Monthly Archives: August 2007

Waiting for Lyra: Philip Pullman in NYC

Tuesday | October 30, 2007
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
“The Golden Compass”: A Conversation with Philip Pullman
The prize-winning, highly opinionated British author talks about his hugely popular books, the necessity of growing up and losing one’s innocence, and the upcoming Hollywood films based on his best-selling trilogy, “His Dark Materials,” honored by the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Book Award and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award (the first ever given to a children’s book). Interviewed by Charles McGrath, New York Times Magazine contributing writer and former Book Review editor.

Tickets: $25 TimesTalks (Scroll way down for this talk and for the link to buy tickets .)

Address: The TimesCenter, 242 West 41st Street, New York City

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Filed under Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

Worth the Trip Indeed

I was delighted to learn from Roger Sutton that the brilliant KT Horning has started a blog. Worth the Trip is definitely going to be just that with a focus on “queer books for kids and teens.”

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Filed under Children's Literature, YA

Kids Writing Authors

I just posted the following on child_lit in response to some posts directed at teachers who ask their students to write letters to authors:

As a teacher I usually cringe when I see recommendations that children write authors. It is done so casually, too often in a perfunctory manner, and I find it careless and problematic on the part of the teachers.

I remember once being at the HarperCollins’ offices and seeing some of their favorite letters from children posted — to folks like E. B. White and others. Those teachers who had those children write clearly knew nothing about the authors, say that they were long dead. It shames me as a fellow member of the profession that so many teachers don’t read enough themselves or bother to do enough research on this topic. We don’t see what the teachers do, just what the kids do. Then we laugh and discuss yet again how dreadful teachers are. Sigh.

This is not to say I am against any sort of writing to authors. When there is a sincere reason to — because there is a genuine love of the book a child would like to express to its creator or a question — then by all means have the kids write. But they should do so without any expectation of a response. To me that is the most genuine of fan letters. If a response comes it is a delightful surprise, but kids should not write for that reason and be disappointed when none appears (or worse, furious at the author who may not have had any way of responding as Philip describes).

I have occasionally done a letter to an author with my class (fourth graders) when we together felt it was warranted. Most notably, we wrote Gail Carson Levine after I read aloud Ella Enchanted to them the year of its publication. We were studying Cinderella and the kids wrote of their appreciation of how she played with the familiar tropes. They also asked her some great questions. She answered them and offered to visit to hear their own stories (as it turned out she lived nearby). On a couple of other occasions we wrote letters/cards of congratulations when a book we loved won an award. We did that for Gail and for Kate DiCamillo (after The Tale of Despereaux won the Newbery). Since I’m now more known in the children’s lit world and since I’d been a big advocate for the book she called us at school to thank us which was very exciting, as you can imagine. But we didn’t write her for a response, just to congratulate her for winning an award for a book we had loved.


Filed under Literature, Teaching

Volcanoes, Icebergs, and Glaciers, Oh My!


If you are planning to go to Iceland ever and want to be surprised don’t look any further.

Or if you find vacation photos boring, please go away too. I won’t be offended.

So, for the rest of you, here’s what happened. I decided, out of the blue, to go last month, and booked a tour that circumnavigated the island. Iceland is way closer to New York than I realized — takes about the same amount of time as the Limoliner to Boston or a flight to Seattle. And the time difference for me right now is four hours. The place is gorgeous, surpassing all I’d heard about it, with tons of great stuff to do. We stayed in very nice hotels and ate quite well (something I had not expected knowing that so much is imported). It was cold which I liked, expensive which I didn’t, but overall it was a grand vacation I highly recommend.

During my time in Iceland I traveled through lava fields of different kinds, walked along remarkable beaches of black sand, passed craters, dormant and dead volcanoes, peered into pseudo craters, wandered up and down sulfur slopes, observed bubbling mud pools, jumped when geysers blew, saw puffins and tons of other birds, had a snowball fight on a glacier, went on a whale watch where some people saw a minke whale, rode an adorable horse, went on a magical boat ride in an iceberg filled lagoon, saw countless waterfalls, soaked in the Blue Lagoon, and did a whole lot more. I’m not much of a photographer, but here are some I did take:


Lava fields with geothermal steam in the distance.


Near where the North American and Eurasian plates meet.


Behind Seiljalandsfoss


A rainbow at Skogafoss


One of many boiling sulfur mud pools at Namaskard.


The view from my hotel window of Lake Myvatn.


At a small village where only one nonogenarian still lives.


His church


Icelandic cows (from which the tasty skyr is made) in front of the enormous Vatnajokull glacier.


On the glacier.


On a boat on the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon


On an Icelandic horse.

An all around grand and fantastic vacation (when I read and listened to adult books only for a change!).


Filed under Other

An Icelandic Children’s Author

Akureyri, in northwestern Iceland, is the birthplace of the Reverend Jon Sveinsson (Nonni), “ of Iceland’s most famous and best-loved children’s authors.” according to my Lonely Planet guide. I visited the Nonnahus, his childhood home. It was fun peeking into the recreated (I’m assuming) rooms, but most of all I was fascinated by the evidently worldwide appreciation of the man’s work as I was completely unfamiliar with it or him. Several rooms were filled with translated books and photos of Nonni all over the world. Of particular interest to me was that he was especially admired in Japan, visiting there in 1937, of all times! I asked the young woman at the museum if she’d read his books and she said she had only after beginning to work at the museum as they were more for boys. They looked, I must say, pretty old-fashioned. I passed on buying the English edition as it was rather spartan in look and I couldn’t see ever reading it (and everything in Iceland was just too pricey to a whole lot of impulse shopping anyway). The stories were filmed in 1988 and here is a video that gives you a taste of them and some of what I saw in Iceland (as I recognize many of the settings).


Filed under Other

Remembering Harry: In Iceland

Below is the window of a bookstore in Akureyri, a lovely town in northwestern Iceland. If you can’t figure it out, the windows are full of the four Hogwarth’s house crests. And here are some photos of their release activities for the final book.



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Filed under Harry Potter

I’m Back…

and will follow this post with a few about Iceland, beginning with two that are children’s literature related.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Ten Day Hiatus…

from Newbery, Harry, New York, and this blog.

You see, I’m off to Iceland to see glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, hot springs, puffins, little horses, and volcanoes.


Filed under Other

Remembering Harry: Harry Potter as Global Folklore

Daniel H. Nexon, a professor of government at Georgetown University, has some extremely interesting things to say about Harry Potter in the world. Thanks to a post at Hogwartsprofessor I found his notes for the keynote he gave recently at the Prophecy 2007 conference. Among other things Nexon sees Harry Potter, “… not merely a reinterpretation of folklore, it is a, functionally speaking, contemporary folklore. And more than that, it is folklore on a global scale. Or, as I’ve argued in various settings, Harry Potter is cultural globalization: it is part of the creation of transnational common currency of narratives, personages, themes, and other circulating commonplaces.” I also found this very interesting article of his, “How Harry Potter Explains the World.”

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Filed under Harry Potter

Poor Pooh


A Trans-Atlantic Dust-Up That Never Seems to End in Ms. Fuse #8‘s place of work.


Filed under Children's Literature