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1. Looking at Children Reading - Clémentine Beauvais

OK, who's up for some more controversy? Just kidding. This time, what I've got in mind shouldn't earn me so many death threats and marriage proposals; I want to talk about child-reading 'scopophilia', a term slightly nicer than voyeurism: the pleasure adults derive from looking at children reading.

Henri Lebasque
Visual art, in particular painting, is full of children reading, presumably in part because posing for hours is an incredibly boring thing to do for an eight-year-old so it's a good way of keeping them still. Look at the amazing number of paintings on this Pinterest devoted to that theme.

But it's not just convenience, it's also a fascination of sorts. There is, apparently, something profoundly romantic, profoundly moving, and also rather erotic, about the image of a child reading. This is by children's literature scholar Peter Hollindale:

One January afternoon many years ago I was window-gazing in the shopping streets of Cheltenham... In the window of an art shop I sawa  picture of a boy, lying on his bed, reading. He was dressed in pyjama bottoms, spreadeagled over the bed in an attitude of rapt and intense involvement in his book.... "That", I thought, "is what I want to produce. If being an English teacher is about anything worthwhile, it's about that." (The Hidden Teacher, 2011 p.12)
I don't need to stress the transgressiveness of this description: the adult's delight in this very intimate scene (a child on a bed, lost in his fantasies, in "rapt" and "intense involvement" - onanistic to say the least...) and his desire to elicit such jouissance in the future, too... Of course, Hollindale is aware of all these innuendos. There is something in visions of children reading that creates longing and a kind of pleasurable loss in the adult viewer. And art and literature frequently attempt to capture that something.

It's all the more interesting when it happens in a children's book. Matilda is the perfect example. 




Over the next few afternoons Mrs Phelps could hardly take her eyes from the small girl sitting for hour after hour in the big armchair at the far end of the room with a book on her lap. … And a strange sight it was, this tiny dark-haired person sitting there with her feet nowhere near touching the floor, totally absorbed in the wonderful adventures of Pip and old Miss Havisham. (Matilda, 1988 p.19)

There's a form of religious adoration in the way adults look at Matilda while she's reading. Mrs Phelps and Miss Honey are described as 'stunned', 'astounded', 'quivery', 'filled with wonder and excitement.'

What's the position of the child reader when they read this passage? Well, it's quite weird. They're aligned with an adult viewpoint on another child reading, and enticed to take pleasure in it too. But by virtue of being themselves child readers, they're also enticed to see themselves as a pleasurable sight to adults, an object of quasi-religious desire and fervour. 


Why are visions of children reading so inspiring for visual artists and authors? It's not just that they like children who are 'absorbed' in a story: the vision of a child 'absorbed' in a film or video game does not have the same effect. There's something about reading that makes adults particularly nostalgic, and particularly emotional.

Part of it is simply nostalgic remembrance of our own days of reading as a child, if we were also big readers. Part of it is also linked to the ideologically problematic celebration of reading over other activities (cf previous controversy ok I'll shut up).

But part of it may be also that we can't have access to what exactly the child has in mind when s/he reads - we may know the book, but what we picture of it in our minds cannot be the same as what s/he is currently picturing. There is mystery there, something secret, and like all secrets of childhood, we are quite fascinated by it.

Maybe we like to see children reading books because there's just enough mystery (what exactly are they seeing there?) and just enough control (it's a book; s/he's safe). This Goldilocks zone is  perfectly titillating.

is that child reading
or thinking of something else?
In Claudine's House, French writer Colette writes about how disturbing she finds it when her daughter, Bel-Gazou, is sewing. It is more dangerous, scarier than when she reads, Colette says. When Bel-Gazou reads, "she comes back, looking lost, flushed, from the island with the jewellery-filled chest... She is full of a tried and tested, traditional poison, the effects of which are well-known."

But when Bel-Gazou sews, "Let's write the word that scares me: she thinks…" 
"What are you thinking about, Bel-Gazou?"
"Nothing, Mummy."
...
"Mummy?"
"Darling?"
"Is it only when you're married that a man can put his arm around a lady?"
"Yes... No... It depends... Why are you asking me this?"
"No reason, Mummy."


With no trace in her daughter's hands of a book that could have triggered these questions, the mother is faced with Bel-Gazou's thoughts in freefall, and a terrifying question - where are they coming from?
_____________________________________

Clementine Beauvais writes children's books in both French and English. The former are of all kinds and shapes for all ages, and the latter a humour/adventure detective series, the Sesame Seade mysteries, with Hodder. She blogs here about children's literature and academia and is on Twitter @blueclementine.

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2. The Secret Life of Children - David Thorpe

As writers spruce themselves up in preparation for entering schools on World Book Day in order to bear witness that there are - honest! - real people behind books, I've been thinking about what books I read when I was at primary-school age that really turned me on - and why.

There was a great public library down the road, and, like some kind of ravenous termite, I burrowed through titles as fast as I could: first, E. Nesbitt, Biggles, the Jennings books, Just William, the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, Swallows and Amazons, Robert Louis Stevenson and Peter Pan.

Adults hated this.
But reading these cost me nothing of my prized pocket money. If I cared about reading something enough to part with my precious cash, then I must have really wanted to read it, right? So what were these items?

Firstly, I'm almost ashamed to admit it now, but I bought the whole set of Enid Blyton's Mystery Of... paperbacks, featuring the Five Find-Outers. These were 2/6d each (12.5p nowadays - nothing. But given that I had 6d a week pocket money that was quite a big deal!).

These books epitomise everything that is completely wrong, from an adult's point of view, about Enid Blyton, being badly written, with sterotyped characters, and containing a character called Fatty. None of that mattered to me of course.

Apart from being page-turning whodunnits, there were three important other elements that made them attractive to this 8 or 9-year old: the children knew best, they solved mysteries without adult help, and the authority figure - usually a policeman - was completely stupid. I suspect the latter reason is particularly why adults frowned upon Blyton. But you can't knock the fact that she published a staggering 752 books in her life. That must be some kind of record. Even if they did have names like Noddy Loses His Clothes.

Matilda - probably the best model reader in the world.
There's something in the British psyche: Britons are well known for their sense of fair play combined with a healthy disrespect for authority. And I think I know why. Most children's books liked by children perpetrate the idea that children know best - and what is fair - and adults don't. Roald Dahl is the obvious example, just look at Matilda.

Then, I'd buy the Beano. Like thousands of other kids. You won't be surprised if I tell you that Leo Baxendale, whom I've had the pleasure to meet a few times, and who came up with the Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx, is an out and out anarchist and has been all his life. That's anarchist in the traditional British sense, going all the way back to the Levellers and Robin Hood.

Leo Baxendale's Bash Street Kids: anarcho-punks in the making.
He believed that property is theft to the extent that he eventually sued his publishers, DC Thompson, for not paying him any royalties despite the millions they were making from his work - and then settled out of court for an undisclosed sum to pay his mother's medical costs.

And I bought Marvel comics, whether imported or reprinted in the pages of comics Wham!, Smash!, Pow!, Fantastic! or Terrific! - hundreds of them, because they blew my mind with their sheer imagination. But in retrospect, I reflect that there was something else, something very special that made superheroes attractive to me - and to all kids who love them:

They have secret identities.


Pure magic. My name is Thorpe. I WAS Thor!
When bullied, persecuted Peter Parker became Spiderman, he left behind all of his troubles. When puny Bruce Banner transformed into the incredible Hulk, he could smash anybody. When the selfless and lame Don Blake hit his walking stick on the ground, it became Mjolnir, and he was the mighty God of Thunder, a noble Asgardian.

But all of these were secrets known only to themselves - and to me, the reader.

Stan Lee wrote all of these. He is a genius. Like Dahl, Blyton and Baxendale he knew how to create the equivalent of crystal meth on paper. Addictive or what?

These writers are not equal by the way. Today, I can't recall a single Blyton plotline. (And was she the first kids' writer to trademark her name as an instantly-recognisable signature? Is that part of her success - and should we all do this?) By contrast, very many of Stan the Man's stories and characters are burned into my brain. I'd say he was the most prolific of all these writers, and his inventions are the most successful (whether in terms of readership, sales or influence.)

Back to the subject of secret identities. It's not just that every kid longs to have special powers that could help them defeat their enemies (flying, super-strength, invisibility), it's that children have secret lives as well. For many grown-ups these secret lives are forgotten as they get older.

As a child I remember wondering why it was that adults seemed no longer to remember what it was like to be a child themselves, and vowed that I would do my best not to let the memory fade. I don't know whether I do - very well - but I certainly recall that feeling with great intensity.

The powerful idea that you have a secret self, with a special life known only to you, in which you accomplish remarkable deeds, heroic feats - and nobody else (adult) understands, nobody must even know about this - is surely experienced by all children!

They are all, almost perpetually, engaged in one quest or another, one struggle, one battle, or one tumultuous adventure, whether it is emotional, adventurous, imaginative or intellectual. This is what's going on inside children's minds. All the time.

And this is what the best games, books, TV, films and so on both feed on, and feed into, in the fertile forming minds of children.

Always have. Always will.



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3. Happy Roald Dahl Day!

DahlI learned via and email from Random House this morning that today is Roald Dahl day, a day to celebrate mischief and mayhem (image to the left is from Random House). How appropriate for a Friday the 13th. The email urges us to "Visit the official Roald Dahl site for ways to celebrate in your classroom or library and learn about the man behind the stories: www.roalddahlday.info." 

But personally, I just want to talk about my two favorite Dahl stories:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the first Roald Dahl book that I ever read, and I love it to this day. It both captures the childhood imagination and contains biting satire. Such a perfect blend! When I was in 7th or 8th grade, I learned to type. I practiced by copying Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, sitting at the desk in my basement bedroom. I don't remember being bored for even a moment. Who wouldn't love (in regards to TV):

Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!

(You can read the full poem at the RoaldDahlFans.com site.)

Although it is somewhat different from the book (particularly the songs), I also love the movie. The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder, of course, not the travesty of an unnecessary remake. What child of the 70's doesn't occasionally find herself humming: "Oompa loompa doompety-doo". (Full song lyrics here, if you want them.) And who hasn't dreamed of the chocolate waterfall?

My other favorite Dahl story is Matilda. I'll even go so far in Matilda's case as to say that the movie may be better than the book. But the book is lovely, too. My favorite part of the movie is when young Matilda visits the library, and sits there and reads and reads. The image of this tiny person waiting for the walk light so that she can be with the books that are as necessary as breathing, well, of course it resonates.

My husband and I have already introduced the movie to our three year old daughter. We were a bit worried that she would find it scary, but I think (and this is the beauty of Dahl) that it is so over-the-top that she finds it hilarious. She loves the part where the indifferent parents throw the baby seat loose into the back of the station wagon, so that it careens all over place. I think that witnessing the terrible parents that DeVito and Perlman bring to life so well makes her feel more satisfied with her own life. Or something. 

But for me, Matilda is special because we share the eternal love of books, and the knowledge that books can take you anywhere. Happy Roald Dahl Day! (And than you Random House for the idea for this post.)

What are your favorite Dahl books? What will you do to celebrate Roald Dahl Day?

© 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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4. Top 100 Children’s Novels #30: Matilda by Roald Dahl

#30 Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)
58 points

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.
  • True fan dedication.

Publishers Weekly said of it, “Adults may cringe at Dahl’s excesses in

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5. Fusenews: Gleep!

Durn.  This is what I get for not doing a Fusenews in a while.  A whole plethora of good stuff!  Let’s see what we can use up in a single day, eh?

For the record, if you haven’t read these Hunger Games comics (in the style of Kate Beaton, no?) then now’s the time.  They’re surprisingly good.

Good old poetry month.  From spine poems to 30 Poets / 30 Days the celebrations are magnificent.  Go ye, seek out and find.

  • 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.
  • Stealing books from publishers is nothing new, but there’s something particularly slimy about doing it during the Bologna Book Fair

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6. Fusenews: The Jack Gantos / Alfred E. Newman Connection

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.
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7. Uncovered Cover Art

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
children’s books.

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.”

A couple of my favourite pieces are Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Billy Nuñez and Matilda by Chrystal Chan. What are some of yours?


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8. Fusenews: Hunting the snark

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.
  • Everyone and their mother emailed me the amazing Aaron Renier

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9. Video Sunday: I swoop and I soar and I fly. Back up, back up

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.

Thanks to Watch. Connect. Read. for the link!

Our buddy Ed Spicer runs the site 4 Comments on Video Sunday: I swoop and I soar and I fly. Back up, back up, last added: 3/7/2011

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10. Timeless Thursday: Matilda by Roald Dahl; Illustrations by Quentin Blake

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!

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11. More Dunks and the First Buzzer Beaters!

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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12. What The 'Best Books For Girls' Can Teach Us About Bella

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

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13. midlife crisis and Matilda

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.

READ MATILDA.


**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.

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14. The Tiger’s Bookshelf: Harriet Potter?

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.”

Matilda

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?

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15. Science is Fun...



This is a piece a did for a childrens science magazine i for here in México called BIG BANG!
i think is fun tod work on this kind of jobs because you manage to expand your self and do great things...

Best, Choper!

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