Category Archives: childrens’ literature
We interrupt our revision programming for this important blog entry.
I hate to give this article any more exposure, but I suppose you have to read the buttal before you read the rebuttal.
Claire Needell Hollander, a self-described “middle school reading enrichment teacher” has written an article for the New York Times saying that kids in middle school and high school should not be reading frivolous fiction during the summer. Like The Hunger Games.
She urges children to be unfettered with the specter of essays and tests for their summer reading, that they be free to explore works which may be out of their comprehension comfort zone. On that point I agree whole-heartedly. When a grade is attached, students tend to play it safe.
But Ms. Hollander maintains “Reading literature should be intentional.” Her suggestions for summer reading include a first hand account of the aftermath of Hiroshima and books about kids who have been real child soldiers and a child sex worker. She feels these book choices “increase world and verbal knowledge”.
There is a reason we tell stories, and it is this: to make sense out of a senseless world.
Kids and teens especially must have the luxury to explore in a fictional setting the topics that frighten, anger and titillate them. They should be given the space to figure out how life works, how it should work.
Reading fiction with compelling characters gives kids and teens the chance to feel those characters’ dilemmas, to make moral choices along with them. They’re building their understanding of the world and their place in it, one book at a time.
So then I went to see Jon Scieszka. If you’ve ever seen Jon Scieszka, you know he’s as funny as he looks, or…
Yes, one of Pete’s many famous pals.
Jon talked about his family, mostly. Be sure to read Knuckleheads: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka.
It explains everything about what makes him tick. He’s the second of SIX BOYS. No girls. If you look at their pictures, they all look about the same age.
Jon answered some questions at the end, of course. First his favorite books he’s written, and favorite book he’s read:
His favorite story from the Guys Read Books–THE ONE THE GUY’S EDITOR COULDN’T BEAR TO READ:
What he’s working on now. Something with Kate DiCamillo!
Of course he’s on tour promoting his latest SPACEHEADZ book.
The Spaceheadz books teach the kids to interact on the intrawebs, and there’s a nifty-frito website where readers can write their own stuff, read a blog, upload pictures. Major Fluffy even has a lame app.
If you ever have a chance to see Jon, geez. Don’t pass it up.
And bring your kids.
It’s great to know people in high places.
Michelle L. Brown is a writer you’re going to be hearing about, soon and often. Not only is she a great writer, but she’s smart and generous. She lives in the Kansas SCBWI region, but in the Wichita area. When you don’t live near the hub of an SCBWI region, it’s easy to get left out, but Michelle reaches out through social media to stay in the loop.
When this year’s Newbery winner, WHO IS FROM WICHITA, KANSAS, had a book signing in her hometown, Michelle picked up a few extra signed copies and ran a Twitter contest.
Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties that will be explained at the end of this blog post, we pick up the action mid-video:
Then I had to excise some material….
Yes, I said it. Addled.
But Michelle clearly is not addled. Visit her blog here and keep an eye on her. Things are going to happen.
Clare Vanderpool will be signing books at Reading Reptile this Monday, April 4th at 7PM. Don’t hesitate. Just come. Newbery.
Another day, another author signing at the Reading Reptile. The beautiful, amazing, children’s bookstore.
Did I mention I live two blocks away?
Why yes, I DO live a charmed life.
This time, the author in question is also an illustrator. Mark Teague! Scholastic has sent him on a junket! Yes, they still do that for the chosen few. Mark has a new book, LaRue Across America: Postcards From the Vacation.
This time, the book signing was held at 5PM, and the crowd was mostly kids and their moms. It made for a different kind of signing than I’m used to. If you’re going to be a picture book author, you’ve gotta tolerate low-level chaos.
Mark related a real-life scenario that helped inspire his new book:
And the kids (and adults) enjoyed recognizing it in the finished product:
And of course we all LOVE to watch an artist create. Do you find that when artists are drawing or painting, they usually have to stop talking?
Listen to these questions. Mostly, Mark tells the kids the same things he’d tell adults.
If you couldn’t hear that last part, Mark said illustrator Don Wood told him artists usually draw characters that look like themselves. And he said it while Mark was drawing a picture of Ike the dog!
Having an audience of mostly rugrats didn’t faze Mark:
In fact, I don’t think there’s much that fazes Mark:
Because he’s kind of a Renaissance guy. He writes. He illustrates. He’s written a middle grade, too. He’s broken a lot of rules:
And what makes him smile? Yup. Same thing that makes every writer smile.
Ye Gods, Freckles McYoungest is going to murderlize me. Let the record show she is SEVENTEEN.
And the Mark Teague book she is emotionally attached to?
Tim Burton? I just don’t know what I’m going to do with you. You are a master of visual splendor. The Wonderland you created for Alice is incredible.
I saw your film with my pal Jenn Bailey and two of her three BaileyBoys–The Bandman and Lord Bluntly. We enjoyed it, yes, but…
Tim, you don’t really get it.
On the surface Wonderland is fantabulous creatures,
But Alice learns very quickly that she cannot let her guard down. Eat an irresistibly tempting cake and grow too large to fit through the door.
The gorgeous flowers can talk–
but they only have nasty things to say.
And if you meet a grinning, good-natured looking Cheshire cat, beware. Even he will admit, “…we are all mad here.”
I read this book approximately six million times when I was a kid. My own kids hated it. Now that I’ve seen your film, Tim, I finally understand why. It’s because the book has what you’ve left out of the movie:
I’m not talking about obvious dangers like the bandicoot or the jabberwocky. Enemies who declare themselves are easily dealt with. I’m talking about the darkness that comes clothed in the guise of angels, like the walrus and the carpenter:
“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”
We all know how THAT turned out.
“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.
The Mad Hatter, who poses a riddle without an answer. The Red Queen who will chop off the gardener’s head for planting the wrong color of flower. The baby who turns into a pig.
Even though Alice is only a quarrelsome little girl, she sees these petty creatures for what they are. Chess pieces. A pack of cards. Nursery rhymes. They are grand-standers and charlatans, and she can protect herself from them.
Not your usual children’s literature from the Victorian Era, when childhood was deemed an idyllic time tended to by all-knowing adults. As kidlit writers, we know the notion of a carefree youth is a myth.
So now I get why I loved these books as a child, and why my kids didn’t like or understand them.
And Tim? Afraid you really missed the boat. There’s a rumor you’re looking at the Wizard of Oz next. If you are, think LONG AND HARD about the STORY before you start. And let me tell you a secret:
The shoes are silver.
We have returned from the Valley of Pigflu.
Hope you are well too. Though what I’m writing about today makes me a little heart-sick.
Seems nursery rhymes are dying out. The London Telegraph reports that modern parents find them old-fashioned and uneducational. Harumph.
I sensed the first stirrings of this 20 years ago, when Boywonder was young enough for playdates. When the living/rumpus room was a wreck and blocks had gone from stackable objects to missiles, I would settle the boys down on the couch for a book or two. Out would come good ol’ Mother Goose. Boywonder could recite the rhymes with me–and Visitor? Never heard ’em before.
Nursery rhymes were a huge part of my childhood. Song lyrics. Games. Books. What an easy transition from memorized poems to reading those poems on the page.
Rhythm and rhyme. Babies learn motor coordination in poems like Pat a Cake and This Little Piggy. Surely nursery rhymes pattern young brains to appreciate Ode on a Grecian Urn and Leaves of Grass later in life. Listen to the rhythm:
Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes.
I don’t know about you, but that nursery rhyme makes me feel like setting a 2-year-old on my knee and bouncing her around while she giggles. And don’t forget to pinch her little fingers and toes at the appropriate parts.
I could always pull several dozen nursery rhymes out of my skull at the drop of a hat. When Bottled Lightning was four, she and I had a nursery rhyme-off at the car repair shop. Now that I think about it, that’s damn weird. But, hey. That’s how we roll.
My nursery rhyme roots go back to my grandmother, who was born in 1885. She grew up educated, but very poor. Eventually, she became a leading member of the DAR and a well-known genealogist. At that time, it was a woman’s only way out of obscurity. Her grandmother recited the rhymes to her, and I will recite them to my grandchildren. Imagine. The very same poems, entertaining seven generations.
I can’t end this post without adding my favorite nursery rhyme of all time. I don’t know why, but this is it:
Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea,
With silver buckles on his knee:
He’ll come back and marry me,
Pretty Bobby Shaftoe!
Bobby Shaftoe’s fat and fair,
Combing down his yellow hair;
He’s my love for evermore,
Pretty Bobby Shaftoe.
Tell me your favorite nursery rhymes. Come on, guys. Don’t let me down!