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I loved that Dahl wrote completely for children. A kid reading Dahl knows he can make something or be someone or do something, no matter what anyone else around him says or does. – Heather Christensen
It just wouldn’t be right to make a list like this without Dahl. Last time, I included The Witches, my personal favorite as a child, but having just read Matilda to my daughter, I have to admit that this one is probably his best written book. – Mark Flowers
Matilda has the customary humor and bits of vileness that all of Dahl’s children’s books have that make them so fun and so true to life. It has loveliness and celebrates knowledge and reading. It has enthralling writing that you just want to devour and wonderful illustration. But most of all it has somebody to cheer for. Yes she has supernatural power, but in the end it’s Matilda’s sensibility and thoughtfulness, it’s just doing the right thing that leads to the take down of a horrible villain and encourages all the kids around her. She’s someone to root for. And it’s like eating candy, reading this book. One of the best storytellers of all time. You must read him, so why not start here? – Nicole Johnston
Those parents! The Trunchbull! What’s not to love? – Tracy Flynn
Watch out for the quiet ones.
It may surprise some to see Matilda standing higher on this list than poor modest Charlie Bucket. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that while most (not all) Dahl books starred boys of one stripe or another (George, James, Charlie, etc.) Matilda was the only gal to get her name front and center in the title. This is the closest Dahl ever got to a feminist vision, and little girls everywhere love them their Matilda. She was a kind of proto-Harry Potter complete with a nasty family and secret magical abilities. For a certain generation, Matilda was our Harry.
The plot description from the book reads, ” ‘The Trunchbull’ is no match for Matilda! Who put superglue in Dad’s hat? Was it really a ghost that made Mom tear out of the house? Matilda is a genius with idiot parents – and she’s having a great time driving them crazy. But at school things are different. At school there’s Miss Trunchbull, two hundred menacing pounds of kid-hating headmistress. Get rid of the Trunchbull and Matilda would be a hero. But that would take a superhuman genius, wouldn’t it?”
This could be all heresay and conjecture, but at a past ALA event I spoke with an editor who told me that Dahl’s original vision for Matilda was quite the opposite of the final product. By all accounts, Dahl wanted Matilda to be a nasty little girl, somewhat in the same vein of Belloc’s Matilda Who Told Lies and Was Burned to Death. Revision after revision turned her instead into the sweet little thing we all know and love today. He retained her tendency towards revenge, however, and I think that’s another reason the book works as well as it does. In the end Matilda bore some similarities to James and the Giant Peach, though Dahl had the guts to go and make the actual parents in this book the bores, and not just mere aunties.
In the book Revolting Recipes, there is a recipe for the chocolate cake The Trunchbull makes poor little Bogtrotter devour. That also happens to be my favorite scene, you know.
I won’t normally link to podcasts but this recent Scriptnotes that covers how a screenwriter options a novel he wants to adapt includes a discussion of older children’s books that were considered for screen adaptation. FYI!
On the one hand they’re 9 Barbies Based on Books. On the other hand, if that Edward doesn’t sparkle and glow in the dark then I hope the people who purchased him got their money back. Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.
When I worked the reference desk I got a lot of Stumpers. Folks would ask me to come up with a beloved book from their childhood and I would try to figure it out. If I couldn’t find it I’d take down all their information and ask PUBYAC on their behalf. If that didn’t work I’d suggest Loganberry Books, even though they charge money. Would that I had known about Whatsthatbook.com. A free site where folks post their stumpers and other folks answer them, it’s pretty cool. Sometimes I just like hearing the wacky descriptions. Current favorite: “Young girl reading to an older lady, girl almost gets caught in quicksand”. I hate it when that happens.
Hello, under-a-rock denizens. J.K. Rowling’s newest book is going to be released. Hope you like community politics!!!
Do Childish People Write Better Children’s Books? Dude, if you want to walk up to Maurice Sendak and inform him that he is childish, be my guest. I’m just gonna go hide behind this sturdy concrete pillar over here until the spatter of your remains stops with the spattering.
Yes, we’re beginning today by sneakily seeking out weirdo memories from my own youth. This week my attention was directed to that picture book version of the Peter, Paul and Mary song Puff the Magic Dragon. It reminded me that long before Yarrow’s words were set to paper, they were appropriated for this bizarre television series where Puff became a kind of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Watching it you can’t help but notice that first off, that’s the least frolicksome dragon in the history of the world. Then you have this episode (which I believe is the first) that if you look at it today appears to be hinting at several very serious mental diagnosis for Jackie. Ah well. I remember liking the show, though I suspect I just liked the theme music.
Moving on, I have a lot of fun on Wednesdays in my library showing a variety of different picture book to film adaptations (mostly Weston Woods). Two of my sure-fire favorites are Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (I always play the credits) and Knuffle Bunny. Now that I see that The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog is on the horizon as well. Hooray! Flower and confetti toss. Here’s a sampling Scholastic posted for the masses.
Trixie’s voice is really changing over the years.
Sometimes Video Sunday will elegantly flow from one topic to another. Other days there’s a herky-jerky quality to it that leaps from topic to topic without any rhyme or reason. Such a day is today (it’s raining outside and I’m feeling antsy). In this next video, Margaret Atwood speaks about the future of book publishing. If you’ve a half an hour to spare it could be interesting.
Thanks to Nina Crews for the link.
My friend Meredith Arwady, one of the best operatic contraltos in the world (and if you don’t believe me believe the Times) gets to travel all of the globe performing. She also gets to see a lot of theatrical productions. Recently she informed me that the musical version of Matilda that some of you may have heard of not only lives up to the hype, it exceeds it. The production is currently attempting to make its way to the West End (after selling out entirely) and then (perhaps?) to Broadway. Fingers are crossed. Just this little trailer for it whets my whistle, it does.
After posting a video from the episode of Community where Troy meets his hero LeVar Burton I got a penchant for a little Reading Rainbow. The universe, it appears, was happy to oblige. First off you have a woman that I would love to meet one day. If the name Twila Liggett fails to ring any bells, know only that amongst her many accomplishments she was the founder and executive producer of Reading Rainbow back in the day. In the article Just Read Anything! she writes a message to parents and teachers that’s pretty self-explanatory. If you can’t think of Reading Rainbow without the aforementioned LeVar, however, the same website Happy Reading has a lovely interview with the man. I’d love to meet LeVar myself, but I think my reaction would be a shade too similar to Troy’s.
Mmm. Critical reviews. They’re important. I don’t do as many of them these days as I used to, but I try to work in at least a couple per year. Some bloggers don’t do them at all, and while I understand that I think it’s important to have a critical dialogue in the children’s literary blogosphere. That nice Justine Larbalestier author recently wrote a post called I Love Bad Reviews that covers this. She’s a gutsy gal, that one. I hope she writes a middle grade book one of these days (How to Ditch Your Fairy came close but wasn’t quite there). And if the research author Elizabeth Fama found in the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of Marketing Science is true, then “negative reviews of books of relatively unknown authors raised sales 45%.” So there you go, oh first time authors. It’s win-win!
Along similar lines is this other snarky link. Personally I’ve nothing against Cassandra Clare. She was a lovely person that I got to meet at a Simon & Schuster preview once. Of course, I’ve never read a one of her books (she’s a YA writer) but bookshelves of doom gave a positive review to her City of Bones and I trust Leila. That said, I enjoyed Part One of the podcast Read It and Weep’s series on that same book (Part Two isn’t out as of this posting). Read It and Weep is a couple dudes and their guest host talking about books and various pop culture icons they dislike. I wouldn’t recommend the podcast for fans of the series, but if you’re curious about the book it can be amusing. Particularly since they will mention things they enjoyed, like the cat-related paging system. I think I’ll have to seek out their thoughts on Percy Jackson soon. Not Twilight, though. It’s been done.
What am I reading now? Oak Island — A Tale of Two Treasures by Mary Donovan
The children’s literature blogosphere is expanding on a daily basis. As a result, every once in a while I stumble upon a site that’s a true gem. Elizabeth Bird, of a A Fuse #8 Production, gushed about Uncovered Cover Art in her latest edition of Fusenews.
The creator of the site, editor Heidi Kellenberger, describes the it as “a sketchbook of reimagined children’s books.” Uncovered Cover Art combines two of the things that I absolutely love: art and children’s literature. The creativity and imagination these talented artists possess is truly spectacular. Kellenberger says of the site,
Uncovered Cover Art is a celebration of creativity, children’s literature, and art.
This is for you.
This is for artists who want to show off their passion for illustrating
This is for art directors looking for artists, wondering if the editorial work in
Hot New Thing’s portfolio will transfer to children’s book illustration.
This is for agents on the lookout for new talent.
This is for children’s book lovers who stay up late imagining the faces of Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, and Little Red Riding Hood.
But, wait, the fun doesn’t stop there. Kellenberger is giving her audience the opportunity to participate in the launch of Uncovered Cover Art by casting their vote. “The three most popular artists will receive a copy of Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration.” Voting is currently underway and ends on Tuesday, August 30, 2011.”
And then it’s February. How the heckedy heck did that happen? Looks like 2012 is already establishing itself as the Blink and You’ll Miss It year. Well, let’s get to it then.
First and foremost was the announcement of Battle of the Books 2012. Or, as I like to think of it, the place where Amelia Lost gets its bloody due (if there’s any justice in this world). We’re now in the earliest of the early days of the battle, but stuff’s on the horizon. I can smell it.
In other news there was an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) meeting here in New York this past weekend. I didn’t attend because, apparently, if it’s way too convenient I’m absent. After checking out the recap on this blog, however, I clearly need to change my priorities. Though I had to miss the cocktail party on Friday I did attend Kidlit Drink Night which was PACKED, dudes. Packed to the gills!
In her post Ms. Turner mentions the Mythopoeic Society. By complete coincidence I stumbled over yet another link involving that society in question. Neil Gaiman reprints an old speech he gave to the society in 2004 on C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton. A great look at how good fantasy can influence kids. Also a good look at how bad television programs lead kids to books. I believe it.
Well The Today Show may have passed up the chance to talk to the Newbery and Caldecott winners but leave it to NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me to speak to Jack Gantos for their Not My Job game. Someone must have tipped them off to the fact that the man is the world’s greatest interview. Love the Judy Blume reference. And though I thought I knew his Hole in My Life story, clearly I missed some details. Thanks to Susan Miles for the link.
Of course Jack and Chris Raschka were interviewed by SLJ about their respective wins. That’s good news about a Dead End in Norvelt companion novel. Ditto the idea of Raschka working on a Robie H. Harris title.
When a man recently went to a bookstore in search of his book group’s latest selection, he never dreamed that a clerk would question who the book was for, nor did he expect an unsolicited analysis of his character. Yet that’s what happened to one purchaser of Aryn Kyle’s novel, The God of Animals, when the woman who waited on him asked who he was buying the book for, and when learning it was for the customer himself, informed him that men who read “women’s fiction” were “sensitive.”
The customer was understandably unsettled by this encounter, which he later discussed on National Public Radio’s program, The Bryant Park Project. As a bookseller for many years, and as a parent of two sons, I’m perplexed and unsettled by this story as well, on a couple of different levels.
Even if we ignore the fact that The God of Animals is an amazing novel about the modern-day American West, in which one of the central relationships is that between a father and daughter, and is a book that should never be limited to readers of only one gender, the assumption that there are “men’s books” and “women’s books” and never the twain shall meet is one that is alien to any bookstore I have ever known. Yet at the same time, as a children’s bookseller, I often heard, and have espoused myself, the point of view that “girls will read books about boys but boys will rarely read books about girls.”
There are of course exceptions–I’ve yet to find any child who will not devour Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass trilogy seems to have met few gender-based barriers. Yet I’ve learned from bitter experience that offering a boy Harriet the Spy or my all-time favorite Mistress Masham’s Repose often will evoke the disappointed response, “Oh, it’s about a girl.”
When my sons were small, they loved the adventures of Dorothy in the land of Oz and Alice whether she was in Wonderland or through the looking glass as much as they did Peter Pan or Rat, Mole and Toad in The Wind in the Willows. And certainly Marjorie’s Brothers One and Two seem to enjoy books about females as well as males.
So when and how does this divergence in taste occur? Or do we just assume that it will occur and turn it into a self-fulfilling prophesy? In your experience, do boys avoid books in which girls take the leading role? If so, how can we broaden that point of view? And what would have become of J.K Rowling if she had written about Harriet Potter?
Matilda is, in my opinion, an example of the Perfectly Written Children's Book.
Roald Dahl is brilliant and amazing and I have read all of his children's books. I would recommend each and every one of them. I could go on at length about each book and how you need to read all of those, too, but right now I am just saying this: Matilda is beautiful, Matilda is funny, and rereading Matilda made me happy.
**And on another note, I'm taking a midlife crisis internet break for a few weeks, so I'm giving the blog a rest. See y'all later this month.**
EDIT: I will be blogging a little now and then on my acting blog, since I'm going into dress rehearsals and performances for Fiddler on the Roof, soon.
Yesterday I tweeted a top ten list of books for girls and young women compiled by arts and culture blog Flavorpill. Really I couldn't resist. Matilda! The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!? Those books meant so much to me that just seeing... Read the rest of this post
The competition has just gone up another level! We have our first reviews of the Treasure Island book and, as you know from the March 1 post, those reviews are Buzzer Beaters and count as five points! Before we get into that, though, let me let you all know that your reviews of the Treasure Island play have been mentioned on Imaginon's Facebook page. Take a look and good work, men!
We have three new reader guys jumping into the competiton today, so let's start with them. First up is dunkin' Demitri:
This is Demtri Stirewalt doing a review on Amulet Book One The StoneKeeper by Kazu Kibuishi. This book is about a little girl,Emily, that finds a necklace and tries to save her mom with the help of her brother Navin. I enjoyed this book so much that I read it twice and I cannot wait to read the second book The StoneKeeper's Curse in this series. I recommend this book.
Then we have crunchin' Keegan89:
The Kite Rider By Geraldine McCaughrean
This book takes place in thirteenth century China; a young boy saves his widowed mother from a horrible second marriage to the man that killed his father. Twelve year old Haoyou joins the circus as a kite rider, one who rides a large kite into the sky, to pay for his mothers expenses. However none of his money ever reaches his mother, instead his grandfather takes it and gambles it away. Haoyou is captured by the Mongol ruler. He soon escapes and makes his way back towards his home in Dagu. When he arrives he finds that his mother works at the tavern and is only paid in food and housing. She and her baby girl had not seen the light of day in months when they leave the tavern to find a place to sleep. They use the boat house that belonged to Di Chou, the man who killed his father. They stayed there until he returned from the voyage Haoyou sent him on. Haoyou distracted Di Chou by gambling with him losing everything including his mother. As Di Chou was removing the goods the men who they belonged to came and requested their money back, but he did not give it to them. He was then beaten by the debt collectors as he fled town. This emotional story follows the turmoil of a young boy struggling to please his Great Uncle. He has been taught to always obey his elders even though his Great Uncle is nothing more than a gambler, earning no money himself. The Kite Rider is an easy read and I recommend it for ages 10 to 12. And then we have joltin' Josh with two shots:
Book :Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson Summary Treasure Island tells the story of Jim Hawkins, a young teenage boy who embarks on a journey to find a great amount of money after stealing a treasure map from an old buccaneer. Little do Jim and his companions know of the treachery that pursues them every step of the way. They must find the treasure while guarding themselves from murderous pirates who are willing to kill for the money. I liked this book because there is lots of adventure and action with a great ending that you won’t see coming.
Book Dracula (abridged) Author: Tania Zamorsky (possibly a vampire) Summary: Jonathan Harker, a lawyer working for the firm of Mr. Hawkins, travels to Transylv
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Matilda first published in London in 1988, is one of my favorite children’s books for middle-grade readers even though I read it for the first time as an adult in college. (Although, that seems to be happening more and more lately–children’s and young adult’s books are becoming my favorites as an adult!) Anyway, this Roald Dahl classic has been made into a movie (1996) and sold in Scholastic Book Fairs everywhere. So, I must not be the only one who thinks it’s special. And it’s still popular today–twenty-two years later. You know what that means. . .it’s a Timeless Thursday pick for sure.
A quick note about the plot: Five-year-old Matilda is a child prodigy even though her parents couldn’t care less and are frankly quite neglectful. The irony here is obvious especially when Matilda loves reading, and her mother loves watching TV. The librarian befriends Matilda and allows her to read every children’s book in the library. When her parents send her to school, her teacher, Ms. Honey, realizes her brilliance, but still her parents don’t value education or learning. And then as if there could be anyone worse than Matilda’s parents, Dahl introduces us to mean, old, ugly headmistress Agatha Trunchbull. The novel can get a little wild–but we expect nothing less from Dahl–when Matilda discovers that she has psychokinetic powers.
I usually like to talk about how much children can learn from a novel or how teachers and parents can use it for all sorts of lessons and curriculum objectives. But in this case, I just want to talk about how fun Matilda is, how much or a page-turner it is, and how I wish I would have written this book. You can, of course, talk with children about how important reading is, discuss some of the books Matilda read, talk about the problems and solutions in the book, use Roald Dahl’s wonderful writing style to teach about the 6 + 1 traits of writing, and so much more. However, you can also give this book to a child who is a reluctant reader and see if he or she falls in love with this book. You can use it as an read aloud to spark the imaginations of your students and get them interested enough to read more Roald Dahl on their own. Parents can read it with their children as a bedtime story. However you decide to read this book and use it–that’s fine! Just do it. If your students or children aren’t familiar with this wonderful author, then hopefully they will be soon enough!