Daily Archives: September 21, 2007

New Pullman Book to be Published by David Fickling Books (UK) and Alfred A Knopf (US)

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH to be published by David Fickling Books in the UK and Alfred A. Knopf in the US.

News Release

For immediate release on Friday 21st September 2007

David Fickling Books to Publish New Philip Pullman Story

David Fickling Books is delighted to announce the worldwide publication of Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman, a beguiling and intriguing new episode from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials universe

A new and completely original episode from Philip Pullman’s bestselling His Dark Materials universe will be published on 3rd April 2008 by David Fickling Books Ltd, part of The Random House Group in the UK. The book, Once Upon a Time in the North, opens another extraordinary window into the universe of His Dark Materials, and is Philip’s first new work for five years.

Once Upon a Time in the North will appear under the David Fickling Books imprint in the UK and will be published in association with Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books in the USA.

Once Upon a Time in the North is a companion volume to Lyra’s Oxford (though about double the length of that story) and, like that work, set in Lyra Belacqua’s world and not our own.

The events of Once Upon a Time in the North happen before Lyra was born and in it we meet two of the most popular and enduring of Philip’s characters, the tough American balloonist Lee Scoresby and the great armoured bear and Lyra’s guardian, Iorek Byrnison. The story recounts the very first meeting of these two heroes, an encounter eagerly awaited by all Pullman fans. Lee Scoresby and his hare daemon, Hester, crash land their trading balloon on to Novy Odense, a port in the far Arctic North, and so find themselves right in the middle of a political powder keg that threatens to explode into a street-fight. Honour is at stake and Lee is not a man to duck a matter of honour. And this is the very first time that Lee gets to use his trusty and celebrated Winchester rifle . . .

Like Lyra’s Oxford, the story is presented as an exquisitely designed cloth-bound book and includes many other teasingly authentic memorabilia and clues from the His Dark Materials universe gathered together, it seems, by Lyra herself. This includes photographs, newspaper cuttings, bills of lading and an exciting and gorgeous Arctic Balloonist Board Game, Challenge the Wind, all beautifully illustrated and rendered by master engraver John Lawrence.

Philip Pullman says, “Writing this story was a matter of pure enjoyment. The two characters at the heart of it, Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison, were old comrades-in-arms when Lyra met them first in Northern Lights. It was obvious that they had a history, and it was my son Jamie who first suggested that I should write about it. When David Fickling had the idea of doing that in a similar format to Lyra’s Oxford I leapt at the idea at once. I hope readers will enjoy this tale of the first meeting between these two honourable but down-at-heel adventurers.”

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Stop Standing Outside the Classroom and Complaining; Get inside!

I am currently a thorn in poor Marc Aronson‘s side, carping at him in the comments of his blog, Nonfiction Matters in response to his posts about his concerns about how to get new and exciting ways to consider history into the minds of kids. Marc’s focus is on the books and how to get them to kid readers. Mine is additionally on those who get them to the kids — in other words, teachers. While he writes that he has, “… no desire to blame teachers,” he also writes:

If you write a book that expects critical thinking from a student, how do you get past a teacher who may find that approach distressing, troubling, rather than liberating? If you write a book that dutifully tracks through facts easily available elsewhere, who needs it? This is like the issue of context, but it is a matter of intellectual context — how do you speak to the bright minds of students around the corner of a teacher who has only limited training in a discipline and may not recognize the value of fresh thinking?

What I’ve been trying to get at in my comments to Marc is that rather than getting past that teacher who is troubled by this approach or around the corner of one, get to that teacher in her context. That is, show and model how to use these books in the classroom yourself. Find teachers who like the idea of working with you and get in there with them. Work with them, present the results with them at conferences, and write about that in articles and blogs. In other words, stop standing outside the classroom. Get inside!

As I wrote today on Marc’s blog, I went into teaching in the 1970s partly because I wanted a steady income (I was an aspiring illustrator at the time) and also because I liked doing it and was good at it. Because there were no public school jobs at the time (they were laying off teachers here in NYC) I ended up in a private school and moved to a few others before landing in my current school quite a while ago. Now I feel very fortunate that I’m in a private school where I can teach creatively without being hobbled by the dictates of NCLB. But I also am very careful in my recommendations to my colleagues in public school who have those constraints. Even in my school I see what happens when teachers are pushed to do things they don’t want to do or haven’t yet bought into. Doesn’t happen or happens badly.

Those of you in publishing, who write books that you want to see used in classrooms — please, please just take the time to learn what happens in those classrooms, to respect and appreciate and celebrate that work. Do not just look at the horrid articles of doom about our schools (with nary a teacher’s voice to be seen), what is happening with that one unfortunate teacher your child is now struggling with, and so on.

I love to teach and think it is a noble profession. It is perceived that way a lot more in other countries, sadly, than in the US. What is the saddest to me is that we are losing a new generation of teachers with the constraints of NCLB. The best new ones are not staying — when it is horrible they will go elsewhere. To schools like mine or out of the profession entirely.

So, to end this rant — get into those classrooms! See what it is like for us teachers, really.

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