Ayn Rand Reviews the Charlotte’s Web Movie Among Others

“Charlotte’s Web”

A farmer allows sentimental drawings by a bug to prevail over economic necessity and refuses to value his prize pig, Wilbur, by processing and selling him on the open market. Presumably, the pig still dies eventually, only without profiting his owners. The farmer’s daughter, Fern, learns nothing except how to become an unsuccessful farmer. There is a rat in this movie. I quite liked the rat. He knew how to extract value from his environment. —Two stars.

At the New Yorker, of course (where she takes on a bunch more, among them”Mary Poppins and Willy Wonka” —that last she likes).

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A New Short Story from Philip Pullman and Some News about The Book of Dust

I was very excited to read about a new short story by Philip Pullman, featuring the nefarious and fabulous Mrs. Colter, that is being released today in the UK as an Audible.uk exclusive. Audible US has informed me that “The Collectors”will be available for those of us on the other side of the pond on January 12th. Until then we will have to make do with the below tantalizing excerpt read by Bill Nighy.

But wait, Pullman fans, there’s more; this in the Guardian article about The Book of Dust:

He said today: “It’s three pages longer this morning than it was this time yesterday, and … I’ll do another three pages today. It’s going steadily. But it’s a big book and it’s spreading out in the way I discussed, and I keep having to discover which ways are fruitful for the story to go in, and which are not. It’s a long process.”

Pullman promised: “I’m aiming to finish this next year. Then it’s a fairly lengthy process of editing. But I’m well on my way and proceeding steadily.”

Be still my heart!

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Neil Gaiman Does Jabberwocky

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In the Classroom: This Blog’s on a Top Ten List!

Thank you, Teachability Lounge‘s Mary Graham, for including this blog among your “Top Ten Teacher Blogs.”  With all the blogs now out there, I sometimes wonder how many teachers read this one. After all, I’m pretty eclectic. So, I was thrilled with this affirmation.

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Corporate Storytelling

Andrew Linderman tries to teach people how to find that balance. A story coach, he works with companies including American Express, PBS and Random House, charging $1,800 to $3,500 for workshops and $500 to $5,000 for one-on-one training (less for nonprofits and start-ups). For $40, you can also take one of his two-hour classes,Storytelling for Entrepreneurs.

“The specifics of storytelling are relatively easy to articulate,” he said. “It’s the nuances that make a story distinct.”

Ah, Random House — the irony!  From “Storytelling Your Way to a Better Job or a Stronger Start-up.

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Ten (or so) Great 2014 Kid Books for Gift-giving

I have read and loved a ton of books this year; among my many favorites are the following suggestions for great gifts this holiday season.

1, For a book that will be fun for a wide range of middle-grade readers and is also a great book to read aloud as a family, check out Jennifer L. Holm’s The Fourteenth GoldfishThis deceptively spare book (comes in at just under 200 pages) packs quite a punch. It offers a clever take on a trope that is not unfamiliar in children’s books — that of an older person suddenly contending with being young again. In this case it is the protagonist’s scientist grandfather who gets to try teen life once again and his grumpy response is spot on hilarious. But mixed-in are warm and sensitive considerations of growing old-growing up, new-old friendships, familial love, the passion-pleasure of scientific research, and relationships overall. For more read my New York Times review.

2. A book that absolutely demands to be read aloud is B. J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures.  The title says it true — there are no pictures at all. What there is is lots of silliness that is all designed to push the poor adult reading the book aloud into more and more awkwardness. And what kid doesn’t like seeing an adult put him or herself into the silliest position possible? While my 4th graders got a kick out of this one, I would guess it would be especially beloved (and demanded over and over) by younger kids. Novak plays with the whole methodology of reading aloud in a very entertaining and clever way.

3. A picture book that may begin as a book to read aloud, but will send young readers back to it to examine over and over on their own is Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam & Dave Dig a Hole. Be forewarned, grown-ups, the ending of this one has a Twilight Zone, The Sixth Sense, Cabin in the Woods vibe where things-turn-out-not-to-be-quite-what-you-thought. After I read it to them, my 4th grade students went wild coming up with theories for this; my blog post featuring them is here.

4. Another favorite picture book of mine is one on the guy who invented the thesaurus, Jen Bryan and Melissa Sweet’s The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus. For kids who love words and book with illustrations full of words, look no further. This one is absolutely gorgeous and fascinating. For the end papers, illustrator Sweet replicated all of Roget’s original set of words! My blog review here.

5. One of the most lyrical and moving books of the year is Jacqueline Woodson’s National Book Award winning memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. Intertwining stories of her childhood in the South and Brooklyn, Woodson manages to bring a lens to race and racism, friendship, and what it is to grow into a writer and poet. One to give to an introspective young reader and emerging writer as well as one to read and discuss as a family.

6. Another memoir that probably would be great as an individual read is Cece Bell’s graphic novel  El Deafo, a moving and at times quite funny memoir of her youth. I’m planning to have my 4th grade class read it later this school year and am confident that they are going to love it. While Bell doesn’t shy away from issues dealing with her hearing loss, doing so with wit and a refreshing lack of self-pity, it is the search for a good friend that will resonate most with young readers.

7. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a powerful verse novel involving twelve-year-old African-American twins, both of whom are gifted basketball players. A student of mine last year who was serious about basketball and writing absolutely adored this one and I was thrilled to be able to get a copy signed for him by the author. The poetry is energetic and the story compelling — a sure-fire hit for a wide range of readers.

8. I was completely charmed by Dana Alison Levy’s The Misadventures of the Family FletcherThis episodic novel of a family of two dads and four adopted boys of various races is a delight. The boys are so real and their experiences funny, tender, and relatable. I’ve had it at school debating when to read it aloud to my class and am confident that it will be a success when I do. Here’s a quote from my Horn Book review: ”Levy provides a compelling, compassionate, and frequently hilarious look at their daily concerns. By book’s end readers will want to be part of (or at least friends with) this delightful family.”

9. For older children with a predilection for history, look no further than Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov. Balancing the over-the-top lifestyle of the last Russian royals with firsthand accounts of the rest of the populace, Fleming provides a fascinating and highly readable version of this tragic story. Handsomely designed and full of photographs, this volume seems uncomfortably timely when considering today’s 1 percent, those who currently have the bulk of the world’s wealth.

10. Finally, I’m going to cheat and give you some more favorites without commentary that I’ve reviewed elsewhere:

Also at the Huffington Post.

 

 

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Africa is My Home: My Visit to the Capitol City Public Charter School

During my time in DC for the Children’s Africana Book Award I was honored with an invitation to speak to the Capitol City Public Charter School fourth graders about Africa is My Home by An Open Book Foundation, a fabulous organization that describes themselves thus:

Founded by Dara La Porte and Heidi Powell, An Open Book Children’s Literacy Foundation was created to promote literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the greater Washington, D.C. area by giving schools and students book and access to authors and illustrators. We excite children and teachers about reading and send every child home with a signed book.

I was so impressed and moved by the experience. Being a fourth grade teacher myself, it was delightful to speak about my book to a different group and population from my own students.  As I wrote in my earlier post about the weekend:

It was a really wonderful experience. The children were eager, interested, and had wonderful questions. I was most moved by two children from El Salvador. I sign my books “Never forget your home” and one of these two children spoke with tremendous excitement of returning soon to her home of El Salvador while the other came around to tell me privately that he would not be returning to his home of El Salvador because “bad things had happened there.” I told him that his home should be wherever he felt safe and happy. It was an important reminder to me — someone who has, for different reasons, no childhood place to call home —  that home is not necessarily where you originated.

I enjoyed too meeting and working with Janet Zwick of An Open Book Foundation who guided the children to read and discuss the book during my visit and generally (along with another wonderful person from the foundation and the school’s librarian) saw that the whole event went off without a hitch. (Even the fire drill didn’t cause a problem, believe it or not!) . Afterwards Janet treated me to a tasty pho lunch with some really wonderful conversation. Here are photos Janet took of the event. My great thanks to everyone involved in making this a special event for me. (The photos are courtesy of An Open Book Foundation.)

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