Monthly Archives: February 2008

Much Ado about Wild Things

The New York Magazine’s Vulture bloggers have been very enthusiastic about the movie of Sendak’s classic book, offering the rest of us tantalizing commentary about the script and other stuff. Now they report that things are getting very hot-under-the-collar at Warner Brothers. They link to this post which posits that the movie is on the verge of being reshot as well as to this post which includes the following responses to an early screen test:

“And some kids at my screening began to cry and asked their parents to leave, so that should give you an idea.” “The things are not cute. Max comes off a bit weird and off-putting ‘He slaps his mom!’ and he seems confused and not charming at all.” “No rumpus, no big set pieces, no ‘state-of-the-art’ lucrative sequences just some running around on some desert place and thats that.”

This sounds and reads all too much like the horrible mucking about with The Golden Compass movie. Panic and lack of confidence resulted in a less-than-it-could-have-been movie. Is that going to happen here too? If so, what a shame.

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Steve Jobs, Reading, and its (Un)Death

For most of my lifetime, I’ve heard that reading is dead. In that time, disco has died, drive-in movies have nearly died, and something called The Clapper has come and gone through bedrooms across the nation.

Timothy Egan on “Book Lust” – Outposts – Op-Extra Columnist – Opinion – – New York Times Blog

(Thanks to Ruth Gordon for posting this link on the ALSC-L list)

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Semicolons and Commas, Oh My.

I love semicolons because I understand them. Commas, on the other hand,* I don’t get. I am often never sure whether one is needed or not. While I should probably put them in when unsure,** I tend to do the opposite***. Semicolons are cool; commas are just fussy. So, of course, I loved this New York Times article, “Celebrating the Semicolon in a Most Unlikely Location” from a few days back. And, just to make me squirm, here’s the correction added to the article after it was published:

Correction: February 19, 2008
An article in some editions on Monday about a New York City Transit employee’s deft use of the semicolon in a public service placard was less deft in its punctuation of the title of a book by Lynne Truss, who called the placard a “lovely example” of proper punctuation. The title of the book is “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” — not “Eats Shoots & Leaves.” (The subtitle of Ms. Truss’s book is “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.”)

*Is that one correct? Probably not.

**Put it in against my instincts.

***But writing about it in this post made me self-conscious so in they go.


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Remembering Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates

February 22nd, 2005

I’m looking at a scrap of that orange right now and carry another in my wallet. They are official mementos of one of the most glorious artworks of the last decade: Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates: Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005. I’d heard the two talk about the project years earlier (probably in the 80s) and knew that New York City officials were dead set against it. But things change, artists and officials, and suddenly the project was okayed. I was elated!

So there I was three years ago peering out of the window of the bus I took to school every day; one that went along the north and east sides of Central Park. I started to see huge flatbed trucks and then intriguingly huge piles of stuff as the final preparations were made. On the weekends I ran through the park, exploring further. I followed the artists on their website, in the media; I couldn’t get enough of the project. And then I brought it to my students and my students to it. We went to see those magical gates as they were before, as they were being set up, and , once up, on sunny days, snowy days, and even on high. The children wrote poetry and created wonderful collages. It was a remarkable time; one I won’t forget ever.

So when Neal Porter told me that Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, creators of such wonderful works as Action Jackson, were doing a book on the artists and the project I couldn’t have been happier. And now it is just about ready! Last month at ALA I was privileged to have breakfast with Jan, Sandra, and Neal who showed me the page proofs for Christo and Jeanne Claude: Through the Gates and Beyond; they were amazing. I can’t wait for the book itself.

The pub date is April 1, but I’m thinking about those glorious Gates right now.

  • Remembering how I ran through them in the dark early mornings listening to them flap in the wind.
  • Remembering their reflections in the Harlem Meer.
  • Remembering how they stood like standing stones in a circle on the Great Hill.
  • Remembering my students playing tag around them on a sunny day.
  • Remembering an exhilarating child_lit field trip, walking through the crowded park (crowded in February!).
  • Remembering walking through the park as they were being taken down and chatting with Christo and Jeanne-Claude themselves.
  • Remembering this February when the park is, as usual cold and bare, that other February when the park was so filled with orange.


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 Edward Champion on “Bill Keller Can Do No Wrong.”

Nominally about Ruth Conniff’s review of Keller’s children’s biography of Nelson Mandela, Tree Shaker, but really about conflict of interest.

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Why Teach the So-Called Classics?

The question is often debated. Why give kids an evidently yawn-inducing classic to read in school instead of something more current, more relevant to their lives now?

My answer is: because a great book, properly taught, will engage and, far from putting students to sleep, will excite them.   For example, I’m just about to begin my annual teaching of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now none of my students today live a life remotely like Alice’s. Yet with some context (provided with other books, videos, and notes from the annotated edition) they enjoy the book tremendously.

And evidently something good also happens when young people at the Boston Latin School read The Great Gatsby.

BOSTON — Jinzhao Wang, 14, who immigrated two years ago from China, has never seen anything like the huge mansions that loomed over Long Island Sound in glamorous 1920s New York. But F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, “The Great Gatsby,” with its themes of possibility and aspiration, speaks to her.

That is the start of a very interesting New York Times article by Sara Rimer, “Gatsby’s Green Light Beckons a New Set of Strivers,” Thanks to Mark Sarvas for the tip.


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Would the Central Children’s Room and Teen Central Go There?

 We can only hope.   Here’s the scoop from Maud Newton:

The New York Public Library is gearing up for some big changes. A confidential source reports that plans are afoot to install a circulating central library in the flagship Fifth Avenue branch, which currently is just a research library and exhibitions site.

According to the source, new space beneath Bryant Park, and improvements in digital technology, will enable the NYPL to free up the stacks below the Rose Main Reading Room on the west side of the building and to make the space open to the public for the first time.

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The Banality of Overuse

Meanwhile, we should all of us perhaps take care when we speak of the problem of evil. For there is more than one sort of banality. There is the notorious banality of which Arendt spoke —the unsettling, normal, neighborly, everyday evil in humans. But there is another banality: the banality of overuse—the flattening, desensitizing effect of seeing or saying or thinking the same thing too many times until we have numbed our audience and rendered them immune to the evil we are describing. And that is the banality— or “banalization”—that we face today.

This is Tony Judt (a very controversial scholar, if you don’t already know) on “The ‘Problem of Evil’ in Postwar Europe” in The New York Review of Books.” Provocative and worthwhile reading.

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Are Kids Copying Their Parents When They Lie?

Kids lie early, often, and for all sorts of reasons—to avoid punishment, to bond with friends, to gain a sense of control. But now there’s a singular theory for one way this habit develops: They are just copying their parents.

Learning to Lie by Po Bronson in New York Magazine

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Reading Those Old Handwritten Letters and Diaries


My ninth Rule. When you get to the end of a notesheet, and find you have more to say, take another piece of paper–a whole sheet, or a scrap, as the case may demand: but whatever you do, don’t cross! Remember the old proverb ”Cross-writing makes cross reading”. “The old proverb?” you say, inquiringly. “How old?” Well, not so very ancient, I must confess. In fact, I’m afraid I invented it while writing this paragraph! Still, you know, “old” is a comparative term. I think you would be quite justified in addressing a chicken, just of of the shell, as “Old boy!” when compared with another chicken, that was only half-out! (The Reverend Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, in Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter Writing)

This came to mind as I read Megan Marshall’s fascinating Slate article, “How to decipher authors’ handwriting” in which she addresses crossing among many other things. Highly recommended. Thanks to bookninja for the tip.

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