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1. Neil Gaiman On the Value of Ghost Stories

Newbery Medal-winning author Neil Gaiman headlined “a semi-secret late-night event” during the TED 2014 conference. Brain Pickings reports that Gaiman performed recitations of a ghost story and an essay entitled “Ghost in the Machine.”

Here’s an excerpt from Gaiman’s readings: “We have been telling each other tales of otherness, of life beyond the grave, for a long time; stories that prickle the flesh and make the shadows deeper and, most important, remind us that we live, and that there is something special, something unique and remarkable about the state of being alive. Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses.”

Press play in the Soundcloud player embedded above to listen. In his essay, Gaiman discusses human society’s history with terrifying tales and the value of ghost stories. During the event, Gaiman also talked about why he agrees with J.R.R. Tolkien and Maurice Sendak’s idea that “there is no such thing as ‘children’s’ books” and “the ghosts of today that terrify” him.

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2. Fusenews: Abundant Smart Cookies

Oh, what fun we shall have now that the weather is better.  Here in New York spring sprang yesterday and all the New Yorkers, as one, exhaled in relief.  We are perfectly aware that it can’t last (can anything?) but we’re enjoying it while we can.  So sit back and glue your eyes to a computer screen instead of enjoying the respite.  Unless you have outdoor wi-fi, of course.  Then go wild.

  • MyersTimes 300x292 Fusenews: Abundant Smart CookiesI don’t think I can go any further without bringing up the dual Myers pieces in the Times this past Sunday.  As Walter Dean Myers says in his article Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?, “There is work to be done”.  That may be so, and certainly we’re hardly at a reasonable level, but I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen in 2014.  As I mentioned in an earlier post this year, I’m already seeing an uptick in the number of African-American kids not just in books but on the covers as well.  Then I looked at Scholastic’s fall list and saw five different middle grade novels with black kids front and center.  Five is nice, but that hardly means we’re out of the woods.  Note that Walter Dean Myers wrote a somewhat similar piece for the Times in 1986 called I Actually Thought We Would Revolutionize the Industry (thanks to Debbie Reese for the heads up).  In it he basically says that there were only 450 books on the black industry in the mid-80s.  One shudders to think what the number is at this precise moment in time.  Oh wait.  According to the CCBC it’s 93.  Now go read The Apartheid of Children’s Literature by Chris Myers and think upon that a bit.
  • I don’t like to pick favorites, but if I had to select my favorite blog post from the last few days, the vote would have to go wholeheartedly to the 100 Scope Notes piece The 33%: 2014 Books from Newbery Winners.  The premise is simple.  After doing the math Travis determined that a full 33% of Newbery winners go on to win again.  He then goes the logical next step and collects all the middle grade novels out this year by previous winners.  There was stuff I had no idea about in there (a new Christopher Paul Curtis?!?!).  Required reading of the day then.
  • New list time!  So it would seem that the National Science Teachers Association has come up with their list called Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12: 2014 (Books published in 2013).  Not a common topic but a necessary one.  I was happy to see a lot of favorites on there.  Well done, winners!  Now go ye, my pretties, and spread this info to every science teacher struggling with Common Core that you know.  Thanks to Amie Wright for the link.
  • Speaking of lists, the site List Challenges came up with their 50 Best Books for Kids.  I was all set to pooh-pooh it when I saw they’d included Anna Hibiscus AND The Arrival.  Shoot.  They did their homework really well.  I’ve read all but two (and it won’t be the two you think).  How did you do?
  • Meanwhile, it’s an interesting list and well worth looking at.  They’ve released the contenders for the 2014 E.B. White Read-Aloud Award.  Lots of good books there, but you probably know who I’ll be supporting.  It’s a tough call but I’m Team Unicorn.  Go team!

TreatiesTrenches 224x300 Fusenews: Abundant Smart CookiesThis has absolutely nothing to do with anything else, aside from the fact that everyone’s clamoring for children’s books on WWI this year thanks to the 100 year anniversary.  With that in mind, here’s a sense of what it would have looked like If WWI Was a Bar Fight.  Or you can just do what I’m doing and wait for the latest Nathan Hale book Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood.  Can’t wait to see that one!

Utterly fascinating piece in Arcade this week equating the changes happening at the main branch of NYPL with the movie Ghostbusters.  It’s not as nutty as it sounds.  Check out Para-Library Science at the NYPL if you don’t believe me.

  • Then, to wash the academe from your gray cells, you can read eharmony’s 15 Reasons to Date a Librarian.  It’s a rather optimistic view of our profession (while I would love to believe that we ALL have predictable hours . . .) but still cute.  Thanks to Amie for the link.
  • Man, that Marjorie Ingall’s one smart cookie.  She watches that new Neil DeGrasse Tyson show Cosmos and what does she do?  She comes up with a complimentary reading list for kids.  That is how you DO IT, people!
  • Daily Image:

If you haven’t seen this already then I’d like you to guess as to the identity of this children’s book author dressed up as his favorite children’s book character.

GaimanBadger 500x500 Fusenews: Abundant Smart Cookies

A hint: The character is Badger from The Wind in the Willows. And no. This isn’t Alice Cooper.  *pictures what an Alice Cooper children’s book might consist of* The answer is here.

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3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane Audiobook Review

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane Author: Neil Gaiman Narrated by: Neil Gaiman Publisher: HarperAudio Publication Date: June 18, 2013 ISBN-13: 978-0062263032 Listening copy via public library I've written before about my love for Neil Gaiman (and Doctor Who) and fans will not be disappointed by Neil's latest work. The Ocean at the End of the Lane has tropes familiar to both the author

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4. The Neil Gaiman Dilemma

The MilkI’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s stuff since I discovered The Sandman back in the 1990s, while I was working in a comic book store. Although I haven’t read everything he’s written, I’ve read a lot of it. I was ridiculously excited when it was first announced that he was going to write an episode of Doctor Who and I quickly jumped online to buy tickets when he was speaking at the Athenaeum Theatre back in 2011. I think it’s fair to say that I’m a bit of a Neil Gaiman fan. So how do I deal with the fact that I didn’t care for Fortunately, The Milk…?

I wanted to like it. I wanted to like it, so much — as I always want to like what Gaiman writes. But it just didn’t work for me — at least not on the level of The Graveyard Book (see: “Gaiman’s Graveyard Book”) or Chu’s Days (see: “Neil Gaiman’s sneezy picture book”), both of which I adored. Fortunately, The Milk… was kinda cute. But I also found it predictable in its somewhat forced unpredictableness (if that makes any sense).

But my opinions of Fortunately, The Milk… are irrelevant. After all, I’m sure Gaiman doesn’t care. And it’s not as if my opinion will have any bearing on whether other people purchase it and like it. What’s important here is how my opinion of Fortunately, The Milk… affects ME! ;-) Does it nullify my Neil Gaiman fan status? Should I now avoid future Gaiman books on the off chance I don’t care for them?

After the initial shock of my reaction to Fortunately, The Milk…, I did eventually calm down and try to look at things with reason. After thinking about it a little, I realised that this has happened before.

I LOVED the episode that Gaiman wrote for Series 6 of Doctor Who, “The Doctor’s Wife” (See: “Gaiman and the Doctor“). I loved it so much that I immediately started hoping he would write another. And he did. For Series 7 he wrote “Nightmare in Silver”. I was so excited. I expected  to love it. Instead, I was massively underwhelmed. For a while there I thought that Gaiman maybe only had one good Doctor Who story in him. But then I read 11 Doctors, 11 Stories, the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary story collection. In it was Gaiman’s “Nothing O’Clock”… and it was brilliant!

Ocean at the end of the laneSo, having reminded myself of this incident, I decided not to give up on Neil Gaiman as a writer — and, more importantly, on myself as a Gaiman fan. I picked up my copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which had been sitting on my must-read-soon pile for way too long, and I read it. And I loved it!

[insert sigh of relief]

The story was small and personal, dealing with one man’s memories of a forgotten childhood incident, and yet it was also on a grand scale —mythic and epic. The characterisation was believable, the setting tangible and the memories vivid. I felt like I was there. I was immersed in this literary ocean. I am so pleased that I read it.

So, folks, what did I learn from all of this? If one of my favourite authors occasionally produces something that I don’t particularly like, it doesn’t mean that all this other writing is suddenly negated. Ergo… I should never dismiss any author just because I didn’t care for one piece of his/her writing. What if Fortunately, The Milk… had been my first experience of Gaiman’s writing? What if I had never picked up another Gaiman book? How much poorer would my literary landscape have been.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter


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5. Authors Dress Up For ’26 Characters’ Photography Exhibit

Neil-Gaiman-as-BadgerThe Storytelling Museum, an institution based in the U.K., will host an exhibit called “26 Characters: celebrating childhood story heroes.” This art show features photographs of writers dressed as their favorite childhood literary character.

This exhibition will be on view from April 5th to November 2nd. Photogapher Cambridge Jones captured the pictures of these authors. Some of the authors who took part include Malorie Blackman, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman.

According to the museum’s official website, Blackman transformed herself into the Wicked Witch of the West and Pratchett sat for his portrait as William Brown from Just William. Gaiman (pictured, via) revealed in a blog post that he drew inspiration from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows and chose to wear a Badger costume. Will you be seeing this installation?

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6. Neil Gaiman on Copyright Piracy: VIDEO

Neil Gaiman doesn’t think that book piracy is all bad. In fact, in the video above Gaiman revealed that when his books were shared illegally online, his book sales actually went up 300 percent at independent book stores.

We’ve embedded the entire video for you to check out. (Via Reddit).

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7. Books for World Book Week by Savita Kalhan

It’s World Book Week this week, so I thought I would share some of my favourite reads over the last year in teen/YA and adult fiction. I hope you’ll share some of your favourites, books you would recommend, in the comments section. It’s always nice to find undiscovered treasures...

Here's my recent Teen/YA reads:

  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Wonder by R J Palacio

Exodus (series) by Julie Bertagna

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
The Uninvited by Liz Jensen
Secret Son by Laila Lalami

The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And one of my all time favourite books –
 A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry



The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan
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Twitter @savitakalhan


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8. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: November 1

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage.

Book Lists and Awards

Have you checked back in at Jean Little Library's Read Scary? A collection of links to scary book review from Octhttp://ow.ly/qkZUZ

The @NYTimes picks for 2013 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books via @tashrow http://ow.ly/qmV5A

The latest So You Want to Read Middle Grade booklist @greenbeanblog is from Julie Jurgens http://ow.ly/qiNFI #kidlit

Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2013 Shortlist | @tashrow http://ow.ly/qiNiU #kidlit

Some good choices | 5 Series You Probably Missed as a Kid (But Should Read as an Adult) http://ow.ly/qiMfF The Millions #kidlit

Spooky Stories recommended by @RIFWEB for Halloween http://ow.ly/qiN51 #kidlit

Our Top Ten Favorite Dogs From Children's Picture Books from @BooksBabiesBows http://ow.ly/qbuCm #kidlit

Birds in Children's Literature: 35 Great Books to Read (0-12 years) from @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/qbunX #kidlit

Growing Bookworms

"Neil Gaiman has decided it’s time for us to create a new Halloween tradition called, All Hallow’s Read" @CHRasco http://ow.ly/qbvqi

Unusual analogy from @ReadingWithBean, your child's library as a kitchen of books http://ow.ly/qfX3w #literacy

Last Minute #Kidlit themed Halloween Costumes from @read4keeps http://ow.ly/qkXEd

Kidlitosphere and KidLitCon

Kate at Author Of . . . hosts the October Carnival of Children's Literature, including a section on #kidlitcon http://ow.ly/qg28F

KidlitCon2013As you prepare for #KidLitCon, how about some #YAlit Reads set in Austin from Stacked http://ow.ly/qkXsO

A post from @SheilaRuth for #Kidlitcon attendees!, with homework (!) (And if you aren't registered yet, why not?) http://ow.ly/qkWCU

#KitlitCon and Blogging Middle Grade @book_nut http://ow.ly/qdO5z "It's worth your time and money. Promise."

Post by @catagator "I love #KidLitCon + I love Austin + I'm excited to connect with old friends and meet new ones." http://ow.ly/qbuKB

The #KidLitCon presentations have been announced... says @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/qbtrr

Press Release Fun: Books About Bullying, a Google+ Hangout — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/qiNTI

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

This doesn't surprise me: Social media boosts YA sales | @TheBookseller http://ow.ly/qiM0O via @PWKidsBookshelf

I just don't get this: A Library of Classics, Edited for the Teething Set - @NYTimes http://ow.ly/qiLRP via @PWKidsBookshelf

Random House Acquires Figment Online Teen Writing Community | @sljournal http://ow.ly/qiLoe @RandomHouseKids

Thoughts from @catagator at Stacked: On Book Packagers and Literary Development Companies http://ow.ly/qg1up #yalit

Bridget Jones, Allegiant, and Fans — @lizb "I’ll repeat: It’s OK to be disappointed (by how a book ends)" http://ow.ly/qbvk9

Programs and Research

Toddlers take to smartphones and tablets; kids 0 to 8 years old watching less TV, survey shows @mercurynews http://ow.ly/qg2Ev

Fun! NYC Hosts “Encyclopedia Brown Day” to Celebrate Series’ 50th Anniversary | @sljournal http://ow.ly/qiLw3

Schools and Libraries

RT @tashrow A Library By The Highway Serves As Billboard For Reading, Learning, Exploration http://buff.ly/1aEGBa3 #libraries

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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9. Neil Gaiman to Teach Fantasy Fiction Workshop at Bard College

18546_300226401015_131345_nStarting next spring, author Neil Gaiman will add “teacher” to his résumé.

The prolific novelist will serve as an arts professor on the Bard College faculty. According to The Wall Street Journal, Gaiman will lead an advanced writing workshop that focuses on “fantasy fiction, including its history and meaning today.”

Given Gaiman’s great popularity, it’s highly likely that the workshop will fill up quickly. For those who won’t be able to join in, we suggest you try Coursera’s “Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World” class.

(Photo Credit: Erin Yaeger)

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10. WordGirl's Word of the Month for October: Supernatural

SupernaturalFittingly enough as Halloween approaches, WordGirl's Word of the Month for October is supernatural: "Outside of what would appear in the natural world."  

This is a good month to introduce your children to stories about the supernatural, whether you are reading picture books like Creepy Carrots, classics like The House with a Clock in its Walls, or newer titles like The Graveyard Book

Wishing you supernatural times!

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11. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: October 18

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Note that I'm not including various links to suggested Cybils nominations, since the public nominating period for the Cybils ended October 15th.

Book Lists and Awards

New Beyond the Bestsellers series @bookriot from @catagator | Post 1: So You've Read DIVERGENT http://ow.ly/pOkbK #yalit

And now, the 2013 National Book Award SHORTlists..., reported by @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/pUOmj #yalit

A Tuesday Ten: Post Apocalyptic Middle Grade Science Fiction | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/pT7CC #kidlit

Tricks and Treats - 3 Halloween Books Full of Spooky Fun! from @SproutsBkshelf http://ow.ly/pQTwC #kidlit

Latest So You Want to Read Middle Grade installment from Mike Jung @greenbeanblog http://ow.ly/pQSpe #kidlit

8 Books for 8 Year Old Boys (and Girls), favorites of @momandkiddo 's son http://ow.ly/pO9r0 #kidlit


Cybils2013SmallRegular #Cybils Nominations are now closed, but we are accepting publisher + author submissions thru 10/25: http://ow.ly/pT5fw #kidlit

#Cybils nominations close tonight, and a shout-out for Armchair Cybils 2013 from @charlotteslib http://ow.ly/pR5uh #kidlit

Growing Bookworms

Reading out loud to kids is "the single most important thing that anybody can do with a child" http://ow.ly/pOjhT LubbockOL via @tashrow

Helping Young Children Love Chapter Books: Read Aloud Tips from Amy at Sunlit Pages, a guest post @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/pUUHK

Leveled Early Readers: Valuable Tool or Marketing Ploy? asks @delightchildbks http://ow.ly/pSVDK #literacy #kidlit

UK Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman: 'Children should be encouraged to read ebooks' @TelegraphNews http://ow.ly/pOj0a via @tashrow

Specialists agree reading to children is necessary for development @TimesDaily http://ow.ly/pOiHD via @tashrow #GrowingBookworms


Re-Sendakify Sendak Project: The Results (fun stuff!) — @fuseeight @TheNiblings4 http://ow.ly/pQSWl #kidlit

At Finding Wonderland: #KIDLITCON: Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Or, the name of your blog) http://ow.ly/pT4k2

KidlitCon2013RT @JenBigheart: TEXAS: KidLitCon is heading our way next month! https://www.facebook.com/LiteraryLonestars?ref=hl …

Additional details about the KidLitosphere Conference, including precon event on 11/8, now up: http://ow.ly/pOK2t #kidlitcon

Just announced. Friday evening social event during #kidlitcon, Nov. 8th, at 5 pm at El Mercado, Austin. Details here: http://ow.ly/pTc4J

On Reading and Writing

ReadItForwardOn Facebook I shared the image to the left, via Read It Forward. I am happy to be in the 5%. 

The first online issue of Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids Fall 2013 by @shelfmagazine is now available http://ow.ly/pOJ0w #kidlit

RT @tashrow More gadgets, more reading: Survey suggests e-reader and tablet owners read more books – http://buff.ly/15RTgtY #ebooks

I quite like this @HealthyLiving post on 7 Unconventional Reasons Why You Absolutely Should Be Reading Books http://ow.ly/pO8gT

Oyster’s “All You Can Read” ebook Service Now Available For iPad & Invite No Longer Required to Register | @sljournal http://ow.ly/pVmDR 

Programs and Research

FirstBook.jpgRT @FirstBook: Want quality books for your kids, but have no budget? You can now start your own Virtual Book Drive! http://bit.ly/19M2KV9 

Must read post from @GatheringBooks | Does the Accelerated Reader Program help develop Lifelong Readers? | http://ow.ly/pO73Q

Oh to be an avid 5th grade reader in Donalyn Miller's Review Club @NerdyBookClub @donalynbooks http://ow.ly/pT6Cs

Brought by Bagels. . .Bound by Books, a simple book club idea that works, from @PaulWHankins @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/pOa61

UK National @LiteracyTrust partners with @McDonalds to provide "reading tips" | The Bookseller http://ow.ly/pT0v6 via @playbythebook

McBooks Make Happy Meals Happier! — Annoyed Librarian @LibraryJournal is NOT a fan http://ow.ly/pQQJl #literacy

Schools and Libraries

RT @ReadingRockets: Diagrams, maps, tables & timelines: helping kids learn from graphics http://ow.ly/pUNZi  #elemchat #STEM

Stacked: Observations Upon Weeding: What My Teens Aren't Reading from @catagator http://ow.ly/pUWpx #yalit

Stacked: Baby Got Backlist and Don't Ever Forget It, on reader's advisory including older titles by @catagator http://ow.ly/pQTqs

True! Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming by @neilhimself | @guardianbooks http://ow.ly/pR0KP via @PragmaticMom

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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12. Neil Gaiman Book Removed From High School Reading List in New Mexico


Educators of Alamogordo High School have removed a Neil Gaiman novel, Evermore, off of their required reading list. The author sent a message out on Twitter and asked, “is anyone fighting back?”

According to The Guardian, this New Mexico school removed the book after one student’s mother complained that the book contains “sexual innuendos and harsh language.”

Gaiman recently delivered a lecture at the Reading Agency on the importance of libraries, reading, and daydreaming. During one portion of his speech, he denounces censorship and declares that “there are no bad authors for children.”


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13. Neil Gaiman and Libraries

One of my librarians just sent me this link about an article titled: Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Neil Gaiman at Chapters reading
Neil Gaiman at Chapters reading (Photo credit: phoenixdreaming)



Power stuff. Take a minute to read this message from a noted author about the value of libraries.

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14. Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

GaimanNeil Gaiman has a truly excellent article in today's Guardian about the importance of reading and libraries. (I found it via a post by PragmaticMom on Facebook). The text is from a speech that Gaiman gave at The Reading Agency, a UK nonprofit "whose mission is to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. Because everything changes when we read."

It's a long piece, and so, so quotable. Like this:

Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end … that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything. And reading is key." 

And this:

"The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them."

And of course the quote that I included as an image above, which is my very favorite part. And so much more (I haven't even touched upon the part about libraries). 

If you care about raising kids who love books, and/or writing books, and/or supporting libraries, go and read Neil Gaiman's lecture. Then share it with other people who either do care about these things, or who should. I would like to see this talk make into a little booklet, and distributed widely. Gaiman is an excellent ambassador for literacy and the love of reading. If only more people would hear his message. Go! Read!

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate. 

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15. Neil Gaiman: “Well-Meaning Adults Can Destroy a Child’s Love of Reading.”

“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.”

– Neil Gaiman.

In a recent lecture, Neil Gaiman passionately warned of the danger of adults trying to dictate what children should or should not read. He believes children should decide for themselves, they should read what they love, and that the wrong kind of interference, no matter how well-intentioned, can snub out a child’s interest in reading forever.

From The Guardian:

[Gaiman] said: “I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children.” Every now and again there was a fashion for saying that Enid Blyton or RL Stine was a bad author or that comics fostered illiteracy. “It’s tosh. It’s snobbery and it’s foolishness.”

This all reminded me of an interview I conducted with Thomas Newkirk, author of the important book, Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture, Newkirk spoke to these same issues — the imposition of adult tastes on students, particularly young boys.

Newkirk told me:

“I don’t think that means that we give up on asking students to read and write realistic genres — but we need to be open to other tastes as well. Fantasy allows us to escape, to be bigger and braver than we are, to suspend the limitations of time and space. I think we all need that freedom as well.”

He continued: “I think we all like some AKA crap. No one is high brow all the time. So it seems to me OK to ask kids to value what we value; but we also have to understand the appeal of what they like. It can’t be all one or the other. We have values and goals for their reading and writing; but we won’t win the cooperation of students if our attitude toward their culture is one of dismissal. One challenge is to look at books from the boy’s point of view. I don’t think gender is an absolute barrier here. What’s needed is an open mind, a sense of curiosity. What makes this boy tick? What are the themes, passions, competencies in his life that I can build on? To teach we all need to get outside ourselves, and into someone else’s skin. I know many female teachers who are wonderful at this. And it seems to me that when a boy senses a female teacher cares about what he cares about, that boy will be open to other things the teacher asks of him.”

Yes, some of this strikes a chord in me. I’m an ex-kid myself. But I’ve already encountered glimpses of this — and open hostility — for my new SCARY TALES series. I was at a book festival in Chappaqua when a daughter and her father (after he put down the phone) had a long argument at my table. She wanted one of my SCARY TALES books. She said, “I really, really want to read this book.” He did not think it was worth her while. She countered, he hunkered down. This went on for five minutes while I sat there like a rubber dummy, agog and aghast.

This doesn’t just happen with girls.

In another situation, I was asked not to mention my new series to anyone at an elementary school where I had been invited to speak. I could come, I was told, they loved my books — just don’t talk about, you know, the books that should not exist.

I declined to meet the contraints of the dis-invitation. I concluded a long letter to the librarian with this:

Oh well. In the end we both know that many elementary school children love scary stories — many librarians I’ve talked to can’t keep them on the shelves — but in this case that’s not what you, or nameless others, want them to read. Or to even be made aware the books exist. We also know about the power of a motivated reader. And how readers grow and develop over time. How one good book leads to another. But this is what boys have always been told, that what they like isn’t worthy, what they enjoy is somehow “wrong.” We deny their maleness. And the “we” is usually well-meaning women. Rather than building bridges to literacy, some people put up obstacles. And thus: there is a national crisis in boys reading scores. And until attitudes change, that crisis will continue.

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16. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman [AB]

Release Date: June 18th, 2013
Age Group: Adult (All Ages, really)
Publisher: HarperAudio
Narrated by Neil Gaiman
Source: Bought
Overall: 5 Monkeys
Interest: Fantasy, Neil Gaiman
Categories: Fantasy, Child's POV
Goodreads Amazon - Neil Gaiman's Website
Read in July 2013


It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

My Opinion:

I had never read a Gaiman book. I had no idea what all the fuzz was about. I have friends who love him, and they were all really excited to see Ocean hit the stores. So, when it came out, I had to have a copy for myself (thank God for online shopping, because it hasn't made it to Argentina yet). 

I started listening to it one day while cleaning, early in the morning. Neil's voice instantly caught me. It is such a deep and soothing voice, I would have listened to it even if the book was about advanced chemistry. I had finished listening to the entire thing by that same night. 

Neil's voice brings his narrator to life, a middle aged man coming back home for a funeral. His home town brings back memories he thought he'd lost, and suddenly he finds himself walking towards a familiar place, from when he used to live there. 

From then on, he remembers his childhood and we see it all through a kid's perspective. Everything that surrounds this little kid, his family and the friendships he makes, it's all told beautifully. 

I remember smiling a lot while listening to the ab. This seven(?)-year-old who sees everything clearly, who loves his new friends and who has no trouble believing in magic. I want to know more kids like him.

You really don't need me to tell you more about its plot (only that it involves a lot of magic, dark forces trying to rule over a piece of land that is not theirs, and a pair of kids trying to fight it off). You just need to know that this is a book that will rock you to the core, make you grin like a fool a lot, and just leave you feeling good about life. 

It is a masterpiece, and I'm so glad it was my first Gaiman novel. I'm currently reading American Gods and it is great, too. Diferent, but great. Ocean is already in my All-Time Favourites list. 

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17. A Conversation between Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman


My great thanks to Judith Ridge for pointing me to this report of the conversation that happened between these two in Oxford last week. Further looking around brought me to a podcast of it that I am listening to right now. (Lovely discussion of The Wind and the Willows. They are now discussing that bizarre chapter, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”). The two great writers were meant to have had  this conversation last fall, but circumstances kept it from happening. So happy the two finally got together and do so so wish I could have been there (especially as I was just in Oxford a few weeks before).

1 Comments on A Conversation between Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman, last added: 9/3/2013
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18. Neil Gaiman, Adam Rex & Benjamin Nugent Get Booked

Here are some literary events to pencil in your calendar. To get your event posted on our calendar, visit our Facebook Your Literary Event page. Please post your event at least one week prior to its date.

The Center for Fiction will be celebrating the publication of Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do. Join in on Thursday, February 21st starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)

The Moth will be having a StorySLAM event on “Patters” at HousingWorks Bookstore Cafe. Check it out on Thursday, February 21st starting 7 p.m. (New York, NY)


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20. Secret Freelancer Knowledge from Neil Gaiman

In May, HarperCollins will publish Make Good Art, a Chip Kidd-designed book version of a Neil Gaiman commencement address. Gaiman’s speech at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia went viral last year, sharing “secret freelancer knowledge” that all kinds of writers, editors and freelance workers can use.

We’ve embedded a video of his speech above–it also contains the best advice he ever received, delivered by the great novelist Stephen King. Here is Gaiman’s secret freelancer knowledge:

You get work however you get work, but keep people keep working in a freelance world (and more and more of today’s world is freelance), because their work is good, because they are easy to get along with and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three! Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. People will forgive the lateness of your work if it is good and they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as everyone else if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

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21. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ Adapted for BBC Radio

Reviving the lost art of the radio drama, BBC4 has released the first episode of an radio adaptation of Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman‘s 1996 novel.

Follow this link to listen onlineJames McAvoy, Natalie DormerChristopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch and many other actors star in the adaptation. Here’s more about the show:

An act of kindness sees Richard Mayhew catapulted from his ordinary life into a subterranean world under the streets of London. Stopping to help an injured girl on a London street, Richard is thrust from his workaday existence into the strange world of London Below. So begins a curious and mysterious adventure deep beneath the streets of London, a London of shadows where the tube cry of ‘Mind the Gap’ takes on new meaning; for the inhabitants of this murky domain are those who have fallen through the gaps in society, the dispossessed, the homeless.

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22. Now a big softie, Todd McFarlane comments on the return of Angela

201303270206 Now a big softie, Todd McFarlane comments on the return of Angela
Although once known for combative rhetoric and an aggressive stance, McFarlane Toys CEO Todd McFarlane sounded a conciliatory note when asked about the return of Angela in the pages of ULTRON WAR #10. McFarlane once fought a bitter lawsuit over the ownership of Angela with Neil Gaiman, and perhaps the settlement included a non-disparagement clause?

“Neil Gaiman and I had a resolution in our legal dispute, and as part of that he ended up with the rights of Angela,” the Spawn creator told Newsarama. “Whatever Neil chooses to do with something that he owns is at his complete and utter discretion.”

“The health of the industry is based upon having good stories and good characters, and a wide customer base,” McFarlane said to Newsarama. “If bringing some of these characters back to the fold in a meaningful way adds to that, then it just strengthens our industry.”


“Good stories that entertain are something that we all should applaud on any level,” McFarlane said. “Whether we’re doing it directly at Image Comics, or at our competition, it helps keep our industry that we love alive. I will sit back and be as interested as anyone else.”

Well isn’t that all lubby dubbins?

9 Comments on Now a big softie, Todd McFarlane comments on the return of Angela, last added: 3/28/2013
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23. A Children’s Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

TheScieszkaStare e1364949716583 224x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeThere are some days when you are so utterly floored by delight that all you can do is throw up your hands and say to the universe, “I’m out!”  That was yesterday.  I’m out, folks.  I hit the top.  It’s all downhill from here.  And I’m so young!  It’s sad when you peak at 34.

The source of this joy/woe is Allie Bruce at the Bank Street School for Children’s library.  As you may know, if you attended my Children’s Literary Salon on Alternative Children’s Librarians, Allie is Bank Street’s children’s librarian and a more talented young ‘un you could not hope to find.  She asked me if I could come in one day to speak to some of her sixth graders about book jackets.  And since that is a topic I could talk about all day and night, I readily agreed.

Oh.  And while I was there, Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler and Jon Klassen would stop by to do their very first dual presentation of their new book The Dark.

But wait.  There’s more.

Neil Gaiman would also be stopping by.  And Mr. Handler’s wife Lisa Brown.  And Jon Scieszka might come along.  As well as Kerlan Collection guru Lisa Von Drasek (newly appointed as a National Book Award committee judge).

So . . . there was that.

That morning I headed on over with my handy dandy FlashDrive, forgetting to bring my camera.  Luckily everything in my purse is a camera these days.  My phone is a camera.  My iPod is a camera.  My lipstick, extra shoes, and hairbrush may all well have cameras in them, for all I know.

My presentation seemed to go all right.  Allie was nice about it anyway, and though I was mildly unnerved when Lisa Von Drasek appeared, taking a picture with an iPad (it is hard to stay calm in the face of a large flat surface aimed at your head) I didn’t panic once.  For the record, the kids assured me that none of them liked the old cover of Okay for Now and did prefer the new paperback jacket.  They also agreed with me that the British cover of Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is heads and tails more interesting than the American one.  Duh.

When I was done I got to flit about.  In my flitting I saw that the Bank Street library’s children’s librarian’s office contains an ancient Jon Scieszka mask of yore.  The kind of mask that reminds you of Eraserhead more than anything else.  The mask is Lisa Von Drasek’s by right, and she had a fascinating story about when it was made and its original purpose.  Apparently when it first came out it was handed to a roomful of librarians.  Jon knew nothing about it and he walked in to see his own visage staring back at him from hundreds of faces.  “It was like Being John Malkovich“, he said.  Allie assured me that the kids who see it are fascinated.  Sometimes they commune with it on a near spiritual level.

CommuningWithScieszka2 500x375 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

CommuningWithScieszka1 500x375 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

Jon Klassen and Daniel Handler were slated to start signing a bunch of copies of their book but until they did we figured we’d hang out in The Quiet Room (which proved to be a bit of a misnomer).  I don’t own a clutch.  Not really.  So in lieu of one I tend to carry around a book.  Thus it was that the galley of Merrie Haskell’s Handbook for Dragon Slayers got lugged, poor thing, hither and thither, as I stuffed an interesting assortment of business cards, flyers, and Starbucks napkins into its pages.  Apparently I was worried that I’d have nothing to do and would need some entertainment.  Oh, the wrongness of little me.

Jon, Daniel, the remarkable Lisa Brown, her thoroughly enjoyable offspring (who had written one helluva graphic novel illustrated by his mom), Victoria Stapleton in shoes I should have caught on film, and a whole host of other folks flooded in.  Before long it was lunch.  Picture, if you will, what it is like to eat lunch across from Scieszka and Handler with Lisa Brown at your side and Lisa Von Drasek heading the table. I am not particularly good at socializing when overwhelmed.  I tend to get giggly.  And loud.  And I make strange little jokes that feed off of references that make sense only in my own head.  So while I was not particularly interesting at this gathering, the rest of the folks were superb.  In the future I’m taking my little audio recorder with me to capture this kind of situation on tape for the benefit of future generations.  See if I don’t.

GaimanKlassenSnicket e1364950548554 224x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeSo then Neil Gaiman comes in.  That was nice.  He’s a bit beardy right now.  Much with the stubble, which has a pleasant graying sheen to it.  Shocker: He wore black.  I’m not shy around famous folks, but Gaiman is a tricky one.  He’s a very kind famous person.  If you introduce yourself to him he’ll look you dead square in the eye, shake your hand, and seem interested in whatever babble proceeds to emanate from your mouth.  But famous people on his level are a bit difficult to converse with casually, and because they are at a distinct disadvantage to you (you know who they are, but they meet hundreds of people every day and can’t remember you as well) you can’t rely on them remembering any past conversations you might have had.  So I just skipped the whole meet Gaiman part of the day and chatted with Jon Klassen instead.  And Jon is a true doll.  The kind of guy you’d try to weasel yourself into sitting next to at a dinner party.  I’m trying to pin down exactly what his personality reminds me of, but it’s hard.  In any case, I lamented with him that he’d used such great material on his Boston Horn Book Globe Award speech now that he had to write a Caldecott one (he’s almost done with it, Roger, don’t worry!).

Then it was time for the presentation!  We proceeded to the Bank Street auditorium, which was apparently built on the side of a mountain.  It’s one of those auditoriums where you get the distinct feeling that if you tripped and fell down the stairs they’d have to pluck your various limbs out of the four corners of the room post-landing.  We sat up top, the kiddos sitting beneath us, closer to the stage.  And what lively kiddos they were too!  I suspect they were fresh off of lunch and had had their fill of pudding pops or whatever it is kids eat today (Note to Self: Check and see if pudding pops still exist . . . ditto Hydrox cookies).  They were bouncy.  Very bouncy.  Tres bouncy.  Handler played some background music for them which, interestingly, did not seem to affect them one way or another.  And so the fun began.

Now Daniel and Jon had never presented together.  Their PowerPoint presentation had not even been finished as of the night before.  And here they were, with Gaiman, ready to wow a room on a brand new book for the very first time.

SnicketKlassen e1364950835631 225x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeLadies and gentlemen, let us discuss the nature of comedic chemistry.  Think of all the great pairings of the past.  Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner.  Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  Now think of the great comedic children’s book pairings out there.  Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith.  Mac Barnett and Adam Rex.  Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (they get extra points for playing ping pong while they present).  But on this day we witnessed something new.  Something unique.  We witnessed, ladies and gentlemen, the greatest comic picture book pairing the world has ever seen.  I mean this honestly.

For you see, Mr. Handler had noticed something about Mr. Klassen.  He is a world class straight man.  A good straight man is exceedingly difficult to find.  You need someone who enjoys the spotlight but hasn’t the kind of ego that demands that they grab it away from their partner.  They need to be willing to be made a fool of, but the wit and cunning to turn it all around on their partner by the end.  In short, you need a Jon Klassen.

The entire schtick hinged on the idea that Mr. Handler (who proclaimed repeatedly that he was not Lemony Snicket to the pained cries of the delighted audience members) had zero respect for Mr. Klassen’s work on their book together.  In the course of their talk he disparaged Mr. Klassen’s clothes and talent.  Klassen, for his part, played along beautifully.  They alternated seemingly random slides of varying importance.  It was fairly clear that the slides were a combination of Handler’s old standbys (he’s in an old photograph phase right now that’s doing very well by him) with Klassen’s (in which he shows various important pieces of art from his youth, including a shot of Frog & Toad, and repeats how frightened he was of them when he was a child).

GaimanSnicket e1364950944343 224x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeWhen Mr. Snicket starts to read the book with Mr. Klassen illustrating alongside him, the tension escalates.  Handler denies Mr. Klassen the shiny red apple he’d really like to eat.  He blindfolds him and makes him draw sans eyes.  He brings on Gaiman and claims he’s now going to read the book in his best Neil Gaiman imitation (Klassen makes fun of the “imitation” continually).  And then, when everything is reaching a crescendo . . . Klassen turns everything on its head and Handler runs off screaming.  I won’t give away why.  Bank Street recorded the whole thing and I’ll post it here when I can.

The kids, for the record, ate this thing up like it was a (perhaps nonexistent) pudding pop.  They laughed.  They screamed.  Mostly they screamed.  I’m not entirely certain if Handler and Klassen (and Gaiman for that matter) were ready for the level of identification the kids made with poor Mr. Klassen.  Handler told his blindfolded illustrator that both of them would blindfold themselves and then read and draw without their eyes.  This was, of course, a lie and the kids could not help but scream to Mr. Klassen that Mr. Handler was welching on his half of the deal.  There was an interesting level of desperation to their cries.  Handler’s an old hand in dealing with child panic and outrage, but Klassen dealt with it beautifully as well.  It was very satisfying to watch.  You should have heard les enfants terrible when Handler started eating Jon’s apple.

When the video is up and running I will let you know.  It’ll make your day.  Meantime, a big thank you to the folks at Little, Brown for bringing these heavyweights together and to Bank Street for hosting them.  And thanks, of course, to Allie Jane Bruce for inviting me and allowing me to report on what, without a doubt, was the highlight of the year.  Methinks I’ll go off and relive it a couple times just for kicks.

JennyBrown 500x373 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

Jenny Brown living the dream with Allie Bruce close by.

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24. How a Picture Book Is Born

Over at the Muddy Colors blog, children’s book author and illustrator Adam Rex shared his creative process behind Chu’s Day–his picture book collaboration with Neil Gaiman.

The post includes a brief glimpse of Gaiman’s script for their next children’s book project, but we also get priceless shots of storyboards and character sketches from the current book. Here’s an excerpt from the essay:

In a novel you can just throw a bunch of blanks at the end to round out another eight pages if you have to, but with a picture book you need to be more precise. Add to this that nearly all picture books are either 32 or 40 pages long, and it gets even more restrictive. Few PBs are more than 40 pages. None are less than 32 (board books don’t count). I draw 32 or 40 or whatever little boxes on a single page of my sketchbook and start filling them in. I only have the most rudimentary notion what each page is going to look like, but this is where I usually discover the ideas that will make this my book as opposed to a book that was merely illustrated by me. Once I have all my pandas in a row I probably sketch character designs.

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25. Coming Soon: Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk


After receiving an advanced reader’s copy of Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the MilkI asked my class if they’d like me to read it aloud. Now keep in mind that while Neil Gaiman may have a huge adult fan base, he isn’t particularly well-known among young kids. Actually, I’d say he isn’t known at all. My 4th grade students were way too young when The Graveyard Book won the Newbery. As for Coraline which is even older, a couple said they’d found the movie scary and none knew the book. And so they were wary.  At their request I read aloud the flap copy which intrigued them and so they decided  I could proceed.  

The author rightly describes the story as “very silly.” That it is! The basic premise is that a father goes out to get some milk for his children’s cereal and has a spot of trouble ….well, quite a bit of trouble to be honest…before making it home.  There are dinosaurs (and I was very appreciative of those students who helped me to correctly pronounce their names), bodily fluids, a Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier, alien green things, and a very intrepid dad.

The class really liked it. Many of them really, really liked it! Enough to beg me to read more and more of it over the next few days until I was done. (It was a quick read — I believe it took three or four sessions to finish it.) I had thought it might be a little young for them, but I was wrong. In fact, this shaggy dog of a tale ended up being perfectly calibrated to read aloud to nine and ten-year-olds.  Not that they would notice or care, but it felt a bit in the tradition, humor-wise, of Dr. Who, Douglas Adams, or Terry Pratchett while being very much its own thing.

I tweeted to Neil that I was reading it and he asked if they were laughing and I was able to assure him that they were. There was chortling, snorts, and bursts of glee. And so I can say for sure that it is loads of fun. (And this was without the art as the ARC has mostly sketches.) For some enthusiastic student responses please go here.

3 Comments on Coming Soon: Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, the Milk, last added: 5/1/2013
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