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This blog has spoiled me beyond all hope or recognition. Over the years I’ve used it to find nannies, to get books re-published, and now it has solved a mystery that lay dormant for years. Back in November of 2009 I decided I wanted to track down a book from my childhood. Writing stumpers into the internet ether is usually rather pointless and the post Thanksgiving: The Ernestine Mystery was no exception. So imagine my surprise when reader Desiree Preston wrote me the following note this week:
“Speaking of happy childhood memories, I was able to track down what is for sure the book I was looking for when I read you article at http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2009/11/26/thanksgiving-the-ernestine-mystery/#comment-4765. I don’t know if it is really the one you were looking for, but I thought I’d let you know. It is called Good Old Ernie by Jerry Mallett. Shout out to my second grade teacher, Judy Gomoluch, who is still good friends with my fourth grade teacher Mary Kain, and saw and answered my Facebook post.”
Could this be true? Jerry Mallett? So I tracked down the cover and lo and behold . . .
That’s it, people. I can’t believe it. After seven years the mystery is solved. Let that be a lesson to you, kids. DON’T STOP BELIEVING! HOLD ONTO THAT FEEEEEEEELING . . . .
So what else is going on in the wild and wonderful world of children’s literature? Well, since I’m already talking about Thanksgiving, it’s not much of a stretch to mention Christmas as well. Now has anyone else noticed that there are a LOT of Nutcracker books out in 2016? I honestly think I’ve seen five different picture book versions of the story, all from different publishers. Now I’ve heard something that may interest my Chicago readers. Brian Selznick has recently been working on some fun new projects, including a Chicago related ballet. According to him . . .
“I’m writing the story for the new version of The Nutcracker (to be set during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair) at the Joffrey choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. It premieres this December! I think it’s going to be good…http://joffrey.org/nutcrackerbios.”
One glimpse at the folks behind it (Basil Twist! Christopher Wheeldon!) and I don’t merely “think” it’s going to be good. I know it’s going to be good. Sendak (the only other children’s book illustrator I know who had a hand in a reinterpretation of The Nutcracker) would be proud. Hat tip to Brian for the tip.
Now let’s double back to NYC, since I’m sure there are folks in that neck of the woods that would like a little children’s literature-related fun. Interested in a book festival that’ll get you out of the city? Why not try The Warwick Children’s Book Festival? As it was sold to me . . .
“Apple- and pumpkin-picking, farm markets, lovely shops, galleries and restaurants downtown…lots to enjoy for families looking for a fun afternoon on a holiday weekend. And among other illustrious authors and illustrators such as Wendell Minor, Jane Yolen, Ame Dyckman, Brian Karas, Roxane Orgill, one of your Boston Globe/Horn Book 2016 award winners, will be there with Jazz Day! And…the Festival is presented by Albert Wisner Public Library, winner of the Best Small Library in America 2016 award conferred by Library Journal! We’re excited to invite everyone from the NY Metro Area to discover our festival, our library and our town.”
Go in my stead, gentle readers. Go in my stead.
I’ll linger just a tad longer in the NYC area since to my infinite delight I found that the irascible, entirely delightful Brooklyn librarian Rita Meade has just been named a “Celebrity Librarian” and one of The Brooklyn 100. Go, Rita, Go!
Now I’ll hike back over to the Midwest again. Maybe I’ll stop in Detroit on the way. Why? Because in a bit of absolutely fascinating news we’ve learned the the newest American Girl is Melody Ellison, a child of early ’60s Detroit. Mental Floss also had this to say about the gal:
A six-member advisory board worked to craft her portrayal and included prominent members of the NAACP, history professors, and the President and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Along with author Denise Lewis Patrick, they worked together to ensure Melody’s story was as true to life as possible—including her hair. The texture of the doll’s locks was changed multiple times to reflect the era.
“In the late ’60s, the majority of African-Americans did have straight hair,” Juanita Moore, President and CEO of the Wright Museum, said to the Detroit Free Press. “It may not have been bone straight, but it was straightened.”
No doubt you’ve heard it elsewhere by now, but the saddest information of the week was that Llama Llama’s mama, Anna Dewdney, died recently. I don’t think my family owns any full runs of picture book series . . . with the exception of the Llama Llama books. There’s a lovely obit for her in PW worth looking on. She will be missed.
Turn now to happy news. They’ve announced the speakers for the upcoming ALSC Mini Institute, which will occur before the ALA Midwinter Conference in January. Behold the speakers for yourself, then sign up.
Pop Goes the Page at Princeton is still up to their usual tricks. Today they’re wowing us with their tribute to Alice in Wonderland. Try not to keen too mournfully when you realize you missed a chance to hear Leonard Marcus talk about the book’s relationship to surrealism.
Not much on the roster today, so why don’t I just send you off with a picture of me reading the latest John Patrick Green graphic novel Hippotomister to my kids? They adore it, by the way. So two thumbs up from 2-year-olds and 5-year-olds equally over here.
Consider, if you will, the life of Gene Wilder. Since his death, many people have been doing precisely that. It makes me happy, but since I’ve harbored a not-so-secret crush on the man for decades (a quick search of this blog will back that up) I felt it necessary to point out that for all that he was a great actor, he was also, and often, key in bringing to life various famous children’s literary characters.
The most obvious of these was, of course, Willy Wonka. Without Wilder’s mad genius, the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory could never have been the wonder that it was. A brief hat tip to Gene there:
Mr. Wilder also portrayed The Fox in the live adaptation of The Little Prince. Though not as odd as Bob Fosse’s Snake, it’s still a mighty peculiar role.
Some would then forget but Mr. Wilder also portrayed the Mock Turtle in a made-for-TV adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
In his honor, then, allow me to post all the funny links related to Mr. Wilder and his roles as I can come up with.
First up, long before wrote the picture book Let Me Finish, Minh Lê created this stellar little post about a reality show called The Sweet Life.
I loved it when he was portrayed as one of the many American actors in this faux montage Celebrating 50 Years of American Doctor Who.
Admit it. He would have been glorious.
Next up, one of my favorite How It Should Have Ended videos:
Helena Bonham Carter has always been one to take on more anomalous roles in her acting career. The Red Queen definitely does not differ from this pattern. With her abnormally large head and a tendency to order beheadings onto others, the role is one that Helena enjoys quite a bit.
She gave a interview with Den of Geek this week, telling us a little about her return to the role in Alice Through the Looking Glass. While the first movie, Alice in Wonderland, had little focus on Helena’s character, this one will not only show her more in present time but also give us a peak into her past.
And then when the sequel came around, I was just praying it was well-written. And it was. And in a sort of typically Red Queen egocentric way, I thought, “Oh, there’s a lot about me!” [laughs] And it all made sense. And there was lots of things to develop. So it was fun, because she wasn’t necessarily a big part in the first one. So it was nice to have something where you develop something and you work on something quite a lot. And I seriously do…I’m anal about my craft.
Helena Bonham Carter is no doubt one of those actresses who puts everything she can into a role, finding ways to better relate to her characters. She tells that she did a bit of research, using the Alice books, on her character. She seems to understand Iracebeth and her childish anger, “…I thought, “Well, she’s got too big a head.” So everybody’s head that was normal size was always a reminder that hers was abnormal. So that’s why she had to cut everybody else’s head off.”
Another face, or voice rather, from Harry Potter will appear in the film. Alice Through the Looking Glass, which is dedicated to him, is said to be Alan Rickman’s last film. Helena and Alan have worked closely many times before and she had a few words of consolation for those still mourning his passing:
Well, the poetic thing about it is he’s voicing a blue butterfly. And anything that I can tell Rima, his wife, to comfort her, is there’s that quote: “Just when the caterpillar thought it was all over, it became a butterfly.” And often, butterflies…you know, death can be seen as the end. It can also…I don’t know if it’s any comfort, but you can also see that it’s a point of transition.
Give me a moment to wipe my tears…
Wow, okay. On that note, see the rest of the interview here and be sure to get tickets to see Helena Bonham Carter in Alice Through the Looking Glass which comes out this Friday!
Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Philip Pullman are three of the many great writers to come out of Oxford, whose stories are continually reimagined and enjoyed through the use of media and digital technologies. The most obvious example for Carroll's Alice in Wonderland are the many adaptations in [...]
Happy Leap Day! Unlike Leap Day William here I have no candy to bestow upon the weeping children of the world, but I do have some keen links. First and foremost, this old newspaper article (possibly The New York Times) courtesy of Andrew Fairweather. It’s a little difficult to read here but it says, “THE QUESTION: As a librarian, what was the most unusual request ever made of you?” Between the voracious pygmy pig, the nightingale being attacked and the primo embalmer, these are some good reference questions!
Thanks to Andrew Fairweather for the image.
Just in case you missed it, on Febrary 24th there was a great piece called “You Will Be Tokenized” in Brooklyn Magazine which moves heaven and earth to correct many misconceptions about working in the publishing industry today (monetary misconceptions amongst others).
Speaking of PW, if you didn’t follow their recent link to this story on publishing children’s literature in Russia, you need to double back and do so. This is the kind of story I’d like to hear about more often. International publishing is absolutely fascinating to me and we hear so little about it.
Read that article and then follow it up with a brief examination of the talk, “Brown Gold: African American Children’s Literature as a Genre of Resistance.” In one case you have a government cracking down on precisely what children can and cannot read (“Between the ages of 6 and 12, children were allowed to learn about illness but not death”). On the other you have an examination of children’s books by, “Alice Walker, bell hooks, W.E.B. DuBois, Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin…” The sole problem with this piece is that it doesn’t delve into Michelle Martin’s speech or link to a transcript. Still, I love pairing the authoritarianism on the one hand and the resistance on the other. Different cultures. Same battlefield. Thanks to Phil Nel for the link.
And finally, Boing Boing recently highlighted these shoes from Irregular Choices. And though they may require taking out a loan on your home, I wouldn’t say no if you wanted to bequeath them to me in some manner. I’m a size 9 1/2, in case you’re curious: Previous shoe-related posts may be found here.
It’s hard to believe, but my blog will be four years old on the 6th May 2015. My first tentative post back in 2011 was a short piece about Marjorie Torry and her illustrations for Alice in Wonderland (here). The featured book sold and although I’ve searched high and low, I’ve never found another copy – until now - how fortuitous that one should turn up just in time for my blogiversary. Enjoy!
All the featured images are from Alice in Wonderland, published by Purnell, London in 1964. Find it HERE
“I can't go back to yesterdaybecause I was a different person then.” - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.
When I wrote that very first blog post back in 2011 I was convinced it would remain unread forever – I was wrong! Thank you to every single person who takes the time to call in, your visits mean the world.
Tomorrow Oxford will celebrate Alice’s Day, with mass lobster quadrilles, artwork and performances, croquet, talks, and teapot cocktails, and exhibitions of photographic and scientific equipment. The diverse ways in which Alice and her wonderland are remembered and recast reveal how both heroine and story continue to speak to many different kinds of audience, 150 years since Lewis Carroll’s book was first published.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a children's story that has captivated the world since its publication in the 1860s. The book is celebrated each year on 4th July, which is also known as "Alice's Day", because this is the date that Charles Dodgson (known under the pen name of Lewis Carroll) took 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters on a boating trip in Oxford, and told the story that later evolved into the book that is much-loved across the world.
Long ago, when folk tales were told by people in homes, in fields, in the marketplace and taverns, there were many stories of the forests.
Two out of three of the original 1812 Grimm Folk Tales are set in or involve the forest.
The forests held beauty and danger, the known and the unknown, light and darkness.
The forests were places of lost and abandoned children; homes of witches, elves, and dwarfs. They were the place where wondrous events occurred.
The forests were a threshold of wonder.
The illustration is of Harry Potter seeing the Silver Stag.
The Forest - steeped in ancient myth and legend and infused with spiritual meaning...
Justine Gaunt, in Woodlands.co.uk, writes of the underlying significance and symbolism of the forest found in the minds of ancient peoples and in their folk and fairy tales.
"Anyone embarking upon the journey of exploring forest symbolism finds themselves, perhaps like Little Red Riding Hood waving goodbye to her mother at the garden gate, on a vast voyage punctuated with the joys and dangers of the psyche, steeped in ancient myth and legend and infused with spiritual meaning.
It is no accident that so many fairytale characters find themselves having to traverse danger-laden tracts of woodland. In a most practical sense, as the ancients dreamed up those stories and even when the oral traditions were finally written down in the middle ages and later, the lands of northern and western Europe were thick with woodland. The dangers were palpable: from rogues and bandits lying in wait for unsuspecting travellers to opportunistic wolves hungry for the kill...
As for Little Red Riding Hood, straying from the path and into the woods is similarly dangerous and filled with treachery. Symbolically, those who lose their way in the uncharted forestare losing their way in life, losing touch with their conscious selves and voyaging into the realms of the subconscious..."
The illustrations of fairies and for the story of Tom Thumb are by Gustav Dore.
Fairy Tales Speak to the Secret Self
Tim Lott, who writes a Family Column for the Guardian wrote about the resonance andconnection that the dark side of fairy tales have -- especially for kids - after taking his family to an interactive total immersion theater event based on Phillip Pullman's Grimm Tales...
"But why do these particular plots have such resonance for the audience? Bruno Bettelheim in his study, The Uses of Enchantment, suggested that folk and fairytales that endure from generation to generation, speak to something deep in the reader’s unconscious – for instance, that these older tales legitimized the murderous and violent instincts that all children experience, freeing them from the guilt that such feelings generate...
Whether or not you believe in Bettelheim’s Freudian take on storytelling, it is unquestionable that the best stories have a profound resonance of the Grimm tales transparently address our darkest fears, but in a sense, all mythic storytelling is about addressing uncertainties and anxieties...
Archetypal stories, then, for adults and children – even the “simplest”, not usually thought of as “art” – are more than merely entertainment. The more they involve us imaginatively, the more they speak to the secret self. Without access to those ancient portalsthat lie within us all, and certainly lie within Grimm Tales, we may applaud the style, and the elegance and the sophistication of the storyteller. And in children’s stories... "
Here is a link that will connect you to the full article, Fairy Tales Are Not Just For Fun: Guardian
Both illustrations are for the Grimm's story, the Robber Bridegroom. The top one is by John Cruikshank; the lower on is by John Gruelle.
The Planet Dog Foundation (PDF), Planet Dog's non-profit grant-making organization, is awarding $60,000 in new grants to twelve canine service organizations throughout the country.
"A PDF grant of $5,000 toAmerica's VetDogswill support the training and placement of dogs for veterans being trained through their Massachusetts Prison Puppy Program. Collectively, inmates from local facilities along with local volunteer weekend puppy raisers will train 40 future service dogs per program cycle to assist our nation's veterans with disabilities. The program not only raises the quality of life for wounded veterans and keeps them active in their communities, but also has a positive impact on the inmate population involved in the training."
America's VetDogs serves veterans from all eras, and first responders who have honorably served our country and community, by providing Guide Dogs, Service Dogs for Disabilities,, Service Dogs for PTSD, Hearing Dogs, and more...Click this link and Learn more about America's VetDogs here.
Save The Children
The devastating effect of war on children is seen in a brief video, Second A Day, produced by Save The Children. Here is an excerpt from a report by Dion Dassannayakein the Express:
"The moving clip starts with a childcelebrating her birthday and follows her moment by moment as war and conflict develops in the UK. The hard hitting clip shows London being turned into a war zone where rockets are fired at buildings in broad daylight and children wear gas masks. The powerful video ends with a moving shot of the young girl celebrating her birthday once again."
In just one minute and thirty three seconds, we are reminded of what is happening to multitudes of children today. Here is a link to YouTube- Second A Day
The Wonder of a New Fairy Tale
Pixar's Inside Out...Inside the Mind of an 11 Year Old Girl...
After a rather disappointing hiatus of wonder, the folks at Pixar-- who produced Up, Toy Storyand Finding Nemo--have produced another winner, both critically and with audiences.
Rotten Tomatoes reports that 98% of 217reviewers were enthusiastic and positive in their reviews of Inside Out. Opening weekend crowds for “Inside Out” were 56% female and 38% under the age of 12. Families comprised 71% of the audience. The film opened June 19 and has already grossed over $300 million in ticket sales.
Here's the reaction of Craig Mathiesonin the Sydney Morning Herald:
"The most pleasurably complete Pixarfilm since 2004's The Incredibles,Inside Outdelivers a witty and empathetic answer to the eternal lament of, "What is going on inside your head?"
And, here's an excerpt from an insightful review by Andrew O'hehir in Salon.com
"... there’s an enormous conceptual gulf between Disney films of the “classic” mode, from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Dumbo” right through “Pocahontas” and “The Little Mermaid,” and the consistently elegiac and nostalgic childhood’s-end fables of the Pixar era. If you’ve ever wondered why Pixar’s animators have never gotten around to adapting “The Velveteen Rabbit,” Margery Williams’ 1922 classic about the boundary between childhood imagination and adult reality, it’s because they don’t have to. Almost every Pixar film is “The Velveteen Rabbit,” transmuted into some new fictional universe but built upon the same question, perhaps the most profound and tragic ever framed in the English language: 'Of what use was it to be loved and lose one’s beauty and become Real if it all ended like this?' ..."
"Like Wulff's "How to Change the World in 30 Seconds", this book is another practical handbook for helping pets. Easy to follow steps, important data, and insider info. Displaced pets make up most of the animals that find themselves in pounds, and with 3-4 million animals euthanized inU.S. shelters every year, it's no place for your beloved pet!Many times the pet's people have no idea where, or how, to start looking for them. This guide spells it out with lots of helpful tips and advice. And all the sales go to charity - how great is that?... An Amazon 5 star review by Kristina Kane
Here's a link to read excerpts, reviews, and to purchase Finding Fido.
I was quite taken by an excellent and evocative Dog Poem on C.A. Wulff's website, Up On The Woof
Sight Unseen...the Threshold of Invisibility
Here are excerpts from "The Hows and Whys of Invisibility" by Kathryn Schulz in the New Yorker.
...."These questions are not so much answered as provoked by “Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen”(Chicago), by the British science writer Philip Ball...
His book takes seriously a subject that, perhaps aptly, has heretofore been mostly disregarded. Invisibility looms large in the kingdom of childhood—in pretend play and imaginary friends, in fairy tales and comic books and other fictions for kids—but it seldom receives sustained adult scrutiny. And yet, once you get past the cloaks and the spells, invisibility is a consummately grownup matter. As a condition, a metaphor, a fantasy, and a technology, it helps us think about the composition of nature, the structure of society, and the deep weirdness of our human situation—about what it is like to be partly visible entities in a largely inscrutable universe. As such, the story of invisibility is not really about how to vanish at all. Curiously enough,it is a story about how we see ourselves..."
The illustrations are from the Miyazaki film Spirited Away.
Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland
The Morgan Library Museumin New York is presenting an extraordinary exhibit, both at the Museum and Online...
"This exhibition will bring to light the curious history of Wonderland, presenting an engaging account of the genesis, publication, and enduring appeal of Lewis Carroll'sclassic tale, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
For the first time in three decades, the original manuscript will travel from the British Library in London to New York, where it will be joined by original drawings and letters, rare editions, vintage photographs, and fascinating objects—many never before exhibited..."
The array of artwork by Lewis Carrol and John Tenniel is dazzling. The scope of the online exhibit is quite comprehensive and includes information and links to early Alice films.
“You know very well you’re not real.”
“I am real!” said Alice, and began to cry.
“You won’t make yourself a bit realler by crying,” Tweedledee remarked: “there’s nothing to cry about.”
“If I wasn’t real,” Alice said—half laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous—“I shouldn’t be able to cry.”
“I hope you don’t suppose those are real tears?” Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt.
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There-Lewis Carrol
Illustration by John Tenniel
Castle In The Mist is the second book in the Planet Of The Dogs Series -
"...Castle in the Mist is full of the same elements I enjoyedinPlanet of the DogsandSnow Valley Heroes:beautiful, detailed, soft, mood setting drawings; the fun and antics of the dogs, and the people who are discovering them for the first time; encroaching danger and suspense; the lovely fantasy of a planet of dogs who are so concerned with the people of earth; and the forgiveness, unconditional love and loyalty that the dogs are able to subtly impart."- Taken from a 5 star Amazon review by Lisa Harvey, Book Thoughts by Lisa...
We have free reader copies of the Planet of The Dogs book seriesfor therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the books.
Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...Librarians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, throughIngram with a full professional discount.
The illustration by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty is from Castle In The Mist
Rescuing Wonderful Shivery Tales
Marina Warner, in the New York Review of Books, writes an extremely informative overview encompassing the books and lives of the brothers Grimm, the work of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (The Turnip Princess, translated by Maria Tatar), as well as related work by Philip Pullman and the translation of Selected Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Peter Wortman.The article also contains information and insights regarding the contributions through the years by Jack Zipes, including his translation of the Original Grimm Tales and his latest book, Grimm Legacies, The Magic Spell of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales.
Here is brief excerpt regarding a turning point:
The brothers had been strongly encouraged to make their scholarship a bit more family-friendly by including Ludwig’s illustrations after they learned of the huge success in England of the first English translation by Edgar Taylor(1823 and 1826), with its quirky, joyous drawings by George Cruikshank. In Grimm Legacies, Zipes relates how the tone of the English illustrations changed the tales’ reception, inspiring Dickens to write sentimentally about their innocence, and Ruskinto claim that Cruikshank’s “original etchings…[are] unrivalled in masterfulness of touch since Rembrandt.”
The illustration of the Elves and the Shoemaker is by George Cruikshank.
"The simpler question to answer is why these tales are called "fairy tales." It is from the influence of the women writers in the French Salons who dubbed their tales "contes de fees." The term was translated into English as "fairy tales." The name became so widely used due to the popularity of the French tales, that it began to be used to describe similar tales such as those by the Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen." Heidi Anne Heiner --SurLaLune
The illustration of Beauty and the Beast is by Walter Crane.
Sunbear Squad is Anna Nirva's practical site for a wide range of information focused on the well being of dogs ( as well as cats). Here are a few excerpts from a very comprehensive article on Traveling by Car or Truck with Pets.
...On the Road...
Once you are on the road with your pet, you will need to adhere to some basic guidelines to keep your animals and your family happy and safe. Here are some recommendations for the trip itself:
Keep the Animal Inside...Anyone who owns a dog knows how much these animals like to put their heads out the window while they are riding in a car. This is dangerous for the animal, as debris can injure it. It is best to keep the animal’s head and every other part inside the car or truck, and never let your pet ride in the bed of a pickup truck, which exposes it to many dangers.
Stop Frequently...Particularly if you are traveling with a dog, you will need to stop regularly to give your animal bathroom, exercise, and water breaks. Fortunately, most rest areas have ample space for you to give your pet a chance to stretch its legs. Keep your pet leashed when you stop and have a bag ready to clean up after it.
Food and Water...You will want to limit excessive feeding while you are traveling to avoid giving your pet an upset stomach. Keep feeding to a minimum and stick to the pet food. Avoid the temptation to let the animal snack on what you are eating, as that can cause some unpleasant digestive issues.
On the other hand, you want to make sure that your pet gets as much water as possible. Give it water every time you stop. You may also want to bring along some ice cubes, which are a treat for most pets and easier for them to handle than water if they get upset stomachs while you are traveling...
There is much more to this article...here is the link: TRAVEL
"When a man's best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem." - Edward Abbey
After a brief description with some historical background for Carroll’s novel, the app has two main sections: “Transcriptions of Letters and Manuscripts,” and “Tenniel’s Illustrations.” Within each, a book icon brings up the index so you can navigate into any artifact you want, or you can just swipe along in order.
The “Transcriptions” section presents a wide range of artifacts related to Carroll’s life, work, and world. There’s an illustrated humorous poem, “A Tale of a Tail,” from the Useful and Instructive Poetry magazine that the thirteen-year-old author created for his siblings. There’s an 1863 letter from Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Carroll’s Alice, to her father. There’s a list in Carroll’s hand of “Newspaper Notices of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” from 1866. In addition to descriptions of the items, all are accompanied by their transcripts, which are useful even though the images are clear — it’s a lot more efficient for a modern eye to read a typed version of a letter than to make sense of the flourishes in Carroll’s nineteenth-century handwriting. Nearly all of these items correspond to what’s on the web exhibit, though many are titled slightly differently. Like the website, this section of the app also has magic lantern slides with illustrations of various Alice scenes, alongside their (somewhat reworked) text.
The second section contains some of John Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Most of the images are color proofs, but some are original black-and-white sketches or preparatory drawings. Here, the selection is less extensive than the more carefully curated and categorized offerings in the web exhibit.
This app is a useful way to view many pieces from the exhibit up close. (Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, the manuscript Carroll wrote and illustrated for Alice Liddell, is unfortunately not part of the app.) It’s a useful resource for anyone interested in Alice’s history, and could also be helpful to students learning the concept of primary sources. But the interactivity begins and ends with navigation from one artifact to another, and the app has less to offer than the web version. For a deeper Alice rabbit hole — more illustrations and character design sketches, a playlist of music inspired by the books, and an “Alice on the Silver Screen” section featuring early film adaptations — head over to the Morgan’s digital exhibit.
Tales of wonder usually have happy endings. They may have danger and darkness, forbidden places and strange creatures, witches and cruel magic...but wonder tales -- fairy tales -- do have happy endings...with very few exceptions. The journey may be fearsome, but salvation and awakenings occur in the end...and these stories endure forever.
Beauty, Horror, and Ignition Power...
Enchanted Hunters, The Power of Stories in Childhood by Maria Tatar, takes the reader on a wonderful journey through children's literature.
In the chapter entitled, Beauty , Horror and Ignition Power, she writes about the effect of wonder tales on the imagination of children, including the balance between the dark side and positive endings. Here are excerpts..."We rarely worry about the effects of beauty, but horror is another matter...with an allure all its own, horrorhas the power to frighten as well as to fascinate...how much do we want children to find in their stories and how soon?..."
Tatar then illustrates the idea of too much horror with "Hans Christian Anderson's'The Girl Who Trod On The Loaf', a tale that revels in torturing Inger, the 'girl' in the title." Tatar then writes, by contrast. of three classic tales where all ends well.
"By contrast,'Little Red Riding Hood', 'Hansel and Gretel', and 'Snow White' begin with the child as victim, but they end with the triumph of the underdog and the punishment of the villain. 'Children know something they can't tell; they like Red Riding Hood and the wolf in bed' Djuna Barnes once declared. Fairy tales and fantasy enact perils and display horrors, but they always show a way out, allowing children to explore great existential mysteries that are far more disturbing when they remain abstract and uncharted rather than take the concrete form of the story."
The illustration of Little Red Riding Hood is by Hermann Vogel.
The Defining Dynamic of the Fairytale
Amanda Craig,is an acclaimed British novelist, journalist, and children's book reviewer. The following excerpt is from her insightful review of Marina Warner's "OnceUpon A Time, A Short History of the Fairy Tale", in the Guardian
"One of the most interesting aspects of reworking fairytales is that it tends to be practised by idealists and reformers, whether devout Christians, such as CS Lewis, or socialists, such as JK Rowling. The defining dynamic of the fairy tale is optimism (as opposed to the tragic tendencies of the myth), but this has encouraged bowdlerisations from the dark and gruesome aspects of many originals – Dickens hated the way the illustrator George Cruikshank softened stories, the brothers Grimm tinkered to “excuse the men and blame the women”, and the ambiguity of the fairytale led to them being twisted into Nazi propaganda, with Little Red Riding Hood being saved from a Semitic wolf.
Happily, they have also been transmuted by modern feminism: Neil Gaiman’s striking novella, The Sleeper and the Spindle... conflates and subverts Snow White and Sleeping Beauty into a tale of female courage and choice..." Read it all in the Guardian
The illustration from Tom Thumb is by Warwick Goble.
Where the Light is Golden...
“October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or of shutting a book, did not end a tale. Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: "It is simply a matter," he explained to April, "of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists
The Humane Society of Missouri helps more than 85,000 homeless, abused and unwanted animals each year. Here is their mission statement:
"Since 1870, the Humane Society of Missouri has been dedicated to second chances. We provide a safe and caring haven to all animals in need - large and small - that have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Our mission is to end the cycle of abuse and petoverpopulation through our rescue and investigation efforts, spay/neuter programs and educational classes. We are committed to creating lasting relationships between people and animals through our adoption programs. We further support that bond by making available world-class veterinary care, and outstanding pet obedience and behavior programs..."
"Wulff`s heartwarming storiesabout a household of misfit dogs, reminds me that family can include the four-legged variety, as well as the two-legged. Her simple affirmation that "My dogs are not perfect.... but they are perfect for me," guides the telling of these gentle stories. For dog lovers everywhere."
If you have not yet read "Born Without a Tail: the Making of an Animal Advocate" or "Circling the Waggins: How 5 Misfit Dogs Saved Me from Bewilderness", this mini ebook is the perfect introduction to the world of C.A.Wulff."Parade of Misfits" is only available in digital format.
C.A. Wulffis an author, artist, and animal advocate. She has volunteered in animal rescue for more than 26 years and attributes her love of animals to having been raised by Wulffs.
Dr. Seuss’ ‘What Pet Should I Get?’
By MARIA RUSSO,in the NY Times. MS Russo writes an appreciation of the incredible Theodore Seuss Geisel, his wonderful books, and the new-found book, What PetShould I Get? Here's an excerpt...
"First, though, the book itself: It features a round-faced brother and sister — his close- cropped hair is bristly on top, she has a long, wispy ponytail — who enter a pet store excited about the prospect of taking a new animal home. 'Dad said we could get one./ Dad said he would pay,' the boy exclaims. Inside, they confront a head-spinning lineup of choices. Also, they don’t have much time — their mother has told them to be home by noon. A few pages into their predicament and again toward the end, the words MAKE UP YOUR MIND charge across the top of a two-page spread, each held aloft by a different invented Seussian creature — floppy-limbed, scruffy-coated, oddly proportioned, jubilantly weird. On one of those pages, the boy sums up the book’s central point in a deceptively innocent lament: 'Oh, boy! It is something to make a mind up!' ”
Here's a link to a delightful and informative Dr.Seuss Today Show report on the new book, Theodore Geisel, his widow, his personal assistant, and his publisher.
"To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks."
“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
“We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet. Even longer,' Pooh answered.”
“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
The illustration is by Earnest Shepard. ...................
Rescuing Wonderful Shivery Tales
This is the title of Marina Warner's excellent and inclusive article in theNY Review of Books . Warner writes about contributions to the world of wonder tales and children's literature by Jack Zipes, Philip Pullman, Peter Wortman, and Maria Tatar. In the case of Tatar, she concentrates on her work in introducing, translating, and annotating the Turnip Princess, the tales collected by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth.
Here are excerpts from this informed and insightful article:
"Jack Zipes has long been a staunch advocate of fairy tales and their proper study since his book Breaking the Magic Spell (1979) issued a devastating blast against the wishful thinking of mass entertainment and shook the staid and soporific scene of folklore studies. To interpret the tales he has combined Marxism, feminism, cultural materialism, and even—for a short period—evolutionary biology. He has stirred readers with a similar passion for his material, while attacking the use of literary fantasy in movies and television to camouflage moral manipulation. Writers whom he admires—Jane Yolen, Terri Windling, and above all Angela Carter—and the films informed by their work have supplied countermodels to the sins of the dream factory.
In the epilogue of the new critical collection, Grimm Legacies, Zipes, drawing on the work of the philosopher Ernst Bloch, once again argues that fairy tales are best understood as utopian thought experiments. When the peasant crushes the ogre, the poor lad finds justice; persecuted by malicious relatives, the kind sister gets her due, the courageous girl saves her beloved siblings or lover...
Zipes is on a lifelong mission, as ardent as the Grimms’, to bring fairy tales into circulation for the general increase of pleasure, mutual and ethical understanding..."
The illustrations for the Grimm's Hansel and Gretel and King Thrushbeard are by Arthur Rackham.
FOR YOUNG FANTASY AND ANIMAL LOVERS EVERYWHERE
By Don Blankenship, educator and reviewer forGood Books for Kids . This is an excerpt from his review of Castle In The Mist...
"This is the second book in the Planet of the Dogs series and I must say I enjoyed it, cover to cover. This work can be read as a sequel to Planet of the Dogs, an ideal situation, but can also be read as a stand-alone with no loss to the flow of the story. This read is suitable for children of approximately eight years and up as a reader, or can well be read to children much younger. Adults will love this one also; I know I did, but then I have my fare share of kid still in me...
The art work by Stella Mustanoja McCarty is of the same high quality that we found in the first book in this series (and we find in the sequel to this book also), and is a delight to theeye. These are a series of black and white drawing, probably enhanced by the use of charcoal, which fit the text perfectly. When you bring a skilled artist and writer together that know children and know their dogs, then you know you are in for a treat."
Read sample chapters of Castle In The Mist at our website: Planet Of The Dogs. The photo, above, of the boy, Chase, and Rose, the therapy dog, are by Susan Purser. Susan and Rose bring hope and caring to many people, of all ages, from young readers to the ill and the aged.
We have free reader copies of the Planet of The Dogs book series for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, librarians and teachers...simply send us an email at email@example.com and we will send you the books.
Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...Librarians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, throughIngram with a full professional discount.
The illustration and book cover are by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty.
Pan In The Garden
"In many ways , modern children's literature remains an Edwardian phenomenon.This period defined the ways in which we still think of children's books and of the child's imagination. During it's few years, this age produced a canon of authors and works that are still powerfully influential in the field...Our default mode of childhood, if you like, remains that decade or so before the first World War; the time between the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, and the assassination at Sarajevo in 1914, the time when writers looked back over loss and could only barely anticipate the end of the old order"
In the chapter "Pan In the Garden",Seth Lerer, in his book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter, writes of the impact of the Edwardian era on children's literature..."the years before the First World War in Britain and America were also years that socially and politically redefined childhood."
Children's books written in the Edwardian era are known, even today, by many children: The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), Peter Pan (JM Barrie), The Wind In the Willows (Kenneth Grahame) and more.
The cover illustration is by Inga Moore.
"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." Albert Einstein
The illustration is from Miyazaki's Castle In The Sky.
Disney Got It Right in 2011-- After Previous Stumbles
According to Rotten Tomatoes, 90% of the critics (out of 127) liked the 2011 Disney production of Winnie the Pooh. Here is excerpt from the review by Michael DeQuina inMovie Report.
..."the writing team and directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall make it work by never losing sight of the spirit of the characters, world, and Milne: imagination, innocence, and heaps of heart--best encapsulated by the bear's simple, moving gesture of friendship that so eloquently ties up the story, characters, themes and the enduring legacy that is Pooh."
Maine has an organization - EmBrace A Vet - that provides healing support with therapy service dogs. They also provide retreats for groups of vets and their families. This is from their site:
"Embrace A Vet is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing direct and supportive services to these Maine Veterans and their families living with PTSD and/or TBI. Besides helping to save the lives of our veterans by providing love and hope through a new canine 'best friend', we also save the lives of many of the dogs who we adopt from shelters."
Embrace A Vet is the recipient of a $5,000 grant for their Paws for Peace Program. This funding, from thePlanet Dog Foundation (PDF) will aid in the placement of 12 dogs with veterans in need,
Jessica Lahey,in the Motherlode section of the New York Times, wrote an excellent article on reading,literacy, and RIF. Here is an excerpt...
"Fortunately, Reading Is Fundemental (RIF), has been enriching children’s childhoods through thedistribution of free books since 1966, when the founder Margaret McNamara resolved to give books to the children of Washington, D.C., children who may not otherwise have the chance to own books. RIF delivered books into the hands of these children by way of their iconic Bookmobiles; magic vehicles of wonder that pulled right up to the schoolhouse door and invited children to select, and take home, books of their very own. In its first year, RIF gave 200,000 books to 41,000 Washington children, and by the time I stepped into my first Bookmobile in 1977, I was just one of 1.1 million children RIF served that year.
Literacy is a prime predictor of student success, as well as a range of economic and physical well-being. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly half of the adult population, or 93 million Americans, read at or below the basic level needed to contribute successfully to society. Adults below this basic level of literacy are far more likely to be unemployed and live in poverty, while individuals who achieve higher levels of literacy are more likely to be employed, earn higher wages, and vote in state and national elections"...
Here's a link to read it all: Motherlode
Go Ask Alice
AnthonyLane,in an effervescent New Yorkerarticle, wrote about Lewis Carrol, the Alice books, the world of nineteenth century Oxford,and several biographies in what Lane calls the Carrolllian maze. Here is an excerpt from this fascinating article... "Conversations about what is real, what is possible, and how rubbery the rules that govern such distinctions turn out to abound in the tales of Alice. Yet they are sold as children's books, and rightly so. A philosopher will ask how the identity of the self can be preserved amid the ceaseless flow of experience, but a child -- especially a child who is growing so fast that she suddenly fills the room -- will ask more urgently, as Alice does, "Was I the same as when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little a little different" Children, viewed from one angle, are philosophy in motion."
After I had prepared this post, I found that it was already posted by Maria Tatar on Breezes From Wonderland. Tatar has since added more about Alice including information about a new Annotated Alice by Mark Burstein and other news about 175 translations worldwide.
Here is a link to Grace Slick singing White Rabbit at Woodstock (August 1969)
The illustration of Alice is one of ninetytwo by John Tenniel for Lewis Carrol's books.
A Rose Is Not a Rose...
This excerpt is from a fascinating article by Marina Warner in the Guardian
"A fairytale doesn’t exist in a fixed form; it’s something like a tune that can migrate from a symphony to a penny whistle.
Or you can compare it to a plant genus, to roses or fungi or grasses, that can seed and root and flower here and there, changing species and colour and size and shape where they spring. But if the prevailing idea of an archetype gives too strong an impression of fixity, the picture-language of fairytale is fluid and shapeshifting: a rose is not a rose, an apple not an apple; a princess or a villain signify far more than what they seem. A dictionary of fairytale would look more like a rebus made up of icons: snow, crystal, apples, dark forests, pinnacled castles, mermaids, toads, giants, dragons, sprites, fair princesses, likely lads and crones.
The symbolism comes alive through strong contrasts and sensations, evoking simple, sensuous phenomena that glint and sparkle, pierce and flow, by these means striking recognition in the reader or listener’s body at a visceral depth (gold and silver; diamonds and rubies, thorns and knives; wells and tunnels). It’s an Esperanto of the imagination, and it’s available for any of us to use – in almost any medium..."
The painting of Sleeping Beauty is by Edward Burne Jones. The illustration is by Jennie Harbour.
The Society of Bloggers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature
I highly recommend Kidlitosphere as a source for anyone interested in children's literature.
The following is excerpted from their site...
Some of the best books being published today are children’s and young adult titles, well-written and engaging books that capture the imagination. Many of us can enjoy them as adults, but more importantly, can pass along our appreciation for books to the next generation by helping parents, teachers, librarians and others to find wonderful books, promote lifelong reading, and present literacy ideas.
The “KidLitosphere” is a community of reviewers, librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, publishers, parents, and other book enthusiasts who blog about children’s and young adult literature. In writing about books for children and teens, we’ve connected with others who share our love of books. With this website, we hope to spread the wealth of our reading and writing experience more broadly...
KidLitosphere Central strives to provide an avenue to good books and useful literary resources; to support authors and publishers by connecting them with readers and book reviewers; and to continue the growth of the society of bloggers in children’s and young adult literature...here is a link to read more.
Welcome to our world.
The top illustration is of of Tom Thumb. The bottom illustration is of the Frog King.
There's magic, wonder, and exceptional animation here...I learned of this film, when I received this message from Joy Ward (author of exceptional dog books)..."There is an absolutely gorgeous animated movie out right now. It's Song of the Sea by an Irish team. Lovely story about o little boy and his selkie sister. Wonderful for everyone!"
The film reviewers have been uniformly enthusiastic. Here is an excerpt from Leslie Felperinin the Guardian:"Song of the Seablends Celtic legends, bravura design and animation, and intelligent storytelling that understands but never patronises young viewers, to create an exquisite and rewarding work ..." Here is a link to the trailer: Song Of The Sea
No Dark Deeds Here
This excerpt of the review by Jo Williams in the St Louis Post-Dispatch, sums up the Minions, a movie for the very young.
"If you’re old enough to read a movie review in a newspaper, you’re too old to fully appreciate “Minions.” Ditto if you’re old enough to read the menu at a fast-food joint, the height requirements at an amusement park or the price tag on a shiny yellow toy. This spinoff of the “Despicable Me” cartoons is like a pre-verbal version of “Inside Out,” all coos and colors and cute facial expressions. Tiny tots will eat it up like jelly beans. But what about their bigger siblings and baby-sitters? Will they be trapped on a sugar-rush cycle with no hope of escape?
Yes, but … The mad scientists at Dreamworks have scrubbed this ’toon of anything that might scare or challenge the target audience"...
Several years ago, I read Deb Eades book, Every Rescued Dog Has a Tale, and first learned about the nationwide network of volunteers who are "rescuing dogs from certain deaths in kill shelters and then being driven by dedicated animal lovers to a new life in another state."
Deb Eades was one of these volunteers, and her book is filled with touching first-hand stories of rescuing dogs and driving them to a place where another volunteer takes over and drives the next leg of the rescue journey. Or, sometimes, actually driving the rescued dog(s) to their new home.
Sunbear Squad is a mainstay in dog rescue. Here is an excerpt from their site:
"Each weekend in America, an army of volunteer rescue transport drivers deliver dogs and cats to safety in an organized relay of vehicles. Hard-working volunteer transport coordinators plan the logistics, organize the four-legged passengers, and provide support by phone continuously during the entire one- or two-day operation. Drivers sign up for relay "legs" via e-mail. They meet the previous leg drivers at an appointed time, transfer the lucky dogs and cats to their vehicles, and drive to the next relay meeting spot where the process is repeated until the destination is reached..."
To read the entire article follow this link: Rescue
"All knowledge, the totality of all questions and answers, is contained in the dog." -- Franz Kafka, Investigations of a Dog
In honor of the upcoming 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter AND the start of school, I wanted to present you with some fun quotes from one of the all-time classics of young person literature–Alice in Wonderland!
Did you know that this is the 150th Anniversary of the utterly “contrariwise” childhood nonsense world that one can discover in “The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland?
And so, here is the perfect opportunity to introduce the youngest of readers to Alice and her utterly unbelievable list of endearing characters inhabiting Wonderland.
Please fall “down the rabbit hole” with Alice, the dreamer in Wonderland, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Red Queen, March Hare, Cheshire Cat, Caterpillar, and, of course, those chatty, catty talking flowers in the garden.
Walt Disney gave Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, pen named Lewis Carroll, a perfect homage in that amazingly anthropomorphic song, sung by the garden flowers in Walt’s animated version of “Alice in Wonderland.”
Do please enjoy their song at the bottom of my blog!
And did you know that Lewis Carroll began his story of Alice with a poem in stanzas, called “All in the Golden Afternoon” that preceded the opening of Alice’s story? Well, he did; in 1865, to be exact. That would make it 150 years ago!
On a boating trip to Oxford, Alice Liddell asked for a story. And Lewis Carroll obliged, writing in his preface poem, an oblique reference to the three Liddell sisters named Edith, Lorina, and, of course, Alice.
For it was for Alice, in particular, for whom he wrote his classic, zany tale of a world where everything makes little sense.
So, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the writing of “The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland”, you may just want to let your young ones have a taste of Alice’s world, with one, or all three young reader versions that I sampled of her story.
Plus, for the first time in three decades, the original manuscript of Lewis Carroll’s book is available for viewing in New York’s Morgan Library at 225 Madison Avenue until October 12, 2015. Why not take the young ones for a fall excursion to see it and the accompanying never before seen drawings, letters and objects – all on loan from the British Library?
There is a link at the bottom for more information.
A Little Golden Book: Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland
Disney’s Golden Book version is probably well known to most Baby Boomer parents and grandparents as it’s based on the Disney movie, from the Carroll classic. The movie debuted in 1951 and may still be seen from time to time on the Disney Channel and is a great purchase on DVD. There is an “Un-Anniversary”2 disc edition that is out now.
Those amazingly talented Disney animators made Alice an indelible image for children for a generation or more. The Golden Book version is a memory bank of pictures from your childhood, ready to share with any young reader. I spent time poring over it myself, and have to say it is a sweet treat that made me want to revisit the Disney movie version!
In speaking recently to a Millennial mom, she mentioned that with all the new animation that has come out in the past few years, those Disney’s classics are sometimes overlooked.
What a shame that would be because their clever nuanced take on the nonsensical world of Alice is a movie not to be missed; followed closely or preceded by this book.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Alison Jay
Ms. Jay has provided young readers with a sturdy board book that will hold up well to lots of poring over and pointing out of pictures. Her book put me in mind of my early primer reader that could make a single word or phrase evoke the accompanying picture to a tee.
Ms. Jay, in her use of words like “run”, juxtaposes it against a picture of Alice chasing the White Rabbit, while “shrink” has a picture of the diminutive Alice after she has drunk from the bottle marked “Drink Me.”
It’s simple and subtle, yet leaves room for the reader and the listener to fill in as much as they want. I love the cover of a burgeoning Alice bumping up against the ceiling as she “grows.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Robert Sabuda
Robert Sabuda’s pop up adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is just plain, well, “wonderful.”
From the opening of its first page, where a huge pop up leafy tree emerges, under which sits a tiny Alice and her sister, there are surprises.
At the bottom of the page, an accordion like folded down piece of paper, closed with a “Open Me”slide across piece, beckons.
And, when opened, it grows to a tall column or hole, through which a child may peer down, and see a kaleidoscope feature of Alice falling “down the rabbit hole.”Amazing!
With each successive page, young readers will revel in Alice’s journey through Wonderland and its nonsensical inhabitants.
For instance, at the Mad Hatter’s and March Hare’s Tea Party, look to the left and there is a folded out piece of paper neatly tucked into a tidy pocket-like feature with corners. Open it, and the reader can discover the text from “Alice in Wonderland”that describes the scene in the pop up picture. It’s never too early for young readers to discover the young girl that tires of things as they are, and wishes for a place where everything is as it isn’t!
Growing up is never easy. And for kids today, it seems as full of unanticipated things as Wonderland. And perhaps that was the whole point of Carroll’s classic. To appreciate what you have, you have to grow into yourself and see your life from a different perspective. It’s a bit of a “no place like home” philosophy.
May I conclude with a pitch for the picture book? They easily and joyfully allow children a gradual introduction to the thrill of reading that is sort of akin to training wheels on a bicycle. They lead to the chapter book and YA and everything beyond. Great picture books draw young readers in with wonderful art and a narrative that fits their age. It eases them into reading while entertaining and enlightening – all at the same time.
And here, although the reality of growing up may not be easy peasy, the adventure of it all can sit lighter on one’s shoulders with a visit to Wonderland.
Please let these three gems introduce your young reader to their first steps to a place where a Cheshire Cat, Dodo, March Hare, White Rabbit, Red Queen, Caterpillar and an array of talking flowers, all allow young readers the enjoyment of a “Golden Afternoon”, as they grow up!
Young readers may find themselves mimicking the ear to ear smile of the Carroll’s Cheshire Cat as he intones, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
But, dear reader, you know the path that leads straight to the doors of this classic tale in picture book form.
Please beat a path there sometime soon - with a young reader in tow!
The story goes that legendary Uncanny X-Men scribe Chris Claremont discovered Malaysian-born artist Sonny Liew at a comics convention and got him his first big break into comics, landing Liew a gig illustrating Iron Man for Marvel. It was a small gig, just one illustration, but it set the stage for Liew’s bright future in comics! In 2004, Sonny Liew won the Xeric Award(an award for excellence in self-published comics) in 2004 for Malinky Robot. Later, he would go on to illustrate such titles as Slave Labor & Disney’s Wonderland series, Marvel’s Sense and Sensibility adaptation, and collaborate with artist/inker Mark Hempel on DC/Vertigo’s My Faith in Frankie.
Before studying illustration at Rhode Island School of Design, Liew attended college in Singapore(where he currently resides) and in the UK. His work has been featured in the critically acclaimed anthology Flight and he’s served as editor of the Southeast Asian comics anthology Liquid City.
Liew has been a celebrated artist at home, winning Singapore’s Young Artist Award in 2010, but recently he’s found himself in a bit of controversy over his latest book, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. The grant that supported the making of that book was withdrawn by the National Arts Council for containing sensitive topics. You can hear more about this story from the man himself at this book sharing session.
Right now is a great time to become a Sonny Liew fan, because he’s making some of the best comics art of his career on the newly relaunched Doctor Fate series with famed DC writer/editor/former-president Paul Levitz! I see that more people are catching onto this series, now that it’s up to issue 5, so hopefully that will continue to happen and we’ll get a nice, long Doctor Fate run out of Liew!
If you’d like to see more art and learn more about Sonny Liew, check out his blog here.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my websitecomicstavern.com– Andy Yates
My painting was created back in 2010, and since then so many people have expressed their love for it, not just on tumblr, but in many places. At least 9 people had it tattooed on their bodies. It’s one of my favourite images I created at University and I was proud of it in many ways.
Disney have used it on a cosmetics bag HERE (look at the back)
and they have produced a Tshirt HERE with a really similar design clearly modeled from my painting.
I’m so mad because I have no chance at getting Disney to do anything about it. I had so much respect for the company and now I am just SO upset and disappointed.
Bear in mind that Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a public domain property and Woodger’s art was styled in an original manner that is distinct from the Disney versions. If her claims hold up, this would be a bold example of copyright theft by the Disney Company.
I've been out and about buying lots of new stock over the last few days. When I buy new things, my first job is to check for any missing/torn pages, colouring, inscriptions and/or any other damage. This is not a hardship because I get to spend time looking at all the beautiful illustrations and reading the odd page or ten as I go along. But, having spent the entire winter huddled indoors the recent spring weather was too much of a temptation. So the whole 'checking for problems' operation moved outside. What could be nicer than sitting in the sun with a cup of coffee and a pile of new (old) books to enjoy?
Not all of these are listed on the website yet, but they will be over the next few weeks. If you would like to see what other delights we have in stock, you can do so here
Alicein Wonderland among the forget-me-nots. One of my favourite books with one of my favourite spring flowers.
The rockery has just started to wake up after the long cold winter
Popkyn the pedlar enjoying the sunshine with the daffodils and purple Aubrietia
The adventures of Perry Winkle by Jack Orr with the yellow flowers of Alyssum 'Basket of Gold’
Is this a crocodile or maybe an alligator? Either way it’s one of the illustrations from the adventures of Perry Winkle
I can do almost anything - so long as I have a garden table and a sheet of wrapping paper to protect the books!
Forget-me-nots and (I think) Armeria Maritima 'Splendens' or Phlox douglasii. I’m not at all sure on this one so if you know, please leave me a comment.
Jack Frost was particularly unkind this year. Not content with nipping "scores of noses and ears and toes" he also stole away with this little fairy’s wing. Can a fairy with only one wing still fly?
Me stuff. You have been warned. So the first thing to know today is that this coming Saturday I’ll be speaking at the Eric Carle Museum about Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature. It will prove to be an amusing talk and if you live in the area I’d desperately love it if you could attend. I’d like to see your smiling faces, rather than the sea of empty chairs that greets me whenever I close my eyes and imagine worst case scenarios. It will be at 1 p.m. In other news, the panel I conducted on Native Fiction was summarized at Tu Books as well as a rather in-depth write-up in Publishers Weekly. So well done there. Finally Jules and I were interviewed in conjunction with our book by Cynthia Leitich Smith over at Cynsations. Woohoo!
And for those of you who know who Suzuki Beane is, enjoy this little GIF of her dancing up a storm. If I were ever to get a tattoo it would be one of those images. Or this one. Thanks to Sara O’Leary for the GIF.
Monica Edinger was kind enough to field some questions from Jules and me about obscure Alice in Wonderland facts. I thought I’d heard them all, but that was before I learned about Harry, Alice Liddell’s older, forgotten brother. A boy who existed before Alice? There’s a book in that . . .
Okay. So we all know that we need diverse books. Understood. Done. But where precisely do you find lists of such titles? Check out the all new Where to Find Diverse Books site. Everything from books on disability to Islam to LGBTQIA is included. Think something’s missing? Let ‘em know!
Things I Didn’t Know: So when we talk about podcasts of children’s literature we rarely consider the academic side of things. Imagine then my delight when I discovered the Raab Children’s Literature Podcasts created for the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection and the Teachers for a New Era Project. Quite the listing!
And speaking of Things I Didn’t Know (a topic worthy of its own post, I suspect) Jules recently discovered that there is such a thing as a Coretta Scott King Book Awards Fair out there. Did you know that? I, for one, did not. The event “celebrates the Coretta Scott King Awards, those authors and illustrators who have received the award, and books that (as the Award states) demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture.” Jules interviews the organizer and founder of the event, Collette Hopkins. Interested in bringing it to your city? Read on.
So I was moderating a panel at a Penguin Random House teacher event this past Monday (I’m just dropping the “Me Stuff” left and right today) and one of the giveaways was Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. It seemed like a cute gimmick and I thought maybe to snag a copy and give it to my brother for Christmas or something. Little did I realize that it’s actually a rather brilliant piece of work. From R2-D2′s soliloquy placing him squarely as a trickster character in the vein of a Puck, to Han Solo’s line after shooting Greedo (“[To innkeeper] Pray, goodly Sir, forgive me for the mess. / [Aside] And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess!”) I was hooked the minute I read it. My husband’s been on a bit of a Star Wars kick himself as of late. First there was his three part series on “Why We Like Luke Skywalker”. Matt posed the question to James Kennedy and got an epic response that is worth reading in Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. Then there was Matt’s post on what Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener and Star Wars have in common. There are other Star Wars posts as well that are worth discovering but I think these make for pretty in-depth reading anyway.
Daily Image: With Halloween on the horizon it’s time to start thinking about costumes. For inspiration, why not check out BuzzFeed’s 31 Amazing Teacher Halloween Costumes? Lots of children’s literature references in there. Three of my favorites included:
I’m writing from Palermo where I’ve been teaching a course on the legacy of Troy. Myths and fairy tales lie on all sides in this old island. It’s a landscape of stories and the past here runs a live wire into the present day. Within the same hour, I saw an amulet from Egypt from nearly 3000 years ago, and passed a young, passionate balladeer giving full voice in the street to a ballad about a young woman – la baronessa Laura di Carini – who was killed by her father in 1538. He and her husband had come upon her alone with a man whom they suspected to be her lover. As she fell under her father’s stabbing, she clung to the wall, and her hand made a bloody print that can still be seen in the castle at Carini – or so I was told. The cantastorie – the ballad singer – was giving the song his all. He was sincere and funny at the same time as he knelt and frowned, mimed and lamented.
The eye of Horus, or Wadjet, was found in a Carthaginian’s grave in the city and it is still painted on the prows of fishing boats, and worn as a charm all over the Mediterranean and the Middle East, in order to ward off dangers. This function is, I believe, one of the deepest reasons for telling stories in general, and fairy tales in particular: the fantasy of hope conjures an antidote to the pain the plots remember. The street singer was young, curly haired, and had spent some time in Liverpool, he told me later, but he was back home now, and his song was raising money for a street theatre called Ditirammu (dialect for Dithryamb), that performs on a tiny stage in the stables of an ]old palazzo in the district called the Kalsa. Using a mixture of puppetry, song, dance, and mime, the troupe give local saints’ legends, traditional tales of crusader paladins versus dastardly Moors, and pastiches of Pinocchio, Snow White, and Alice in Wonderland.
Their work captures the way fairy tales spread through different media and can be played, danced or painted and still remain recognisable: there are individual stories which keep shape-shifting across time, and there is also a fairytale quality which suffuses different forms of expression (even recent fashion designs have drawn on fairytale imagery and motifs). The Palermo theatre’s repertoire also reveals the kinship between some history and fairy tale: the hard facts enclosed and memorialised in the stories. Although the happy ending is a distinguishing feature of fairy tales, many of them remember the way things were – Bluebeard testifies to the kinds of marriages that killed Laura di Carini.
A few days after coming across the cantastorie in the street, I was taken to see the country villa on the crest of Capo d’Orlando overlooking the sea, where Casimiro Piccolo lived with his brother and sister. The Piccolo siblings were rich Sicilian landowners, peculiar survivals of a mixture of luxurious feudalism and austere monasticism. A dilettante and dabbler in the occult, Casimiro believed in fairies. He went out to see them at twilight, the hour recommended by experts such as William Blake, who reported he had seen a fairy funeral, and the Revd. Robert Kirk, who had the information on good authority from his parishioners in the Highlands, where fairy abductions, second sight, and changelings were a regular occurrence in the seventeenth century.
Casimiro’s elder brother, Lucio, a poet who had a brief flash of fame in the Fifties, was as solitary, odd-looking, and idiosyncratic as himself, and the siblings lived alone with their twenty servants, in the midst of a park with rare shrubs and cacti from all over the world, their beautiful summer villa filled with a vast library of science, art, and literature, and marvellous things. They slept in beds as narrow as a discalced Carmelite’s, and never married. They loved their dogs, and gave them names that are mostly monosyllables, often sort of orientalised in a troubling way. They range from ‘Aladdin’ to ‘Mameluk’ to ‘Book’ and the brothers built them a cemetery of their own in the garden.
Casimiro was a follower of Paracelsus, who had distinguished the elemental beings as animating matter: gnomes, undines, sylphs and salamanders. Salamanders, in the form of darting, wriggling lizards, are plentiful on the baked stones of the south, but the others are the cousins of imps and elves, sprites and sirens, and they’re not so common. The journal Psychic News, to which Casimiro subscribed, inspired him to try to take photographs of the apparitions he saw in the park of exotic plants around the house. He also ordered various publications of the Society of Psychical Research and other bodies who tried to tap immaterial presences and energies. He was hoping for images like the famous Cottingley images of fairies sunbathing or dancing which Conan Doyle so admired. But he had no success. Instead, he painted: a fairy punt poled by a hobgoblin through the lily pads, a fairy doctor with a bag full of shining golden instruments taking the pulse of a turkey, four old gnomes consulting a huge grimoire held up by imps, etiolated genies, turbaned potentates, and eastern sages. He rarely left Sicily, or indeed, his family home, and he went on painting his sightings in soft, rich watercolour from 1943 to 1970 when he died.
His work looks like Victorian or Edwardian fairy paintings. Had this reclusive Sicilian seen the crazed visions of Richard Dadd, or illustrations by Arthur Rackham or John Anster Fitzgerald? Or even Disney? Disney was looking very carefully at picture books when he formed the famous characters and stamped them with his own jokiness. Casimiro doesn’t seem to be in earnest, and the long-nosed dwarfs look a little bit like self-mockery. It is impossible to know what he meant, if he meant what he said, or what he believed. But the fact remains, for a grown man to believe in fairies strikes us now as pretty silly.
The Piccolo family’s cousin, close friend and regular visitor was Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the author of The Leopard, and he wrote a mysterious and memorable short story about a classics professor who once spent a passionate summer with a mermaid. But tales of fairies, goblins, and gnomes seem to belong to an altogether different degree of absurdity from a classics professor meeting a siren.
And yet, the Piccolo brothers communicated with Yeats, who held all kinds of beliefs. He smelted his wonderful poems from a chaotic rubble of fairy lore, psychic theories, dream interpretation, divinatory methods, and Christian symbolism: “Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.”
Featured image credit: Capo d’Orlando, by Chtamina. CC-BY-SA-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons
The We Need Diverse Books campaign has kicked it up a notch with an Indiegogo campaign. They’re raising money to support authors, diversify classrooms, develop educational kits, promote diverse programming, you name it. As of my writing this they are $40,000 or so away from their goal. Check it out:
And now for something completely different. Cookie Monster has parodied Harry Potter and Hunger Games (not to mention Star Wars). Dare we hope Twilight is on the horizon? Because I would pay a lot of money to hear him say, “Climb onto me back, little spider monkey.”
It was Travis at 100 Scope Notes who alerted me to the Vine illustrator videos at The Guardian. There are lots there to choose from so I had a hard time figuring out which one to show here. In the end I went with James Mayhew. Lovely stuff.
Thanks to Travis for the link!
Moomins! Rivera Moomins! In Finnish, yes? Beautifully done.
By the way, when I die I’m coming back as one of Aaron Zenz’s kids. A strange ambition but after watching this video can you blame me?
I don’t think I need to tell you children’s librarians out there what a perfect fall craft this would be. And talk about cheap! Here are some additional photos of their creations. These kids once did some Giant Dance Party fan art that I treasure to this day. And as a side note, how cool is it that they watched Exit Through the Gift Shop as a family?
All I can say about this next Alice in Wonderland inspired video is that I am SO grateful I didn’t watch this while on any kind of drugs. Lordy.
I don’t think I need remind any of you that this past week BookOps (the combined technical services of New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library) engaged in a sort-off with the Kings County Library system. You were all watching the play by play on your phones, right? Right? No? Hm. Well, in any case, I am happy to report that this year we won our trophy back. It was a close race but that’s how we get it DONE, SON! Now you can see this drone video of our freakin’ awesome sorter here, but if you’d like to check out the competition the following video shows a sorter very much like our own (and a Collection Specialist doing my job to a tee).
Granted, we don’t have a machine named “Mustang” in our building, but we’re still pretty cool.
I agree with Jezebel that Samuel Jackson’s reading of Go the F*** to Sleep is as good as it gets, but LeVar Burton reading it fulfills some deep hitherto unknown need in my soul. Do I really have to warn you about the language in this?
As for our off-topic videos, this one got me to thinking about how these goofy little internet videos often strip down a famous song to its most essential elements, and make it clear how strong the original melody really was. I think it was Weird Al who pointed out that he could only parody songs that had a distinctive melody. Case in point:
Please find below a pastiche of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that illustrates what it means to choose rationally:
‘Sit down, dear’, said the White Queen.
Alice perched delicately on the edge of a chair fashioned from oyster-shells.
‘Coffee, or tea, or chocolate?’, enquired the Queen.
‘I’ll have chocolate, please.’
The Queen turned to the Unicorn, standing, as ever, behind the throne: ‘Trot along to the kitchen and bring us a pot of chocolate if you would. There’s a good Uni.’
Off he trots. And before you can say ‘jabberwocky’ is back: ‘I’m sorry, Your Majesty, and Miss Alice, but we’ve run out of coffee.’
‘But I said chocolate, not coffee’, said a puzzled Alice.
The Unicorn was unmoved: ‘I am well aware of that, Miss. As well as a horn I have two good ears, and I’m not deaf’.
Alice thought again: ‘In that case’, she said, ‘I’ll have tea, if I may?’
‘Of course you may,’ replied the Queen. ‘But if you do, you’ll be violating a funny little thing that in the so-called Real World is known as the contraction axiom; in Wonderland we never bother about such annoyances. In the Real World they claim that they do, but they don’t.’
‘Don’t they?’ asked Alice.
‘No. I’ve heard it said, though I can scarce believe it, that their politicians ordain that a poor girl like you when faced with the choice between starving or taking out a payday loan is better off if she has only the one option, that of starving. No pedantic worries about contraction there (though I suppose your waist would contract, now I come to think of it). But this doesn’t bother me: like their politicians, I am rich, a Queen in fact, as my name suggests’.
‘On reflection, I will revert to chocolate, please. And do they have any other axes there?’
‘Axioms, child, not axes. And yes, they do. They’re rather keen on what they call their expansion axiom – the opposite, in a sense, of their contraction axiom. What if Uni had returned from the kitchen saying that they also had frumenty – a disgusting concoction, I know – and you had again insisted on tea? Then as well making your teeth go brown you’d have violated that axiom.’
‘I know I’m only a little girl, Your Majesty, but who cares?’
‘Not I, not one whit. But people in the Real World seem to. If they satisfy both of these axiom things they consider their choice to be rational, which is something they seem to value. It means, for example, that if they prefer coffee to tea, and tea to chocolate, then they prefer coffee to chocolate.’
‘Well, I prefer coffee to tea, tea to chocolate, and chocolate to tea. And why shouldn’t I?’
‘Because, poor child, you’ll be even poorer than you are now. You’ll happily pay a groat to that greedy little oyster over there to change from tea to coffee, pay him another groat to change from coffee to chocolate, and pay him yet another groat to change from chocolate to tea. And then where will you be? Back where you started from, but three groats the poorer. That’s why if you’re not going to be rational you should remain in Wonderland, or be a politician.’
This little fable illustrates three points. The first is that rationality is a property of patterns of choice rather than of individual choices. As Hume famously noted in 1738, ‘it is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger; it is not contrary to reason for me to chuse [sic] my total ruin to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian’. However, it seems irrational to choose chocolate when the menu comprises coffee, tea, and chocolate; and to choose tea when it comprises just tea and chocolate. It also seems irrational to choose chocolate from a menu that includes tea; and to choose tea from a larger menu. The second point is that making consistent choices (satisfying the two axioms) and having transitive preferences (not cycling, as does Alice) are, essentially, the same thing: each is a characterisation of rationality. And the third point is that people are, on the whole, rational, for natural selection weeds out the irrational: Alice would not lose her three groats just once, but endlessly.
These three points are equally relevant to the trivia of our daily lives (coffee, tea, or chocolate) and to major questions of government policy (for example, the regulation of the loan market).
Featured image credit: ‘Drink me Alice’, by John Tenniel. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
This Christmas, London’s Royal Opera House played host to Christopher Wheeldon’s critically acclaimed Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, performed by the Royal Ballet and with a score by Joby Talbot. Indeed, Lewis Carroll’s seminal work Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) has long inspired classical compositions, in forms as diverse as ballet, opera, chamber music, song, as well as, of course, film scores. Examples include English composer Liza Lehmann’s Nonsense songs (1908); American composer Irving Fine’s two sets of Choruses from Alice in Wonderland (1949 and 1953); and contemporary composer Wendy Hiscock’s ‘Jill in the box’, commissioned by the BFI to accompany the first footage of Alice in Wonderland – a 1903 silent film directed by Percy Stow and Cecil Hepworth.
In the Oxford catalogue, the influence of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can be seen in choral pieces by Maurice Bailey, Bob Chilcott, and Sarah Quartel, and it is interesting to observe the similarities in their treatment of this famous text. Maurice Bailey selects seven poems from the book to produce a set of seven songs for upper voices and piano or instrumental ensemble. The set begins with a short narration—a direct quotation of the book’s first four paragraphs—and the first song takes up the image of Alice sitting by the riverbank, setting the scene with the performance direction ‘like a warm and lazy summer afternoon’. Each song has a distinct character:
‘Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!’ is jovial, with a gentle swing feel;
‘You are old, Father William’ is solemn and dramatic;
‘How doth the little crocodile’ is a peaceful, chorale-like setting;
‘Will you walk a little faster?’ has a deliberate feel, featuring call-and-response imitation;
‘Beautiful Soup’ is in the manner of a leisurely waltz; and
‘They told me you had been to her’ is mysterious and energetic, with evocative musical language.
In all the songs, the piano or instrumental ensemble is a key component in the drama, rather than being simply a supportive accompanying force. There is also some scat singing, recitation, and spoken text. ‘You are old, Father William’ in particular exploits recitation to great dramatic effect, requiring a member of the choir to take on the part of Father William, which is entirely spoken, while the rest of the choir adopt the role of narrator, with sung interjections that complete the story.
Chilcott’s Mouse Tales, for SA and piano, is in two movements: the second setting the familiar poem ‘The Mouse’s Tale’ from the published version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and the first setting the poem that Carroll included in its place in his original manuscript. Both movements have an abundance of character, and Chilcott marks the first movement ‘sassy’, a term that perfectly describes the musical style and that encourages the singers to give a characterful performance. The first movement has a jazz flavour, while the energetic second movement features driving ostinatos in the piano and accents in the vocal lines that place emphasis on unexpected beats of the bar, keeping the singers on their toes. Like Bailey, Chilcott employs scat singing and spoken interjections such as ‘you did?’ and ‘nice!’ for dramatic effect, as well as a catchy refrain to present the well-known proverb ‘when the cat’s away, then the mice will play’.
Unlike the other two composers, Sarah Quartel uses Carroll’s story as the basis for her own text, in which we encounter characters such as the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, and the Hatter. The piece, for SSA and piano, has great potential for dramatic performance, with sections of a cappella scat singing and spoken text and a catchy refrain that centres around the Cheshire Cat’s declaration that ‘we’re all mad here’, where the part-writing encourages playful interaction between the different sections of the choir. The choir adopts the role of Alice, and Quartel helps the singers to convey Alice’s responses to the narrative through performance directions such as ‘with distinct character, telling a story’, ‘playful, like a caucus-race’, ‘indignant!’, and ‘with awe!’. Naturally, the music itself contributes to the characterization. For example, a march-like figure is employed to represent the Queen, while the music for the flustered White Rabbit features rapidly ascending and descending scales in the piano. Indeed, once again, the piano is a key component in the portrayal of the drama, and the rapid movement through different keys also helps to convey Alice’s mixture of confusion and wonder at the strange world she inhabits.
As we have seen, there are certain similarities in the three composers’ responses to this influential work of children’s literature. Perhaps unsurprisingly, each of the composers elected to write for upper voices, so that their settings might be performed by children’s choir. Imaginative and descriptive performance directions play an important part, assisting the singers in their characterization of the unusual protagonists in the story that they are telling. Again, unsurprisingly, the book appears to inspire a certain theatricality in the writing and music; it requires the performers to give a dramatic performance that has a strong sense of fun. Spoken text and scat singing are also prevalent in all three works, and the piano makes an integral contribution to the musical characterization. With its adventurous heroine, extraordinary characters, and unapologetic celebration of the quirky and the ‘mad’, it is little wonder that the text has proven a source of inspiration for composers since its inception and will undoubtedly continue to do so.
Headline image credit: Иллюстрация к главе Бег по кругу книги Алиса в стране чудес. Image by Gertrude Kay. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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