Archive for September, 2010

Go Ahead, Make My Reading List

September 30, 2010 @ 7:16 am | Filed under: ,

Regular readers of this blog know I am afflicted with option paralysis when it comes to Choosing the Next Book. For the next three months, that won’t be a problem. Nominations for the Children’s & Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards (CYBILs) begin at midnight Eastern time on October 1st—that’s 9pm tonight for us West Coast folks! I’m a first-round judge for YA Fiction, which means that between now and the end of the year, my reading list will consist of the book you nominate in that category.

We’re kicking off the two-week nomination period with a Twitter party tonight, 12am Eastern time. Follow @cybils on Twitter for more on that! (You do not have to have a Twitter account to follow to the conversation.)

So what am I reading first?

You Had Me at “Studio Ghibli Does The Borrowers”

September 29, 2010 @ 6:29 am | Filed under: ,

How did I not know about this? Studio Ghibli’s latest release (this summer, in Japan) was The Borrowers?

Official title: Karigurashi no Arrietty (The Borrower Arrietty)

I see (via the SDSU Children’s Literature blog) that Miyazaki wrote the screenplay but did not direct the film. Still, my hopes are high.

The post links to an interesting article at the Daily Yomiuri about the slight differences between Arrietty’s father in the book and the film:

…while Pod is not particularly loquacious in the novel, neither is he reserved. In a scene after Pod has discovered that Arrietty has spoken to “the boy,” Pod speaks quite a bit.

When Arrietty defends herself, saying the boy has agreed to deliver a letter she has written to Borrowers living elsewhere, he appears to take some grim satisfaction in his scornfully elaborate explication of the uselessness of Arrietty’s act: “…do you see your mother walking across two fields and a garden…two fields full of crows and cows and horses and what-not, to take a cup of tea with your Aunt Lupy, whom she never much liked anyway?” There is a lavishness in Pod’s amplification that can only be achieved through the protracted use of language. Not for him, the effect of understated brevity. Ghibli’s Pod, on the other hand, barely speaks unless strictly necessary—and even then he sometimes remains reticent in situations when a tad more back and forth might be deemed obligatory. His lack of words might seem unduly taciturn in a Western context, but, as in the original, he is portrayed as a sympathetic character. Just not a very talkative one.

Um, Yeah, One of Those Will Be Fine

September 28, 2010 @ 3:04 pm | Filed under: ,

Beanie asks me the wish question. If you had one wish, what would you wish for? It’s a question I always want some context for: you need to know the scope of the game before you play. What kind of wish, I ask her. A wish for the world? Or a wish just for us, for our family?

“Oh, anything,” says Beanie. “You know, a new computer…a new TV…a new TV cabinet….no more war. That sort of thing.”

“The Year of the Sketchbook”

September 27, 2010 @ 1:05 pm | Filed under:

The doodling, listmaking sketchbook addict in me was intrigued by Monica Edinger’s post on the staggeringly talented David Macauley:

Certainly the man never stands still. He’s got a new book out next month, Built to Last, and was a scholar-in-residence at New York City’s Dalton School, where I teach, last year. For The Year of the Sketchbook every single person in the school was given a sketchbook and they were used in a myriad of ways. Urging us all to use sketching as a form of thinking, David worked with high school students, history teachers, kids of all ages doing all sorts of things. My fourth graders, for instance, sketched with David in assemblies and in more intimate settings, but they also used their sketchbooks on their own, say while listening to me read aloud, filling them up with ideas and drawings of all kinds.

Click through for the fascinating rest of the piece, plus photos of the mural Macauley drew on the school walls. Wonder if he’d consider a residency at Bonny Glen Academy? We’ve got some nice blank walls he could have a go at…

“…they put their fingerprint on your imagination, in your heart.”

September 25, 2010 @ 6:57 pm | Filed under:

Bruce Springsteen on songwriting:

“I said there’s other guys who play guitar well, there’s other guys who front really well, there’s other rocking bands out there. But the writing and the imagining of a world, that’s a particular thing, you know. That’s a single fingerprint. All the film-makers we love, all the writers we love, all the songwriters we love, they put their fingerprint on your imagination, in your heart. And on your soul. That was something that I felt touched by, and I thought, well, I wanted to do that.”

Makes me think of whose fingerprints are on my imagination. Lewis, Tolkien, Baum, to be sure. L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maud Hart Lovelace. Madeleine L’Engle. Anne McCaffrey. Fred Chappell. Shakespeare, in ways I am probably not even aware of. Homer. The spinners of the old tales collected by Grimm and Lang. Noel Streatfeild. Thomas Hardy made some deep impressions during that one phase in college, but time has worn them fairly smooth. Austen. Most recently, Byatt, whose dark Children’s Book I cannot seem to shake off. Oh, Stephen King, no denying it: especially The Stand. Flannery O’Connor, but more Mystery and Manners than her stories. John Fowles, The Ebony Tower: that pair of weasels, the terrible ribbon of red. The Secret Garden. (Now I’m darting back and forth in time.)

Hmm, my mind always runs first to books. Filmmakers and songwriters would require more effort of thought. But, yeah, Springsteen, absolutely. Roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair / Well the night’s busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere…

The CYBILs Are Upon Us!

September 23, 2010 @ 11:23 am | Filed under: ,

October 1st is the beginning of the two-week nomination period for this year’s Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards. Watch the CYBILs site for your chance to nominate your favorite books of the past year in every category of children’s & YA publishing—fiction picture books, nonfiction picture books, early readers/chapter books, middle-grade fiction, middle-grade & YA nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy, poetry, graphic novels, and young adult fiction. Those links go to the lists of this year’s judging panels, if you want to see who’ll be reading all the books you nominate. This year, nearly 200 bloggers volunteered for the hundred-odd spots on these panels, which speaks to the increasing influence of these excellent awards.

I’m delighted to have a spot on the 1st-round panel for YA fiction. Our task will be to read all nominated books in our category and narrow them down to a shortlist of, usually, 5-7 titles. You know how I feel about booklists. I adore a shortlist. Picking one winner out of a small group of contenders? Agonizing! But getting to share my enthusiasm for a select handful of books among dozens and dozens of hopefuls? Bliss. So I’m really thrilled to be participating in the CYBILs judging again this year. I served on the 1st-round panel for Fiction Picture Books in 2008, and I loved the whole intense, spirited process. Reading all the nominees (including reading many of them to my younger children), pondering the merits of the books I liked best, and discussing those fine books with the other 1st-round panelists—it was a fantastic experience.

(It’s fun to look back at that shortlist and see how many of those books, especially Big Bad Bunny and A Visitor for Bear are still in regular read-aloud demand here.)

Here are this year’s YA Fiction panelists, rounds 1 and 2, with links to our blogs and Twitter pages:

Panel Organizer: Jackie Parker, Interactive Reader [TW]

Panelists (Round I Judges):

Cherylynne W. Bago, View from Above and Beyond [TW]
Justina Ireland, The YA 5 [TW]
Kelly Jensen, Stacked [TW]
Ami Jones, Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian [TW]
Jackie Parker (see panel organizer)
Amanda Snow, A Patchwork of Books [TW]
Melissa Wiley, Here in the Bonny Glen [TW]

Round II Judges:

Karen Ballum, Sassy Monkey, BlogHer [TW]
Kathy M. Burnette, The Brain Lair [TW]
Michelle Franz, Galleysmith [TW]
Alice Pope, SCBWI [TW]
Tasha Saecker, Kids Lit [TW]

I’m looking forward to some lively discussions in the months to come—and a whole heckuva lot of reading, of course. Start thinking about your favorite young adult books from the past year and be sure to nominate them between October 1st and 15th. You might want to subscribe to the CYBILs feed or follow @cybils on Twitter for updates.

The Kindness of Strangers

September 20, 2010 @ 6:45 pm | Filed under:

One night en route to our family reunion in Virginia, our hotel room was near the laundry and I decided to do a quick load. I’d packed light and our wardrobe was getting pretty grubby by that point. I scrabbled for quarters, carried a sack of clothes around the corner to the washer, and discovered I’d have to go down the front desk for detergent. But when I got there, a woman with two towel-wrapped, wet-haired children had just made the same purchase. My heart sank: I was so very tired, and now I’d have to wait until her load was done before I could start mine.

The clerk smiled expectantly at me as the woman turned away from the desk with her tiny cardboard box of Dreft. “That’s what I came for too,” I murmured. The pool-kids woman turned back, her forehead creased in apology.

“You needed the washer?” she asked.

“No worries,” I said. “I’ll get in there when you’re done.”

But she insisted that I go first. Her kids needed to shower, she said. She’d be busy for a while anyway. We argued politely for a few minutes—you—no, you—and she won. Which is to say, she did me the immense favor of letting me use the machine first. In my exhaustion, I was grateful almost to tears. We were traveling east, losing an hour every other day. It was close to midnight, Pacific Time, which was the clock my body was still ticking to. I offered to call her room as soon as our load finished, but she said not to worry about it, she’d just peek in after a while.

She ushered her kids toward the elevator and the clerk slid my Dreft across the counter.

“That’ll be a dollar,” she said. I unzipped my little money pouch and realized all the cash was in my purse, upstairs. But I had the laundry quarters in my pocket, so I dug them out and handed them over, adding with a rueful laugh, “I’ll probably be back down here in a little while to buy them back for the dryer.”

At which point another hotel guest stepped forward. He and his wife had arrived at the desk during my exchange with the sweet pool-mom. This man, a burly lumberjack-looking fellow, handed a dollar bill to the clerk and said amiably, “Go ahead and give her back her quarters.”

For the second time I turned to a stranger in grateful protest. For the second time, the stranger’s kindness prevailed. The lumberjack paid for my detergent, and I thanked him, and I went upstairs and did my laundry.

I bumped into the nice pool mom on my way back from moving our wet things to the dryer. She had her daughter with her, a sack of clothes, and two little dogs. Adorable little dogs. Rescued dogs, it turned out. This family had six dogs in their room, plus a guinea pig. They were delivering the animals to new homes on their way to their own new home in Texas, having just moved out of New Jersey. We wound up chatting for quite a while as we waited for my clothes to dry—it took three cycles, and even then they were still a little damp. She was astonished to hear I was traveling alone with six kids. I was impressed to hear she was shepherding seven animals across hundreds of miles. My younger children ran up and down the short laundry/vending hall with the doggies. The baby was fresh out of the bath and tore off down the hall naked. The children guffawed too loudly and we quickly hustled our small animals into our respective rooms before the other guests complained.

We met up the next morning in the parking lot. She was walking three or four of the dogs, and I was reloading the minivan. I thanked her again: she must have had a very late night, waiting for her three-cycles-worth of drying to tumble her clothes to an acceptable level of damp. She shook her head: no trouble at all, I don’t know how you’re managing it, it’s amazing to travel so far on your own. The little terrier at her feet wagged encouragingly. I thought about her all the way up I-81, this exuberant smiling woman who rescues more than dogs.


September 18, 2010 @ 1:12 pm | Filed under:

Rilla, like many another four-year-old, has a deep and affectionate interest in words that rhyme. Today in the car she was thinking of rhymes for the word “cat”—surely one of the most satisfying words for a young English-speaker to rhyme because there are so many ready candidates. She had come up with a long list of the usual examples, and I strung them together into the ubiquitous beginning-reader sentence.

Me: “The fat cat sat on the rat…”

Rilla (laughs at my brilliant and original way with words)

Me: “…and squashed him flat as a mat.”

Rilla: “Um. Actually, it was flat as a cardboard.”

“A road’s a kind of holy thing”

September 17, 2010 @ 7:52 pm | Filed under:

Loved this passage in today’s chapter of Adam of the Road. Young Adam’s father, Roger, is a minstrel in the service of Sir Edmund de Lisle. Adam has just been removed from a boys’ school at St. Alban’s Abbey and is thrilled to be travelling with his father once again.

“My faith,” said Adam, “look at the road.” It stretched ahead of them across a long, level field and up a hill so far away that the men and horses on it looked like chessmen. For the first time since they had started, Adam really knew that he was sitting behind Roger on a great war horse, with Nick at his heels and the world before him.

“The Romans made this road, hundreds and hundreds of years ago,” said Roger. “It will be here hundreds and hundreds of years after we’re gone.” He turned in the saddle so that he could see his boy’s face while he talked. Adam looked away from the road and into Roger’s keen, kindly eyes so close to him.

“A road’s a kind of holy thing,” Roger went on. “That’s why it’s a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick. It’s open to the sun and wind and rain. It brings all kinds of people from all parts of England together. And it’s home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle.”

It was, somehow, a solemn moment. Four wild swans flew overhead just then, and made it so that Adam never forgot what Roger had said and how he looked when he said it.

This passage reminds me of the hobbits’ walking-poem in The Lord of the Rings, especially that evocative third verse Bilbo sings as he heads off to Rivendell after parting with the Ring:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.