Monthly Archives: October 2007

Waiting for Lyra: Philip Pullman at the Times Center

Last night I was at an intellectually stimulating evening where Chip McGrath, former editor of the New York Times Book Review, and Philip Pullman conversed. I loved Philip’s strong insistence that reading is a private act between the reader and the book. How he inhabits his books completely until they go out into the world and become the readers’ — “a democracy of reading.” Among many other subjects, he spoke of his own background, the writing of The Golden Compass, his involvement with the movie, Milton, Elizabeth Bishop, and first kisses.

Questions from the audience were asked (several from young people) and politely and thoughtfully answered. At one point I was delighted when Philip mentioned Erich Kastner’s The 35th of May, a fondly remembered book of my childhood. We also were shown what looked like a souped-up movie trailer. That is, there were a few scenes (notably those with Lyra and Iorek Byrnison) that I don’t recall seeing in any of the trailers. Certainly it was thrilling to see them on a larger screen with an audience for the first time.

I was seated with GraceAnne A. DeCandido who took terrific notes, posted the following on child_lit, and graciously allowed me to post it here as well:

The New York Times Center is a fine space: and you can see some
of how fine here

Chip McGrath, writer at large (what a lovely title) for the NYTimes
interviewed Philip Pullman for about an hour and then Philip took
questions from the audience. I cannot guess numbers of those
present, but the range of ages was great: children from Lyra´s and
Will´s age to Philip´s age (which is also mine, that is, early 60s). It
was easy and funny and wise.

“The story begins” said Philip, “when you realize you have been
born into the wrong family.” And he went on to talk about story,
the one long story that is His Dark Materials. Chip said he thought
daemons were the best idea, but Philip noted he thought how
daemons settle was “the best idea I ever had.” He promised us not
only a book about the backstory of Iorek and Lee Scoresby(Once
Upon a Time in the North,
coming in Spring 2008) but a book
about a somewhat older Lyra, The Book of Dust.

“The most private space” is between the reader and the book, Philip
said, and railed, rather gently, against those with no understanding
of metaphor who think a story can only be read one way. He talked
about that wondrous first scene in the first book, and how we get
“from this world where we are to the other world where the story

He talked a little bit about his years of teaching, and how in writing
he got from here to there, and how some characters just came to
him, like Lyra, walking into his mind. He credited the city of
Oxford and the Ashomolean Museum and the Bodleian Library,
Milton, Blake, Whitman and Wallace Stevens, and The Magnificent
Seven among his many sources of inspiration.

We got to see a perfectly splendid trailer for The Golden Compass
movie, which if you have not seen online I urge you to go right
now and search for. It´s breathtaking.

Philip was asked by members of the audience what his daemon is,
and he said a sort of bird that is attracted by shiny, sparkly things –
and steals them. He was asked his favorite piece of his own writing,
and he mentioned the delicious and very subversive trial scene in
The Scarecrow and His Servant. He called true education the
marriage of delight and responsibility – what could be better than



Filed under His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

Particles of Narrative Conference

When I saw the program for the Particles of Narrative conference (organized by Deirdre Baker) held this past weekend in Toronto I absolutely yearned to go. Philip Pullman, Megan Whalen Turner, Tim Wynne-Jones, Kenneth Oppel and more wonders all in one place? But then I came back to my real world — the one where I’m reading for Newbery, preparing for that huge NCTE Notable Books session in a couple of weeks, beginning to write narrative report cards (18 mini-essays), and…well…teach. So I was sensible and stayed home.

But all week-end I kept wondering about the conference and have been looking for reports on it. A few have popped up on child_lit and a few more came via email (Barbara Scotto and Betty Tisel– thanks!) and now I’ve found a report here. If anyone else went and is willing to report, please do in the comments. Or if anyone comes across any other media reports let us know too.

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Filed under Philip Pullman

From the Horse’s Mouth on the Newbery Award

ALSC Blog » Blog Archive » The Newbery Award: Answers to Six Questions, with a Few Myths Exposed

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Waiting for Lyra: Der Goldene Kompass Kino

I know German pretty well so enjoyed this dubbed trailer:

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Filed under Fantasy Worlds, The Golden Compass

Remembering Harry: Jim Dale Reading

Here’s Jim Dale reading at the Union Square Barnes & Noble Book Seven release party this past July.

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Terry Pratchett at Union Square Barnes & Noble

Just discovered that many of the authors who come to the Union Square Barnes & Noble are video taped and you can watched them on the web. I heard Terry Prachett there a few years back and he was wonderful. This time round I wasn’t able to go (mostly because I would have had to get there hours early, no doubt, to get in) and so was delighted to discover that you can see it all right here.

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Waiting for Lyra: Philip Pullman in the Big Apple

Tuesday, October 30th, 6:30.

“The Golden Compass: A Conversation with Philip Pullman” at the Times Center, 242 West 41st Street. The event is sold out, but according to the website: “Tickets may be available at the door the night of the event.”

Thursday, November 1st, 7 PM.

Appearance at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. (I’d get there early if I were you!) For those who can’t come it looks like you can watch it online here.

Friday, November 2nd.

Appearance on “Al’s Book Club” on the Today Show as their current book is The Golden Compass.

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Filed under His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

Egger’s Novelization of the Movie of “Where the Wild Things Are”

Thank you to Leila Roy who drew my attention to this mention of a forthcoming adult novel by David Eggers “… based on Maurice Sendak´s classic Where the Wild Things Are … Ecco is publishing the book in fall 2008, to coincide with the Spike Jonze movie adaptation based on Sendak´s book, for which Eggers wrote the screenplay.”

Now this is fascinating. Certainly Eggers won’t be the first to build a new work of fiction off of a children’s book. There’s Gregory Maguire with Wicked based on The Wizard of Oz, after all. It is interesting though that this novel is based on a picture book that is being turned into a movie. Very, very interesting.

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Thoughts on Newbery: Historical Fantasy

I am a great fan of fantasy literature, but I tend to like novels that link somehow to our world. And I like magic. Lots of it. As a result, historical fantasy is often a puzzlement to me. Too often these works seem setting-heavy, there isn’t enough (or any) magic, and the plot and characters never come to life for me.

What made me think of this now is a review by Ursual Le Guin (whose works of historical fantasy — if you would call her writing that — I love) of Lian Hearn’s Heaven’s Net is Wide, a prequel to the earlier Tales of the Otori. I read and enjoyed very much Across the Nightingale Floor, but could never get into the other books in the series. Something was missing for me.

My current favorite writer of historical fantasy is Megan Whalen Turner (who is speaking today at an amazing sounding conference at Toronto while I am sadly here in NYC). The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia all take place in a setting based on a Mediterranean one. There is barely any magic in the series — certainly less than in Hearn’s series. But Turner’s character development is simply wonderful and her plot development amazing.

You’d think that since I’m so into history that I’d love historical fantasy, but I think perhaps that is why I often don’t. I like the real stuff better. So as a reader I have to be brought out of the setting into the plot, into the feelings and thoughts of the characters. Whalen does this with extraordinary brilliance. She is to date one of my truly favorite living fantasy writers.

So as I consider historical fantasy this year, I look for works that do what Whalen’s do — take me beyond the setting and into the lives of those characters with plots that rivet me and keep me reading past bedtime to find out what happens. Actually, I think this applies to all works, not just those of historical fantasy. That is, I need more than a brilliantly realized setting. If the characters aren’t also brilliantly developed so that I care about what happens to them and if the plot isn’t compelling enough — the setting just doesn’t do it for me.

So, tell me: what works of historical fantasy out this year do you think are worthy contenders for the Newbery?


Filed under Newbery

In the Classroom: The Arrival Box

As I mentioned in another post I used The Ellis Island Collection (a collection of beautiful reproductions of documents and artifacts related to Ellis Island) as a resource while reading The Arrival. Now we are using it as a model as we make our very own box of artifacts.

Every day we get new ideas about what we want to put into the box.

Already the kids have made a ship manifest, written letters, created a steamship ticket, food, birds, identity cards, family photographs, a diary, postcards and more is on the way.

Most exciting of all, in a couple of weeks we will be giving this box to Shaun Tan in person.



Filed under In the Classroom