Early yesterday morning a massive fire started across the street from me in a Citibank branch. All day almost 200 firefighters tried to put it out by blasting it with water and foam (my street was covered with the latter — looked sort of like snow), but as of last night it was still smoldering. One firefighter told me that it was in the walls and, the space having become so unstable, they couldn’t get to it. The good news is that since it started a little after 5 AM no one was inside and, other than a handful who were treated for the smoke, no one was hurt. (As far as I know those of us living nearest to the fire are otherwise all fine other than smelling greatly of the smoke which was pretty intense.)
What makes me terribly sad is that while it looked as if the building next to the bank was okay, now hours and hours later, the water and smoke has evidently caused significant damage. My gloom is because the two businesses in that building are the sort more and more rare in this neighborhood. On the top is The Heights Bar and Grill, a simple burger and beer joint popular among the Columbia students and others in the neighborhood who preferred it to the more upscale places nearby. And on the ground floor is Samad’s Gourmet Deli, a venerable establishment that has been there for decades. They’ve a huge cat Poncho II, that terrorizes my dog, wonderful Middle Eastern treats, and caring and lovely employees. My father loved buying his coffee from their open bins and chatting with the owners. They’ve a bench outside where anyone can sit (even those who haven’t bought anything) and I’ve often worried about their survival what with Starbucks and other fancier nearby places. So far they have, but now? Will these two plain and important places be able to recover from this? I sure hope so.
The author-artist remembers sitting at the Caldecott-Newbery banquet in 2008 in Anaheim when Laura Amy Schlitz delivered her speech. He remembers her description of a mythical bear, her companion bear-spirit. “She described encountering this bear in the forest and the moonlight ‘poured into the clearing like a giant bowl of milk.’ It was such a powerful image, so visceral that I couldn’t get it out of my head,” he says. He didn’t yet have the idea for Baby Bear, but he says, “that’s the image that inspired the scene of Baby Bear and the owl in the clearing.”
From Jennifer Brown’s piece at Kirkus featuring Kadir Nelson on his new book Baby Bear.
One of my favorite less familiar Peter O’Toole performances is as the unhinged Earl of Gurney in The Ruling Class. The movie starts out light and then gets crazily darker and darker, but it is the first part with several surreal musical comedy numbers that I liked the most. Unfortunately, I could only find the below blurry youtube video that gives a weak taste of them. (I should also mention that the Earl is totally bonkers and, in the first part of the movie thinks he is Jesus and later on, Jack the Ripper.)
Another is his performance as god-like director Eli Cross in The Stunt Man.
And then there is always and forever the glorious Lawrence of Arabia.
There are many reasons, one of them being this (if it is —fingers crossed —any good):
Jeffrey our resident fly is the most polite insect I’ve ever met. He leaves our food alone but sits on my shoulder to read the Oxford Times.
Philip Pullman is now tweeting and mixed in among his remarks on various issues are occasional reports about Jeffrey. This gentlemanly insect seems to have mixed feelings about others of his sort — he reacted poorly to a spider, but has fallen headlong in love with a ladybird. Highly literate it seems in multiple languages, he has already expressed strong reactions to Sartre and Baudelaire. It reminds me of don marquis’s archy and mehitabel, but with punctuation and capitals as it isn’t Jeffrey doing the writing in this case.
I’m off to Boston tomorrow for the National Council of Teachers of English convention. With rare exceptions I’ve been attending yearly since I joined the organization way back in the 1990s. This year will be markedly different from all my previous times as I will be attending in a new and different capacity: as a trade book author. And so, in addition to attending sessions, visiting exhibits, and talking to like-minded educators as a teacher, I will also be attending events as an author. Hope to see some of you at these or elsewhere around the convention!
- Friday, November 22, 11-12:15 Inventing the Past: Historical Fiction Comes Alive with Teri Lesesne, M. T. Anderson, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Gene Yang. Hynes Convention Center, Hynes Convention Center/Room 204, Level Two.
- Friday, November 22, 1-2 Signing Africa is My Home. Candlewick Booth #703.
- Friday, November 22, 5-7 Great NCTE Kids/YA Lit Tweetup. Trident Booksellers and Café, 338 Newbery Street.
- Saturday, November 22, 12:30-2:3o Books for Children Luncheon.
Now, of course, “best of all time” is hyperbole, but EW realizes that and still is going forward with their bracket game, pitting 64 titles against each other for the “best of all time” title. Now I tend to get my back up the minute I see another list, but I have to say this is a good one. The titles are mostly recognizably YA (the main one I’d argue with is Hugo Cabret as I see it as solidly juvenile and there are a few that were originally published for adults) and a great bunch indeed. And since I too run a yearly bracket contest I am all for them. They are fun ways to highlight a whole bunch of books, some of which those participating may have forgotten, overlooked, or just not known about until then. I just voted in their first round and, boy oh boy, were some hard to decide. In some cases, it was problematic as I haven’t read all the contenders and sometimes voted unfairly for the one of the pair I had. I didn’t vote when I hadn’t read either book, tempted though I was to go for the one that I’d heard better things about. But this sort of thing is basically random and fun — that is true for the BoB as well. It gets the word out, gets folks looking at books they didn’t know about, and is all good, to my mind. Well done, EW! I’m on tenterhooks to see what titles advance to round two!
I just got my copy of the the German edition of Philip Pullman’s retelling of the Grimm fairy tales, Grimms Märchen, and it is a beautiful, beautiful book. The Shaun Tan illustrations are amazing. And the only way to see them all is to get this edition. It doesn’t matter if you don’t read English. Just get the book for the Tan art and shelf it next to the English edition. (FYI: I got it from Book Depository.) Awesome, awesome, awesome.
A big fan of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, I have been very curious about the film opening next week. The moving trailers didn’t feature the most powerful element of the book — the narrator Death and I wondered if he had been eliminated. That troubled me as he really makes the book so transcendent. And so I was very happy to come across a very informative PW article about the movie with the following:
One of the most critical choices that Percival would make concerned the role that Death would play in the film. While in the book Death’s voice is ubiquitous, Percival did not want Liesel’s story to be overshadowed by a voice-over narration or the physical presence of a Death character. “I didn’t want to have Death narrating throughout the entire film,” he said, because of concerns that “it would take viewers out of the film and it might have lessened the connection with the characters.” Visually, wide-angle, high camera shots served as a means to “reinforce the idea of a third party watching the story,” allowing Death to be present as a character while also not “taking the audience outside the narrative.” Finding just the right actor to be the voice of Death, speaking only intermittently throughout the film, was a struggle: “We just knew that Death had to be warm, witty, wry, and have the welcoming but knowledgeable nature of someone we would trust and be drawn to,” Percival said in the press release. Eventually, the English actor Roger Allam was cast.
Here are some clips (sans Death):
And here is the official international trailer:
Since NCTE is in nearby Boston this year and knowing my book would just be out, I put together what looks to be a stimulating panel on historical fiction, “Inventing the Past: Historical Fiction Comes Alive.” Here’s the annotation:
Complex, creative, and compelling, historical fiction challenges young readers with ideas from a wide range of times and places, offering rich instructional possibilities in this time of Common Core. Join M. T. Anderson, Monica Edinger, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Gene Yang in an exploration of the creation and teaching of fictional works about the past.
Our chair is Professor Teri Lesesne (aka The Goddess of YA Literature and an unceasing advocate for teachers). Looks pretty awesome, does it not? It is 11 -12:15 on Friday, November 22nd in the Hynes Convention Center.