Monthly Archives: January 2010

The National Theatre’s Nation

Yesterday I saw my first HD satellite broadcast on a movie screen, the National Theatre’s production of Nation.  I thought it would be like some of the plays I’ve seen in years past on PBS, but it was much, much better.  I was impressed and would definitely go to something like this again.  In fact, watching it made me wish the NT would do another revival of His Dark Materials (I saw the original production) so they could broadcast it worldwide too.

That said, I should say this production is pretty loosely based on the Terry Pratchett novel.  I thought Gary Carr who played Mau was excellent, was very impressed with the water scenes, and quite enjoyed it while, at the same time, wished they’d not reduced the novel quite so drastically, minimizing certain themes and leaving some of the most profound ones out completely. For all that, I’m glad I went.

Here’s a taste of what I saw:



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Thoughts on Newbery: Mashups

Dear Gatekeepers,

Where are the new genres?  If you feel compelled to place a book into one, why use the old ones?

On this Heavy Medal post, Cindy comments:

I’ve been sharing the medal winners and honor books with my students and have come across the same issue with When You Reach Me. According to the definition we use (takes place at least 30 years prior to date of publication), it does qualify as historical fiction. Since I was only a couple years younger than Miranda in 1979, it doesn’t feel “historical” to me. However, because of the time travel element, we probably wouldn’t offer it for either historical or realistic fiction assignments.

Or what about the Scott O’Dell winner, graphic novel The Storm in the Barn with its mix of fantasy and history?  J. L. Bell is dubious.

Not to mention other Newbery honorees, say the 2008 one.   Commenting on an earlier Heavy Medal post by Nina, Jonathan wrote:

I am leery of counting CARVER and GOOD MASTERS! as informational books. Yes, they both use poetry in service of history and the latter, in particular, is a hybrid of poetry, monologue, and nonfiction, but I worry that too many people like to list these as nonfiction because “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” In other words, isn’t it lovely to have something to make those dry facts not so dry?

How about the loveliness of new genres?  Why, when everything else is merging and shifting and changing, are we still using categories that don’t work?  I just love the way Stead, Nelson, and Schlitz mixed and melded a whole bunch of genres into delicious new ones.  If it is so critical to tag them with particular genre names, rather than forcing them to be what they aren’t can’t we generate and advocate and come up with new ones?


One of you (a gatekeeper too)


Filed under Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Newbery

That New Apple Thing

Warning: not subtle.  No doubt this 2006 MadTV skit will be all over the place if it isn’t already.  (I got it from galleycat who got it from someone who got it from someone…)

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The Exquisite Corpse: Episode Nine

Nancy sputtered, exasperated. As for Joe, he suddenly felt like Alice in Wonderland, unable to get straight answers out of anyone after she slid down that rabbit hole. (Okay, so he had swiped Nancy’s copy of the book and read it. But who could resist a story about a giant rabbit with a pocket watch?)

From Nikki Grimes’ contribution (arguably my favorite, for obvious reasons).

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In the Classroom: Reading Aloud When You Reach Me

I can still hear a bunch of my students outside my room packing up to go home, debating and mulling over just what is happening in this remarkable book.  I thought I’d be able to finish reading it to them today, but ran out of time.  Had to stop at page 170 with 26 pages left.  But they are wildly curious, many stayed in the room with me for a while after school, to speculate, to surmise, to guess. One figured it out, but doesn’t know it yet.  Others think they know, but don’t.

I read this aloud last year for the first time and timed it so that I was able to read from the Very Important Scene straight through to the end. This year I had planned to do so as well, but ran out of time. But I think it might be even better this way — they are now obsessed and I bet they may well go home and talk to their parents about it too. And what more could you want for an amazing read aloud?


Filed under In the Classroom, Newbery, Reading Aloud


Just as Wheelie offers this jaw-breaking confection in Rebecca Stead’s Newbery winner When You Reach Me, so I’m offering a few bits too. (Mine are far less cavity-inducing though.)

“For me, as a kid, a book was a very private world,” she said. “I didn’t like talking about books with other people very much because it almost felt like I didn’t want other people to be in that world with me.”

From The Book Club With Just One Member

I believe–and this is not an original idea from me–that really strong writing yields more every time you read it.

From Rebecca Stead Asks the Big Questions

Optimism doesn’t come easily to me, but it’s a quality I strive for.

From Meet Rebecca Stead

I like the here and now. Imperfect as the world is, I do think we’re at least kind of groping in the right direction.

From Five Questions for Rebecca Stead

“Kids are not quite as independent at that age anymore,” she says. “From age nine, my friends and I were on the streets, walking home, going to each other’s houses, going to the store. I really wanted to write about that: the independence that’s a little bit scary but also a really positive thing in a lot of ways. And I’m not sure that most kids have that today.”

From Time Out for Kids New York


Filed under Newbery

The Environmental Imagination and Children’s Literature

This conference sounds amazing. Having heard many of the speakers before I know they will be thought-provoking, moving, and entertaining.  It will be held March 5-6, 2010 at the University of Toronto’s Trinity College.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMAGINATION AND CHILDREN’S LITERATURE will feature renowned children’’s authors from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.: David Almond, M.T. Anderson, Susan Cooper, Sarah Ellis and Tim Wynne-Jones. They will be joined by Professor Lawrence Buell, Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University and Professor Marguerite Holloway, professor of science and environmental issues journalism at the Journalism School, Columbia University.

Academics and university students, writers and illustrators, teachers, librarians, publishers and editors — anyone eager to think hard about children’s lit. is invited to this fest of thinking readers and writers. Interested high school students are also welcome.

What makes the imagination in children’s books “environmental”? What do climatologists and botanists, children’s writers and artists, and the playing child have in common? Examining the stuff of which children’s books are made — words and pictures — some of the world’s leading children’’s writers and experts on literature will look at the way children’’s books create and critique the environment and environmental issues. Why is wilderness necessary in writing as in the natural world? How do miniature characters change a child’’s environmental imagination? What happens when fantasy takes on the climate? What do ““affluence, effluents, dancing cows, and forty-two pounds of edible fungus”” have to do with the child’’s relationship to the natural world?

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Filed under Children's Literature

Of Conspiracies and Kings

One of the most exciting forthcoming 2010 titles is Megan Whalen Turner’s A Conspiracy of Kings.  And may I just gently suggest that if you have not yet read the first three books, do.  Right away.  That is, now.

To whet your appetite, over at the Greenwillow Blog, editor Virginia Duncan is celebrating the release of this new book to the printer with a delightful book trailer for the first in the series, The Thief.

Be still my heart.


Filed under Other

Behind the Scenes at the Awards

Thanks to ALA for this one (and Stacy Dillon for alerting me to it and pointing out that you can see the two of us very briefly at the end as we waited to get into the ballroom for the press conference).

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Happy Day

My horse won!


Filed under awards, Newbery