As mentioned in this week’s Children’s Bookshelf, some mighty fine books will be going head to head with a bunch of really amazing writers doing the judging. (Edited to add: BOB launches next week. Check back here for updates on that or, better yet, follow Bob on twitter!)
Let’s leave the question of just how stupid this kind of book tournament is for another time. SLJ is going to be running one this spring and I’ve said I’ll judge a round (just because it’s stupid doesn’t mean it isn’t fun) and will let you know what it’s like.
Says BOB Judge Roger Sutton.
The British Library has ‘misplaced’ 9,000 books. Novelist Michèle Roberts who worked there, relives the joy of losing herself in its labyrinths.
Novelist Michèle Roberts on the British Library’s lost books in The Guardian
For those who have not yet run across these ideas, Rumeana Jahangir over at the BBC writes about those who think that L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz is an economic parable in Secrets of the Wizard of Oz. Gotta say I’ve been teaching the book for a couple of decades and while I think it might be possible Baum was playing a bit with things like William Jenning Bryan’s silver standard idea, it sure seems he was more interested in creating a “modern” fairy tale than a more elaborate allegory for adults. (Edited to add: JL Bell has an excellent post on this.)
With this post I am starting an occasional series, revisiting favorite books that may be slipping under the radar after having gotten lots of attention. And what better than to start a series with a series — say A Series of Unfortunate Events by the still-ellusive Lemony Snicket.
I’d been considering writing about this after watching this series get a sudden new life in my classroom the last few weeks. It began when one of one of my students chomped her way through the thirteen books (one a night) and begged me to show the film. So I did. (There must be Snicket in the air right now because today Betsy Bird featured a video of the end credits for this woefully, in my opinion, under-appreciated gem of a movie adaptation.) And now, post-movie-viewing, many others in the class are reading the series for the first time or rereading it. Some told me they’d tried the books when younger and hadn’t like them and now want to try again. I think showing them the film helped established the witty aspect of the books so that the kids starting the series for the first time completely get how over-the-top they are meant to be. We’ve discussed irony often, I read aloud many a book that has ironic elements, and so they are also able to recognize it more easily when reading on their own, I suspect, than when they were in 2nd or 3rd grade.
If it isn’t clear by now, I’m a huge fan of this series. I think the books are smart, fun, captivating, and not nearly appreciated enough by adults. When the books were coming out I adored the clever promotion Snicket (and presumably HarperCollins) did — the websites full of clues and games. I think the books are worth rereading — like the best works of literature (and I do think these are quality works of literature) they are full of stuff that will mean more and more as you get older and have more book reading to draw upon. For example, there are many references to Moby Dick, but most (if any) of the kids I knew reading these books didn’t know them and it made not a bit of difference to their reading. Yet I and perhaps other older readers did notice them and enjoy them tremendously. So please, these are books to revisit or check out for the first time. There have been other recent books where authors have attempted to play out a retro sort of style, but they just don’t work for me as perfectly as these do. There is just something about the nutty narrator, the stoical Baudelaires, the over-the-top-villain Count Olaf, and the wonderful lanaguage that makes this series unique for me (even as it harkens back to many an early serial and work of liteature).
Snicket and Co did some terrific videos; taking a cue from Betsy, here are two.
What the hell? I’m not a seasoned reader of young adult novels, and although I tended to find myself nodding along with parts of Caitlin Flanagan’s essay in December’s Atlantic, I don’t bear any involuntary grudges against the genre. YA, literary, crime, thriller—genres are merely marketing in the end. I want only to be engrossed in something well-made and complicated.
Go here to read the whole of Anthony Doerr‘s decision on the match between Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country and E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks at The Tournament of Books and here to read the commentary and comments on that decision. Till this year, all the contenders for TOB have been adult literary works, but this time they threw (and that probably is the operative word) a YA novel into the mix.
Funny-looking writers, at least funny-looking male writers, get famous late—Samuel Johnson and Sinclair Lewis and John Milton and Philip Larkin all come instantly to mind—or else they don’t get famous. They get read, but they don’t get celebrated. (The only exception is Alexander Pope, who got famous young and was a humpback dwarf, but he was so good that no one noticed, and anyway he looked fine from the neck up.)
Adam Gopnik: Look Here, Upon This Picture: The Book Bench: Online Only: The New Yorker
Last night’s The Office episode, “The Golden Ticket” (viewable here) included Michael as Willy Wonka in tails and top hat, Dwight lying about having never seen the movie, and Pam muttering that it was based on a book called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Of course no one paid the slightest attention to her.
Filed under animation, Film