Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Off to New York!

I'll be arriving tomorrow in New York for the 2012 Children's Publishing Conference at Scholastic!!  I'm very excited, and will be sure to post when I get back about all the wonderful speakers and the conference overall.  I've been trying to make time to write up my posts for the Hunger Games film as well as my book review for Sonya Hartnett's The Midnight Zoo...  Unfortunately I haven't gotten a chance, but I guess I'll have a lot of posting to do when I get back :)

Till then!

Some of the spots I'm hoping to explore:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Alice Hoffman Discussing "The Dovekeepers"

I'm currently reading Alice Hoffman's newest novel, The Dovekeepers: A Novel.  Unlike most of the books on my summer list, this is not a children's book, but I wanted to share this video of the author discussing what inspired her to write this work.  This is actually the video I watched a few months back which got me interested in reading the book and about a week ago it finally came to be my turn on the library's requests!  Hope some of you may pick up this book as well or at least may be interested in this amazing history that Alice Hoffman discusses in this video and illuminates in her novel.

The Hunger Games Film, thoughts to come...

Finally saw The Hunger Games film tonight! Will hopefully post my thoughts on it tomorrow, but for now here's a screen shot of a pinterest board I created after watching the film, please CLICK on the image or the link below to see the pictures in a larger format:

I found so many similarities to Depression era America in the film's aesthetic, I really enjoyed the visuality and aesthetic that they created, especially in District 12!
Here's the actual link to my pinterest board for The Hunger Games to see the pictures better: http://pinterest.com/illuminate90/the-hunger-games/

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Harry Potter Conference: Children's Literature and Academia

There has been a lot of talk this week in academic circles and specifically in the children's literature world about a conference that took place last week at St. Andrews University.  The Guardian put out an article, you can read it here, which tried to string out the pros and cons to an academic conference devoted to the Harry Potter book series.  The article seemed to lean towards the side of academics like John Mullan, a professor of English at University College London, who obviously believe that children's literature is not worthy of academic study, since it is "not for grownups".  This article was followed up with a response at the UK's Huffington Post culture blog with an article written by B.J. Epstein, a professor of literature and translation at East Anglia University and who has devoted much time to the study of children's literature, who pointed out the many benefits and worthwhile reasons that children's literature should be studied in an academic setting, here's that article, definitely work reading.  Professor Epstein states the following in her article: 

"Why is work for children not an appropriate subject for academic study? One could turn this question around and ask how anything could possibly be more important than what the next generation reads and is taught.
What children are exposed to says a lot about our society. How can we not want to explore this? How can we not consider it absolutely vital to study and analyse what we are telling children in literature and how we are telling them it?"
And to her many wonderful reasons I would like to add something that for some reason seems to never be considered or mentioned as much, that children's books, good children's books, are extremely well written!  They are works of literary, and often visual, art in their own right.  Moreover, not only are authors specifically of children's literature wonderful creators, from Lewis Carroll to Roald Dahl, but there are many so-called "grown up" authors who have tried their hand at children's literature and have created wonderful works for children that are no less works of great literature than that aimed at adults.  To add to this point I would recommend taking a look at a few posts over at the blog "Brain Pickings" edited by Maria Popova in which she has posted a few times on children's books written by extremely well known "grown up" authors, from Aldous Huxley to Virginia Woolf and T.S. Eliot to Ian Fleming.  Here are two of the links to her blog posts on this subject: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/07/19/7-childrens-books-by-adult-literature-authors/ AND http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/07/25/childrens-books-by-adult-authors-2/
Thank you to all of the wonderful professors throughout the world who study the art of children's literature and give it the respect it deserves, and to the many universities who actually have departments for the study of this wonderful piece of human culture!

BOOK REVIEW: My Dad's a Birdman

"I've got me wings and me faith," said Dad.  Isn't that all we really have in the end, wings to help us rise and fall throughout our lives, and faith in ourselves, our family and friends and what the future will bring?  This is one of the most delightful and refreshing books I've read in a while!  Jackie Crow and his daughter Lizzie share the unique bond of a father and daughter, struggling to, although subtlety, to cope with the loss of Lizzie's mom.  We, the reader, are like Lizzie set between the imaginative, hopeful whimsy of her "birdman" father and her grounded, realistic Auntie Doreen.  Set in a northern English town, we meet Lizzie early one morning as she gets herself ready for school and as we come to learn is playing the role of a sort of parent figure for her father.  Quick, witty and smart Lizzie is worried for her Dad as he trudges through his days, the only light in his eye when he talks about birds and his hope to fly.  Soon, the "Human Bird Competition" comes to town and Jackie is ready to enter.  The story takes readers alight as we fly along through the beautiful illustrations from Polly Dunbar and put our faith in the characters in this whimsically, quirky modern British fairy tale of sorts (with a narrative voice that begs the reader to try out an accent for fun!).  Will Jackie and Lizzie really fly?  Read to find out! (Perfect for a read aloud, Ages 6 and up)

Here's a wonderful review from the Guardian of a play that was created from the book over in England:
Images from the show:

And a link to more of Dunbar's work, also from the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/gallery/2010/sep/21/gallery-penguin-polly-dunbar

Monday, May 21, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: King Matt the First*

I felt much like King Matt, who stayed up until all hours of the night working on reforms and reading letters or worrying about his upcoming decisions for his country, two nights ago when I sat up reading the last chapters of the book about him called “King Matt the First” by Janusz Korczak. 

Hailed as “One of the greatest children’s books ever written” by Esme Raji Codell on the cover, with other glowing reviews from the late Maurice Sendak and Yann Martel (author of Life of Pi) I was ready to dive into an incredible book.   The story follows the highs and lows of young Matt, a prince orphaned at a young age and left with the task of ruling a country as it’s king (an unnamed European nation).  Matt feels pigeonholed between his own wishes for change, his desire to play and have fun like normal kids, traditions of royalty, and the advice of his ministers.  As he continues on his journey, running off to fight at the front and meeting the “sad king”, Matt matures and really takes his place as ruler.  After these experiences we see Matt blossom.  However this is not to say that Matt is perfect or the ideal child or ruler, he makes mistakes and has flaws, but that is something the book is trying to tell its readers, that there is no black and white, there is a large gray space in life. 

I must admit that at times the reading seemed to go a bit slowly, but the story is written in such a way that I don’t think you will really put it aside because you want to know what will happen to Matt, will his attempts to lead his country succeed, are his ministers there for the good of the people or do they have personal motives, will Matt return from the “land of the cannibals”, how will the children’s parliament turn out, and most importantly will Matt’s country be taken to war once again, and who can Matt really trust?

I definitely recommend this book, for ages 10 and up and I it would be a great read aloud!  Also, look up the author because he has an amazing and inspiring story, here’s a quick link to Wikipedia for a brief overview of his life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janusz_Korczak  

Interesting image I found on dribble.com inspired by King Matt the First, great commentary on how Matt begins, simply a child puppet of the ministers, but does he stay this way? Read it for yourself and find out:

* Thanks to Emily Murphy who's teaching a course this fall at the University of Florida on Golden Age Children's literature, I found this book when I came across the text list for her class and King Matt was on it!  I had never heard of it before or of Janusz Korczak, so thanks!  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Piano Guys, "A Thousand Years"

Here's some inspiration for the beginning of your week :)  The Piano Guys are really amazing, here's one of their latest musical videos, a beautiful rendition of Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years":

The Fly Away Horse - A Bedtime Poem

I love Eugene Field's poem, The Fly Away Horse.  I read it every night with my little brother for months, but we had stopped reading it for whatever reason the past few years and we randomly flipped to it a few nights ago when we were trying to find a poem to read and it was great to read it together again.  He at first didn't remember that we read it so much but as I started to read, I could see that he was starting to recall the many nights we read the poem.  So here it is, I hope some of you will share it with the little people in your life, I think it puts them in a great place right before bed to fly off into wonderful dreams:

OH, a wonderful horse is the Fly-Away Horse--
Perhaps you have seen him before;
Perhaps, while you slept, his shadow has swept
Through the moonlight that floats on the floor.
For it's only at night, when the stars twinkle bright,
That the Fly-Away Horse, with a neigh
And a pull at his rein and a toss of his mane,
Is up on his heels and away!
The moon in the sky,
As he gallopeth by,
Cries: "Oh! What a marvelous sight!"
And the Stars in dismay
Hide their faces away
In the lap of old Grandmother Night.
It is yonder, out yonder, the Fly-Away Horse
Speedeth ever and ever away--
Over meadows and lane, over mountains and plains,
Over streamlets that sing at their play;
And over the sea like a ghost sweepeth he,
While the ships they go sailing below,
And he speedeth so fast that the men on the mast
Adjudge him some portent of woe.
"What ho, there!" they cry,
As he flourishes by
With a whisk of his beautiful tail;
And the fish in the sea
Are as scared as can be,
From the nautilus up to the whale!
And the Fly-Away Horse seeks those far-away lands
You little folk dream of at night--
Where candy-trees grow, and honey-brooks flow,
And corn-fields with popcorn are white;
And the beasts in the wood are ever so good
To children who visit them there--
What glory astride of a lion to ride,
Or to wrestle around with a bear!
The monkeys, they say:
"Come on, let us play,"
And they frisk in the coconut-trees:
While the parrots, that cling
To the peanut-vines sing
Or converse with comparative ease!
Off! scamper to bed -- you shall ride him to-night!
For, as soon as you've fallen asleep,
With a jubilant neigh he shall bear you away
Over forest and hillside and deep!
But tell us, my dear, all you see and you hear
In those beautiful lands over there,
Where the Fly-Away Horse wings his far-away course
With the wee one consigned to his care.
Then grandma will cry
In amazement: "Oh, my!"
And she'll think it could never be so.
And only we two
Shall know it is true--
You and I, little precious! shall know!

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Won't Back Down" - State of Education in America

Coming to theaters this September is a film called "Won't Back Down" starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhall.  We've seen many documentaries hit the screens recently, illuminating audiences to the horrible state that the education system of the United States finds itself in, from Waiting for Superman to American Teacher.  While there have been other films on education like, Freedom Writers, this film seems different since it seems that it will be taking a perspective similar to the documentaries we have recently seen but in a drama instead of a documentary format.  I recommend watching the trailer below and let me know what you think in the comments:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

19th Century Novels turned into Film Creations

Very excited for all of these 19th century Novel film creations coming up in the next few months, especially Joe Wright's Anna Karenina. The others mentioned in this post (which I've linked below) from Word and Film blog sound very promising as well. 

The post ends with the question: What other 19th century novels would make great films and which wouldn't?

I would love to see a new version of The Secret Garden and also, although these are new books but they are set in and full of allusions to 19th century masterpieces, of Maryrose Wood's The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place! Which 19th century novels would you like to see made into films or which would you prefer left alone?


Annotated Book Dream - Norton Illustrated Editions

So last night, an element of my dream was literally composed of me walking around what seems to have been a Barnes and Noble and in the center of the store near the cash registers where they usually have their bargain books and calendars and such, was instead a large shelf which had several copies of every single Norton Annotated illustrated book (in paperback!  Which is impossible since they are only available in hardcover, to my knowledge…)  I was desperately trying to find Maria Tatar’s Anotated Brother’s Grimm, but for some reason couldn’t find it, but I was still happy being able to look at all the others (which I will picture below, since they are beautiful to look at).  Alas this was only a dream, but I’m trying to slowly collect them, because they are invaluable resources and a wonder to read!

I first came across one of these books in the little “Friends of the Library” bookshop inside our local public library.  Instead of buying it for it’s listed price of around $35, I quickly got hold of this practically brand new book by Maria Tatar on Classic Fairy tales for a mere $7.  From there I discovered that there were many more similar books, edited by the top scholars in children’s literature!  About two years later I found a copy of the Annotated Secret Garden, which I read aloud with my little brother, and it was incredible because it compiled illustrations from all of the wonderful illustrated editions that have been made and had awesome side notes.  Suffice it to say, I really love these books, enough that they randomly pop into my dreams.  I’m looking forward to this coming semester, where I will be “forced” to purchase another, Maria Tatar’s Grimm’s Fairy tales in fact, for a course I’ll be taking on the Grimm brothers;  I guess I’ll have to sacrifice myself.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bookstacks and bookshelves

So I really love to see books, on shelves, in piles, at a bookstore, or in the library.  This is the side of me that just appreciates the look and feel of the book, or put in better terms the materiality of the book.  I'm currently rearranging my books at home and right now I have a few piles and shelves here and there and sadly some books are in boxes and I can't wait to let them out!  I always like to see pictures of piles of books and book spines and all that sort of thing and I thought perhaps some of you might too, although perhaps it's just me.