Monthly Archives: April 2011

Tolkien, Carroll, and Other Bits and Pieces

Tony DiTerlizzi recently attempted to track down the details of a tantalizing story that Sendak was considered and rejected by Tolkien as an illustrator for a new edition of The Hobbit.  Tony makes a couple of statements in his article that I wonder about.

Each generation should have an edition of these timeless stories that speaks directly to them in a style and design that they are familiar with. If you don’t believe me, ask a group of fourth-graders to put down their iPhones and Wii game controllers and see what they think of Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations for [Lewis] Carroll’s first edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

While I agree wholeheartedly that it is wonderful to have new versions of old stories,  in my experience, fourth graders enjoy Tenniel’s illustrations just as much as more recent renderings of Carroll’s story.  (I’ve been doing a unit on Alice and her illustrators for several decades now so I do, ahem, know about this, probably better than anyone. See here, here, and here for a taste of what I do with Alice and fourth graders.)  I’m still waiting for a children’s film adaptation that really fits the wit and humor I see in Carroll’s tale, but have found numerous more recent illustrators who have done some very cool things with it — say Anthony Browne, Helen Oxenbury, and Robert Inkpen.

I also was curious about this from Tony:

As those years passed and the book’s fame grew, Tolkien despised the fact that it was considered by many to be a children’s story, as indicated in a letter from 1959, “I am not specially interested in children, and certainly not in writing for them.”

I’d always thought that Tolkien considered The Hobbit a story for children and  The Lord of the Rings for adults.  Not so?  I used to love reading it aloud to my fourth grade classes — felt very much a book for children to me.


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Kat and the Dragon

I’m quite taken with Kat and her book.

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For Those with Means

…there’s a pretty remarkable auction happening this coming Monday at Sotheby’s. It consists of original illustrated art from the collection of Kendra and Allan Daniels and boy would I love to get some of it.  It feels like just about every major illustrator of the so-called Golden Age of Illustration (circa 1880-1940) is represented.  And some of the art is spectacular.  You can peruse the catalogue here, register for a paddle, and do online bidding here.  If you are in the NYC area you can go to Sotheby’s to see the collection today, tomorrow, and over the weekend.

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On the Internet No One Knows You’re a Duck — or Do They?

I’m a huge fan of Tim Egan‘s Dodsworth books so was delighted to come across this.

via @MrSchuReads

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SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books’ Finale

This year’s Battle of the Kids’ Books has been amazing. I’m totally biased, of course, but I truly feel that each judge has written a remarkable decision essay.  For that is what they really are — thoughtful and carefully written articles, each on two books.  Some of the judges ended up going for books that you might expect of them (due to their own writing) while others did not. And each of the fourteen who judged the rounds leading up to this Monday’s Big Kahuna finale (judged by Richard Peck) came up with unique ways of deciding their matches. Here are tastes of each that I hope intrigue you enough to go (if you haven’t already) and read their decisions in total:

  • Francisco X. Stork decided to abandoned “fun” as a criteria and went for the match winner’s “elegant, readable, complexity.”
  • Dana Reinhardt decided that “there is just as much drama and adventure in a girl riding a rope swing over a pit of gravel despite her paralyzing fear because she wants to impress the brown eyed boy she loves, as there is in a newly minted king orchestrating the defeat of ten thousand….”
  • Barry Lyga split himself in two and wrote his decision as a One Act Play.
  • The match winner’s “lasting resonance of its narrative power” was what decided Susan Patron.
  • Dubious about the graphic novel format Karen Hesse was “… forced to retract my misgivings.”
  • Adam Rex called it on a footnote.
  • R.L. Stine was direct and blunt in his decision.
  • After contemplating character, setting, language, and plot Mitali Perkins made her decision on theme.
  • Shakespearean comedy made the difference for Laura Amy Schlitz who wrote in her decision that “Comedy is a celebration of human resilience.”
  • Naomi Shihab was won over by how a contender’s “… muscular and forward-moving, the lavish hum of place, waves, longing, wrap around a reader with hypnotic transporting power.”
  • An all-nighter factored into Patricia Reilly Giff’s choice as did finding the winning contender’s creator’s “… imagination dazzling.”
  • Pete Hauptman channeled his childhood self in his decision.
  • “One is soul-filling while the other satisfying. For me, I’ll go with the soul and I choose…” wrote Grace Lin.
  • Karen Cushman was gobsmacked!

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I stayed home over my spring break catching up on various things including theater.  Here’s what I saw and what I thought:

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
I went shortly before my break and liked it a great deal.  I was glad to see that some reviewers felt as I did (although some did not). For those interested, here’s a video that gives a good sense of it.

Peter and the Starcatcher
Thanks to my sister who noticed that this was going to be in New York. I’d read about the production ages ago and so went ahead and snagged a ticket. I’m glad I did because I agree with this NYTimes rave review — it is delightful. Here’s a taste:

I fell in love with this Tom Stoppard play many years ago when I saw its original American production. I was edgy about how it would hold up and am happy to say it worked for me, still. The ending had me as moved as ever.

Book of Mormon
I know South Park a tad, saw Avenue Q, was given an overview of the Mormon religion by someone who grew up in it, and read some reviews before seeing it.  I think I liked best the way they parody every musical theater trope possible --- not just the classical ones, but those from different eras too. And of course they hit hard at do-gooders of every stripe when they send their two innocents off to Uganda. The creators are equal opportunity stereotypers --- that is, every single character is a parody of one sort or another. You would have thought Arcadia would be the one that had me intellectualizing most of all, but it was this one that has me thinking longer and harder than any of the others.  Interesting that there is no video whatever available (but here is the pretty-explicit Guardian review for those who want details). I'll be curious what happens come Tony-time as I'm not quite sure there is a single number suitable for network prime time television.


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