – Sonny Mehta, Chairman and Editor in Chief, Knopf Publishing Group
“What a book it is! In my view, the best thing Ondaatje has done.” – Robin Robertson, Jonathan Cape UK
“It is so beautiful, the way it unfolds and becomes more and more complex and becomes many types of a novel — memoir, Bildungsroman, adventure novel and something like 1001 Nights…” – Anna Leube, Hanser, Germany
Michael Ondaatje is the author of four previous novels, a memoir, a nonfiction book on film, and several books of poetry. His most recent novel Divisadero won the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award and was a finalist for the Giller Prize. The English Patient won the Booker Prize and was an Academy Award-winning film; Anil’s Ghost won the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Giller Prize, and the Prix Médicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Ondaatje now lives in Toronto.
By: Celia Rees
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Lucy Coats has already blogged (Wednesday, 9th Feb) about the remarks that Martin Amis made when he was interviewed by Sebastian Faulks for the BBC 2 programme, Faulks on Fiction. Her blog has attracted 60 comments and the outrage felt has resonated as far as the national press and the Huffington Post. Martin Amis, as the Guardian on Saturday pointed out, is no stranger to controversy.
I, too, saw the programme and after the first dropping of the jaw, I thought that he actually had a point. Just in case anybody doesn't know, or does not want to scroll down the page and see his words in purple 18 point type, he said:
'People ask me if I ever thought of writing a children's book. I say: "If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children's book."'
So far, so insulting. He then went on to say:
'The idea of being conscious of who you are directing the story to is anathema to me because, in my view, fiction is freedom and any restraints on that are intolerable. I would never write about someone that forced me to write at a lower register than what I can write.'
Once I heard that, I could see where he was coming from. I did not think he was saying 'all children's writers have half a brain', that would be false logic. He was just explaining his own writing stance and he is entitled to do that. He writes literary fiction for adults, as such he sees it as his task to write to the top of his register and would not, could not accept any restraints on that.
The disregard for the reader that Amis expresses is just not possible when one is writing for children. Children's writers, and I include writers of Young Adult fiction, are ALWAYS aware of what their readers will and will not tolerate, or will or will not understand. Anyone who denies this is being disingenuous. Quite apart from the target readers themselves, there are other agencies involved. We have to worry about things that would not trouble writers of adult fiction in the least - see Leslie Wilson's blog below. How many writers for adults would feel the need to explain and justify their use of swear words or the incidence of sex in a novel? How much we take these factors into consideration, how much we allow them to limit our fiction, is up to us, but those limitations are there. We do not use our full palate, as Patrick Ness would say. How can we? We have to write at a lower register because we are adults and our readers are children.
There are other pressures on us, too. Pressures that have nothing to do with our writing but everything to do with the market place. In a squeezed market, there is more and more demand from publishers for novels that will sell. Books that fit into an obvious, popular genre - action, dark romance, whatever. A book that is perceived as 'too literary' is seen as problematic. The equivalent of the literary novel is a rare beast, and becoming more endangered by the minute. If one or two do sneak through, they usually turn out to have been written for adults in the first place and tweaked a bit in a bid to capture that holy grail, the crossover market.
In an interview in the Observer Review (13th February, 2011)) Nicole Krauss attests that the comment she heard most frequently on a U.S. book tour for her novel, The History of Love, was: 'this book is difficult'. Krauss worries that 'we are moving towards the end of effort'. Readers don't want to have to think too hard, it appears, whatever their age. That is the spectre that frightens me. In the hope of keeping that at bay, I actually want Martin Amis to write to the limit
These brilliant words on historical fiction—what it should do, why it matters—come by way of Andrew Miller
, by way of the Guardian, by way of Shelf Awareness. In all that I write that looks back, I am, like Miller, looking at now. He says it better than I ever could:
As a boy I understood perfectly that history is not something apart from us, sealed off. It is in our blood, our music, our language, the buildings we pass on the way to work. And at its best, historical fiction is never a turning away from the Now but one of the ways in which our experience of the contemporary is revived. Janus-like, such books look both to the past and to the present, and there is no need to laboriously draw out the parallels for they suggest themselves, inevitably and plentifully.
The Guardian - The British newspaper, not the defunct TV series - has offered us all a joyful online Advent Calendar centered on books for children and teens. These are British books, mind, but a whole lot of those have captured the American readers' attention - Harry Potter, for instance.
|The selection for Dec. 2 is a slide show about Raymond Briggs.|
and then bookmark the page so you can check back every day for quizzes and author interviews and other fun for us older fans of kids' lit.
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The Very Short Film competition was launched in partnership with The Guardian in October 2012. The longlisted entries are now available for the public vote which will produce four finalists. After a live final in March, the winner will receive £9000 towards their university education.
By Chloe Foster
After more than three months of students carefully planning and creating their entries, the Very Short Film competition has closed and the longlisted submissions have been announced.
The competition asked entrants to create a short film which would inform and inspire us. Students were free to base their entry on any subject they were passionate about. There was just one rule: films could be no longer than 60 seconds in length.
We certainly had many who managed to do this. The standard of films was impressive. How were we to whittle down the entries and choose just 12 for the longlist?
We received a real range of films from a variety of ages, characters and subjects — everything from scuba diving to the economic state of the housing market. It was great to see a mixture of academic subjects and topics of personal interest.
It must be said that the quality of the filmmaking itself was very high in some entries. However not all of these could be put through to the longlist; although artistic and clever, they didn’t inform us in the way our criteria specified.
When choosing the longlisted entries, judges looked for students who were clearly on top of their subject. We were most impressed by films that conveyed a topic’s key information in a concise way, were delivered with passion and verve, and left us wanting to find out more. By the end of our selection process, we felt that each of the films had taught us something new or made us think about a subject in a way we hadn’t before.
The sheer amount of information filmmakers managed to convey was astounding. As the Very Short Introductions editor Andrea Keegan says: “I thought condensing a large topic into 35,000 words, as we do in the Very Short Introductions books was difficult enough, but I think that this challenge was even harder. I was very impressed with the quality and variety of videos which were submitted.
“Ranging from artistic to zany, I learned a lot, and had lots of fun watching them. The longlist represents both a wide range of subjects — from the history of film to quantum locking — and a huge range in the approaches taken to get the subjects across in just one minute.”
We hope the entrants enjoyed thinking about and creating their films as much as we enjoyed watching them. We asked a few of the longlisted students what they made of the experience. Mahshad Torkan, studying at the London School of Film, tackled the political power of film: “I am very thankful for this amazing opportunity that has allowed me to reflect my values and beliefs and share my dreams with other people. I believe that the future is not something we enter, the future is something we create.”
Maia Krall Fry is reading geology at St Andrews: “It seemed highly important to discuss a topic that has really captured my curiosity and sense of adventure. I strongly believe that knowledge of the history of the earth should be accessible to everyone.”
Matt Burnett, who is studying for an MSc in biological and bioprocess engineering at Sheffield, used his film to explore the challenges of creating cost-effective therapeutic drugs: “I felt that in a minute it would be very hard to explain my research in enough detail just using speech, and it would be difficult to demonstrate or act out. I simplify difficult concepts for myself by drawing diagrams, often spending a lot of time on them. For me it is the most enjoyable part of learning, and so I thought it would be fun to draw an animated video. If I get the chance to do it again I think I’d use lots of colours.”
So, what are you waiting for? Take a look at the 12 films and pick your favourite of these amazingly creative and intelligent entries.
Chloe Foster is from the Very Short Introductions team at Oxford University Press. This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk.
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Last Thursday, a fellow Bath author, Clare Furniss
, launched her first novel for teens, The Year of the Rat,
at Mr B’s. The little shop was heaving with friends, family and well-wishers as Clare talked about how she had come to write the book, before reading a tantalizing extract, which now has me itching to read my copy.
There was a lot of buzz surrounding the novel as it has already received high praise, and was also announced as one of Radio 2’s Book Club choices the very day of the launch. Almost more remarkable, some might comment, is the fact that Clare wrote this book whilst looking after two pre-school children. Almost as if to illustrate the enormity of this task, her two young sons were at Mr B’s with her, clambering over her while she spoke, evidently keen to share the limelight. Clare did a fantastic job in delivering a speech while encumbered in this way, and it led her to make a passing comment on ‘the pram in the hall’; a phrase which, more often than not, is used negatively as a metaphor for how motherhood can prevent women from reaching their full potential in their careers. However, as Clare said, for her, ‘the pram in the hall’ actively helped her to achieve her dream of writing a novel, as it meant she had to concentrate her efforts into the small amount of free time she had available. ‘I worked while the boys were sleeping, or while my parents took them off me for short periods; I wrote late into the night – I took any and every opportunity I could to sit and write,’ she said. This resonated strongly with me, for I share Clare’s conviction that if it were not for that pram in the hall, I too would not have found the drive necessary to get on with it and become a writer. When my son was born and my daughter was just two years old, my husband’s career took us to France. I had been working in London and had to give up my job to go with him. I found myself thinking I should use my enforced career break to finally do something about being the writer I knew, deep down, I had always wanted to be.
It was tough. I was exhausted a lot of the time and had no friends or family to call on. My husband worked long hours and often travelled, leaving me with the kids for days and nights at a time. Although my daughter went to a little garderie des enfants a couple of times a week, I still had a newborn baby to look after.
I decided that the only way to get anything done was to use the children’s rest times to my advantage. Luckily my son was a good sleeper, so while his sister was out, I would feed him, put him in his car seat and rock it gently with my foot while I sat at my computer. He would eventually drop off to sleep while I tapped away at the keyboard. Recently Maggie O’Farrellwrote an article in the Guardian on how she combines motherhood with her working day: ‘How to write looking after a very young baby: get a sling . . . Walk to your desk, averting your eyes from the heaps of laundry on the stairs, the drifts of cat hair on the carpets, the flotsam of toys in every doorway . . . Do not check your email, do not click on your favourites . . . do not be tempted to see how your eBay auctions are faring: go to work, go directly to work . . . Write. The clickety-clackety of the keyboard will soothe [the baby] and you. Write without looking back, write without rereading . . . Write until you feel her twisting her head from side to side, until you lift her out and into your arms. You might be in the middle of a sentence, but no matter. Type “HERE” in capitals and then push yourself away from the desk, carrying her out of the room, shutting the door until next time.’ I am sure many mothers will recognize this description of making the most of the free time they can grab for themselves. O’Farrell’s experience mirrors my own: this is pretty much how I wrote my first picture book, my first short stories and it is how I began to see myself as a writer rather than a mother taking a break from work. The added bonus of motherhood was that it actively contributed to my writing life: I was seeing the world through my children’s eyes on a daily basis, and realizing that was how I wanted to write it. The kids are teens now, so I have a lot more time to myself than I did when they were babies. The demands are different and sometimes writing time is still broken up, particularly in the school holidays when I am asked to drive them here and there and everywhere. And of course I still have to walk past the laundry, the drifts of cat hair, the piles of washing up . . .
It hasn’t always been an easy ride, mixing writing with motherhood, and I am certain I would not want to go back to those sleep-deprived days, those snatched half hours of writing time interspersed with breast-feeding, nappy-changing and Lego-building. Yet there is no doubt that having only tiny amounts of time to write did focus the mind and keep me keen, not to mention giving me valuable material. I agree with Clare Furniss: in the end, it was the pram in the hall that set me on the road to being the writer I had always wanted to be.
So if you want to write, but think, ‘I haven't got the time’, draw strength from the fact that it can be done, how ever little time you have. I have learnt that one concentrated hour (or even thirty minutes) is a golden opportunity, not to be wasted; and all thanks to the pram in the hall.
In The Guardian
last weekend Matt Haig
commented on the publishing industry's obsession with jumping on bandwagons. I am not going to repeat everything he said, but one phrase in particular sent a chill of recognition through me and so prompted me to write this post. He said that we are heading towards a situation where 'the once kaleidoscopic book world risks becoming fifty shades of safe'.
Those words could so easily apply to the majority of books bearing my name, I thought. After all, I am the woman who has 'churned out' (as some would see it) fourteen animal books, and my publisher now wants more of the same. Or, failing that, the Next Big Thing, which frankly is rather an Unknown Unknown, so what I am supposed to do about that?
Thing is, I am not sure I want to try and second-guess the market; a fickle thing at the best of times. I am also clear I do not want to write more of the same, just as I am not convinced that readers necessarily want to read
more of the same.
I know I am not alone as a writer in feeling that the industry seems to have changed in the blink of an eye. So much has happened so fast in the way that books are sold in to retailers and sold on to the public that it was bound to affect writers and the way that publishers deal with us. However, I suppose I was not prepared for the current approach which seems very much to be along the lines of 'books as product'. I am naive, I guess. The minute that supermarkets were in on the game it was unlikely that books would be perceived to be anything other than 'product'. If you are Mr Tesco and you are looking at what books to stock, you are only interested in how the last title from a particular author performed. In other words, no matter how much blood, sweat and tears went into your new novel, no matter how good it is, how exciting, how fresh, no matter how you have performed over a number of years in the market, if your last title did not shift a respectable number of units, you will not find your name on the shelves next time around. And you will certainly not have room to develop as a writer because the market views books much as it views tins of beans - if they taste good and sell well as they are, why change them?
Except that books are not tins of beans - we all know that.
It probably sounds as though I don't understand the publishers' point of view. I do. Things have changed for them, too, obviously. Faced with the demands of the Mr Tescos of this world, 'building an author' is sadly a luxury most publishers cannot now afford, so I can hardly blame them for wanting to make money out of 'fifty shades of safe'.
However, I wanted to write this post to see how others feel. Are you expected to come up with 'the next you', i.e. more of the same, reliable writing that conveniently places you where marketing and sales people are confident of how to pitch you in their publishing plan? Or are you throwing caution to the wind and using this climate to your advantage, to write what you really want to write, oblivious to the increasingly bland demands of the marketeers, and sending it out with all fingers and toes crossed? Is this the way forward: to write what we really want and hope it gets into the hands of readers? Or is this professional suicide?
I have decided to take the risk: to write a couple of books that have been swilling around in the back of my mind for a while, but which I have not had the confidence to develop. It may all end in a damp squib of disappointment and rejection. But I cannot sit around waiting for the crystal ball of the market place to make up its mind which tin of beans is going to be the next big thing. And I certainly do not want to be stocked on the shelves with 'fifty shades of safe'.(with apologies to Matt Haig for nicking his excellent phrase)
It's probably a futile hope, but I just hope books are selling in other places besides bookstores. Because PW reports that while retail sales overall grew 4% through June, bookstore sales have dropped a total of 4.6% in the same time period.
My gut says people are spending more time on the Internet, and that has to come from someplace.
What do you think?
"Quentin Blake is one of Britain's most famous children's illustrators, with over 300 books published and still working into his 70s. Hogarth Brown is a young artist with no books (so far) but a passion for the artist he has never met ... until now."
A young illustrator from The Guardian gets to meet Quentin Blake. I like the part where Blake comments-- "...What's good is that you actually draw things."
Just popping in to let you know the Guardian has published a slew of fun top 10 lists:
I stumbled upon the following "advert" for a DVD on The Guardian's website. (Where you can also buy a "space-saving water butt." See what I mean? Those guys across the pond are a riot!):
New restored BFI version of 'Night Mail' with lots of extras for only £12.99.
You can buy 'Night Mail' on DVD, the critically acclaimed film which remains one of the most popular and instantly recognised films in British film history. (That's my boldfacing. Such high praise! Let's see what it's about...)
An account of the operation of the Postal Special - the Royal Mail train delivery service - it shows the various stages and procedures of that operation, through mail collection to sorting. (I'm all a-flutter!)
As the train nears its destination we see the best-known sequence, in which WH Auden's spoken verse and Benjamin Britten's music are combined over a montage of racing train wheels. (Well, no wonder. A montage of racing train wheels. With a literary connection, no less.)
How can you not love a country that's sort of one big nudge in the ribs? I mean, with the left-hand driving and all, and their funny words like "water butt."
Which reminds me. I need to go order mine...
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The nights are drawing in and it’s book prize season – Nobel, Man Booker et al. This is the moment in the year, as the Flat draws to a close and as the National Hunt book publishing season gets into full swing, when literature becomes a horse race. That just might be the good news. John Steinbeck once observed that “the profession of book publishing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business”.
Many people who care about books are not so blithe. They worry that the turf accountants of our culture (tipsters who know the price of everything but the value of nothing) are reducing art to a crude cash value to publish a book. That’s one consequence of the credit crunch.
Every bookie is quoting literary odds now: Ladbrokes, William Hill, Paddy Power and Unibet are all at it. I can see some sense in giving the betting on Peter Carey or Howard Jacobson – they’re on a book publishers shortlist – but the whole point of the Nobel prize is that its shortlist is confidential. It beats me how anyone could come up with starting prices for it. According to its website, the Swedish academy makes its choice based on submissions from “professors of literature, book publishers and language, former Nobel laureates” and members of similar bodies, the Académie Française for example. The Swedes usually get about 350 nominations, all secret. How on earth can any bookie make sense of that?
Yet, such is the power of the market, and the importance of the prize, in a prize-conscious culture, that before the announcement of the great Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa as the long-overdue winner for 2010, both Ladbrokes and Unibet were quoting odds of Les Murray (8/1), AS Byatt (18/1), Vaclav Havel (35/1) and even Bob Dylan (150/1).
Mad as this seems, it is no more improbable than the founding of an important literary prize by a would-be poet who happened to invent dynamite. Alfred Nobel published a verse tragedy, Nemesis, inspired by Shelley’s The Cenci, just before his death in 1896.
Man Booker also has its roots in trade. Britain’s premier book prize was initially sponsored by a food conglomerate and is now backed by a hedge fund, the Man Group.
At this year’s Booker banquet in the Guildhall, there will be an awkward moment when a middle-aged bloke in a suit rehearses the trading achievements of his company to the assembled literati, makes a segue to his commitment to the arts and sits down to polite, slightly mystified, applause.
At such moments, it is hard not to recall Dr Johnson’s definition of the patron: “Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence and is paid with flattery.”
Under the coalition, it’s back to the 18th century. According to some, this is the worst crisis in books since Paternoster Row was destroyed in the Blitz in 1940. To paraphrase Macaulay, contemporary writers sometimes know luxury, and often face penury, but they never know comfort. Writers and self-publishing artists in austerity Britain will be grateful to sponsors such as Man and Costa.
The future may be Orange, but it’s hardly bright. The Arts Council, the British Council and the BBC, to name three traditional patrons, all face outright government hostility or death by a thousand cuts.
In this climate, writers may have to take their lead from George Gissing’s indigent hero Jasper Milvain who, more than 100 years ago, declared in New Grub Street: “I am the literary man (of 1882)… I a