Since it’s apparently football season (or at least that’s what the trending topics on Twitter seem to imply) think of this as a kind of post-game recap of what went on yesterday in the land of ALA Media Awards. Each year I like to look at what I got right, what I got wrong, what I got horrendously wrong, and what I got so wrong that it’s a miracle I’m even allowed to blog anymore. And because I believe in eating my cake before my dinner, we’ll start at the top and work our way down (metaphorically speaking).
Newbery Winners: I Got Them Moves Like Gantos
When I posted my review of The Great Cake Mystery yesterday and happened to include at the end an image of Dead End in Norvelt: British Edition (called just plain old Dead End and shown here) I hadn’t even considered the possibility that the darn book was poised to win the greatest honor in the field of children’s literature. Why had I recovered from my Gantos fever? Well, I think Jon Scieszka put it best yesterday when he tweeted his congrats to Jack and applied the hashtag #afunnybookfinallywins. Ye gods. He’s right. I ran over to ye olde list of past Award winners and while some contain elements of humor, none of them have been as outright ballsy in their funny writing as Gantos was here. I mean, you can make a case for Despereaux or Bud Not Buddy if you want, but basically even those books drip of earnestness. And on some level I must have figured the funny book couldn’t win. I had forgotten myself the moniker I had applied to this year. The Year of Breaking Barriers. Well if giving a big award to a funny title isn’t breaking a barrier here or there, I don’t know what is.
It’s really funny to read my mid-year and fall predictions in regards to the Gantos title. In the middle of the year I mentioned the book as a possibility but even then I wasn’t putting too much hope there. I wrote:
This is undoubtedly wishful thinking on my part. Gantos has never gotten the gold, and he deserves it someday. This book, of course, has a weird undercurrent to it that may turn off a certain breed of Newbery committee member. Not everyone is going to find Jack’s constant brushes with death as interesting as I do. Still, I hold out hope that maybe this’ll be a Gantos-luvin’ committee year. Stranger things have happened.
Stranger indeed. By the fall I was mentioning it, but only in passing and with the feeling that it was an unlikely bet so that by my last prediction it had fallen off the radar entirely.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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, 90 Second Newbery
, Ayun Halliday
, James Kennedy
, Jon Scieszka
, Newbery Award
, Newbery Award winners
, Newbery Honors
, Rebecca Stead
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If you’ve read my blog in the last year you may have heard me mention a little something called the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. Said aloud it sounds like The 92nd Newbery Film Festival (which is not too far off since 2012 will be the 90th Newbery Award). However the entire premise was this: Kids from around the world (yes world) filmed 90-second or so versions of various Newbery Award and Honor books. They sent these books to YA author James Kennedy (of The Order of Odd-Fish) and he collected, curated, organized, tightened, and generally got them into working order. Now James received more than 100 entries, so those were culled down to a select few that he is showing in three theatrical showings. Here in New York our film festival this past Saturday was the first and played in the main branch of the library system. Subsequent showings will be held in Chicago and Portland, Oregon.
For this performance, James had a difficult job ahead of him. Essentially he had to take the best aspects of what you get at your average school play and avoid the pitfalls such performances normally contain. He also had to wrangle some special guests and actors because a festival of just films might be fine, but it wouldn’t be kickin’.
So it was that co-master of ceremonies Jon Scieszka, Newbery Award winner Rebecca Stead, author Ayun Halliday, her hugely talented children India and Milo, and the kids of Writopia Labs all gathered together to put on what I can only call a helluva show.
My job in all of this was simple: Bring water to performers. Keep the calm. Don’t panic. Don’t let the auditorium fill to above capacity.
Well, three out of four ain’t bad, right? Turns out that while I excelled in the calm/no panic/water area, I had a hard time coming down on the auditorium rule. How could I help it? James’s show was clearly a hit. Here’s what it looked like before the latecomers started sneaking in:
I would have been displeased if I hadn’t been so thrilled.
The show started off with a bang. Scieszka and Kennedy brought to mind the old vaudeville acts of old. In their pseudo-tuxes the two managed on the spot to create two characters out of thin air. Jon, the gleeful worldly New Yorker with a gleam in his eye. James, the hardworking up-and-comer form Chicago with a chip on his shoulder in the face of Jon’s smugness.
The show began with James’s version of A Wrinkle in Time, that magnificent video that went viral (90,400 views of it on Vimeo alone). After it ended James reminded everyone that this is going to be an annual film festival. “So if you’re inclined, start thinking about what 90-second Newbery films you might want to do for next year’s film festival. You’ll be thinking, ‘I can do that, but a million times better.’ DO! You don’t have to have a dance party at the end.”
5 Comments on The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival: New York Style, last added: 11/7/2011
In many respects, Kevin Hawkes was doomed to become a children’s book illustrator. His childhood was rich with children’s books and the inspiration of Paris with its grand forests and castles. In fact, one constant of his life as a child in a military family was the universal smell of libraries.
On this edition of Just One More Book, author and illustrator Kevin Hawkes talks about being inspired by a second grade art teacher and classic artists including N.C. Wyeth and Vermeer, telling stories through his artwork and the advice he offers to children in his school visits.
Photo: Random House Canada
, Kevin Hawkes
, Library Lionchildrens books
, Kevin Hawkes
, Library Lion
Candlewick (April 11, 2006)ISBN-10:
I’m coming in with a day to spare to complete my March reading for the Young Adult Challenge hosted at Thoughts of Joy
. For this challenge, I committed to read the last 12 Newbery Medal winners in effort to read more Newbery books. So far, I’ve read Kira-Kira
and The Higher Power of Lucky
This month, I read the 2004 Winner, The Tale of Despereaux, and I was not disappointed.
The Tale of Despereaux has everything I look for in a good fairy tale: a hero, a damsel in distress, an evil villain, and an exciting plot, full of suspense, where ultimately good triumphs over evil. Kate DiCamillo brilliantly includes all of these elements in an unconventional and quirky way that kids will love.
Our hero, Despereaux is a tiny mouse with “obscenely large ears” who lives in a castle with his large mouse family. The runt and only survivor of his mother’s last litter, he has always been different and a source of embarrassment for his family. In addition to his size, he doesn’t enjoy hunting for crumbs and prefers reading books instead of eating them. He even commits the ultimate offense of talking to humans and even let one, the beautiful Princess Pea, touch him. GASP! It’s this offense that sentences him to be eaten by rats in the dungeon. He manages to escape this sentence but soon has to return as he sets upon his quest to save the Princess.
Our villain is the rat, Chiaroscuro, Roscuro for short. He led a normal and rotten rat life in the dungeon until a match was lit in front of his face, and he began to crave light. It’s this craving for light that brings him up into the castle and ultimately results in the Queen’s death. Something happens during this incident that causes him to hate the Princess Pea, and he develops a plan to destroy her.
Our damsel in distress is the kind and lovely Princess Pea who manages to make Despereaux fall in love with her at first sight. But she’s actually kind of boring—the character I liked the most was Miggery Sow.
Named after her father’s favorite pig, Miggery Sow’s, Mig for short, mother died when she was a young girl. Her father sold her for a red tablecloth, a hen, and cigarettes to a cruel man who “clouted” her on the ear so much that she lost part of her hearing and ended up with ears that resembled cauliflowers. A stroke of luck gets the slow-witted Mig a job at the castle, where she desperately wants to become a Princess. Roscuro uses this to his advantage and tricks Mig into helping him execute his plan to destroy the Princess. Readers will feel sympathy for Mig as they learn about her background, but will also roll with laughter when she misinterprets what people say to her because her poor hearing.
These eccentric characters, along with an engaging, fast, and peculiar plot make The Tale of Despereaux a fantastic book that many children will love. I particularly liked the narrator’s frequent asides to the reader. While some criticize this as distracting, I think it actually draws readers in and makes for an excellent read aloud. For example, in one section, we learn about Mig’s arrival at the castle and her inability to find a job she was successful at completing. To help set the stage for this section, the narrator says,
“Reader, as the teller of this tale, it is my duty from time to time to utter some hard and rather disagreeable truths. In the spirit of honesty, then, I must inform you that Mig was the tiniest big lazy. And, too, she was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. That is, she was a bit slow-witted.” (p. 152)
So what made this book win the Newbery Medal in 2004? I think it’s because Ms. DiCamillo skillfully weaves in some great themes that can lead to many discussions, including accepting differences, living with honor, treating others with respect, the power of hope, and more. She manages to do all this through a charming story that children of a variety of ages will enjoy. It’s fast-paced and a great choice for a read aloud to younger children, and kids who are in the 8-10 range will be able to read it with ease. Kids above ten may like it but pretend it’s too childish, but I don’t want to give off the impression that it’s meant solely for younger children. Along with its lighthearted and funny parts, there is death and a little violence. But here’s how the narrator explains one part that is particularly dark.
"The story is not a pretty one. There is violence in it. And cruelty. But the stories that are not pretty have a certain value, too. I suppose. Everything, as you well know (having lived in this world long enough to have figured out a thing or two for yourself), cannot always be sweetness and light." (p. 183)
If your kids are Harry Potter fans, these parts are certainly not as dark as scenes in those books—not even close in fact. I wouldn’t have a problem sharing it with younger children, but be prepared to explain these issues if your young kids have questions.
I finished this book about two weeks ago and have sat down numerous times to write my review, but I’ve actually a hard time explaining it and wrapping it up into a succinct little description because it’s different than any other book I’ve read, but in a good way. In fact, I don’t think I’m doing it justice now. The bottom line is that I highly recommend it, and I think you and your children will like it just as much as I did.