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By: Sharon Ledwith,
Growing up, I remember having a good chunk of my bookshelf filled with Big Little Books®. Titles like Black Beauty, The Last of the Mohicans, Ivanhoe, Robin Hood and other classics entertained me throughout the late 60s and well into the 70s. They were the coolest books that snuggled nicely into the palm of my hand, and gave me such pleasure as a child. I literally lost myself in those books. Swimming with these nostalgic thoughts and feelings got me wondering how these fascinating and unique books started out. So…I did a little digging.
During the 1930s, as movies, radio, pulps, and comic strips developed, the Big Little Books® appeared on the scene. The product was small, stubby, thick, and inexpensive. The books drew much source material from motion pictures, radio, and comic strips and successfully competed with pulp magazines and comic books until the end of the decade. They served to promote films and radio programs and were produced in such quantities that they could be sold for a dime.
In 1932 the seemingly paradoxical term Big Little Book® was given to certain books published by the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. The term promised the buyer a great amount of reading material and pleasure (BIG) within a small and compact (LITTLE) book. These Whitman books set the standards for similar books, and Whitman's copyrighted description has become popularized in a generic way to umbrella similar books.
The first BLB, The Adventures of Dick Tracy
, came off the presses just before Christmas in 1932. It
preceded the first true comic book by a year, and the subsequent BLB production spanned more than a half century. Within the span, there are historical patterns which clearly define three major periods of publication.The Golden Age
(1932 to mid-1938) is a description reserved for the most interesting, influential, and memorable production of the books. These were the true Big Little Books®. During this period, the effects of the depression were still being felt, and numerous publishers besides Whitman produced inexpensive BLB-type reading materials of great variety. In mid-1938 the two major companies, Whitman and Saalfield, made major changes in their trademarks (Whitman's Big Little Books® became Better Little Books® and Saalfield's Little Big Books® became Jumbo Books®).The Silver Age
(mid-1938 to 1949) produced a less innovative set of books. Their production was influenced by the growing comic book market and paper shortages during WWII. The number of competitive companies diminished. Only Whitman maintained a continuous output of books through the war years. It used the "flip-it" feature extensively to attract buyers, and as these years went by, the books gradually contained fewer and fewer pages. In 1949, the last Better Little Book®, Little Orphan Annie and the Ancient Treasure of Am
(288 pages) was published.The Modern Age
(1950 to the present) is characterized by more than 40 years of sporadic and short-
lived attempts to revive the books in different forms and with different content: New Better Little Books® (1949-50); BLB TV Series® (1958); the hard cover 2000-Series (1967-68); the soft cover 5700-Series (1973-present). During this period, Whitman became subsumed under the auspices of the Western Publishing Company.
So if you’re wandering through a garage sale or flea market and happen to spot a Big Little Book® in a pile of dog-earred novels, do yourself a favor and buy it. It just may be the start of a beautiful relationship between a child you know, and the written word.
Blog: The Open Book
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April is National Poetry Month! All month long we’ll be celebrating by posting some of our favorite poems for Poetry Friday. For our second Poetry Friday post, we chose Family Garden by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Paula Barragán from Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para soñar juntos.
in the backyard/of our home/there is a garden
all in our family/do our part/in maintaining
Mamá loves/to plant and nip/flowery rosebushes
Abuelita keeps/her mint herbs/in a small pot
Papá really likes/to come out hose/in hand and water
the lemon tree/the squashes/and the tomatoes
that my sisters/would grow/every spring
my brothers and I/in turn weed out/and mow the lawn
all in our family/take time to tend/each other’s dreams
even our puppy/knows how/to grow bones
in this garden/the sun shines/green smiles
What poems is everyone else reading? Feel free to share in the comments section!
The interior life is often stupid. Its egoism blinds it and deafens it; its imagination spins out ignorant tales, fascinated. It fancies that the western wind blows on the Self, and leaves fall at the feet of the Self for a reason, and people are watching. A mind risks real ignorance for the sometimes paltry prize of an imagination enriched. The trick of reason is to get the imagination to seize the actual world—if only from time to time.
The world did not have me in mind; it had no mind. It was a coincidental collection of things and people, of items, an I myself was one such item… I could be connected to the outer world by reason, if I chose, or I could yield to what amounted to a narrative fiction[.]
- Annie Dillard, An American Childhood*
I am an introvert, but don’t worry. I’m not about to launch into one of those self-fascinated pieces about how I am special and misunderstood. It’s just that I do have a very interior life, full of reflections and broodings and spun narratives. I imagine most writers are like that (perhaps not all), but I was struck by this passage and how it crystallizes a constant struggle of mine to do an objective assessment of my reality and spring it free of fancy, to know know what I actually know, and what I’ve constructed.
Writers tend to fancy that every bird symbolizes their own hope, and it’s easy to forget that the bird is minding its own business. This is why I opined recently that I wished I had majored in some “hard science,” where enough information surrounds an object that you can understand it on its own terms: the bird striking across the sky becomes a kestrel, and you know a thing or two about its behavior and habits, so it is no longer a stark image but a living thing. It is not there to inspire you; it is chasing a wren.
This bears on a work in progress and an essential scene — essential to character, not to plot — and I now know what I was trying to accomplish with that scene, though I don’t think I actually need to change anything.
*I may post more about this remarkable book, which recounts a cognitive and perceptual awakening by a child with astounding detail. I do not think Ms. Dillard has ever written a book for children, but her ability to recall the experience of being a child is like nothing I have ever read.
Filed under: Miscellaneous Tagged: childhood, dillard, interiority, shelley
By: Kurtis Scaletta
Blog: Kurtis Scaletta
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One idea that drives me as a writer for children is that our childhood experiences and decisions determine our character as adults. I think “experiences” is well treated in literature, which has drawn a lot from Freudian ideas about trauma and triggers, and adults as living late reactions to what happened to them as kids. Less often are adults seen as the consequences of decisions, and this is what I want to preach: that children are architects of their own destinies.
But what if it’s all wrong? We’ve so absolutely accepted this “child is the [parent] of the [adult]” theory that we don’t question it. It’s one of those rare ideological principles that seems across political and religious differences, we frequently opine (for example) that a privileged childhood can makes a political candidate unable to “connect” with “regular people.” We agree that an abused childhood fosters an abusive adulthood. We owe our own character–good traits and bad–to the way were raised and the efforts of our parents.
This article doesn’t offer much besides questions, but I think they are intriguing questions. As every cell in our body is refreshed, do we disconnect from our childhood selves? For those of us (like me) who end up in new places with entirely new networks throughout our lives, is there enough continuity to explain our adult “self” with childhood experience?
For example, I have lived in Minnesota for nearly 20 years, and now, outside of fleeting facebook encounters, know few people from before I moved here. There are elements of my childhood self in my current self, of course, but the child I used to be is practically unknowable to me. I honestly don’t even know if Kurtis, age 11, would like the author “Kurtis Scaletta” who purportedly writes for children like him. Sometimes when I meet people who knew me as a child, but have not seen me for decades, they describe a child Kurtis I don’t remember or recognize.
I do think I am largely informed by the corrections I made in my 30s to mistakes I made in my 20s that were due to trauma suffered in my teens… so there’s a domino effect in play, but there is a lot to be said for the relationships I have had, the books I have read, and the decisions and experiences I have had since I turned 30… these things are of their own soil. My wife and son, my writing life and writing friends, have made me who I am, and most of those people weren’t in my life until five years ago (my wife, ten). Any one of a few major decisions could have led to a completely different life and a completely different Kurtis.
In a book the world has largely forgotten, Love Among the Mashed Potatoes, Gregory MacDonald (best known for the Fletch series), gives the advice via his columnist protagonist: you have until age thirty to forgive your parents; after that you have to begin forgiving yourself. It may be one of the best tidbits of wisdom I’ve gotten from a book, and as I get older I appreciate more and more what it means to forgive yourself and stop blaming your problems on a lousy childhood.
As a writer I will have to persist with the premise that children are laying the foundation for the selves they will build, but this article has given me something to think about.
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I love Peter Pan.
I remember watching the televised Mary Martin version as a child; the first Broadway show my grandparents took me to see was the 1979 revival of the Broadway show.
I watched those as a child and saw magic of Peter Pan
as a child: the wonder, the adventure, the fear and avoidance of what growing up would mean. That Peter was played by a woman barely registered in terms of text or subtext.
Growing older, growing up, meant learning more about Peter Pan
and J.M. Barrie, the man who invented him. I'm not going to get into that -- there is plenty out there about it. While the origins, inspiration, and evolution of Peter Pan
are fascinating right now I'm writing more about viewer response, and one viewer in particular: me.
I love Peter Pan
. Watching it as a child was magical. And I got it: Wendy and the boys went, had adventures, and when they had had enough, they went home.
I want to give a nod to three subsequent versions of Peter Pan
I adored:Hook (1991)
, which said that growing up doesn't mean losing touch with one's childhood. Traditionally, Peter Pan
views growing up as either/or, with growing up a putting away and forgetting of "childish" things. Hook
said that becoming an adult can be a good thing, but it doesn't mean a rejection and forgetting of childhood and that Peter doing so wasn't healthy. It was just as unhealthy as rejecting adulthood.Peter Pan (2003)
, which gave us an age-appropriate boy, Jeremy Sumpter (born 1989) playing Peter Pan. This meant that when Pan said he was a child who hadn't grown up, the viewer saw an actual child. The other children were also played by children of the right ages for the text; Rachel Hurd-Wood was born in 1990. It captured the magic of Peter, the desire for adventure, and kept it child-centered. It's practically perfect.
As a lover of Once Upon a Time (TV series)
, I have to also mention their version of Peter Pan. Robbie Kay (born 1995) played Pan in 2013. Pan was played by an older teenager, and Kay clearly wasn't an adult but he also wasn't a child. This take -- spoilers -- was perhaps the darkest one yet, in which Peter Pan was not a child who refused to grow up but rather an adult who refused to remain a grown up. Once that adult was offered the chance to become a child again, he not only took it, he was willing to kill to stay a child. For this version, being a child was not about being "innocent" but was about refusing responsibility.
As an adult, how I view Peter and Wendy is more complex. The recent TV version, NBC Peter Pan LIVE
, got me thinking about Peter Pan and childhood and how we view that, and I'm not sure if they intended it to be that way. Except for the roles of Michael and John, all the actors were adults. Wendy, Peter, the Lost Boys: all grown ups. Seeing adults say the lines about being a child, pretending, not growing up, just made me really think about those lines and what was, or wasn't going in the play.
As I think about it, I realize that the hero is, and always has been, Wendy -- it is Wendy who goes on the adventure to Neverland, it is Wendy who is faced with the conflict of her "let's pretend" being challenged by those around her as not good enough, it is Wendy who realizes that playing by someone else's rules gets tiring, and let's just all go home now, OK? It is Wendy who later realizes she cannot deny that same pretending to her own daughter, just because Wendy herself is older and wiser.
Because of the age of the play, much of Wendy's choices are presented in some very old-fashioned ways, and many of us watching wished mightily for a feminist retelling of Peter Pan
. But as I write this up, and with the acknowledgement that the play is over 100 years old -- really, what's so wrong with wanting to play house or play school, as Wendy does? She also wants Peter's version of adventures, but what is so wrong with her manner of pretending, and why won't the boys play along with her? The problem is not in Wendy's desires, but it's in Peter's denial to recognize her dreams as being as valid as his own, and wanting to keep Wendy in a box of "mother." That's not just because the play is old -- it's because Peter is a child and that's how children think. Only their own dreams matter; other people exist only in the child's own reality. (Ask any child who is shocked to see a teacher in a store, outside of school.)
Part of the problem is that it is Wendy's adventure in Peter's world. Emily Asher-Perrin has a brilliant analysis of Peter, and how Peter himself is hardly a hero, in Peter Pan's "Greatest Pretend" is Heroism
at Tor. As she explains, "Here’s the thing about Neverland—it is Peter’s playhouse. He is like the guy who owns the casino; the house always wins and he is the house. Everything in Neverland is set up so that it caters directly to his whims.
" Most children, myself included, would not pick up on that because the whims of children can be so similar so it's not obvious to younger viewers that this is Peter's playhouse, not any child's playhouse.
That it is Peter's playhouse, and all those his playthings, is part of the problem with Tiger Lily. Tiger Lily -- that's another area where much has been written. Two recent articles on that: at Why 'Fix' Tiger Lily? Why Not Just Let Her Go?
by Dr. Adrienne Keene, posted at Indian Country; and #NotYourTigerLily: Nine Months Later and They Still Don't Get The Point
by Johnnie Jae, posted at Native News.
As Asher-Perrin concludes at her article at Tor, "as Barrie states, Pan will always come back to steal our runaways and lost boys, and will continue to do so as long as children are “Innocent and heartless.” The genius of Pan’s tale, is that innocence does not automatically denote goodness. Instead, it makes a child’s lack of experience a very frightening thing after all."
These things happening to children, by children, as in the 2003 version, make sense. Peter played by a child has it make sense, even if the child has lived years and years as Peter has. As adults, we recognized that children are, well, children, and excuse or understand.
Now, suddenly, have adults say those lines? Do that pretend? Refuse to grow up?
The NBC version is no longer a brilliant and honest look at childhood and growing up; instead, it is a look at those adults who avoid growing up, even as they physically grow and mature, and it shows that this resistance to adulthood is not charming - it's creepy as hell
. Holding onto childhood and avoiding responsibility or making decisions is neither innocence nor goodness. It's creepy.
And that creepiness? Is why yes, I still love Peter Pan
. Because it gives one thing to the child viewer and another to the adult viewer. Because it's willing to say that children and childhood aren't perfect; and are not something to idealize. Growing up is not a bad thing; refusing to do so, fighting against it, isn't a good thing.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
I've been a very bad blogger this year, mainly because of this, of course. But G's treatments are now done, and we're working toward getting our life back to our "new normal." But first, we're moving apartments this week and packing is exhausting!
As always happens, while packing I've been finding forgotten things, like this letter Grace had sent me back when we were both seniors in high school. I had brought this with me from my parents' house in California a while back because I wanted to quote some of the letter in a talk I was giving, I think.
In it, we talked about boys, of course. I had asked her to send me a boyfriend, so she sent me this guy:
Cute, huh? She named him Roger.
And here are a few snippets from the letter:
"I'm going to illustrate children's books, y'know. That would be so cool. One day when we're all grown up, you'll see in a book store: Illustrated by Grace P. Lin. That would be excellent."
"I wish I could show you my portfolio. Then you could tell me if you think I'm talented. Or then you could lie to me and tell me you think I'm the bestest artist in the world and of course I will make it into RISD."
I wonder if Grace has the letter I wrote back to her. But I'm sure I said something like:
I think you're talented, Grace! You are the bestest artist in the world, you will make it into RISD, and you will become a famous children's book author and illustrator.
See, I can predict the future!
By: Jen Robinson
Blog: Jen Robinson
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Author: Randi Zuckerberg (@randizuckerberg)
Illustrator: Joe Berger
Age Range: 4-8
Full disclosure. Yes, Dot. is one of those picture books written by a celebrity (business maven Randi Zuckerberg) to convey a particular lesson. I am not generally a fan of such books. This one is even kind of a spin-off of an adult title by the same author (Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives), with the same release date. And yet, Dot. worked for me.
Dot. is a simple story. We learn that a little girl named Dot is quite skilled in the use of digital devices. "She knows how to tap ... to touch ... to tweet ... and to tag." And she talks and talks on phones and devices and webcams. But when Dot's brain becomes a bit fried from too much device-time, her mother sends the zombie-like child outside to "reboot." Outside, among friends, Dot learns different meanings of tap (tap dancing), touch (touching a sunflower), tweet (like a bird), and tag (you can guess that one). And at the end, she and her friends embrace both the outdoors and real togetherness AND devices.
I think that ending is a big part of what made the book work for me. If the story had ended with Dot realizing the error of her device-prone ways, and spending all of her time playing outside, well, it just wouldn't have been realistic. But it IS realistic to think that a child could get caught up sitting around inside, tapping away on the computer, only to be reminded that playing outside is fun also. Only to be reminded that it's more fun to do whatever you're doing with other kids than to do it alone.
By keeping the focus entirely on Dot, and finding a solution to her specific problem of tech burnout, Zuckerberg avoids making Dot. feel didactic. It helps, I think that Mom is only shown as a pair of hands shooing Dot outside. Otherwise, there are only kids, dogs, and butterflies.
I also quite liked the parallelism that Zuckerberg uses, between actions we do on devices, like "surfing", and actions that can be done in real life, like "surfing." Some of the examples work better than others ("swiping" paint seems a bit of a reach), but the idea of focusing on these dual meanings works.
Joe Berger's illustrations help, too. When Dot, in dotted dress, is "surfing" on the computer, she lies across the back of the couch with one leg up, reaching down to the computer. This is a nice visual clue to what is to follow later. The indoor illustrations are fun, but all set against plain backgrounds, white walls, etc. This provides a nice contrast when Dot goes outside, and is surrounded by birds, flowers, trees, and so on. I'm not quite sure why Dot has gray hair, but she also has an impish smile, a swirly skirt, and a cute dog.
I think that kids will like her. And if they like Dot, hopefully they won't feel dictated to by the point that this book is making. And let's face it. There are an awful lot of kids out there who could benefit from spending a few hours outside, where the only screen is the screen door. Mary Lee from A Year of Reading liked it, too, calling Dot."the perfect antidote to BYOD" (bring your own device).
I suspect this one will work better with five to seven year olds, kids who spend a bit of time using keyboards, and talking on the phone to friends or family members. My three year old was unimpressed. I think you'll find that Dot. is worth a look, particularly for libraries and classrooms. Perhaps one could pair it under the Christmas tree with a jumprope and some sneakers.
Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).
© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.
Blog: the enchanted easel
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|©the enchanted easel 2014|
|©the enchanted easel 2014|
should have rainbow colored manes. or so i think anyway....;)
snippets from my piece entitled "the rainbow connection"... my tribute to my favorite childhood doll, rainbow brite and her sweet horse, starlight.
oh i loved that doll!
|"the rainbow connection"|
©the enchanted easel 2014
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finally got around to scanning this little beauty....my homage to my FAVORITE childhood doll, Rainbow Brite. along with her BFF, Starlight, of course. ;)
PRINTS AVAILABLE HERE:
By: Allen Capoferri
Blog: Allen's Zoo
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Done in the car while waiting for the library to open. Bees were pollinating purple flowers next to me.
I’d like to share something I think is fun. The reaction I get from people when I’m out drawing or painting. When not in my car more often than not reactions are positive, like the Starbucks barista, saying he thought it cool. Occasionally my experiences are, let’s just say a bit awkward. Even so they’re often something I look back on with a smile, as they reflect the understanding of the person it’s coming from. On one occasion where I was drawing at coffee shop, a woman sat at the table next to me accompanied by her two children. As they were getting ready to leave she mentioned she was an artist too. She shook my hand and introduced herself. I noticed while one of her children had gone, the other had walked behind me (between myself and the wall). Mom noticed and noticed I noticed. As she and I continued our conversation, her daughter then got on one side of her and put both hands on her mother’s hip and began pushing. “Let’s go… I thought we were going to go.” I had said, “I guess she’s a bit protective. I remember my daughter was that way sometimes.” When her mother tried to continue talking her daughter came next to me, crossed her arms in front of her and said, nodding to my sketchbook I’d now closed, “Did you draw that?” I said “What,” opening it, “You mean this?” She then nodded over to a magazine on the nearby table and said “You copied that”. I said, “No, these are people who were here. I drew them.” Mind you, she was maybe nine or ten years old. By then mom was ready go. I could only smile. Happy Mothers Day.
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i just wanted to be mork, as a kid. make everybody laugh and go to another planet as maybe that's where i came from, all along? sigh...xoxoxoxo, robin.
Just over a month ago, it was the centenary of Tove Jansson's birth. There were public celebrations in her home land of Finland, and an exhibition at the Finnish National Gallery dedicated to the paintings, illustrations, and writing of this extraordinary figure.
I believe this exhibition also included the original miniature Moomin house on loan from its home at the Moomin Museum Tampere. This is a blue, five storey building which Jansson built with her partner Tuulikki Pietilä in the 1970's. It's about three metres high,
|Moomin House, Tampere (Adele Pennington)|
I haven't been to see it, but my cousin and fellow Moomin-fan Ann - who lives in Norway - has. She describes how "Tove and Tuulikki built the house using materials they found washed up on the beach. The roof tiles, by the way, were made from cedar bark they found and cut into shape using nail scissors. Fish-scale pattern. And Moominpappa stands in his room which is equipped with maritime clutter, looking out of his window through his telescope. The small shy people are in tiny rooms in the basement."
But Tove didn't build this wonderful house to put in a museum. She didn't build it to market her books, or as a wonderful photo opportunity for social media. This house is a labour of love, a work of art, an act of pure creation by someone who felt compelled to write, draw and make from an early age, and for whom imagined universes arrived so fully realised in her head, they could literally be translated into bricks and mortar.
That house, along with so much else - like the sculptures and montages of scenes from the books they made together and put in glass cases - is for me a beautiful representation of why in some ways, Tove Jansson was the ultimate children's writer.
She wasn't just a children's writer, of course, not by a long stretch - but she was one of the greatest artists to write children's books.
In a famous 1961 essay, “The Deceitful Writer of Children’s Books”, Jansson writes that she writes for children not because she is particularly interested in them, or because she wants to entertain or educate them, but much more because she needs to satisfy "the childishness in herself".
This is not emotional immaturity or arrested development, of course - but rather a profound connection as an adult with the intuitive world of childish make believe and play, and a sad awareness at its passing.
Born into a somewhat madcap household of artists, from an early age Jansson was drawing, writing and making, at a dizzyingly prolific rate. It was like a compulsion, and I think any writer would - at certain times - envy that inexhaustible drive to produce and create. She developed her craft in all disciplines over many years, but in the 1970's, was able to sit down and build a toy house for her Moomins just as she might have done as a child at the beginning of the century.
Moominland is the world through the eyes of a child, captured with the skill of an adult, a synthesis of pure-make believe and acute, uninhibited natural observation, a perfect marriage of pictures and words. And it is a world of mystery tinged with an ineluctable sadness. "It was the end of August — the time when owls hoot at night and flurries of bats swoop noiselessly over the garden. Moomin Wood was full of glow-worms, and the sea was disturbed. There was expectation and a certain sadness in the air, and the harvest moon came up huge and yellow. Moomintroll had always liked those last weeks of summer most, but he didn’t really know why.”
(Finn Family Moomintroll)
The Moomins are popular worldwide, very accessible stories with pictures for readers young and old, with a warm and human cast of family characters, but the Moominvalley with its Hattifatteners and the Groke is also a strange, and occasionally frightening place - just like growing up. The mysteries of the wild country beyond are never far away:“The very last house stood all by itself under a dark green wall of fir-trees, and here the wild country really began. Snufkin walked faster and faster straight into the forest. Then the door of the last house opened a chink and a very old voice cried: ‘Where are you off to?’
‘I don’t know,’ Snufkin replied.
The door shut again and Snufkin entered his forest, with a hundred miles of silence ahead of him.”
The genius of Jansson is her ability to take children so simply and so naturally on exciting night journeys down mysterious paths, never to deny the human impulse to grow and to wander - even if gallons of milk, berries and buns will always be waiting in a warm Moominhouse on your return.
The elegant drawings and poetic prose of the Moomins tread the finest of paths between an enticing retreat of warmth, family eccentricity and humour - that we know cannot endure forever - and the mysterious unknowable forest beyond. It's a path every child must take one day, and who better to guide you down that road than a Moomin? Which other cast of creatures so gracefully demonstrate the wonder, mystery and sadness of growing up?
If it is childish to memorialise childhood with such imagination and feeling, whether through a miniature blue house or the pages of a book, then let's always try and write for the childishness in ourselves.
Today, three stories, followed by a few thoughts...
Story 1. The hole.
In my parents’ building in Paris, where I spent most of my childhood, there’s a hole in the wall near the ground - a hole big enough for a child to crawl through, and as a child I would always do so instead of using the door. Most of the time I’d already wriggled through the hole before my parents had found their keys - and I’d open the glass door from the inside, extremely dusty but very conscious of my power.
As time went by, I somehow stopped crawling through the hole.
One day, when I got home from school, I realised I’d forgotten my keys. No problem, I thought, I can just go through the hole. But of course when I tried I couldn’t - it was too narrow for my shoulders.
It didn’t make me sad. But for some time afterwards, when I thought about it, I confusedly wondered - was it really because I’d grown too big for it that I couldn’t go through the hole anymore, or was it because I’d stopped going through the hole that I’d grown too big for it?
Story 2. The spatula.
As a child I was constantly, voraciously hungry. I would actually dream that I was eating roast chicken with cream, or Nutella crêpes or cheese. Only pride would prevent me from crying if I had any reason to believe that another child, or indeed adult, had been given more food than me. I couldn’t focus on anything if there was a vending machine in sight, especially if it sold Kinder Bueno, my favourite chocolate bar and an absolute torture, as I was always divided between the desire to eat each chunk in one go and the temptation to open them up like little boxes and lick the cream inside.
I had a friend whose mum made excellent cakes every day. I often stayed with them on holiday, and my friend and I would prowl like vulture around the kitchen table as her mum finished scraping the dough out of the mixing bowl and into the cake dish with a spoon. Then we’d fight furiously over the remnants of dough in the bowl, with fingers, tongues and chins.
One day, her mum bought a silicon spatula. I’d never seen a silicon spatula before.
We watched in horror as the ruthlessly efficient implement left barely a trail of cake dough in the mixing bowl. Every day after that, we swallowed back tears, and I clearly remember my head spinning with frustrated desire, as increasingly spotless mixing bowls ended up in the sink to be washed. We prayed and implored my friend’s mum to leave us at least a tiny bit, but she was under the impression that it was less useful to us raw than baked.
We devised the perfect crime: we pushed the spatula all the way to the bottom of the cutlery drawer and it fell behind it, and behind the freezer beneath the drawer, with a satisfying CLACK, joining dozens of lost spoons, scissors and other expatriates from the overfilled drawer.
For the next few days the wooden spoon returned and with it the minutes of bowl-licking. Then they bought another spatula.
Story 3. The castle.
My mother was pregnant with my sister; I was five and a half years old. We had an absolutely tiny flat in Paris and my parents were looking for a less absolutely tiny flat. I knew how much they wanted to spend on it, and I ‘helped’ by looking at ads in the windows of estate agencies.
Suddenly I spotted an ad for a castle, a castle, for sale at a much lower price than the one my parents were ready to put into the new flat. It had turrets, an immense garden, a forest.
I listened, without understanding, as my mother explained that they didn’t want a castle, because they wanted to live in Paris. I pointed out that the ad said that it was only half and hour from Paris. My mother laughed and said no, Clementine, listen, we’re not buying a castle. We’re buying a flat in Paris.
I remember thinking, distinctly and with real alarm, feeling that this realisation would have an enormous impact on my future life: my parents are mad. I live with people who are mad.
I have three silicon spatulas now, and when I finally get a permanent job I will likely buy a small house or a flat. Not a castle.
It was ‘us’ children versus ‘them’ adults once upon a time, and now it’s the opposite. They’re really not like us, are they? I’m just not that hungry anymore. Sure, the memory of that hunger prevents me from getting too annoyed at them when they steal bits of mozzarella from the salads before they get to the table (arrghh!!!), or when they fly into a tantrum for an ice cream.
And I think it’s amazing that I once wanted a castle. Amazingly mad.
Don't you think?
It would be possible to write children's stories from all those intense memories, and to write them as if we truly believed that castles should indeed be bought and that cakes should preferably be eaten raw. But would it be true? Would it be honest? We don't... do that anymore.
Would they be our stories now, these nostalgic recollections?
How do we write for children, having changed so much?
Do we want to sound, when we write, like we're imagining that we can still go through the hole? That would leave our whole bodies behind, and what made them grow...
Clémentine Beauvais writes books in both French and English. The former are of all kinds and shapes for all ages, and the latter humour and adventure stories with Hodder and Bloomsbury. She blogs here about children's literature and academia and is on Twitter @blueclementine.
By: Michelina Ouellette,
Blog: Michelle Can Draw
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From the Toy Box, Ltd Gallery
I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be participating in Ltd Art Gallery Seattle’s show “From the Toy Box”. It’s my first piece in a gallery and I was lucky enough for Ltd to choose my illustration for the poster representing some really, really, REALLY awesome talent! I’m so honoured to be in this show amongst these fantastic artists. You can see the event here:http://www.facebook.com/events/769836919741028 and if you’re in Seattle and happen to go, I’d love to hear about it!
This is not a post about the OUP reading scheme. No. My reading trees are more of the green and leafy variety. As I sit now, watching the last leaves of autumn fall, I remember the sinking feeling I used to get as a child at this time of year, when I realised that my reading trees - a solace and refuge - would have to be left till the following spring. Naked and bare of foliage, they were no longer places I could hide with a book.
Ingredients for the perfect reading tree:
1 climbable tree
1 comfortable fork with branch footstool and trunk backrest
1 unputdownable book
enough green leaves to hide under
In these less agile days of middle-age, I prefer a slung hammock, but when I was younger and bendier, climbing trees with a book was my perfect escape from weeding the strawberry beds, or lugging bales of straw and slopping buckets of water over countless fields, or any other undesirable job my parents could dream up for an idle, book-loving child.
My first climbing choice of inside the laurel clump made a springy green cave smelling of rich, rotting evergreen humus and was not terribly satisfactory as a perch, being rather unstable and drippy when it rained, as well as dark and bad for the eyes.
The Victoria plum tree was good in the spring and early autumn but not in the summer when the wasps attacked the ripening plums and anything else in reach. It was also, latterly, near the bonfire, which meant that I read with smarting, smoke-filled eyes when the wind was in the wrong direction.
The right hand of the twin chestnuts on the boundary had a wide horizontal and almost flat branch which was great for reading and also for lying and spying on the house (and on the next-door neighbours in their thatched cottage), hiding me from sight entirely. But when new neighbours moved in, less short-sighted and tolerant than old Mr and Mrs Smith, Complaints Were Made, and I was banned from climbing it on pain of dire punishment. A nosy child (I confess I did have a pair of binoculars on occasion) was not welcome, despite my protestations of innocence and the waving of books as proof.
It was the old cherry in the part of the garden where nobody went, just by the dogs' graves, which was best. That was where I stashed my rope ladder, and found a perfect snug fork just at the right angle for leaning against. It was there that I devoured R.M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island as well as Swiss Family Robinson, (the latter being especially suitable for treetop reading) among many others. The lullaby of the creaking branches, the wind, the rustle of pointed leaves, the occasional adventurous woodpigeon or little brown bird landing above my head, these were the sounds that informed my early reading life. Hammocks are good, but trees are the real thing.
By Denis Sampson
“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road.” It is one of the most celebrated of all fictional beginnings, evoking the essence and tradition of narrative itself, telling a first story to a child, and at the same time the beginning of a very sophisticated kind of biographical fiction, the childhood and youth of an artist. Joyce’s self-portrait in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man absorbed and reinforced a Romantic tradition that assumes the artist’s life is determined by childhood and inevitably grows out of those earliest experiences. It was Baudelaire who proclaimed that “genius is the power to recover childhood” so it is hardly surprising that the shape of the artist’s life is so often set down chronologically, as if it is uniquely and inescapably defined by its starting point and its familial contexts.
Literary biographers, and often the memoirs of artists, have usually reinforced this pattern. Richard Ellmann begins his justly acclaimed biography of Joyce with a chapter entitled “The Family Before Joyce” and comments: “Stephen Dedalus said the family was a net which he would fly past, but James Joyce chose rather to entangle himself and his works in it.” Ellmann takes his cue, then, from Joyce, but it is not only Romantic paradigms and the artists themselves that influenced the shape of literary biography in the twentieth century; perhaps even more important were psychological paradigms, and the idea that biography is a branch of history played a part.
At any rate, common sense seems to endorse this way of beginning and contributes to the expectation that a biography should begin at birth and also sketch the genetic or historical inheritance. We observe people around us growing into adulthood and away from or towards the patterns of behaviour they have known in their childhood. Recollection is always affecting, especially childhood memories, in conversation or in reading. Yet it is selective recollection, and we do not really remember chronologically.In the second half of a lifespan, especially, as we move further away from childhood and may no longer have parents alive, we become aware of many other ways of finding order in a life. We realize, for instance, that there are many beginnings and endings, or phases that seem to break away from, or repeat, earlier patterns.
If we ask when a writing life begins, it may make more sense to focus less on chronology or childhood and more on the moment that allows us to map the beginning of significant accomplishment. For instance, both Proust and Beckett spent fifteen years dithering before they really began the work on which their fame rests; the work that came before would be forgotten without that new beginning. It was in 1909, when Proust composed the essays in Contre Sainte Beuve, that he really discovered the focus and energy that allowed him to begin A la recherche du temps perdu. The five years that followed the end of World War II gave Beckett The Trilogy, Waiting for Godot, and other work of a new stylistic beginning. It might even be said that he began again about the age of forty and that this was the true beginning of his work. Conrad’s decision to write in English may be the decisive moment in his career.
In the end, and in the beginning, it is how people gather tog
It's strange what we remember and what we don't.
I recall going to a hospital with my nan when I was small and that the lobby area was a large circular room. I can still recall the echoing sounds of our footsteps. My mum says this never happened and there is no such hospital in Liverpool.
I also recall a man with a monkey playing an organ in the city centre when I was little. To which I was told to stop being silly and such things hadn't existed since the early 1900s... Muahaha.
While trawling the internet today, I somehow found myself at You Tube searching for old videos of Liverpool and came across this...
...check out the video at about 4:05.
Now all I need to do is find that darn hospital. My quest to prove I am always right continues...
*Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Scab -- pick it.
Booger -- flick it.
Penny -- find it.
Kite string -- wind it.
Horse -- pretend it.
Fort -- defend it.
Snowball -- throw it.
Marigold -- grow it.
Happiness -- scream it.
The future -- dream it.
© Mary Lee Hahn, 2012
Poem #11, National Poetry Month 2012
The first two lines of this poem jumped into my head, and the rest followed quickly behind. It was a fun poem to write. Many lines are ones I've lived...okay, I'll admit it...I've lived EVERY line of this poem! I'm still working on that last line...
Cathy, at Merely Day By Day
, is joining me in a poem a day this month. Other daily poem writers include Amy at The Poem Farm
, Linda at TeacherDance
, Donna at Mainely Write
, Laura at Writing the World for Kids
(daily haiku), Liz at Liz in Ink
(daily haiku), Sara at Read Write Believe
(daily haiku), Jone at Deo Writer
(daily haiku)...and YOU?
Blog: PS4K - Poems and Stories 4 Kids
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To Any Reader - Robert Louis Stevenson. Click READ MORE. As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear, he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.
By: Hazel Mitchell,
Blog: Hazel Mitchell
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Remembering is hard ... especially from younger years. Are the memories from photographs, from tales told to you later in life? Or real snapshots in your mind? Perhaps it's a mixture of them all.
Having been in avoidance of diarying for many years my solution is to recall my memories as visuals.
I believe this will be a worthwhile journey, if difficult at times.
The old refrain: we’ve seen this before and we’ll see it again.
Some disturbed individual buys a bunch of guns and murders a bunch of people. The media falls in love with the story. We endure some rounds of punditry. A few people change their minds on the issues of gun control and mental healthcare, but most of us stand firm in our opinions. Then, after a few days, we move on, until another wayward soul takes some shots at another awful legacy and we all say, “we’ve seen this before and we’ll see it again.”
I rarely address current events on this blog. I almost never mention my politics. But I feel the need to address the issue of guns and gun violence. Don’t worry, I’m not here with boatloads of links and statistics and I don’t think I’m qualified to offer viable solutions. I’m only going to talk about how this issue relates to my life and my writing.
I’ve never owned a real gun, or even fired one. Although I lived a free-range childhood that involved plenty of squirt, rubber dart, and cap guns, my parents didn’t allow firearms in the house. Even BB guns were off limits. If I wanted to shoot an air rifle, I had to arrange a clandestine meeting in the woods with a friend who owned a pump-action Daisy. During one such meeting, I ended up with a welt on my cheek, the result of poor safety precautions and an opportunistic ricochet. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” indeed.
Six or seven years later, when I was studying in London, a lone Englishman at a party full of Americans approached me and asked how many of us were carrying guns. I laughed at the absurdity of his question, but he wasn’t joking. Not only did he believe that all Americans owned and carried guns, he also assumed that we did so when we traveled.
A year after that, on New Year’s Eve, I was in a nearly empty pizza parlor on Bleecker Street when a group of teens in puffy coats entered. They didn’t attempt to order. They just stood amid the tables, eyeing up the cashier. When one teen unzipped his coat, I saw a pistol tucked in his waistband. The cashier knew what was about to happen; he placed his hands flat on the counter and didn’t budge. After a tense minute or two, one of the teens finally said, “not worth it,” and they walked out.
A few years later, in rural upstate New York, I attended a 4th of July party. In lieu of fireworks, the host pulled an Uzi from his impressive gun cabinet and proceeded to shoot a few dozen rounds into the air. I don’t know if he was the legal owner of that Uzi, but I doubt it. I left the party shortly after the entertainment.
Guns haven’t played much of a role in my life of late, except when it comes to my writing. These days, I write books about kids. Because my books are about kids, they’re sold to kids. In my books, some of the characters wield and shoot guns. Those characters are all kids.
During the editorial stages, I have been asked to remove plenty of swearing and kissing from my books. It’s a business decision more than an artistic one. Certain libraries and book-buyers refuse to buy anything in the middle-grade market (i.e. fare for ages 9–12) that features a few hells and a little frenching. And yet, I have never been asked to edit out a gun or an incident of gun violence, even when a 12-year-old character is the perpetrator of that violence. The powers-that-be are okay with all that.
Should they be okay with all that, though? I don’t know. I hope they should be, as long as I’m doing my job as an author, which I believe is to provide an engrossing story with compelling characters whose motivations are relatable a
I spent the last couple of days writing a post for this blog. It was jolly and fun and hopefully entertaining. But after yesterday's news about a horrific and heartbreaking shooting in an American school, I couldn't help feeling that a blog written today should have a different focus.
I write books for children. I write about mermaids and fairies and time travel and pirate dogs. Mostly, though, I write about family and friendship and love and loyalty. These are the things that are important to me. I believe that these are the things that are important to most of us. In one afternoon, in an elementary school in America, at least twenty families have had all of these things taken away from them, by a young man with a gun.
At the time of writing this, there aren't many facts available about the background to any of this, so I can't comment on that. I'm not going to get into the politics of it either – although, if I wanted to, it would be just one simple sentence: America – do something about your gun laws now.
So what do I want to say? I suppose I want to reflect on what kind of a world we live in – what kind of a world we have created. And I want to ask whether it's possible for us to do something about this.
The night before last, I watched a Panorama programme about homelessness in the UK. I thought the same thing then. Innocent children who haven't had a chance yet to make any mark on this world are in situations where they're losing something that so many of us take for granted. Their homes. Yesterday, twenty children had their entire lives taken away from them. And in recent months, we have all heard the appalling stories that have come to light about Jimmy Savile and others who stole hundreds of children's innocence and blighted their lives forever.
We live in a world where space travel is taken for granted, where lives are saved with incredible medicines or operations, where with the touch of a few buttons we can talk to and even see someone on the other side of the planet. We live in - we have created - a world where unbelievable things are possible.
With all this intelligence, how have we not managed to create a world in which our children are safe?
As a children's author, I am quite often asked if I would ever think about writing books for adults. Right now, I can't help thinking – why would I want to do that? Adults are the ones who harm. Adults are the ones who damage. Adults are the ones who should know better.
Children are the ones who see things as they are. Who see the beauty and simplicity and excitement and innocence and incredible potential of this world.
At this moment, I am proud of my job. It is about celebrating childhood – and right now I can't think of anything more worthy of celebration and protection than childhood.
I'm not a parent, but if I was, tonight I would hug my children that little bit tighter. I'm not religious, but tonight I will take my chances and ask God to look after the twenty innocent children who were ripped from this world when their lives had barely begun.
And I will ask us as a society to grieve for their families, to be thankful for our own and to do everything we can each do in our own way to create a world that is worthy of all of the gifts, riches and knowledge that we have.
WordPressers, day in and day out, you entertain us, you make us think, you make us laugh, and you make us grateful to be exposed to so many voices all over the world. It’s a pleasure to read what you’re writing. Like everyone in the community, we value that feeling of connection that comes from reading something that speaks to you, that resonates, that makes you feel not so alone.
For this edition of Freshly Pressed Faves, we’re looking at three posts that do just that, all around the idea of “busy-ness.” Modern society seems to embrace the idea that unless you’re “swamped” or “super busy,” you just aren’t being productive enough. Free time? Fill it up, preferably with something that pays! This attitude permeates children’s lives, too, with scheduled after-school dance classes and soccer practices and violin lessons and foreign language tutors. The idle hours that once allowed kids to daydream seem to be no more. When’s enough enough, though?
Author Tim Kreider believes ‘Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.’ We feel we are nothing, not worthy, unimportant or left out if we have nothing to do.
But there is another aspect to it. Perfectionism – that shadow from our childhoods. We want to be excellent – because if we are, we will be worthy of love. So we take on anything and everything that is thrown us. Even when we are aware we are overwhelmed, we find it hard to say ‘NO’. Because we fear that if we do – people will think less of us. So we end up doing more than our fair share.
Sofagirl at Campari & Sofa writes eloquently about her own fight with the “busy” beast and the scary personal episode that drove her to question it all. Weaving in others’ research on the topic, she presents a compelling argument for taking a step back — and a deep breath — and for refusing to participate in the tyranny of “busy” any longer. Bet you’ll find it difficult to disagree.
As kids we could come up with 16 ways to put our lives on the line using the jungle gym in ways no designer ever intended. They were days when we simply looked at clouds and imagined animals (or teachers or, for the juvenile delinquents, body parts) hiding in the puffy expanse of the heavens. … We were bored, but no one was ever bored enough to learn something.
Except it appears, according to recent research, that boredom is good for the brain. Evidently, boredom switches our brain’s little buttons and the synapses and neurons start firing on more cylinders, pushing us to creativity and intellectual growth.
John Wegner of Consistently Contradictory harkens back to a time when “boredom” and free time were acceptable and even encouraged, when we didn’t rely on technology and scheduling quite so much, and when we allowed our brains to wander. Are we losing the benefits of this today? Should we re-introduce some “slack” into schools? Read John’s convincing and thought-provoking post and you’ll probably be answering “yes.”
When I was a kid, Dad made it clear that ‘mere play’ was being idle—something lazy people did. And boy, you couldn’t get lazier than me.
Michael Maupin from Completely in the Dark takes us back to his childhood and the lasting effects of not being encouraged to “play.” He explains, “As a shadow, it darkened the room, filling me with anxiety and self-doubt: ‘What am I doing now? Is it practical? Is it useful? Shouldn’t I be ashamed?’ … For years that sound, that shadow, was all around. It blocked up my writing, my artwork, my self-esteem — everything. I was psychologically held at gunpoint by an ethic that carries little currency in my world.”
Not one to be bullied, however, Michael has found ways to protect and embrace his natural tendencies towards “play and reverie.” Read his post, and you’ll be inspired to do the same.
Did you read something in the Reader that you think is Freshly Pressed material? Feel free to leave us a link, or tweet us @freshly_pressed.
For more inspiration, check out our writing challenges, photo challenges, and other blogging tips at The Daily Post; visit our Recommended Blogs; and browse the most popular topics in the Reader. For editorial guidelines for Freshly Pressed, read: So You Want To Be Freshly Pressed.
I, blessedly, had very good parents. But, not everyone has very good parents. Parents try to be good - for the most part. But sometimes we/they are not.
Here is an illustrated interview with Maurice Sendak on how hard it is to be a child. He is truly missed.
Thanks to Betsy at Fuse#8
for sharing this. Check out her other Sunday videos.
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Childhood, The Grand Adventure! Kids just wanna have FUN!