A family from Sierra Leone moves to Atlanta and all is well.....until the little "big" brother learns his older brother will soon be living with them. Written by Aminata Jalloh.
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A family from Sierra Leone moves to Atlanta and all is well.....until the little "big" brother learns his older brother will soon be living with them. Written by Aminata Jalloh.
“Harry Potter isn’t real? Oh no! Wait, wait, what do you mean by real? Is this video blog real? Am I real if you can see me and hear me, but only through the internet? Are you real if I can read your comment but I don’t know who you are or what your name is or where you’re from or what you look like or how old you are? I know all of those things about Harry Potter. Maybe Harry Potter’s real and you’re not.”
― John Green
The illustration of Hogwarts is by Jim Kay
Opening the Doors to Wonder
Harry Potter swept the reading world and opened the doors to a greater audience. The success of the Harry Potter series renewed broad-based respect for fairy tales.
From the first book and beyond, J.K. Rowling created an alternate world that readers could relate to. People young and old are drawn in to these robust stories and their engaging, fully developed characters. As with the classic stories from the past, the characters, imaginative twists and turns of the stories, and the fully realized details, combined to enable readers to believe in the magic of an alternate reality. The seven Harry Potter books created an enormous worldwide audience. And provided the substance for wonderful films.
Adults have also become fans of the books and movies, creating a record breaking "crossover" market. And the phenomenon continues to grow...
Click the photo for spring wonder.
Contact With The Lives Of Others
"Rowling's books, by arousing curiousity and establishing contact with the lives of others, even if they exist solely within the confines of a literary work, enable children to develop capacities that readily translate into real-life experience. JkRowling never shies away from the great existential mysteries: death and loss, cruelty and compassion, desire and depression. Harry is anything but sheltered from the evils of Voldermort...he is destined for greatness even though he also posseses the weaknesses, failings, and vulnerabilities of all humans."
Maria Tatar -- Enchanted Hunters -- The Power of Stories in Childhood
Harry Began On A Train
JK Rowling: I was going on a train from Manchester to London and I was looking out of the window at some cows, I believe and I just thought: "Boy doesn't know he's a wizard - goes off to wizard school." I have no idea where it came from. I think the idea was floating along the train and looking for someone and my mind was vacant enough so it decided to zoom in there.
Stephen Fry: And you played with the idea in your head…
JK Rowling: Exactly! From that moment I thought: "Well why doesn't he realise he's a wizard?" It was as though the story was just there for me to discover and I thought: "Well his parents are dead and he needs to find out they're wizards" and on we went from there.
From a Stephen Fry Interview with JK Rowling
The illustration, from the Philosophers Stone, is by Jim Kay.
Hermione...an empowered young woman
"Throughout the Harry Potter Tales, Hermione emerges as the beneficiary of three centuries of girls' book identity. At times the plucky youth, at times the serious student, at times the foolish lover, at times the tomboy, at times the blossoming maiden -- taken together, all these aspects of her personality make her the heir to everyone from Jenny Peace in Sarah Fielding's The Governess, to Jo in Alcott's Little Women, to Alice in Carroll's Wonderland, to all the girl guides, or "new Women" or adventuresome or studious females who fill the range of popular writing well into the twentieth century."
From Seth Lerer writing about Theaters of Girlhood, Domesticity, Desire, and Performance in Female Fiction in his book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter
“I wrote a strong female character with brains”
- J.K. Rowling commenting on Hermione in a video conversation with Daniel Radcliff
Finding the Right Wand -- an adventure in an alternate reality
First, you go to Diagon Alley where Ollivanders is located..."Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C...
A single wand lays on a faded purple cushion in the dusty window."
You will be helped by Mr. Ollivander, a very old man, who remembers every wand he has sold -- and to whom he sold it.
You will be measured in many ways by a tape measure that works on its on while Mr Ollvander explains that, "Every Ollvander wand has a core of powerful magical substance...We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tale feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same..."
You may have to try many wands before you have the right one.
It seems you don't choose the wand, the wand chooses you...
The fully imagined detail in the Harry Potter books plays a major role in their appeal. The fascinating story of Harry finding the right magic wand takes place in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when Hagrid takes Harry shopping on Diagon Alley, and introduces him to the the world of wizards.
The illustration of Harry and Hagrid in Diagon Alley is by Jim Kay
An Alternate Universe
..."J. K. Rowling has created a world as fully detailed as L. Frank Baum’s Oz or J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, a world so minutely imagined in terms of its history and rituals and rules that it qualifies as an alternate universe, which may be one reason the “Potter” books have spawned such a passionate following and such fervent exegesis...."
From the book review by Michiko Kakatani of Harry potter and the Deathly Hallows in the New York Times
Stories That Opened My Mind
"There are hundreds upon hundreds of reasons for one to fall in love with the world and characters J.K. Rowling created in the Harry Potter series, the aforementioned being among them. For me, these are the stories that opened my mind to the wonderful world of books, novels and novellas, making them very near and dear to my heart..."
From the BookNerd on her Wonderful World of Writing blog
An Older Harry Potter
...Harry is called back into active duty when evil powers return in force... a new book and a play (opening in London) based on the book - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child -- are on their way, arriving in late July. They are based on a story by J.K. Rowling. Here are two links for more information: Pottermore and NPR
The Wizard World in 1920's USA is the setting for a new movie,starring Eddie Redmayne...
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens in the UK in November 2016... The book about Fantastic Beasts was used as part of the curriculum for young wizards in the Hogwarts classroom. There will be two sequels...all written by J.K. Rowling.
Support For Children
J.K. Rowling spends time and money on helping people...In 2004 she founded Lumos...'No child should be denied a family life because they are poor, disabled or from an ethnic minority. Lumos works to support the 8 million children in institutions worldwide to regain their right to a family life and to end the institutionalisation of children."
For the real J.K. Rowling, or as close as we will probably get, I suggest the Oprah Interview... Engaging, interesting, and with some excellent documentary scenes woven in...Also, her candid, heartfelt, Harvard speech.
Liam Stack wrote this disturbing article. Here are excerpts...
"The world of make-believe can be a scary place, but never fear: Thanks to a series of reimagined fairy tales published online by the National Rifle Association, classic characters like Hansel and Gretel are now packing heat.
The group has published two of the updated tales on its N.R.A. Family website in recent months, entitled “Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun)” and “Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns).” The stories have outraged advocates of gun control, but their author, Amelia Hamilton, a conservative blogger, has called them lessons in gun safety...
In the N.R.A. version, Little Red Riding Hood sets off through the forest to visit her grandmother, just like in the original. But the Big Bad Wolf did not scare her this time, because she “felt the reassuring weight of the rifle on her shoulder.”
When the wolf approached her, “she shifted her rifle so that it was in her hands and at the ready.” He fled in fear...
Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, agreed, calling the stories “a disgusting, morally depraved marketing campaign.” He said in a statement that the stories were in poor taste in part because nearly 50 children and teenagers are shot each day in the United States, and suicide by gun is a leading cause of death among children over the age of 9..."
Here is a link to read all of this disturbing article:FairyTaleGuns
The photo of aDaniel Acker for The New York Times
Save The Children
Save the Children works in 120 countries, including the United States, and has helped more than 166 million children — including more than 55 million children directly. Here are excerpts from the story of one child...
Omar said, 'We have to be here very early in the morning because the tankers arrive early, so I get here at six in the morning and leave late at night so I that I have time to collect as much fuel as possible'..."
Omar was a good student and loved school; he dreamed of becoming an architect. His life is now about survival.
Here is a link to read all of Omar's painful story: Omar
Top photo, courtesy IRF; bottom photo, courtesy Save The Children.
Importance of Children's Books for Most Adults
"But children's books are extremely important. Most adults don't read many books and if they do it will probably be some form of popular fiction. So a children's classic may be the last, or in some cases, the only, piece of serious literature they have read. As such these books are very influential and so I think it is our responsibility to consider them as seriously and carefully as any other great literature."
From a Guardian article by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Alison Lurie , professor emeritus of literature and writing at Cornell University, and author and editor of a multitude of children's books.
A Classic Video....Harvey the Dog
The Planet Of The Dogs....An Alternate Reality
Here are excerpts from Chapter One of the book...the story of how dogs came down to Planet Earth to help people...
"Far out in the sky, on the other side of the sun, is the Planet of the Dogs. Dogs have always lived there in peace and happiness.
Dogs talk to each other in many ways. They woof, bark, and howl. They use body movement, face licking, smiling, and tail wagging. Dogs can hear what other dogs are thinking. And they always tell the truth...Dogs are very good at sleeping, taking naps, and waiting for someone they love...
Dogs have no worries on their planet because there are no dangers there. There are no bad dogs, no hungry animals, and no mean people. There is plenty to eat, lots of time to play, and all kinds of schools for the puppies to learn interesting things about their planet and each other. It’s a wonderful place to live.
Here is a link to read Sample Chapters of the Planet Of The Dogs series.
This is the world of Yelodoggie, created by author and dog advocate, C.A. Wulff.
All dogs, deep in their heart of hearts, are yellow. Because yellow is the color of light and joy and happiness, and these attributes are the true essence of dogs. Here is a link to Wulff's Etsy shop where you can see more of these delightful original watercolor paintings and prints celebrating dogs. They make a wonderful gift...
Alternate Realities from Finland
Leena Krohn, a highly regarded writer in Europe, wrote one of my favorite books, Tainaron. I was gratified to see that Joshua Rothman, in the New Yorker, wrote that her newly published book of collected fiction was among " The Books We Loved in 2015". Here is an excerpt:
"I also found myself hypnotized by Leena Krohn, a Finnish writer whose collected stories and novels, rendered into English by many different translators, have just been published as a single volume, “Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction.” Broadly speaking, Krohn is a speculative writer; one of the novels in the collection, for example, consists of thirty letters written from an insect city. (“It is summer and one can look at the flowers face to face.”) Krohn writes like a fantastical Lydia Davis, in short chapters the length of prose poems. Her characters often have a noirish toughness; one, explaining her approach to philosophy, says that when she asks an existential question, “life answers. It is generally a long and thorough answer...”
Here is the link to read all of Joshua Rothman's New Yorker review.
Photo by Mikael Böök.
Under The Sun...two realities
A compelling 5 minute report on DW tv news about a little girl in North Korea brought me a reminder of the power of film. Vitaly Mansky, the producer/director, has made a very poignant film about the life of Zin Mi (the little girl) in both the real world and the manufactured world of North Korea.
Here are excerpts from an informative article by Carmen Gray in the Guardian...
"A new film on life in North Korea has caused a diplomatic row after the director used officially sanctioned shoots to demonstrate how the state manipulates its people.
Authorities are said to have tried to prevent screenings of Under the Sun, a film that follows a North Korean girl as she prepares to celebrate the Day of the Shining Star, the birthday of former supreme leader Kim Jong-il...The film reveals how government representatives seek to construct an image of an “ideal” family, capturing the hectoring of officials as they tell the Koreans what to say, how to sit and when to smile.
“I wanted to make a film about the real Korea, but there’s no real life in the way that we consider,” said Mansky, who spent a year in the country filming. “There is just the creation of an image of the myth of a real life. So we made a film about fake reality.”
Here is the link to the trailer for Under The Sun
"Credit the Disney folks with making what could have been a lecture on stereotypes into one of the more amusing animated kidflicks of recent vintage. When you consider that this is the same zip-ah-dee-doo-dah studio that once made Song of the South ... well, let's just say Zootopia suggests we've all come a long way"...Bob Mondello, NPR
Here is a link to the trailer: Zootopia
"The Witch is a scary movie and a serious one, because it lure us into the minds and the earthly domains, of those who are themselves scared, night and day, that they have forfeited the mercies of God. It takes an original movie to remind us of original sin..." Anthony Lane in his New Yorker review.
Stacy Schiffin wrote an excellent article, relevant to this movie, on The Witches of Salem, also in the New Yorker. Here is an excerpt..."In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed fourteen women, five men, and two dogs for witchcraft. The sorcery materialized in January. The first hanging took place in June, the last in September; a stark, stunned silence followed. Although we will never know the exact number of those formally charged..."
“Both Rowling and Meyer (Twilight series), they’re speaking directly to young people. … The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”- Stephen King
Circling the Waggins by C.A. Wulff
What happens when a group of the most irascible, insane, and ridiculously un-adoptable pets known to man end up being permanent residents in an animal rescuer's home? Challenges abound and chaos reigns!
Here are excerpts from author Tim McHugh’s review…
"Circling the Waggins is a heart-felt and moving story of two women's quest to heal and nurture a wide variety of animals. C.A. Wulff poignantly captures the complex personalities of the mice, dogs, and cats that inhabit her wilderness home as well as the humorous chaos that ensues as they all try to coexist. It is by turns a roller-coaster ride of animal rescue, as well as a keen reflection on the frailty of all life and the healing power of love and letting go."
Tim McHugh, is author of Ivan! A Pound Dog's Views on Life, Love, & Leashes
Dogs Open the Doors to Healing at Good Dog
Good Dog provides therapy dog services to people in health care, social service, educational and community facilities, and at disaster sites around the country. Its highly-trained and fully-certified volunteer teams each consist of a human handler and therapy dog. Good Dog focuses on work in the four divisions of Education, Health Care and Wellness, Research, and Disaster Response. For more on the work of these divisions, click here.
As the largest certifying animal-assisted therapy organization on the East Coast of the United States, Good Dog currently operates in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey, and at disaster sites around the country. Good Dog focuses on work in the four divisions of Education, Health Care and Wellness, Research, and Disaster Response."
Here is a link to the Good Dog Foundation Video
by Jane E. Brody, Personal Health writer for the New York Times
Here is the link to read all of this fascinating and informative article by Jane Brody: Personal Health
The illustration is by Paul Rogers
We have free reader copies of the Planet Of The Dogs 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 independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more.
The Planet Of The Dogs series is also available in digital format at
Librarians, teachers and bookstores ..You can order the Planet Of The Dogs series, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
To read sample chapters of the series, visit PlanetOfTheDogs
Meeting A Dog
If you see an injured dog or a dog in trouble , from puppy mills to poison, Sunbear Squad can help you. Sunbear Squad is a leading source for information and guidance in dog rescue and care. Here is an excerpt from their site about meeting a new dog(s)...
"In the western world, we are taught at an early age to greet new people by approaching them with upright posture, looking directly into their eyes and offering a hand to shake or squeeze. It becomes second nature to us, so as a result, many of us animal lovers greet every living thing–except bugs–using those same “good manners...
We must UNLEARN that set of social rules to avoid frightening dogs, cats, and other animals, who will perceive full-front posture, staring, and outstretched arm as rude and threatening (unless they were very well-socialized with humans during the crucial developmental period).
In other words, polite human greetings are bad manners for greeting dogs and cats! In fact the two greeting languages are almost all completely opposite...Here is a link to read all of this article: Meeting A Dog.
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” ― Will Rogers
The birth of a healthy child in Sweden in October, 2014 after a uterus transplant from a living donor marked the advent of a new technique to help women with absent or non-functional uteruses to bear genetic offspring. The Cleveland Clinic has now led American doctors into this space, performing the first US uterine transplant in February, 2016Add a Comment
Entries are open for the Helen Sissons Canadian Children’s Story Award. Prize: $1000. Submit a short story for young children (up to age 7) that reflects the diversity of the world’s population and values desirable in global citizens. Open to residents of Canada and the Caribbean. Deadline: May 13, 2016.Add a Comment
As you know, I have been sitting at home since yesterday morning, nursing my cold and feeling a bit sorry for myself. How lovely then, to be cheered up with a lovely email last night, sent from a proud parent, whose little girl, Amelie, had chosen to go to school on World Book Day dressed at little Stinky, the baby warthog.
They made the costume all themselves. Isn't it just brilliant? Check out the little flies!
Lost In the Woods
Being lost in the woods, where there is no clear path to follow, and the light is fading, is a serious and frightening matter.
Wild beasts, dangerous people, and invading armies cannot be seen in the dark forests. But they are there, in the mind of the author, the teller of tales, the animator...and in the mind of the child, until the story or myth finds light, escape and salvation.
So it was in a tale told, in 1805,by 12 year old Henriette Dorathea Wild, to the Brothers Grimm: Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel, The Impossible Tale
I have always found this to be a dark and disturbing tale. It deals with war, famine, abandonment, fear, cannibalism, a witch, dark forces and death in a rather overwhelming confluence. And the central characters are children who must experience and deal with these problems.
Moreover, in Hansel and Gretel, the line between reality and fantasy is often blurred.
Fortunately, as is the custom in the tradition of fairy tales, escape from the darkness, salvation, and a happy ending offer relief from the darkness.
But what about mother? Mother in various versions of this tale tends to be heartless, self-centered and uncaring. The Grimms, in their seventh edition, transformed the cruel mother into a cruel stepmother.
The father, despite having regrets, remorse, sadness, and love for his children, is nevertheless a partner in his wife's dark scheme of abandonment.
'No, wife,' said the man, 'I will not do that; how can I bear to leave my children alone in the forest?—the wild animals would soon come and tear them to pieces.' 'O, you fool!' said she, 'then we must all four die of hunger, you may as well plane the planks for our coffins,' and she left him no peace until he consented. 'But I feel very sorry for the poor children, all the same,' said the man."
Fear and loss of hope...a mirror to the past.
The top illustration is by Theodor Hosemann; The lower illustration is by Arthur Rackham
The Return of Hansel and Gretel
This is the setting -- famine and the aftermath war -- for this fairy tale of abandoned children. Gaimen's decision to spell out the chaos and hunger that overwhelmed the woodcutter and his family, is the impetus for all that follows.
This is a fairy tale, and therefore has a happy ending. The children return home to a great embrace by their father who had been searching for them every day in the forest. Mother has died for reasons "no one alive can say". However, "the treasures they had brought from the old woman's cottage kept them comfortable, and there were to be no more empty plates in their lives."
The Human Condition
"Written with a devastating spareness by Neil Gaiman and fearsomely illustrated in shades of black by Lorenzo Mattotti, the newest version of 'Hansel and Gretel' astonishes from start to finish...Their rendition brings a freshness and even a feeling of majesty to the little tale. Some great, roiling essence of the human condition — our fate of shuttling between the darkness and the light — seems to inhabit its pages...
An insight by Angela Carter reminds us that fairy tales, tales of wonder, connect us to the world of our ancestors...
"For most of human history, 'literature,' both fiction and poetry, has been narrated, not written — heard, not read. So fairy tales, folk tales, stories from the oral tradition, are all of them the most vital connection we have with the imaginations of the ordinary men and women whose labor created our world.” ― Angela Carter
The painting of Finnish country women talking after church is by Albert Edelfelt
"The Grimms are in our blood. The fairy tales of 'Cinderella', 'Hansel and Gretel,' "The Fisherman and His Wife," 'Rumpelstiltskin' and dozens of others have become the common currency of our imagination. The cottage and the castle, or the forest or the mountain, have become the houses for our fears...
... "We come to realize just how many of the Grimms' 'Tales' were about the family. These are stories of parents challenged by rural poverty, of husbands and wives fighting over who's in charge, of craftsmen who, for all their skill, cannot reshape their worlds. The 'once upon a time' here is a time of fishermen who get no fish, of shoemakers too poor to purchase leather, of unsuccessful millers and subsistence woodsmen. Many of these stories are tales of failed fathers who must make devilish deals to keep their children or, at worst, send them away.
And in those children, we may find true heroes. 'Hansel and Gretel' is really a fable of ingenuity: finding the pebbles or the breadcrumbs to mark the path home, or taking advantage of a witch's vanity to push her into an oven."
"The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless."
"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." Here is a link to Kidlitosphere.
The illustration from Planet Of The Dogs is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty
An Enchanting Tale
Here are excerpts from the review of Planet Of The Dogs by Wayne Walker...
"Did you ever wonder how dogs came to be man’s best friend? I’m sure that there is some historical explanation, although it may be shrouded in the mists of prehistoric times. But in your mind’s eye think back to those times and just imagine for a minute that there is a planet far out in space on the other side of the sun that is inhabited by intelligent dogs that live in peace and happiness. As the book opens, the dogs learn that there is trouble on Earth. Bik, the greedy leader of the warlike Stone tribe of Stone City, is planning to invade and conquer the peaceful people of Lake Village and surrounding Green Valley...
Author Robert J. McCarty has created a charming fantasy-allegory that can be read and understood on at least two different levels. Children will enjoy the story about dogs that come from another planet to help people on earth. But under the surface are the important messages of friendship, love, loyalty, and overcoming evil with good.
Stella Mustanoja McCarty’s black-and-white shaded drawings are delightful companions to the text. Two sequels are now available, Castle in the Mist and Snow Valley Heroes: A Christmas Tale. Barking Planet Productions supports therapy dog reading programs across the country with book donations. Both old and young, especially dog lovers, will find Planet of the Dogs an enchanting tale."
Wayne Walker reviews for Stories for Children Magazine, Home School Book Reviews, and Home School Buzz,
Arriving At Truth
"So I believe that we should trust our children. Normal children do not confuse reality and fantasy -- they confuse them much less often than we adults do (as a certain great fantasist pointed out in a story called 'The Emperor's New Clothes'). Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren't real, but they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books. All too often, that's more than Mummy and Daddy know; for, in denying their childhood, the adults have denied half their knowledge, and are left with the sad, sterile little fact: 'Unicorns aren't real.' And that fact is one that never got anyone anywhere (except in the story 'The Unicorn in the Garden,' by another great fantasist, in which it is shown that a devotion to the unreality of unicorns may get you straight into the loony bin.) It is by such statements as, 'Once upon a time there was a dragon,' or 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' -- it is by such beautiful non-facts that we fantastic human beings may arrive, in our peculiar fashion, at truth."
Light in the Darkness
The damaged lives and suffering of children and their parents in today's war-torn world affect us all. The International Rescue Committee provides help to children in over 20 countries. Here are excerpts from their website
"Currently 20 million children and adolescents are uprooted from their homes either as refugees or internally displaced persons. In order to respond to this, the IRC promotes the protection and development of children and youth, from the earliest stages of an emergency, through post-conflict and recovery....
In over 20 countries, the IRC’s community-based, participatory and holistic children and youth programs include:
IRC provides counseling and services to young people who have experienced disease, abuse, exploitation or loss and separation from their families.
IRC “child-friendly spaces” provide the youngest victims of war and natural disaster with a safe place to play, participate in structured activities and to heal from trauma and loss while rebuilding a sense of normalcy.
The IRC trains educators, constructs classroom, and supports schools that are attended by hundreds of thousands of children.
We provide skills training to young people who have had their education or careers interrupted by war or natural disaster. More than half of those who receive such training are girls...".
Here is a video about the vital work of the International Rescue Comittee
Here is very moving video... A Syrian Refugee Mother's Plea
From The Stolen Child by William Butler Yeats
Trying to Reach Home
The illustration that greets you at the top of this blog is from Tomm Moore's movie folktale, the Song of the Sea, an amalgam of Irish folklore and Moore's imagination. Here are excerpts from the Guardian's 5 Star review:
"A gorgeous, almost painterly tale of two siblings trying to reach home, but waylaid by witches, owls and faeries...This superb Irish animation from the director of 2009’s The Secret of Kells is a treat; an enchanting and very moving 'family film'. Once again, the story is rooted in Irish folklore, with selkies, giants and faeries slipping in and out of a tale of a vanished mother, a grieving father, and two lost but resourceful children trying to make their way home."
"A finely calibrated shiver of a movie, “The Witch” opens on a scene of religious wrath. On a New England plantation,
around 1630, a true believer, William (Ralph Ineson), and his family are facing a grim assemblage. The setting is a kind of meeting house crowded with men, women and children, a congregation whose silence and unsmiling faces imply disapproval or perhaps fear. Whether they’re standing in judgment doesn’t matter to William, whose arrogant faith in his own notion of Christianity is as deep and darkly unsettling as his sepulchral voice...
Written and directed by Robert Eggers, “The Witch ” takes place in an America that in its extremes feels more familiar than its period drag might suggest. It’s set a decade after the Mayflower landed in Plymouth and tracks William’s family as it leaves the plantation to settle down alone at the edge of a forest. There, the family members build a farm, grow corn and commit themselves to God, a contract tested by a series of calamities that turn this story of belief into a freak-out of doubt...
A Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki
The Essence of Humanity is a 17 minute montage of compelling moments from the wonderful films of Hayao Miyazaki.
Miyazaki said:"Creating animation means creating a fictional world. That world soothes the spirit of those who are disheartened and exhausted from dealing with the sharp edges of reality." Written and narrated by Lewis Bond. Here is a link:The Essence of Humanity
Inside Out Wins Both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe...
Apparently, this is a true breakthrough film from Pixar with great reviews and huge audiences of kids and parents...with a worldwide box office of over $850,000 before the awards.
Here is an excerpt from A.O. Scott's rave review in the NY Times: "
"The story takes place mostly in the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), who has just moved with her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) from Minnesota to San Francisco. What happens to Riley on the outside is pretty standard: a dinner-table argument with Mom and Dad; a rough day at school; a disappointing hockey tryout. But anyone who has been or known a child Riley’s age will understand that such mundane happenings can be the stuff of major interior drama.
......... The achievement of “Inside Out” is at once subtler and more impressive. This is a movie almost entirely populated by abstract concepts moving through theoretical space. This world is both radically new — you’ve never seen anything like it — and instantly recognizable, as familiar aspects of consciousness are given shape and voice. Remember your imaginary childhood friend? Your earliest phobias? Your strangest dreams? You will, and you will also have a newly inspired understanding of how and why you remember those things..."
Here is the link to the trailer of Inside Out
..."It turns out that, during my five-year hiatus, the convenience argument has expired. The New York Public Library system has made it fantastically easy to order any book directly from your computer. There is a phone app, and an app for downloading ebooks. The half-empty shelves are irrelevant given that you can put a hold on any book in the entire New York system and it will be delivered to your branch within days. This week, I went on a half-hysterical borrowing frenzy and ordered ...Then I took my kids to the children’s section upstairs, where there are play mats and huge windows and a librarian who is very cross, all of the time, particularly if you try to feed your child a snack without her seeing. After almost 10 years in New York, I’ve never felt so at home."
At their best, the storytelling of fairy tales constitute the most profound articulation of the human struggle to form and maintain a civilizing process. They depict metaphorically the opportunities for human adaptation to our environment and reflect the conflicts that arise when we fail to establish civilizing codes commensurate with the self-interests of large groups within the human population...." Jack Zipes on The Art Of Storytelling Show
More Children in Crisis
" REFORMA, established in 1971 as an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), has actively sought to promote the development of library collections to include Spanish-language and Latino oriented materials; the recruitment of more bilingual and bicultural library professionals and support staff; the development of library services and programs...
The recent arrival of over 70,000 children crossing the southern border into the United States has created an unprecedented humanitarian refugee crisis that compels REFORMA as an organization to act.The children, mostly Spanish speaking, are coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. While recent news coverage of this event has focused on legal, medical and emergency response to services, there are few if any news stories that demonstrate the social-emotional and information needs of these children and families. A view of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities shows children waiting in large storage like facilities with no activities to occupy the children’s minds through learning and play while they are being processed.
With no knowledge of where they are going or if they will reach their families in the United States, REFORMA has implemented a project,Children in Crisis, to solicit donations, purchase and deliver books for these children. We are soliciting children's books in Spanish to be delivered to the children in the detention centers in and to the shelters and group homes around the country where these children are sent after being processed. In the second phase of the project we will be coordinating backpacks that will contain books as well as paper, pencils, erasers, crayons and a writing journal for children to use in their journey toward their destination..."
Here is a link to learn more: Reforma Website. The Reforma photo is of a library visit by Hispanic shelter children.
Assistance Dogs of the West, Santa Fe , N.M., has won a $5,000 grant from the Planet Dog Foundation (PDF) for their wonderful work with therapy dogs.
Here are excerpts from their site:
"Simply put, we teach students to train dogs to help people. Since 1995, more than 2500 student trainers in New Mexico have taken part in the ADW Assistance Dog Student Training program, the largest of its kind in the world. This work strengthens relationships, builds skills and nurtures empathy among young people, the dogs they train and our clients..."
Warrior Canine Connection
Warrior Canine Connection™ (WCC™) teaches warriors with combat injuries how to train service dogs for other veterans with disabilities. The dogs are trained to provide mobility support and to offer constant, non-judgmental, healing companionship to minds and bodies ravaged by war.
Here is an excerpt from the Planet Dog Foundation Site with a succinct overview:Add a Comment
|Pretending to be a Princess Bride|
Photo by Pixaby
Here are a couple of princess images I created. One was for a Halloween book and features my daughter with her friends and cousin. The other is a spread from A Little Princess which I stepped in to illustrate for another illustrator when she could not meet the deadline...I'm glad I took the job!
Metamorphosis and transformation are part of life.
In an instant, a girl, a boy, or even a powerful a prince may be transformed into a swan, a frog, a fox, a bird or a bear.
And then, there is the beast...
"De Villeneuve was part of the "second wave" of French fairy tale writers (Madame D'Aulnoy, Charles Perrault, and other salon fairy tale writers comprising the "first wave" fifty years earlier). When she sat down to create Beauty and the Beast (a novella–length tale first published in La jeune ameriquaine, et les contes marins), she was influenced by the work of "first wave" writers, by the story of "Cupid and Psyche" in Apuleius' Golden Ass, and by the various Animal Bridegroom legends of folklore. The story she came up with was uniquely her own, however, and addressed issues of concern to women of her day. Chief among these was a critique of a marriage system in which women had few legal rights — no right to chose their own husband, no right to refuse the marriage bed, no right to control their own property, and no right of divorce. Often the brides were fourteen or fifteen years old, given to men who were decades older. Unsatisfactory wives risked being locked up in mental institutions or distant convents. Women fairy tale writers of the 17th & 18th centuries were often sharply critical of such practices, promoting the ideas of love, fidelity, and civilité between the sexes. Their tales reflected the realities they lived with, and their dreams of a better way of life. Their Animal Bridegroom stories, in particularly, embodied the real–life fears of women who could be promised to total strangers in marriage, and who did not know if they'd find a beast or a lover in their marriage bed."
The Planet Of The Dogs takes place long, ago. There were no dogs on planet earth. Invaders and outlaw tribes were an ongoing threat to farms, villages and towns where ordinary people lived.
Dogs came down to Green Valley from their own peaceful planet to help people. Using their courage, intelligence and their great love of humans, the dogs were able to help good people in myriad ways: rescuing lost children; bringing comfort and healing to the old and the lonely; guarding homes and farm; and finally, overcoming the invading warrior tribes and bringing peace to the land...
Reviewer Wayne Walker in Stories for Children Magazine:..." Author Robert J. McCarty has created a charming fantasy-allegory that can be read and understood on at least two different levels. Children will enjoy the story about dogs that come from another planet to help people on earth. But under the surface are the important messages of friendship, love, loyalty, and overcoming evil with good..."
Read Sample Chapters of the Planet Of The Dogs series.
Action and Compassion...An exciting video posted on Facebook by the Logical Indian...a dog, carried along turbulent waters, is rescued... for compassionate people and for all dog lovers...a dog rescue video
Over 9.7 million books were checked out from Room To Read Libraries in 2012. Here are excerpts from their website describing some of the outstanding work they accomplish worldwide:
"We envision a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.
To achieve this goal, we focus on two areas where we believe we can have the greatest impact: literacy and gender equality in education.
We work in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the life skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond."
Here is a link to the Room to Read Literacy Program
"Our Girls’ Education Program ensures that girls complete secondary school and have the skills to negotiate key life decisions. Our program reinforces girls’ commitment to their own education, works with girls to develop essential life skills and increases support for girls’ education among their parents, school staff, and communities."
Here is a link to the Room to Read website
This is the home of author, blogger and animal advocate, CA Wulff. This is where she lives with her rescued dogs, writes her books, and helps people and dogs. She recently wrote on her blog, Up On The Woof, about her rescue work through the Community page, Lost & Found Ohio Pets on Facebook. The number of lost dogs, abandoned dogs, and rescued dogs is staggering.
Wulff has written two outstanding, practical, How-To books for dog (and animal) owners -- and for caring people who want to make a difference.
Finding Fido: Practical Steps for Finding Your Lost Pet
Here is an Amazon Review:
"Would you know what to do if you found a stray pet? You might think that calling animal control would be the best thing for the animal - but you'd be wrong. Lots of food for thought in this book, including what to do if you find a stray pet, how to keep from losing a pet, and what to do if your pet is lost. The authors are donating all of the proceeds to ARME's Beagle Freedom Project, a group that rescues dogs used in laboratories."
How To Change the World in 30 Seconds: A Web Warriors Guide to Animal Advocacy
Here is an Amazon Review:
"This book not only offers a starting point for animal rescue but serves as a comprehensive resource book for animal rights advocates. C.A. Wulff has done the urgent heavy lifting here so that the heart and the hands of the rescuer doesn't have to be burdened or bound with the anxieties of not knowing where to begin...I whole heartedly recommend this book as a necessary tool to bring about change in the world."
Here is a link to Circling the Waggins...a memoir of the canine connection in real life.
One of the reasons for JK Rowling's success was that she didn't give a fig for what people thought they wanted. They didn't know they wanted Harry Potter till she wrote about him. That's the proper way round.
The Cocteau film also directly inspired, among several other versions, an opera by Phillip Glass, a Fairie Tale theater with Susan Sarandon and Klaus Kinski, and an original song by Stevie Nicks.
Here is a link to the song, Beauty and the Beast, sung by Stevie Nicks
“[I] went from fighting on the battlefield, to laying in a bed and having people take care of [me], back to being independent and doing everything on [my] own…”
Chris Strickland, Age 22, Corporal, U.S. Army, regarding his Service Dog, Ruthie.
"NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans provide independence to people who are Deaf or have a disability through the use of canine assistance.
NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services, also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was established in 1976. Our Assistance Dogs become an extension of their handlers and bring freedom, physical autonomy and relief from social isolation to their human partners.Service dogs are provided free to veterans.
The Human Canine Bond- NEADS has trained over 1,500 Assistance Dog teams since 1976. NEADS is accredited by Assistance Dogs International, the internationally recognized governing body that establishes industry standards and practices. NEADS offers a wide spectrum of Assistance Dog services"
Visit their website: NEADS
“When I was a child, adults would tell me not to make things up, warning me of what would happen if I did. As far as I can tell so far, it seems to involve lots of foreign travel and not having to get up too early in the morning.”
― Neil Gaiman,
The World and Its Wonders
Maria Tatar, in her wonderful book, Enchanted Hunters, describes how reading ignites a child's mind and transports them to worlds of imagination and wonder. In this excerpt from the chapter entitled Theaters for
the Imagination, she discusses how fairy tales -- wonder tales -- opened the doors to new worlds:
"The deep, almost visceral connection between childhood and wonder had what was once perceived to be a dark side. The child's innate curiosity about the world and its wonders was repeatedly demonized and linked with the evils of idle hands...The rise of the fairy tale created a tectonic shift in children's literature and revealed that something had been long off kilter. Fairy tales -- sometimes referred to as "wonder tales" because they traffic in magic -- opened the door to new theaters of action, with casts of characters very different from the scolding schoolmarm, the aggravated bailiff, or the dis approving cleric found in manuals for moral and spiritual improvement. Books were suddenly invaded by fabulous monsters -- bloodthirsty giants, red-eyed witches, savage bluebeards, and sinister child snatchers -- and they produced a giddy sense of disorientation that roused the curiosity of the child reader."
Maria Tatar, Enchanted Hunters, the Power of Stories in Childhood.
Alice returns May 27 in Tim Burton's Through the Looking Glass (Disney)...Much the same wonderful cast...Here is the delightful trailer
Inside Out 2, A Pixar film that has a humorous, Judy Blume approach to the mind of a young teenage girl...Inside Out was a multiple award winner...here is the trailer link: Inside Out 2
The Angry Birds Movie (Sony)...Inspired by the computer game...Opens in May...Here is the trailer for The Angry Birds Movie
The Jungle Book (Disney)...in 3D and Imax 3D...Opens April 15...Here is the fast action trailer for The Jungle Book
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Warners)...written by JK Rowling...a return to the world of wizardry...Opens Nov 18...set in the USA in 1926...here is the announcement trailer
"If I am a scholar, I am also a parent. To read to a child is to experience not just the pleasures of instruction or the warmth of entertainment, but the immense importance of quite simply reading...Even the most ordinary prose becomes magAdd a Comment
|Strong and Courageous|
Photo by pixaby.com
"Drawing on the rich and until-now unexplored vein of Neapolitan fairy tales written by Giambattista Basile in the early 17th century, Tale of Tales combines the wildly imaginative world of kings, queens and ogres with the kind of lush production values for which Italian cinema was once famous. The result is a dreamy, fresh take on the kind of dark and gory yarns that have come down to us from the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault, only here they're pleasingly new and unfamiliar. Starring Salma Hayek as a childless queen who is willing to do anything – absolutely anything – to conceive...
These fairy tales are certainly not aimed at children, though they will light the fire of many teens. Apart from a few moments of artistic eros — the first a shot of two court ladies consumed with passion for each other in a carriage; the second a post-orgy scene laced with naked, Felliniesque bodies — there is an underlying horror that is unnerving even for adults."
Bawdier and Crueler
"The tales were probably intended to be read aloud in the 'courtly conversations' that were an elite pastime of this period...Lo conto (the tales) contains the earliest literary versions of many celebrated fairy-tale types -- Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and others -- that later appeared in Perrault's and the Grimm's collections. But Basile's tales are often bawdier and crueler than their more canonical counterparts." -- Nancy Canepa,The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales.
Here is a link to the Trailer: Tale Of Tales
Here is a link to the 1894 translation by John Edward Taylor of the Tale of Tales (The Pentamerone) with illustrations by John Cruickshank.
Except for the detail from a Bruegel painting, at top, all of the above images are from the Tale of Tales.
But Talia, who was not dead, but merely unconscious, had become pregnant, and after nine months she gave birth to twins, as beautiful a boy and girl as ever were born. Kindly fairies attended the birth, and put the babies to suck at their mother’s breast. One day, one of the infants, not being able to find the nipple, began to suck at his mother’s finger. He sucked with such force that he drew out the splinter of flax, and Talia awoke, just as if from a long sleep. When she saw the babies, she did not know what had happened or how they had come to her, but she embraced them with love, and nursed them until they were satisfied. She named the infants Sun and Moon. The kindly fairies continued to attend her, providing her with food and drink, which appeared as if delivered by unseen servants..."
Here is a link to read it all: Sun, Moon and Talia
The top illustration is by Edward Burne-Jones. The lower illustration is by Walter Crane.
The Oral Tradition
..."The tales came to the tellers from other tellers, or they read tales, digested them, and made them their own. Indeed, we always make tales our own and then send them off to other tellers with the hope that they will continue to disseminate their stories..." - Jack Zipes, The Forgotten Tales of the Brothers Grimm, in the The Public Domain Review
The illustration of Beauty and the Beast is by Walter Crane.
-- Wilhelm Grimm quoted by Seth Lerer in his book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter.
Illustration from Pekka Halonen's painting, Pioneers In Karelia
The TN Safety Spotters
The TN Safety Spotters, dogs from Memphis, TN, are Deaf Therapy Dogs who travel the Mid-South with owner, trainer, and handler, Paricia Bell. All the Spotters are rescued dogs.
"TN Safety Spotter’s goal is to significantly reduce the number of dog bite injuries and fire deaths in children using deaf therapy dogs as educational tools and teaching aides in Fire Safety and Dog Bite Prevention programs...
"The Spotters visit schools, libraries, hospitals, Fire Stations, camps and special events"...they are an excellent example of a dedicated dog lover finding multiple ways to help children and adults through their therapy dogs. The fact that the latest scientific research shows 30% of Dalmatians are born deaf has not deterred Patricia Bell nor her dogs
Who were the Snow Valley Heroes?
Did they really save Christmas? The question has been asked by children and adults for many years. And there have been many who tried to answer these questions.
The confusion and uncertainty is because the Snow Valley Heroes came from the Planet Of The Dogs long, long ago.This is the true story of how the dogs saved Christmas, told for the first time in many years.
"Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, represents the age-old struggle between good and evil, and the fight to save the Spirit of Christmas–told in a format children can comprehend. My 10-year-old son was excited to see a new Planet of the Dogs book arrive in our mailbox..I give this Christmas treasure a rating of five stars." -- Charyl Miller Pingleton, The Uncommon Review
For sample chapters, please visit our website: Planet Of The Dogs
We have free reader copies of the Planet Of The Dogs series for 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.
Planet Of The Dogs is now available in digital format at
Librians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
To read sample chapters of the series, visit Planet Of The Dogs. -
The illustration, above, from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty.
The Skies Have Clouded Over
"Disquiet about fairytales has become rather more widespread...Dislike of shallow promises and easy solutions in times of war, eco-disaster and other horrors have grounded fairytales; the escapist stories have become lenses through which difficult truths are inspected. Children around the world continue to grow up with the magic of fairytales in books, and to relish the multiple ways they are adapted, updated and put on to stage and screen. But the “realisation of imagined wonder”, which JRR Tolkien saw as the aim of the genre, isn’t always bright and shiny any more; its skies have clouded over..."
From: How Fairy Tales Grew Up by Marina Warner in the Guardian
The picture is from the TV show Game Of Thrones
A Global Event HungerGames:Mockingjay2 is opening on November 18-20 worldwide after a premiere in Paris on November 9th. The first three Hunger Games films have grossed nearly two billion dollars. The films came from the Hunger Games book series by Suzanne Collins; over fifty million books have been sold.
This is another huge crossover phenomenon.
The Hunger Games films have also become an example of what Marina Warner refers to when she writes, "the escapist stories have become lenses through which difficult truths are inspected.
Mockingjay2 will see Katniss Everdeen on a quest to unite and liberate the citizens of war-torn Panem and destroy the evil President Snow. Hi-tech danger, mortality and moral choices are all part of the challenge.
Here is a link to the trailer for Mockingjay2
Pan Has Crashed
The disappointing reviews discouraged me from seeing Pan. Here is an except of the NY Times review by AO Scott (whom I respect), and a review/analysis from the entertainment world by Brent Lang in Variety.
"Peter Pan, who flew through the air in a costume, was in many ways a prototype of the modern superhero. He has certainly been a lucrative entertainment franchise for a very long time, with durable merchandising potential, from feathered hats to peanut butter. All of which may help to explain the otherwise baffling existence of “Pan,” a hectic and labored attempt to supply the boy who never grew up with an origin story.
The dominant emotion in 'Pan' is the desperation of the filmmakers, who frantically try to pander to a young audience they don’t seem to respect, understand or trust." AO ScottNYTIMES; "
“Pan” was supposed to provide a fresh spin on the oft-told tale of the boy who could fly, but the pricey epic remained earthbound last weekend, opening to an anemic $15.3 million.
That disastrous start guarantees it will rank alongside other costly misses like “Jupiter Ascending” and “Tomorrowland” as one of the year’s biggest box office disasters. With an $150 million price tag, Warner Bros. could lose tens of millions on a film it hoped would kick off a new fantasy franchise.
When the dust settles and studio executives comb through the wreckage for clues about what doomed the adventure film, it appears that it will suffer from two fatal and seemingly contradictory flaws. “Pan” was both overly formulaic and too wild a deviation from J.M. Barrie’s beloved children’s classic to succeed." Brent Lang, Variety
The Hollywood Movie Meeting - How Movies Get Made
The following transcript was taken from a meeting of executives of a major Hollywood film company. The meeting is already in progress...
Executive #1: Should we produce this film?
Executive #2: Well, here's a Synopsis: It opens when the mother dies and the bereaved father, a merchant, remarries. His lovely daughter now has a cruel stepmother with two ugly daughters and they all abuse the girl. Her only friends are birds and a magic tree. That's act one. Now in act two...
Executive #3: What happens to the father? He just stands around while they abuse the kid?
Executive #2: He has to travel for his work. He's away a lot.
Executive #2: Act two better be good after that start.
Executive #1: I wanna hear Act two. I heard Disney made a lot of money with this.
Executive #2: In Act two we meet a handsome Prince who is planning a big party.
Executive #3: Why are we even talking about this if Disney already made it?
Executive #1: Maybe, we can make some changes.
Executive#3: Changes? What kind of changes?
Executive #1: Maybe we can we change it to Christmas? We need a new flick for Christmas and at least this is based on a winner from the past. And we'll change the name...call it Cindy's Happy Holiday!
Executive #3: That's a helluva idea. What's next?
To Be Continued...
Read more about this wonderful therapy reading dog program at Bow Wow Reading Dogs:
HOUSTON — "Coby Burren, 15, a freshman at a suburban high school south of here, was reading the textbook in his geography class last week when a map of the United States caught his attention. On Page 126, a caption in a section about immigration referred to Africans brought to American plantations between the 1500s and 1800s as 'workers' rather than slaves.
He reached for his cellphone and sent a photograph of the caption to his mother, Roni Dean-Burren, along with a text message: 'we was real hard workers, wasn’t we'..."
Beasts of No Nation
"In a young child's life, few games can equal hide-and-seek: the excitement of crouching in a secret place as the pleasure of remaining at large vies with the thrill of possible discovery. The problem comes when a game like this turns serious -- when, say, the people you're hiding from want not just to find you but to hack you to pieces."
Here is a link to read all of the NY Times Book Review by Simon Baker
The Movie Wants Us To Look At That Moment Square In The Face
"The movie holds on to a fair chunk of the book’s first-person narration, which is critical, because it establishes Agu as a character with his own thoughts and ethics rather than merely a shellshocked onlooker. There comes a moment when the boy has to cross the line
from theory to action — from training to murder — and 'Beasts of No Nation' wants us to look that moment square in the face. It is awful, it has happened and is happening still, and for once you aren’t able to turn the page or switch to another channel. And then the movie invites us to wonder what happens to the child who is now a murderer. 'It is the worst sin, but it is the right sin to be doing,' Agu tells himself, but that lie doesn’t last. Before long, he is begging the sun to stop shining on this world."
It took courage and great commitment by the brilliant young American director Cary Fukunaga to make this film. Netflix has released the film simultaneously in theaters and on the Internet. Over 3 million viewers in North America have seen Beasts of No Nation since its release on October 16.
"Sesame Street got so many things right with its new character, Julia, an orange-haired girl with autism whose eyes never quite meet the reader’s. Introduced in a digital storybook available online and in print, Julia is described as an old friend of Elmo’s. When Elmo’s muppet friend Abby meets Julia, she is confused, and she has questions. Julia doesn’t talk to her right away, does that mean Julia doesn’t like her? Why does Julia get so upset over loud noises?
And then there are the things Abby doesn’t comment on — Julia knows every word to a lot of songs. She spins the wheels of toy cars over and over and over again, and flaps her arms when she is excited. She is a recognizably different (and recognizably autistic) without being overwhelmingly so… children with autism can find themselves in her, and children learning about the condition can start here.
Sesame Workshop based Julia on years of research, says Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s vice president of outreach and educational practices. “We wanted to demonstrate some of the characteristics of autism in a positive way,” she says. The choice of gender was also deliberate. “We wanted to break down some of the myths and misconceptions around autism. It’s not only impacting boys, but girls as well...”
"Over-filled animal control facilities or pounds euthanize an estimated 4 million dogs and cats each year...
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..."
Here is a link to read the rest of this informative Sunbear Squad article: Rescue.
Hope and Celebration - Light in the darkness, time out for happiness, wonder and magic.
Enter the world of tales told by people, of stories that live on. of tales of wonder, fairy tales.
Santa Claus, the man in the red suit stepping out of the chimney, comes to us from the talented Thomas Nast; his popular 19th century illustrations helped to popularize Santa Claus as we know him today.
This book influenced the thinking of generations of readers, and transformed the spirit of the Christmas holiday. The transformation was guided by Dicken's passionate belief that the true Christmas spirit embodied caring and generosity -- especially for those less fortunate.
A Christmas Carol was written with the passion born of his painful childhood as an impoverished 12 year old boy from a broken family.With his father in debtor's prison, Dickens was forced to leave school and work ten-hour days for six shillings a week under harsh conditions (the factory was home to multitudes of rats) in England's new industrial economy.
Much has changed with the passing of time and the commercialism of the marketplace has brought an endless stream of marketing -- more games, toys and advertising -- to Christmas.
But the Spirit Of Christmas does live on.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” ...Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
Scrooge Lives On...
Viking has recently published (October 2015) a well reviewed book by Charles Lovett, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge. For more information, visit his website: Charles Lovett
The above illustrations are by John Leech from the original A Christmas Carol.
The Legend of Santa Claus
The popularity of this story-poem, first published in 1823, continued to grow with the passing years. It was originally written for his children by Clement Clarke Moore.
Later in the century, popular illustrations by Thomas Nast, including Moore's poem, A Visit From St Nicholas, firmly established Santa Claus as a jolly, rotund figure in a red suit with a white beard. Nast's images of Santa and his red suit became accepted and remain the norm today.
The illustration is by Thomas Nast.
The Fairy Tale Moves On Its Own Time
"It all adds up to this: the fairy tale narrates a wish-fulfillment which is not bound by its
own time and the apparel of its contents. In contrast to the folk tale, which is always tied to a particular locale, the fairy tale remains unbound. Not only does the fairy tale remain as fresh as longing and love, but the evil demons that abound in fairy tales are still at work here in the present, and the happiness of "once upon a time", which is even more abundant in the fairy tale, still affects our vision of the future..."
The above insights into the role of fairy tales are from an essay written in 1930 by the German scholar and philosopher, Ernst Bloch. I believe that the context in which they were written adds to their import. Germany in 1930 was in the grip of the Great Depression. Poverty and uncertainty had swept the land. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were feeding on people's fear and rising in power. Bloch later escaped to the USA where he wrote his renowned three-part treatise, The Principle of Hope (1938-1947).
The illustration from the Secret Of The Kells is by Tomm Moore. The painting is by Gerard Dubois.
The Elves and the Shoemaker
Here is an excerpt from a fairy tale by the Grimm's that came to be a Christmas story. It tells of the elves who helped a hard working, but impoverished shoemaker and his wife ...they, in gratitude, surprised the elves at Christmas time.
"About midnight in they came, dancing and skipping, hopped round the room, and then went to sit down to their work as usual; but when they saw the clothes lying for them, they laughed and chuckled, and seemed mightily delighted.
Then they dressed themselves in the twinkling of an eye, and danced and capered and sprang about, as merry as could be; till at last they danced out at the door, and away over the green..."
Here is link to read it all: The Elves and the Shoemaker The illustration is by Lucy Crane.
The Saga Of Santa Claus
Who is Santa? Where did he come from? How did the toy workshops get started? Where did all the elves come from and why did they agree to move to the wintry north and make toys for Santa? And how about the flying reindeer...where did they come from? These are among the many heretofore unanswered questions about the orgins of Christmas and Santa Claus.
Now, at last, author Mark Couturier has written The Saga Of Santa Claus, a fascinating book telling the complete story of the ancient origins of Christmas and Santa Claus. For a comprehensive picture of this original book, check out the enthusiastic Amazon reviews.
"The year 2015 will see the 49th annual Kwanzaa, the African American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1. It is estimated that some 18 million African Americans take part in Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, nor is it meant to replace Christmas. It was created by Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga, a professor of Black Studies, in 1966. At that time of great social change for African Americans, Karenga sought to design a celebration that would honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans who were working for progress.
Kwanzaa is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years."...Kwanzaa ends with gift giving and a celebratory feast.
This post is based on a comprehensive article by Holly Hartman.
Christmas Lights Moving Through the Hills...
A Holiday treat, and a wonder to behold, the moving lights are on hundreds of sheep, running in the darkness, guided by sheepdogs...this is a classic video...Here is the link: Moving Lights
Penn Vet Working Dog Center Philadelphia, PA is a recent recipient of a Planet Dog Foundation (PDF) grant. The goals of the Penn Vet working Dog Center are "national security, fields of detection work, canine health and performance, and to enhance that unique bond between humans and man’s best friend". The Planet Dog Foundation has awarded grants exceeding one million dollars to fund "the training, placement and support of dogs helping people in need."
"The Penn Vet Working Dog Center is part of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine, and serves as a national research and development center for detection dogs. They work to train elite detection dogs to assist in medical research, national security, and finding victims of disasters. PDF has awarded a $10,000 grant in support of Punches, a female Labrador Retriever named in honor of Jack Punches, a victim of the attacks of 9/11. Punches is training to detect explosives, explosives residue, and post-blast evidence. Trained explosives detection dogs can also detect firearms and ammunition hidden in vehicles and containers, on persons, or buried underground."
The Ghost Dog of Christmas Past
Here is an an excerpt from the dog lovers book, Circling the Waggins, by CA Wulff. The dogs seen in the ebook cover are the current residents of the cabin in the woods wherein this saga of a life with rescued dogs takes place. The book is a journey into the heart and mind of a dedicated pet lover who shares her experiences, concerns, and deep emotions with the reader.The setting is a cabin-home in a national park forest. The characters are several adopted dogs, cats, and, for a while, domestic mice -- and two compassionate women.
"I feel like we are haunted by the ghost dog of Christmas past. The season brings a million reminders of our Troll, a dog who had loved Christmas more than any other time of year. He would get excited at the first signs of holiday decorations, and his eyes would shine with a child’s wonder. On Christmas morning, he would race to be the first dog under the tree, to tear at the packages full of biscuits and rawhides. Each of the dogs would tear at a package, but Troll unwrapped with such gusto and fervor, that they would all abandon their presents to stand back and watch him, and then make off with whatever treats he had revealed."
CA Wullf also created the cover for her book.
Review... Loved it… This delightful conclusion to the Planet of the Dogs series just caps off a wonderful tradition. The story is well suited to be read aloud to younger children and as chapter book for the older ones. All of your favorite dogs help rescue two of Santa's reindeer from the Evil King of the North. The story also imparts important lessons of cooperation and responsibility." Mary Jacobs, Editor/reviewer Bookhounds
We have free reader copies of all the books in the Planet Of The Dogs 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. They are also available in digital format at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Oyster, Inktera, Scribd, Powells, Tolino,
Librians, teachers, bookstores...You can also order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
The illustration, above, from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty.
"What a truly wonderful and unique Christmas story for the whole family..." Don Blankenship,
Teacher, Reviewer for Great Books For Kids.
..."'I think it must be the field-mice,' replied the Mole, with a touch of pride in his manner. 'They go round carol-singing regularly at this time of the year. They're quite an institution in these parts. And they never pass me over—they come to Mole End last of all; and I used to give them hot drinks, and supper too sometimes, when I could afford it. It will be like old times to hear them again.'
'Let's have a look at them!' cried the Rat, jumping up and running to the door.
It was a pretty sight, and a seasonable one, that met their eyes when they flung the door open. In the fore-court, lit by the dim rays of a horn lantern, some eight or ten little fieldmice stood in a semicircle, red worsted comforters round their throats, their fore-paws thrust deep into their pockets, their feet jigging for warmth. With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at each other, sniggering a little, sniffing and applying coat-sleeves a good deal. As the door opened, one of the elder ones that carried the lantern was just saying, 'Now then, one, two, three!' and forthwith their shrill little voices uprose on the air, singing one of the old-time carols that their forefathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost, or when snow-bound in chimney corners, and handed down to be sung in the miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time..."
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Illustration by Ernst Shepard
Interview With Santa
This interview was conducted as part of a program to determine the truth behind the incredible story of Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale....
Santa: I’m happy that the story is finally coming out.
Interviewer: Is it a true story?
Interviewer: Why haven’t we known about it before?
Santa: I think it was lost in the mists of time…It took place hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
Interviewer: Is it true that there was to be no more Christmas?
Santa: I’m sorry to say that it’s true. Until the dogs arrived.
Interviewer: The dogs?
Santa: It was a surprise to all of us in Santa Claus village. None of us, and that includes all the elves, had even heard of dogs.
Santa: Well, that and the fact that dogs has just started arriving on planet earth. Prior to that time, there had been no dogs on Earth.
Interviewer: Really! Where did they come from? And how did they find you?
Santa: They had started coming down to Earth from their own planet – the Planet of the Dogs. They came down to help people. Somehow, they heard we were in trouble, and one day, there they were, just like that...
To read all of the Interview with Santa, click this link: Interview with Santa
"One Christmas was so much like the other, in those years around the sea-town corner now, out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve, or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.
All the Christmases roll down towards the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen..."
Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales
Light In The Darkness
"The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) supports developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritizing the poorest, most vulnerable and those living in fragile and conflict-affected countries.
Established in 2002, the Global Partnership for Education is comprised of 60 developing countries, more than 20 donor governments, and international organizations, the private sector and foundations, teachers, and civil society/NGOs."
Since its inception, the Global Partnership has supported developing country partners to achieve remarkable and measurable results. For example, the number of out-of-school primary school children has been reduced from 56 million to 41 million in 2012. They have also achieved substantial improvements in gender parity and major increases in the number of girls completing primary school in countries where GPE has supplied support and resources.
Here is a link for more ot the remarkable RESULTS, from around the world (updates and photos), of the Global Partnership for Education.
Hope in Dystopia in Mockingjay: Part 2
This film is being seen by multitudes of people worldwide. Based on that fact alone, Mockingjay 2 is an important YA crossover film. It is a rather long, dark, viewing experience, executed with excellent acting and all the traditional elements of a very well done action movie. Mockingjay 2 also deals with issues of morality amidst the painful chaos of war.
Richard Lawson, in his thoughtful Vanity Fair review, considered the film's significance in these troubled times as well as the "entertainment" value of the film. Here are excerpts:
"Mockingjay: Part 2 shows us, in rich and bracing fashion, the Hunger Games movies have been saying something all along—about the tragedy of youth (or anyone) in war, about post-traumatic stress disorder, about the ways we cede our autonomy to notions of comfort, to spectacle, to the easy lies of othering. The film makes these points in a far more clear-headed, more resonant manner than its source material. It’s a rare film adaptation that improves upon the original text, highlighting its crucial themes while streamlining and shaping the action into something legible and gripping...
The Hunger Games films...show us how good blockbuster movies can be. And they beseech us, in their earnest way, to be better, conscientious stewards of our own fraught and fragile world. That’s a useful message for anyone these days, young adult or not."
Here is a link to the article: Richard Lawson
Here is a link to the trailer: Mockingjay 2
Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- in time for the Holidays
The Dark Side Returns Worldwide on December 18-19 in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D...just in time
for the Holidays. Disney executives expect a very happy holiday, anticipating box office records with this $200,000,000 million dollar film. Fans will find that Harrison Ford, Chewbacca, Jedi Knights and light sabers have all returned along with the Dark Side. In keeping with changing times, the good side also has an important female warrior woman, Rey. Played by newcomer Daisy Ridley, she is also a red hot pilot.
Here is a link to Trailer #1: The Force Awakens
Manohla Dargis, the excellent NY Times reviewer, wrote a warm review for this latest Pixar production. Here is an excerpt...
"Blink and you may miss the sly joke that sets 'The Good Dinosaur' on its enchantingly eccentric way. It begins with a near apocalypse 65 million years ago and an asteroid racing toward Earth. And while that’s around the time, more or less, that science hypothesizes the dinosaurs bit the dust, the wizards at Pixar have forged another creation story. Instead of crashing, the space rock zips past the big blue marble... "
Here is a link to read all of MS Dargis' review: The Good Dinosaur
Hope and Celebration are here with music... 3 minutes and 40 seconds of joy from singing kids in many places...What A Wonderful World (Playing for Change)
Nancy Houser, on her Way Cool Dogs Blog, provides a wide variety of information on dog issues ranging from health care and nutrition to canine science and dog love. On a recent post, How To Love Your Dog, she wrote about many facets of dog love. Here's an excerpt...
And, whether your dog is a mischievous young puppy and full of bounding love, or an older dog that has been abandoned with very little love— it won’t be too hard to play the part.
Loving your dog makes it easy to build positive and loving feelings for this furry friend, choosing what is best to develop a better life. Dogs who are loved not only feel safe, but secure and cherished. But, recognizing if you love your dog does not mean a thing if your dog does not love you back."..The article continues, including a point by point section entitled , "How to tell if your dog loves you back".
Nancy also includes information on fascinating MRI studies regarding a dog's love by neuroscientist Dr Gregory Berns. Dr Berns wrote a book titled "How Dogs Love Us". To learn more about Dr, Berns and his MRI dog studies, here is a link to his Ted Talk.
The photo is courtesy of the wonderful Paws Giving Independence therapy dog organization, Peoria,Illonois. Please click on the photo to enlarge and to see why it was chosen.
Long Line at the Library? It’s Story Time Again
by Winnie Hu NY Times
"Story time is drawing capacity crowds at public libraries across New York and across the country
at a time when, more than ever, educators are emphasizing the importance of early literacy in preparing children for school and for developing critical thinking skills. The demand crosses economic lines, with parents at all income levels vying to get in.
Many libraries have refashioned the traditional readings to include enrichment activities such as counting numbers and naming colors, as well as music and dance. And many parents have made story time a fixture in their family routines alongside school pickups and playground outings — and, for those who employ nannies, a nonnegotiable requirement of the job...
Libraries around the country have expanded story time and other children’s programs in recent years, attracting a new generation of patrons in an age when online offerings sometimes make trips to the book stacks unnecessary. Sari Feldman, president of the American Library Association, said such early-literacy efforts are part of a larger transformation libraries are undergoing to become active learning centers for their communities by offering services like classes in English as a second language, computer skills and career counseling."
The illustration of the rabbits is by Beatrix Potter.The illustration of the Moomins is by Tove Jansson.