Category Archives: Other
The biggest hurdle for the film-makers was what to do with Death. In the book, and it makes me so grateful to be a writer of books, you make it all happen on the page and it costs nothing. In the film the hardest decision was whether to have someone on screen or not. Effectively, in a book 99% of the book is voiceover with dialogue in between. You just can’t do that in a film. So the first thing they had to do was pare back Death and try to achieve that effect in different way, such as quite high camera angles. Choosing the right voice was another issue and I didn’t envy them that task! Every reader of the book has their own version of Death and its voice – in my case, Death speaks in an Australian accent.
From this very interesting interview with Marcus Zusak about turning The Book Thief into a movie.
Housing Works, a terrific NYC organization that ”provides housing, medical, prevention, support services” does all sorts of out-of-the-box things. One of their latest is “Face-to-Face: A Middle Readers Book Group.” Here’s the scoop:
From this week’s NYT’s By the Book with Laura Lippman:
Sell us on your favorite overlooked or underappreciated writer.
Edward Eager wrote a series of children’s books that are in danger of being forgotten. But they’re divine, stories about ordinary kids who stumble on magical things — a coin, a lake, a book, a thyme garden, a well. The magic changes them, they try to change the magic, the magic moves on. Great female characters, too — strong, smart, capable, not killjoys. “Half Magic” is his masterpiece, but I have a soft spot for “Knight’s Castle,” which is set in Baltimore.
There is a terrific new blog out there, Lolly’s Classroom. Here’s how the blog creator, Lolly Robinson, of the Horn Book who also teaches a course in children’s and adolescent literature at Harvard’s School of Education, describes it:
Lolly’s Classroom will look at books and reading from a teacher’s perspective — but we’re hoping to get plenty of non-teacher readers as well. There’s no question that book discussions become richer when the people discussing them come from a variety of backgrounds. So really we’re calling on all of you to come over and join us in the Classroom.
Two interesting posts are already up; one on the books Lolly uses in her class and another from first grade tacher Whitney Gruenloh on her pairing of Martin’s Big Words with Freedom Summer . There is also this welcome post with more about the blog and a suggestion box too.
While they already have a wide variety of teachers set to blog on their use of books in the classroom, they have a call out for more so if you are interested email a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to Lolly Robinson (lrobinson at hbook.com).
Long ago I remember being delighted when someone at a teaching history conference spoke about tolerating ambiguity, the idea that as we develop we learn to do this more and more. This speaker noted that learning to do history was learning to tolerate ambiguity, to manage to live with no one answer, to appreciate that there were multiple reasons (some conflicting) for behaviors and actions in the past. I was reminded of this recently when participating in a conversation about a forthcoming book with an ambiguous ending.
Now endings are hard — real ones and those in books. I can think of some authors who write such wonderful books that I forgive them their mediocre endings. Let me give you one well-known example — Lewis Carroll. If you haven’t noticed already, the title of this blog is a reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, one of my all-time favorite books. And what you may not know is that the ending of that fabulous book is dreadful. Not only does it turn out that Alice’s adventures were all a dream, but then the author dithers on in the most dreadful and sentimental way. I have long learned to simply ignore this and love the rest. After all, at least it is clear and complete. There is no question about what happens to Alice at the end of her adventures (she gets out with her head intact and goes off for tea:).
Now my 4th graders are fine with the ending of Alice’s Adventures because the whole thing is pretty plotless and the fun is in the individual episodes and craziness. But they tend not to be so satisfied with the ending of Stuart Little. If you don’t know it (spoiler alert;), the book ends with Stuart heading off to look for his friend Margalo. That he hasn’t found her by the end, stuns many children, frustrates them, and sometimes enrages them. I’ve had kids often write their own endings. In my experience, the kids who are fine with the ending are those that are reading at a more advanced level, kids who are thinking beyond their peers, who can tolerate that open ending.
And what about series? The book that provoked this line of thought for me is Aaron Starmer’s The Riverman, coming this March. It has a very intriguing plot toying with the line between real and fantasy and the ending leaves questions hanging. Now I read it thinking it was a stand-alone book, but subsequently learned it is the first in a trilogy. And that makes me look at it differently. And I’m guessing child readers will too. Would they be satisfied completely with the ending if they thought that was it? Myself, I’m glad to know that there will be more as there are some mighty tantalizing threads left dangling — one quite major. Also, the audience for this book is older, kids on the cusp of adolescence — are they at a different developmental point than 9 year-olds reading Stuart Little? That is, do they tolerate ambiguous endings differently than younger kids?
So here I am left with a few questions:
- Is our ability to tolerate ambiguity in endings developmental or personal? That is, do we learn to tolerate as we get older or is it something more about personal taste?
- Do we respond differently to a particular book’s ambiguous ending if we know it is the first in a series? How about child readers?
- Do younger children tolerate open endings more than older? Or vice versa?
I am not a scientist and I’m definitely not one who tends to feel particular certain about very much. After all, you just never can know how people will behave. (What happened in Sierra Leone convinces me of that.) All this is because of a powerful essay in today’s New York Times by philosopher Simon Critchley, “The Dangers of Certainty: A Lesson from Auschwitz” featuring an old BBC series called “The Ascent of Man” hosted by one Jacob Bronowski. Below is an tiny piece of the show, but I recommend reading the complete essay to get the full point of it all.
I recently received an advance copy of Peter Sis’s forthcoming The Pilot and the Little Prince and will have more to say about it closer to its publication date. (That said, it is gorgeous.) And for those who can’t get enough of everything to do with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his well-known book, the Morgan Library’s fascinating-sounding new exhibit, “The Little Prince: A New York Story,” has just received a very favorable New York Times review. The two will come together on April 22nd when Peter will be at the Morgan talking about his book with the exhibit’s curator, Christine Nelson.