Lena Dunham discussed a wide array of topics with writer and author Ariel Levy during the 15th annual New Yorker Festival on Friday night, including her aspirations to turn Karen Cushman’s “Catherine, Called Birdy” into a feature film….”It’s a really interesting examination of sort of like coming of age and what’s expected of teenage girls,” Dunham said. “I’m going to adapt it and hopefully direct it, I just need to find someone who wants to fund a PG-13 medieval movie.”
African drums got the students’ attention in a skit portraying the 9-yearold character Magulu from the book, “Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad,” written by Monica Edinger and illustrated by Robert Byrd. The character spoke to the children about her experience being captured by slave traders and placed on the ship Amistad, where slaves took control of the ship in a mutiny.
“(This is a) dramatic tale of how slaves revolted and took over the boat and were later captured,” the Magulu character narrated. “During my time in America, I never forgot about my home.”
This is so awesome! From this “Loving Literacy” news article.
It wasn’t love at first sight, but now I am completely and utterly smitten with Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam & Dave Dig a Hole. I had taken a quick look when I received it, but then last Friday at the very end of the day, after having seen Travis Jonker’s post of theories about the ending, I read it aloud to my 4th graders and all hell broke loose. You want theories? My class had them in spades. I had to practically shove them out the door — on a Friday, mind you! And then yesterday, having decided to use the book in a project (hopefully something I will be able to share here) I asked them to repeat their theories for a colleague. They went even further this time. One theory generated another one and another and another. I’ve one boy who has his theory divided up into 7 volumes (that is what he calls them). Their theories involve alternative universes, wormholes, gravitational pull, dreamlands, dog-as-god, and more. And so, yeah — I’ve fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.
K.T. Horning clued me in to this charming video of Jon filling a bookstore window with dirt, of course.
And if you haven’t seen the official book trailer, that is adorable too.
On October 23rd, the winners of the new Kirkus Prize will go home with a whopping $50,000. While I’m sure that award will be much appreciated it is about the honor as well. Yesterday the finalists were announced and I am absolutely delighted with those in the young readers category. They are:
El Deafo by Cece Bell. I was waiting for the finished copy to post about this fantastic graphic memoir and so will soon. The more I think about it and read about it the more I admire it, so much so that I’m now planning to use it with my 4th graders in a literature circle unit later this year. I have never done a whole class look at a graphic novel so it should be interesting.
The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus by Jen Bryan, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. I’ve raved here already about this one. It is my top choice for the Caldecott and I think it is a worthy contender for the Sibert as well.
The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos. My professional review for this is forthcoming, but I will say that I am very happy that the Kirkus jury is celebrating this finale to an original and complex series. Joey and Jack rule!
The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnson. I read this ages ago thanks to the recommendation of a goodreads friend and thought it an extremely clever novel indeed. This honor should, for good reason, definitely kick up the buzz that is already building around this highly original title.
The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell. This is the only finalist I have not yet read, but the enthusiasm even before this honor has made me eager to rectify that as soon as possible.
Avian Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth. I took a quick look when I first received this and have been meaning to return to read it properly. I recall beautiful illustrations and puzzling over audience. Now must go back and figure it out.
As a longtime 4th grade teacher there are times when racist language appears in our classroom work. Each time I try to educate my students, but in a way that doesn’t seem hectoring, no easy task. For I think it is a fine line we teachers walk — while most of the kids may well take in all that we say, others may be quietly dismissive and go away with the opposite thought. And I try to keep in mind that what might be horrifying to me because of the history and knowledge I bring to a word, may not be for my young students. I try to consider that even those words that shock me the most may not do the same to my students. That said, there are certain words I cannot say and I avoid books and work that include them. But sometimes they appear unexpectedly and then there are others, somewhat arguably less charged that also occasionally appear. And I think carefully about those kids and how best to make them aware in a way that helps them throughout their lives.
I’ve been thinking about this because of the conversation over at Betsy Bird’s post about older books that include racist elements and even more so this post by Matt Tavares about his decision to take out a highly racist word in a new edition of his book, Henry Aaron’s Dream. Because of my classroom experiences I think Matt’s decision is the right one, discomforting though it is. Here’s my comment on his blog post:
I’m a longtime classroom teacher (31 years at my present school, most of them with 4th graders) and think this is the right decision even as uncomfortable as I am going that way. So kudos to you and Candlewick for making this hard choice.
For me, it isn’t only about the book not getting into its audience hands, but that kids in their own world do take language and own it for themselves and sometimes that can be in extremely hurtful ways. We may not like thinking this, but it can and does happen. The audience for this book is a young one and not yet at the developmental place where they are able to unpack the history around that word (as I would hope those teaching Huckleberry Finn to much older young people would do). And so putting it in may not have them understanding your book as well as you would want.
You might be interested, if you don’t already know it, of the book Desmond and the Very Mean Word — also, it so happens a Candlewick title. I’ve read that to my class and they focus on the result of the word and are fine not knowing what it was.
I really think that we need to be honest about the realities of young children — think hard about what they take in and don’t. Keep in mind where they are developmentally. Additionally, every child’s situation is different — some may know a lot and some may not know so much.
I’ve been faulted for sanitizing the harsher aspects of the Amistad story in my book, but I stand by my choices. Like Matt, I want the story to be known, especially for younger children. Here’s my thinking (in the source notes) about that:
There is no record of Margru’s firsthand description of her voyage from Africa to Cuba. Based on the many other accounts available I can only guess at its dreadfulness and feel it would be presumptuous of me to write about it in detail. My father, a Holocaust survivor, was not able to talk about certain things and so I imagined that Margru could not either. I also did not want to frighten the relatively young child audience I have in mind for this book and so tried to communicate the horror without the specifics.
If we want younger readers to know harsh stuff we need to think hard about them, to consider just where they are on their life journeys, what they know and don’t, and what they bring or don’t bring to their encounters with books. Matt, it was a hard decision, but I think you are absolutely right.
The Children’s Africana Book Awards will be celebrated with a festival at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art on Saturday, November 8, 2014. You can find out more about it as well as register (it is free) here.
The lovely people at Africa Access (who administer the award) created the following for those specifically interested in Sierra Leone and, thus, my book. I’m pretty excited!
As heart-wrenching as it is for me, I have been watching this obsessively as the places are so familiar to me. Just imagine your city or town so deserted for such a reason.