Monthly Archives: March 2010


For some life became a bit brighter a few days ago with the release of Megan Whalen Turner‘s A Conspiracy of Kings.  I was one of the fortunate ones to read this book early, but now that it is out it is great fun to read the commentary about it, especially at the fan site, sounis.  And I just noticed a spoilerish post asking for theories about what would happen next.  You mean it won’t all end on a train station twenty years later with a bunch of kids?  Let me phrase that again, “It won’t all end on a train station twenty years later with a bunch of kids?  Please?”  Seriously — for those who are into this series, some fun speculations.


Leave a comment

Filed under Other

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure’s Got a Mystery and a Contest

What fun!

Can your class guess who he or she is?

Play Twenty Questions with other Exquisite Corpse Adventure readers around the country to help identify The Mystery Author!

Every class that solves the mystery and emails in the correct guess will be entered into a drawing to win a collection of books valued at over $500 for their classroom or library, plus a phone conversation with The Mystery Author! One classroom winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries received.

Go here to play.

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Literature

Review of Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars

Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars premiered on the Disney Channel this past Friday.  Feeling it was churlish to moan about it without seeing it I DVRd it and watched it yesterday.  So now let me roll up my sleeves and begin.  (And if Ms. Fitzhugh is reading this from on high — only do so if you want a laugh.)

So you’ve got Harriet, a rather pleasant high school student and her two friends, Janie and Sport. You’ve also got Marion and entourage. All in a Gossip-Girlish-looking high school, but without a smidgen of sex, amour, anything of that sort. No, no, no; they are all wholesome kids being mean in the mildest and Disneyish way.  We get brief vignettes of Janie and Sport being Janie and Sport (sort of) and a few more of Harriet spying (and I have to say the one with the painter is very creepy because it is about him preying on women, but of course it is totally unsexual as this is Disney), Marion rolling eyes, some bantering with the cook/trainer about tomato sandwiches, and various other similar badly-done references to the original book.

Notebooks, check. Disinterested parents, check.  Ole Golly, che…er…OMG…Golly, as she is now known, looks to be about five years older than Harriet and dresses more or less the same (well, no short private school skirt, but you get the picture, I hope).  I could deal with the kids being in high school and being so flattened out, but (Ole) Golly turned into a deadly dull drippy Nanny Diary ish nanny?  Who **spoiler** leaves Harriet to take over a coffee bar?  Jeez.

So anyway, Harriet is in a very lovely private school where there is to be a competition for a “class blogger.”  Evidently there is a tradition for one student in the class to write a blog just for the class.  Harriet and Marion are selected to vie for this; whoever produces posts that get the most hits and comments wins.  As a teacher in a very lovely private school who has been blogging with her students for some years this rang so false I can’t even tell you. It was lame, lame, lame. Schools do not do this.  They do not, they do not, they do not.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  So okay, I got that off my chest.

Now we go even further into the depths of horrid book adaptations.  Harriet’s father is now a movie producer and is doing one with a teen heart-throb.  Long story short — Harriet stalks the guy to get stuff for her blog to get the necessary hits to win.  Shenanigans on set and off ensue. Harriet is revealed as having exaggerated her relationship with the star and all are mad at her.  More stuff happens, more hijinks, and finally all is sorted out.  Harriet becomes class blogger, check.  Harriet’s friends come back to her, check.  Harriet’s parents hug her, check.  Golly hugs her, check.  Movie magazines hug her, check.  The end.

Final recommendation:  don’t bother.


Filed under Movies

No More Culture of Childhood?

For children in past eras, participating in the culture of childhood was a socializing process. They learned to settle their own quarrels, to make and break their own rules, and to respect the rights of others. They learned that friends could be mean as well as kind, and that life was not always fair.

Now that most children no longer participate in this free-form experience — play dates arranged by parents are no substitute — their peer socialization has suffered. One tangible result of this lack of socialization is the increase in bullying, teasing and discrimination that we see in all too many of our schools.

David Elkind makes some compelling points about recess, play, and the culture of childhood in “Playtime is Over.”  The piece is in response to a recent article about how some schools are putting in place recess coaches to help children learn how to play.  Since I’ve always felt strongly that we adults needed to stay out of the kids’ way during recess, only interfering if safety is involved, Elkind’s points were striking.  While there are kids experiencing childhood closer to what I experienced (as I do see them exercising their imaginations and playing as I did) there are others who are experiencing a very different one and perhaps do need the sort of help these coaches provide.  Thought-provoking indeed.


Filed under Other


Yesterday I saw Red, a play about Mark Rothko that has been a hit in London and has now come to New York for a limited engagement.  There are just two in the cast:  Alfred Molina playing Rothko and Eddie Remayne his assistant.  I found it riveting and will be interested to see what reviewers think when it opens here next week.  Doing a little procrastinating, I mean, serious research, I discovered that the play’s creator, John Logan, is currently writing the screenplay for The Invention of Hugo Cabret slated to start filming this summer in Europe.  I would have said there is nothing else in common between the two artists, Rothko and Selznick, but maybe I’m wrong?  As far as I know Brian isn’t a tortured Jewish artist and I would like to think he is a bit kinder to employees.  On the other hand, he is pretty darn thoughtful as Rothko seems to have been.  Well, I suppose if I tried I’d get more of the six degrees of whatever between them. But I’ve procrastinated enough I think.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other

Exquisite Corpse Episode 14: The Crade Will Rock

Does it fall?  Find out in Linda Sue Park’s contribution to the Exquisite Corpse Adventure.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other

Nobody on the Red Carpet

A block before we reach the Kodak Theatre, the car is searched, and then we’re there and I’m tipped out on to the red carpet. Someone pushes a ticket into my hand, to get the car back later that night.

Neil Gaiman goes to the Oscars.

1 Comment

Filed under Neil Gaiman

The Numbers Game

Fascinating PW article with real sales numbers of 2009 kid books.  Via @Gwenda

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Literature

Thoughts on Newbery: Subjectivity

“Reading is subjective” is how Julius Lester begins his SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books decision. It is, it is.  And this is why we have different books receiving different awards the same year.  It is why I might love this year’s Newbery winner yet you might not.  It is why the chances are good that two different groups of people might chose two different winners the same year (as happened with Heavy Medal here and here).

People have been surprised by some of the judges’ decisions at the Battle, but I’m not.  While I may not agree with their reasons I respect them.  Because they are doing what the Newbery Committee does every year.  Yes, unlike the Battle, there are criteria, but in the end each person has to figure out how their favorites work with that criteria.  And it isn’t just the Newbery.  It is true for all awards.  J.L. Bell wondered about The Storm in the Barn winning the Scott O’Dell because he didn’t think of it as historical fiction. However, the committee that gave it the award clearly thought it was.

When on the Newbery Committee you want to be able to listen, consider, and also be passionate about what you care about. Passion is all about subjectivity in the end, isn’t it?  So while you may not agree with Julius Lester today (and some clearly don’t) you have to acknowledge that he showed his cards in that very first sentence.  We are human. We care. We are subjective.


Filed under awards, Battle of the (Kids') Books, Newbery


I seem to have missed this last week, but Laura Miller has set me straight.  For those under a rock like me, it’s Michelle Kearn’s Book Review Bingo.   And yes, I admit to having used more than one of those.  More than once.  Ah, the shame, the shame.

Leave a comment

Filed under Other