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Blog: Perpetually Adolescent
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Review- The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Richard Flanagan has been working on this novel for over 12 years, writing other novels in between. He’d gone through countless drafts, reworked the story, started completely over. The reason it troubled him so much was because central to the story are the Australian POWs who worked on the Thai-Burma death railway. An experience shared by his father. He didn’t just want to get the story right, he had to get the story right. And I believe, deep down in my guts, in my heart and with every fibre of my being that he has got the story right.
Richard Flanagan has written a tragic love story, a deconstruction of heroism and mateship, and captured a side of humanity I’ve never read before. Wars, according to our history books, have beginnings and ends but for those who take part in wars, who are swept up in it’s maelstrom, there is no beginning or end. There is only life. And the damage war causes must be endured by those lucky or unlucky enough to survive it.
Dorrigo Evans is a Weary Dunlop type character. Revered by his fellow soldiers/prisoners and mythologized by his country’s media, politicians and people. But Dorrigo’s experience of War and being a POW doesn’t equate to the image his men needed during their imprisonment nor the one thrust upon him later. He battled his role in the POW camp and tried to hide from the one at home. At the expense of family, friends and love. It is not that these images are based on lies, they just don’t ring true to himself. And after surviving the horror of internment he can no longer make sense of the emotions of the life he must now grapple with.
Flanagan structures this novel uniquely. I think he was trying to base his story on a Japanese style but am not 100% sure. We start with Dorrigo’s early years growing up in rural Tasmania and his journey to becoming a surgeon but in between we start to get snippets of his time in the POW camp. We jump to Dorrigo’s later years before jumping back to his time just before the war and an affair that will change Dorrigo irrevocably. When we get to his time at the POW camp the story is contracted around one day, one 24 hour period, but it doesn’t feel like just one day, it feels like many lifetimes. We barely follow Dorrigo through this day as we have already glimpsed bits and pieces and will re-live yet more. Instead we get everyone else’s story. The other prisoners, the guards, the Japanese officers in charge. Flanagan clearly shows us each characters’ motivations, desires, inner turmoil and demons. As the day unfolds we experience the terror, the devastation, the depredation, the hope, the loyalty, the betrayal, the choices of life on the Thai-Burma death railway.
But Flanagan’s novel is not just about what happened on the death railway but also what happened after. How it was explained and justified. How it was hidden and run away from. How justice can be escaped but is also used as revenge. And how it never really ended for anyone involved.
We often talk about the Anzac spirit in Australia but we rarely confront it. War is never altruistic, no matter which side you are on. Survival brings out the best and worst in people as does victory, as does love. Flanagan explores this warts and all. Dorrigo is not a hero, nor is he a bad man, father, husband. He is all of theses things and he is neither. This is a masterwork by one of Australia’s best writers.
Buy the book here…
Many thanks to Yumiko Fukumoto for the translation and the big help in getting The Room of Wonders published in the Land of the Rising Sun!
Here is the cover, with and without the typical band over the jacket.
Earlier today in Tokyo, Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki held a press conference attended by over 600 journalists to formally announce his retirement. He acknowledged that he has said he would quit before: “I’ve mentioned that I would retire many times in the past, so a lot of you must be thinking ‘Oh, not again.’ But this time I am quite serious.”
Miyazaki explained his reasons for why he no longer wants to direct animated features:
I’m not sure you all know exactly what an animation director does. And even if you say ‘animation director’ everyone has their own way of working. I started as an animator, so I have to draw. If I don’t draw, I can’t express myself.
So what happens is, I have to take my glasses off and draw like this. I would have to do that forever. No matter how physically fit and healthy you are, it’s a fact that year after year the amount of time you’re able to concentrate on that decreases. I have experienced this personally, so I know. So, for example I leave my desk 30 minutes earlier compared to during Ponyo. Next I guess it’ll be one hour earlier than that.
Those physical issues that occur with age, there’s nothing you can do about them, and hating them doesn’t make a difference. There’s the opinion that i should just do things a different way, but if I could do that I would have already done a long time ago, so I can’t. Therefore, all I can do is persist in doing things on my terms, and I made the call that feature films would be impossible.
Miyazaki is leaving feature animation on a high note. His new film Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) is Japan’s top-grossing film of 2013. At the conference, Miyazaki said that he will continue going into the studio “as long as I can drive and commute back and forth between my home and the studio.” He expects to work for at least another ten years on projects of his choosing, but refused to divulge what those might be, other than hinting that he would become more involved with organizing exhibitions at the Ghibli Museum.
In a self-effacing moment, one of many during the conference, he related what happened when he told his wife that he was retiring:
So, this is the way the conversation about my retirement with my wife went—I said, “Please keep making my bento,” and she said, “Hmph…at your age it’s unheard of to have someone still making your lunch everyday.” So I said, “I am terribly sorry, but I’ll still leave it to you.” I don’t know if I said it that politely.
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
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Interesting animation is being produced everywhere you look nowadays. This evening, we’re delighted to present animated fragments from six different countries: Chile, Iran, UK, US, Japan and Spain. For more, visit the Animated Fragments archive.
“Lollypop Man—The Escape” (work-in-progress) by Estudio Pintamonos (Chile)
“Bazar” by Mehdi Alibeygi (Iran)
“Time” by Max Halley (UK)
Hand-drawn development animation for Wreck-It Ralph to “explore animation possibilities before [Gene's] model and rig were finalised” by Sarah Airriess (US)
“Rithm loops” for an iPhone/iPad app by AllaKinda (Spain)
“Against” by Yukie Nakauchi (Japan)
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By: Grant Overstake,
Maggie Steele, the storybook heroine who vaults over the moon, has been attracting thousands of visitors from around the world. So many visitors, in fact, that she’s using a time zone map to keep track of them all.* People are … Continue reading
Japanese filmmaker Tao Tajima filmed the footage for Night Stroll around his Tokyo home. Then, with the aid of motion tracking, he added motion graphics and particle reflections to complete the piece. It’s always a treat to see someone use digital tools with restraint and thoughtfulness. The live-action backgrounds are somewhat superfluous; Tajima’s sense of mo-graph design is so strong that I’d venture the piece would be just as effective against a stark black background. Either way, it’s solid work.
(Thanks, Matt Jones)
A Japanese beverage company is encouraging its drinkers to animate their drink bottles after they’ve finished drinking its contents. They are printing a series of Disney characters on the sides of their tea-drink packaging. Each drawing is numbered, like this:
After someone has collected all the bottles in a series, they can photograph the draiwngs to create an animation sequence:
More details (in Japanese) HERE.
(Thanks, JL, via Cartoon Brew’s Reader Submission Forum)
As most Cartoon Brew readers are aware by now, we’ve had a “no crowdfunding” policy in place for a long time. But times change, and as more animation filmmakers incorporate crowdfunding into their production plans, we feel that it’s necessary to provide a platform for noteworthy projects that need funding. Starting today, we’re going to try something new by featuring a curated selection of crowdfunded animation projects on Fridays. We especially aim to give exposure to promising animation that may slip through the cracks due to a lack of exposure in mainstream media.
For starters, I’d like to highlight WONDER 365 Animation Project by Japanese filmmaker Mirai Mizue. Mizue creates his abstract films the old-school way by drawing and painting onto paper, but he uses digital compositing techniques to fantastic effect:
If you follow Mizue on Vimeo, you know that he’s been working diligently on WONDER 365 for the past 365 days in a row. Mizue received a grant from the Agency for Cultural Affairs in Japan, which allowed him to hire over 150 painters to help color the film, but he’s still looking for funding to complete the music recording and post production.
The Wonder 365 crowdfunding effort continues through April 30. The project is currently 22% funded. Here is the film’s trailer:
Within 15 seconds of hitting the play button on Kou Kou by Takashi Ohashi, I did something I rarely do when watching films on my laptop: I turned off the lights at my workspace to create a dark theater environment. Good abstract animation, like a good song, demands the audience’s full attention, and I sensed this was going to be something special.
Takashi Ohashi, who has been featured on our Animated Fragments feature, has created a masterful piece of abstract animation with Kou Kou. Ohashi does something rare for abstract filmmakers, which is to organize his visual ideas with the clarity, pacing and dynamism of a more traditionally narrative storyteller. The second ‘movement’ that begins around the 4-minute mark packs a real punch. The competing red and blue offsets create tension and instability in the imagery, which serves to heighten the visual excitement.
To a non-Japanese speaker, the film is a beautiful visual experience, but the Japanese speaker will enjoy an additional layer of depth. Ohashi sent Cartoon Brew the following explanation of the film:
Kou Kou is a visual work based on an abstract animation synchronized with a song comprising the unique syllabic sounds of the Japanese language, without actually using any full words.
It is in the elements of sounds from which words are made that we find syllabic sounds. In the case of the Japanese language, the linguistic roots, or ‘Yamato Kotoba,’ each individual sound possesses a unique meaning. For example, words containing ‘su’ exhibit a frictional characteristic and hence are used to represent a linear or direct movement. In modern-day Japanese, ‘sasu’ or ‘susumu’ represent a concrete, tangible action.
Furthermore, words with fewer syllables are used to express simple onomatopeia-like words, whereas the more syllables a word contains, the more concrete it becomes.
However, although a given syllabic combination may not be understood despite its constituent syllables possessing their own meanings, there are particular instances where we are able to discover meaning from a meaningless word.
This is what I feel is most interesting about the Japanese language and why I’ve thought to express myself by combining just how good the combination of vowels and consonants unique to Japanese resonates with music synched to abstract animation.
This musical composition was made by recording 6 natural voice vocal tracks from singer Luschka and selecting lyrics with Japanese syllabic combinations which afforded expression. The track comprises words which themselves are meaningless, but carefully combining syllables and their respective unique resonances ensured highly musical peaks and troughs.
Director: Takashi Ohashi
Composer: Yuri Habuka
Mixing: Masumi Takino
Drums: Kyojun Tanaka (from DCPRG)
11 March 2011 the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan.
The country is still rebuilding from the natural and nuclear disaster that resulted from the quake.
Books are beginning to appear to help students understand this tragedy.
Click for Interview with Contributors Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani.
The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, resulted in a massive tsunami that caused the loss of life and livelihood for thousands of people in the northern Tohoku region of Japan. So many teens in Tohoku have lost parents, siblings, relatives, friends, homes, schools, and huge swaths of their cities, towns and villages. Their teen worlds have been upended.
Tomo was published on March 10, 2012. Proceeds from the sales of Tomo will go to organizations that assist teens in the quake and tsunami hit areas. Tomo, which means friend in Japanese, aims to bring Japan stories to young adult readers worldwide, and in so doing, help support teens in Tohoku.
Click to find out how you may be able to obtain a free copy
In just over a week, a group of unpaid professional and citizen journalists who met on Twitter created a book to raise money for Japanese Red Cross earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. In addition to essays, artwork and photographs submitted by people around the world, including people who endured the disaster and journalists who covered it, 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake contains a piece by Yoko Ono, and work created specifically for the book by authors William Gibson, Barry Eisler and Jake Adelstein. “The primary goal,” says the book’s editor, a British resident of Japan, “is to record the moment, and in doing so raise money for the Japanese Red Cross Society to help the thousands of homeless, hungry and cold survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. The biggest frustration for many of us was being unable to help these victims. I don’t have any medical skills, and I’m not a helicopter pilot, but I can edit. A few tweets pulled together nearly everything – all the participants, all the expertise – and in just over a week we had created a book including stories from an 80-year-old grandfather in Sendai, a couple in Canada waiting to hear if their relatives were okay, and a Japanese family who left their home, telling their young son they might never be able to return.” ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the price you pay (net of VAT, sales and other taxes) goes to the Japanese Red Cross Society to aid the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. If you’d like to donate more, please visit the Japanese Red Cross Society website
The oldest bird in the world, documented with banding, is Wisdom, the Midway Albatross. She was on Midway when the Japanese Tsunami hit and this is her amazing story of survival of manmade and natural disasters for over 60 years. She has survived the dangers of living wild, plastic pollution, longline fishing, lead poisoning, and the Japanese earthquake. At 60, she’s still laying eggs and hatching chicks. It’s a story of survival and hope amidst the difficulties of life.
This title examines an important historic event – the March 11, 2011, earthquake that spawned a devastating tsunami in Japan. Easy-to-read, compelling text explores the dual disaster that resulted in thousands of deaths and left many people homeless. This book also details the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant near Japan’s northeast coast and the recovery efforts following the disasters.
Filed under: Causes
Tagged: 11 March
The greatest hamburger-themed stickers Disney has ever produced.
Delicious izakaya in Tokyo with Merrick, Leo & KB. My favorite dishes were the kimchi udon pasta & the tofu cheesecake. YUM.
Gion Kitana, as recommended by Tara (formerly) of Sweet Breams. Make sure you get the dekitate, their fresh ice cream. So good.
Yakisoba at Mizuno, Osaka. Their okonomiyaki is out of this world. I discovered the restaurant by following two people in Osaka who seemed to be on a mission to eat. I do that when I travel. Not creepy.
Sushidai in Tokyo.
Matcha green tea paste
at Ippodo Tea, recommended by Yoko of Homako
Kaboucha fried goodness.
Thanks to the lovely friends who sent suggestions and made our trip that much more delicious and delightful. Special shout to Merrick for housing KB & me, and teaching us some key Japanese words. Good host. Arigatou gozaimasu.
In Kyoto, Kevin took me to Kanga-an Temple
, a temple with a hidden bar once the sun goes down.
We sipped on Japanese whiskey (finally!!).
“The pace is slow here so it calms you down,” says Yamada [the bartender]. “It’s not the drinks, it’s the garden that relaxes you” (from the Japan Times).
After Kyoto, Kevin & I stayed in Eko-in Temple
in Koyasan. The train ride was so pretty.
Best tofu ever.
The view! It was nice to wander the halls and find random rooms and studies. The best parts were the fire ceremony in the morning, relaxing in the onsen, and the table in the room with an electric blanket as the tablecloth. Glorious. We basically lived under the table.
And then there was Totoro! I happened upon him many times before actually saying hello at the Ghibli Museum.
I've been to Japan once before for the Sakura Festival. Next on my list was the Sapporo Snow Festival in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. Boy was it cold but beauuuuutiful (and delicious!).
The snow festival in Sapporo is well known, but there's also one in Asahikawa, the second largest city in Hokkaido. We got to see the ice artists in action chiseling, sawing, and brushing away the blocks of ice into gorgeous, tremendously detailed sculptures.
This Transformer tripled as a sculpture, a performance stage and, to the right, a gigantic slide! You sit your bum down on a piece of laminated newspaper with a loop of nylon rope and slide down 150 feet of ice into a pile of snow. So. Much. Fun.
Miso ramen from the original Santouka
in Asahikawa. They have locations in CA, and even in the Philippines!
A piping hot bowl of broth and scallops for 400 yen. Yes please.
8am breakfast at Donburi Chaya in Sapporo.
Cheesy ramen at Karin
Blue & brick building is Otaru Brewery
. I had a "smoked" beer. Delicious. Worth a visit.
Kita No Ice Cream
in Otaru. Left, uni & taro. Right, sake and squid ink. All very good.
Hokkaido is known for their dairy so if you do visit, please have cheese, caramels, hot milk & sake, and most importantly, vanilla soft serve ice cream. It is so very much unlike anything you'll ever taste (my favorite ice cream in the world), you will eat it walking through the snow, in 20 degree weather. It is that good. At least Kevin and I thought so :)
As some may know, I'm back in Tokyo all through the summer, to organise an exhibition (more on that shortly), run a workshop for SCBWI Tokyo on the 19th, see as many old friendly faces as possible, and basically to just re-connect with my former home of 21 years.
It's very good to be back, even though school holidays dictate daughter and I are here at the hottest time of year. Most people here can't understand why I would want to come back to Japan while the Olympics are on in London, and in this heat. Fortunately I love the Japanese summer. There's a unique ambience to the city at this time of year, things slow down, less bustle, more time for contemplation.
Last night I dreamed that Tokyo was like an ice cream slowly melting in the heat. In reality it's not exactly as cool as ice cream, and it's the people who feel melted, not the city.
I always have a lot to contemplate when I come back here, most of it connected to the sudden death of my wife in 2007 and subsequent decision to return to the UK. Maki's presence is always with me, but never more so than when I tread the familiar streets of Tokyo. The comfort of intimate knowledge here pulls me back. This still feels like home, it's like an old familiar musical instrument that you can just lose yourself in, make beautiful sounds with. I don't feel the same connection with anywhere in the UK, even after 5 years back there. It's definitely time to move on from the past and become more enthusiastic with life in England.
It's been 2 years since I was in Tokyo last, this has been the longest time away from Japan since I lived here. Some things have changed, superficially the shops in Shibuya and other places, but still it's the same old city. One thing that has surprised me is the invisibility of the Tsunami and Fukushima in Tokyo. Outside the under-reported demos, Tokyo just carries on as it always has, last years' disaster is almost completely invisible. Such stoicism and willingness to "stay calm and carry on " is both reassuring and worrying. People are willing enough to relate their memories of the earthquake, but no-one generally talks about the ongoing problem of Fukushima. There's a sense of resignment, of helpless resentment in the face of challenges. The government has never listened much to the wishes of the people in the past, so the mechanism for effective dissent is underdeveloped, there are plenty of opinions, but most people stay on the wings. There is much talk of the nuclear issue of course, yesterday was the anniversary of Hiroshima, there was much on the TV, some comparisons with Nuclear energy in Japan today. The media is covering the issues to a point.
But generally, life just carries on as it always has. Hot, sultry, vibrant and determined. If Tokyo melts it won't be due to sunshine. Despite the mixed emotions and loneliness coming back here I'm enjoying Tokyo immensely, though I am missing the euphoria of the London Olympics a bit. Unless you watch things live (late at night) Japanese TV only shows the progress of Japanese athletes, so I've only seen snippets of the Olympics. Oh well, can't have everything.
Tsumiki No Ie from lennie small on Vimeo.
"Tsumiki No Ie" is the sad and beautiful winner of the 2009 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. I know, I'm very late. I didn't know about it until children's author Trevor Kew
sent it to me yesterday. Thank you, Trevor!
And oh! This short film has a picture book adaptation published by Hakusensha, Inc. Must be gorgeous. Enjoy!
Blog: Manga Maniac Cafe
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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.
Holly Thompson’s Orchards was one of my favorite reads in 2011. I loved the book, and it got me hooked on novels in free verse; previously, I wouldn’t touch them with a 10 foot pole. Her latest release, The Language Inside, will be in stores 2013. I can hardly wait!
A beautiful novel in verse that deals with post-tsunami Japan, Cambodian culture, and one girl’s search for identity and home.
Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with her grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.
Emma feels out of place in the United States, begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother’s urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena’s poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return early to Japan.
What are you waiting on?
The Japanese section of IBBY, JBBY, was an important presence at this year’s Congress in London. I will post more fully on the session that they presented; for today’s Poetry Friday I want to highlight a book that was part of a display of new picture books from Japan – “The Expression of Japanese Children’s (Picture) Books After March 11th”.
JBBY Board member Atsuko Hayakawa showed me a picture book published in July this year called “Sagashiteimasu”, which translates as “I Have Been Searching For…” or “I Am Searching” . It’s a set of fourteen poems by Arthur Binard (a long-term resident in Japan and translator of this book highlighted by Sally last year). Each poem is in the voice of an object in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum – an object that was left behind when the owner was killed by the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Beautifully composed photographs of each object by Tadashi Okakura accompany the poems.
Here’s the blurb on the book from the leaflet I was given ( if it becomes available as a pdf, I’ll add a link) -
A stopped clock, a pair of gloves without an owner, a charred, radioactive lunchbox… These are among the fourteen everyday items, all atomic-bombed on August 6th 1045, presented in this photography book as ‘storytellers,’ each one revealing its tale to the modern reader. Since the morning of that day when Pika-don (the atomic bomb) was dropped on Hirsohima, these objects have been searching for the life they once knew, or for the familiarity of their owners who suddenly disappeared. The author, who was born and raised in the United States, is also a poet who has lived in Japan for many years. Focussing on the devastation not as the history of the past, but as the reality we face now, the author alerts the readers to the catastrophic potential of nuclear fission with as little as 1.0kg of uranium, and advocates against the reliance on nuclear power.
The book is in Japanese but you can read this insightful article here about how Binard came to write the poems, with some translations of extracts: enough to make me wish I could read the whole book. The image that really struck me was of a beautiful purple dress. I think it must be this one. It is very, very sobering, reading the stories behind the artifacts in the Hiroshima Memorial Museum’s Peace Database, and from the translations in the article, I can imagine just how powerful these poems must be. Thank you, Atsuko-san, for showing this book to me.
This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat – head on over…
The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka
There is a dark truth about writers. When we read good stuff, we get itchy fingers. Yep, we are word thieves, looting others work for nuggets of amazingness. My fingers weren't just itching by the time I got done with The Buddha in the Attic
, they were all aflame.
Why, pray tell? Otsuka pulls off what few have pulled off well - the perfect first person plural POV story. Can you believe it? An entire story told in first person plural, as in - "On the boat, we
were mostly virgins." Or - "That night our
husbands took us
quickly. They took us
At this point, I should probably sum up the plot - this book is about mail order brides from Japan in early 20th century U.S. - lest you get the impression this is the eastern version of Fifty Shades of Grey
. It's not. It's that rare literary creature - high concept that is literary. Otsuka proves they are not mutually exclusive terms.
Otsuka also seems to know instinctively exactly where the plural first person POV can begin to wear and breaks it up with short, individualized experiences - "He's healthy, he doesn't drink, he doesn't gamble, that's all I needed to know." They give the story traction since much of it works like a Greek chorus chanting en masse. The effect is to make the experiences of the thousands of mail order brides represented in this story a conglomeration of infinite, unique facets that blend into one voice retelling history.
So, if you are looking for a meaty read, or your fingers are itching for a good steal, get The Buddha in the Attic
. It won't disappoint.
For other great Fall harvests, skip over to Barrie Summy's website
. The gourd of good reading is overflowing this season!
Here’s a gem I saw in Ottawa a couple weeks ago: “100% Renewable Energy” by Amica Kubo and Tori is a colorful kawaii intro to clean, renewable energy resources. The film was sponsored by WWF Japan as part of a campaign to encourage renewable energy over fossil fuels and nuclear power.
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Today's Picture Book Roundup features older winners of the Caldecott Medal.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
I recently completed a class, "The Caldecott Medal: Understanding Distinguished Art in Picture Books,"
offered by the Association for Library Service to Children
(ALSC), and taught by K.T. Horning.
In addition to learning much that I didn't know about art, I had the opportunity to encounter or revisit some Caldecott Medal
winners that predate my career as a librarian. I have been working in a library since 2005, and received my masters degree and first professional librarian position in 2007. The Caldecott Medal has been awarded since 1938. Clearly, I had a lot of catching up to do.
Though I did not read them all, I did read many older winners. Here are some of my favorites from the years prior to 1990:(In order by publication date - award dates are the January following the publication year)
- Langstaff, John. 1955. Frog Went A-Courtin'. New York: Harcourt Brace. Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky.
Richly detailed and expressive animals illustrate this favorite old folk song. (If you don't know the song, Frog Went A-Courtin',
Burl Ives' rendition was a classic) This is my favorite of all the older Caldecotts.
- Mosel, Arlene. 1972. The Funny Little Woman. New York: Dutton. Illustrated by Blair Lent.
Humorous, with inventive illustrations, the funny little woman travels to a world beneath her simple home in Japan.
- Yorinks, Arthur. 1986. Hey. Al. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. Illustrated by Richard Egielski.
Generally disliked by most of my classmates, this quirky, surreal story about a man and his dog really grows on you.
- Yolen, Jane. 1987. Owl Moon. New York: Philomel. Illustrated by John Schoenherr.
I have been fortunate enough to hear
owls in the night many times, though the only ones I have been able to spot are the low-flying burrowing owls. In Owl Moon
, the thrill of a night-time owling expedition is captured brilliantly in both illustration and prose.
- Young, Ed. 1989. Lon Po Po:A Red-Riding Hood Story from China. New York: Philomel.
A masterpiece of danger, suspense and courage - a classic folktale. The only one of my picks written and illustrated by the same person, it's no surprise that it's a pitch-perfect pairing of text and art.A complete list of Caldecott Medal winners 1938-present, may be found here.
I've left off many other wonderful old medal winners, I know. Feel free to chime in with your favorite Caldecott winners from the 1930s-1980s.
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
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There is a mind-boggling breadth of expression and experimentation across the contemporary global animation scene. The short animation clips and exercises that I offer in Animated Fragments represent just a glimpse of the fresh ideas being explored by today’s animators:
“QQQ” Trailer by YungSung Song (South Korea/Japan)
“Feuerwerk” by Joshua Catalano (France)
“More Than A Feeling” by Matt Reynolds (US)
“CVTV” by Saigo No Shudan (Japan)
“Feminine Flow” by Rickard Bengtsson (Sweden): “This animation, except the subtle background texture, is created 100% in After Effects. All of the animation is created and keyframed by hand using lots of masks and layers.”
Review as part of our current theme of Cats and Dogs in Multicultural Children’s Books
Betty Jean Lifton, photography by Eikoh Hosoe,
Taka-chan and I: A Dog’s Journey to Japan by Runcible
New York Review Children’s Collection, 2012 (reprint of 1967 edition)
Illustrated with luminous black-and-white photographs by the art photographer Eikoh Hosoe and inspired by her experiences in 1960s Japan, Betty Jean Lifton’s wry and witty 1967 Taka-chan and I, is, happily, back in print.
Hosoe’s photographs of adorable 5-year-old Taka-chan with Runcible, Lifton’s Weimaraner-narrator, evoke a fabled timelessness. (Children and parents may recognize his name as Edward Lear’s invented adjective.) Runcible lived in Japan with Lifton and her husband, psychiatrist and writer Robert Jay Lifton. His story begins on Cape Cod (US), where a particularly enthusiastic dig in the sand takes him far underground with no way home. At long last he discovers that he’s dug his way to Japan. The photograph of him emerging from the sand nose-to-nose with Taka-chan, bowing from the hip to greet him, is priceless.
Taka-chan is being detained by the Black Dragon. Ominous images of girl and dog in his shadowy “palace” create suspense; the dragon is later revealed to be an elaborate sculpture (embodying, folk-tale fashion, the dragon spirit). He’s peeved that Taka-chan’s disloyal fishing village has ceased to feed dragons who protect the fishermen, but if by sundown Runcible places a white flower before the most loyal person in Japan, Taka-chan will be free. Runcible negotiates: Taka-chan escorts him on his mission.
Off they go, Taka-chan in a little straw hat and pinafore dress. In busy Tokyo, they are separated. Runcible looks for her in the Emperor’s gardens, then gets fed at a sushi shop. A deer tells him the most loyal person in the land is Hachiko, the dog who returned daily to Shibuya Station for a decade after his master’s death and whose statue commemorates his loyalty.* Dog and girl are reunited, flower is bestowed, girl is released, and eventually Runcible loyally digs his way home to his own master.
Lifton’s story is a delightful take on the traditional Japanese folk stories she loved; Hosoe’s images imbue her text with magic. Taka-chan, in a summer kimono, feeding Runcible with chopsticks at a formal low table in a tatami room, is unforgettable, her gesture and expression as ingenuous as Runcible’s soulful look. A photograph of the author, photographer and dog at the back of the book accompanies amusing brief biographies of each. Taka-chan and I is a classic to be cherished for generations.
*Hachiko’s story became a Japanese film in 1987; a 2009 adaptation for American audiences starred Richard Gere.
By: Aline Pereira
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Felicia Hoshino, Japanese translation by Akiko Hisa,
Sora and the Cloud
Sora and the Cloud is award-winning illustrator Felicia Hoshino’s debut as an author. Featuring Sora, a little boy whose name means “sky,” this very delicate, whisper-like story in English and Japanese is about Sora discovering the world with the help of a fluffy cloud friend. And how appropriate that cloud and sky should come together!
While Sora and Cloud float around town dreaming up adventures, little Sora gets to see many familiar places (some readers will recognize the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Chinatown) and to learn more about his Japanese heritage. “Like a mobile in the breeze, Sora’s sky adventure spins all around him,” until he drifts gently into sleep and back down to earth, where more adventures await. The last page shows Sora and his family relaxing together under a big tree – the image of his little sister looking up to the sky and saying hello to a cloud fittingly pointing to the universality of children’s sense of wonder and boundless imagination.
Fans of Hoshino’s illustration work in A Place Where Sunflowers Grow and Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin will find the watercolors/mixed media in this bilingual treat a treasure trove to pore over and marvel at. The double spread of cute ants busily moving around town, matching Sora’s impression of people as tiny ants when seen from up above, is priceless. It adds a touch of sweet humor to a story that is all warmth, delicacy and gentle embrace.
Sora and the Cloud soars in more ways than one, and is a perfect story to share with very young ones who are starting to look at the world with wonder and amazement.
The short Japanese phrases and cultural references sprinkled throughout the book are translated and explained in the end matter, where we also learn that a portion of the book’s proceeds go to the Japan Earthquake Relief.
A Gum Boy (Kuchao) by Masaki Okuda is a 2010 student film produced at the Tokyo University of the Arts. The film addresses difficult subject matter—adolescent ostracism—through a creative and non-literal use of animation that marries the fluid grace of a watercolor style with frenzied use of camera and cutting. Okuda’s mastery of film technique, narrative and visual style elevates Gum Boy beyond the average student film, and for that matter, the average professional short film as well.
Direction, Animation and Editing: Masaki Okuda
Music: Daisuke Matsuoka
Song: Yushiro Kuramochi
Sound Design: Kyohei Takahashi
Samisen: Kohdai Minoda
Sound Design: Kyohei Takahashi
Mixing Engineer: Yoshito Morita
Music Mixing Engineer: Shinpei Kusaka
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