Monthly Archives: December 2007

Remembering Harry: He’s Not Dead Yet?

Says Rowling in Time Magazine: “If, and it’s a big if, I ever write an eighth book about the [wizarding ] world, I doubt that Harry would be the central character,” she says. “I feel like I’ve already told his story. But these are big ifs. Let’s give it 10 years and see how we feel then.”



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Thoughts on Newbery: Final Preparations

Two weeks from tomorrow I will be in a ballroom at the Philadelphia Convention Center watching as the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced. I will be waiting with thousands to see just who and what won the 2008 Newbery Medal. Well, actually I will already know having spent the last few days squirreled away with my committee making the decision. But I will still be on tender-hooks waiting to see what the world thinks of our decision. If it is anticipated there will be cheers galore; if it is a surprise there will be a moment of silence before the hall will ring with applause (hopefully sincerely happy as opposed to just polite).

In the days immediately before the press conference I will be sequestered with my fellow committee members discussing and discussing and discussing the best books of 2008. We will be referring constantly to the award’s terms and criteria and reminding ourselves that “… the award is for literary quality and quality presentation for children. The award is not for didactic intent or for popularity.”

And so now I do my final preparations. I reread carefully, carefully, carefully. I research elements in the books that I feel I need to know more about. I read reviews in journals, at amazon, goodreads, on-line discussion groups, blogs, and everywhere that I can. I do everything I can to know these books intimately, fairly, and respectfully. I admire their creators — these are works of art, worthy of our careful and intensive consideration. These are books that have been lovingly and carefully read, studied, and appreciated by a group of incredibly intelligent book-loving people.

It has been quite a year. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books to read in a new way. Having to chose among them — which ones to suggest to the committee to read, which ones to nominate? And now which ones to argue for most fiercely while being ready to listen to others argue for their favorites? And how to both love and be willing to compromise? I need to go in with both an open mind and one ready to argue for and against. What a strange thing this is indeed. This picking the best of the year.

Wish us all luck!


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Living on Earth: Season of Light

In the cold doldrums of winter, spirits lag and sleepiness prevails. But the darkness that dominates the Northern Hemisphere this time of year creates the perfect setting for cozying up and listening to stories. This year the Living on Earth holiday special brings together tales from around the world to celebrate the season of light.

Three stories:

Celtic storyteller Mara Freeman tells the traditional story of “The Return of Bride” where the winter goddess tries to continue her frozen reign.

Heidi Dahlsveen shares the Norwegian folktale of Draugen, the evil spirit of the ocean.

Greek storyteller and musician Manya Maratou tells the story of a girl who arrives at the end of the world, the home of the sun.

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The Golden Compass Movie: Philip Pullman on ‘Story’ versus ‘literature’

Philip Pullman speaks up for the narrator and argues that ‘literature’ is what a film director must leave out when translating a ‘story’ into a movie.

Story’ versus ‘literature’ | Book club | Guardian Unlimited Books

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A Dust-Up Over Dust

Actually, it is a fascinating glimpse into academic politics, this one being a battle royal between two philosophers.

Intellectually, they hold very different views on one of the hottest, and most intractable of philosophical problems, consciousness. Honderich calls himself a radical externalist on consciousness, meaning, he writes in his book, that “my perceptual consciousness now consists in the existence of a world”.

I’m the daughter of an academic and all too familiar with academic feuds, disputes, and other very nasty stuff. The Guardian article suggests that something personal not intellectual is at the heart of this particular fight which makes me quite uncomfortable. No doubt it will make all involved even angrier than they already are. But it was the consciousness stuff that caught my eye — Pullman’s Dust. Interesting, that.

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Filed under His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman

Avatars and Servants, Daemons and Souls

Even those avatars racing around the internet apparently need the services of something called an “identity manager” to keep them up to date and on track. They don’t – just as daemons don’t – have a useful, productive existence independent of the person who created them. Until that moment comes, they remain yet another smart accessory that is more trouble than it is actually worth.

Huh? Kathryn Hughes is seriously stretching things by presenting avatars as something similar to Philip Pullman’s daemons. Avatars are things you make yourself (as in Second Life). But daemons? They are a part of you, your soul, not avatars or servants. You don’t select them or make them. They are a part of you — visible and active in Lyra’s world, but not ours. Utilitarian seems a pretty prosaic word to use about them. While not as peculiar a juxtaposition as Philip Pullman and V.C. Andrews, it is nonetheless pretty lame.

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Filed under His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman

Comics in the Classroom

Superman Finds New Fans Among Reading Instructors – New York Times

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Filed under graphic novel, Reading, Teaching


Like many I was wowed by Marjane Satrapi’s remarkable graphic novel memoir Persepolis. The buzz on the animated version was impressive, but I was still dubious. Not any more though. I saw the movie today and it was extraordinary — had me in tears several times along the way. Satrapi has done an incredible job and I highly, highly, highly recommend it.

Here’s a trailer to give you a taste:


Filed under animation, graphic novel

Celebrity Do-Gooders

In our celebrity culture where news is as often gotten from The Daily Show as from any more traditional source, the issue of do-gooding celebrities is complicated. In an interesting article in the National Interest on the issue, David W. Drezner points out how far more successful Gore has been as a celebrity than as a more conventional politician while also noting that not all look favorably on celebrity involvement.

Development expert William Easterly has argued that the celebrity focus on Africa’s problems has been misguided. By focusing exclusively on the diseases of sub-Saharan Africa, celebrities have unwittingly tarnished an entire continent: “[Africans are] not helpless wards waiting for actors and rock stars to rescue them.” Many African officials and activists share this sentiment, even heckling Bono at a development conference.

I’ve written here and here before about my feelings about celebrities and Africa. It still feels churlish to complain yet too often the result is not a better understanding of the issues, of the continent, or even better help. I’m not sure Drezner’s article changed my feelings, but it certainly gave me plenty to think about.

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The Locked Room Mystery Mystery by Jasper Fforde

The next to be interviewed was Flashback the butler who, after taking them on an interesting but irrelevant excursion around a trivial incident in his childhood, gave no new information – except to say that Locked Room entered the library alone, and he heard the key being turned behind him.

Locked Room Mystery is dead. Who did it? When? Why? How? Read Jasper Fforde’s short story to find out!

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