Monthly Archives: November 2012

Something Philip Pullman Learned from the Grimm About Writing

Philip Pullman’s response to Rachel Martin asking, in this NPR interview, what he has taken away from the Grimm project as he works on The Book of Dust:

These stories move very quickly. There’s not an ounce of narrative fat in them. They go very, very swiftly from event to event.  Another thing, you see very few adverbs in them.  So I’m trying to cut down on my adverbs.



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Philip Pullman on All Sorts of Things

Excellent and expansive interview here.

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Philip Pullman reads “The Three Snake Leaves”

Here’s a BBC3 podcast with a brief interview with Philip Pullman on his new fairy tale collection and then, best of all, his reading from one of them, “The Three Snake Leaves.”

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Students and Storms

In one room, 66 sixth graders used folding chairs and tables donated by a parent who works in the catering business. They talked about their experiences in the storm. One boy, small, with a buzz cut and bright blue eyes, started out with a joke. “It was a dark and stormy night. …” But soon he broke down into sobs as he recounted watching the floods in his basement and the fires in Breezy Point burn down part of his neighborhood. Ann Marie Todes, a teacher, hugged him closely.

From “More Students Return to Classroom, at Strange Schools in Strange Places.

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In the Classroom: Real and Fictional Hurricanes

Anyone that says he ain’t scared in a hurricane is a liar or a fool. That’s what the Colonel says. A hurricane spins up like you’re nothing, and takes your world apart like it’s nothing too. There’s no time in it, no sense of the sun moving, no waxing or waning light. All you can do is breathe and ignore the world flying to pieces beyond your door.

I’m looking forward to seeing my 4th graders tomorrow after a week apart. And as I reworked my lesson plans it hit me that we would be in the midst of another hurricane, the one in the climax of Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky. I have to say that the idea that my New York City kids would be listening to this book after their own serious hurricane experience was the last thing on my mind when I decided it would be our first read-aloud of the year.

I decided because Sheila’s publisher brought her to town in early October and we were one of several schools she visited. It turned out that she and her book have been great hits. After every session I am surrounded by children wondering who, who, who killed Mr. Jesse. Their answers shift constantly as they learn more. And they knew that hurricane was coming, the one in the book much more than the one we just experienced.

I was incredibly touched when just as I was making my own hurricane preparations a little over a week ago, Sheila emailed with some very smart tips for dealing with a hurricane. She’s been through a few. Now I had already planned to fill up the bathtub, but others she provided were surprisingly useful given that Sheila lives in rural North Carolina and I live in urban New York.

I should say that while Sheila’s book has plenty of scary moments, I don’t think they are anything my hurricane-experienced fourth graders can’t handle. Last week it was the real Hurricane Sandy. This week it is the fictional Hurricane Amy.

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What a Wind!

This has been quite a week. Sandy visited us here in NYC and she was NOT a good house guest. Unlike those I’ve had as a result of her dreadful behavior. Say my good friend Roxanne Feldman (aka fairrosa) who had to evacuate her home on Sunday and has been with me ever since. Or her husband David who joined us the night of the storm and came with me as I walked my twelve pound dog who got pretty blown about as we tried to get her to …do…something… between falling tree limbs and watched a couple of young men run by shirtless while the local bistro start to pack it up. And my niece, who lives in Brooklyn, and is coming tonight so that she can manage to get to work tomorrow morning in a reasonable amount of time, public transportation being still very problematic.

I am fortunate to live in Morningside Heights where Sandy caused little damage. Yes, Riverside Park is pretty battered, but we have electricity and no flooding. People downtown and across the rivers have not been so lucky. Roxanne’s building is without power and may be for some time as there was equipment failure that needs significant parts and repair. I know of many others downtown, in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, and New Jersey who are suffering so much more than we are and my heart goes out to them.

My school has been wonderful, trying to figure out every day what was going on for everyone in the community.  For many of us, just getting to school would be challenging. The MTA has been incredible in getting buses and subways working again, but there was massive flooding in many places and so getting in and out of Manhattan is very difficult.  Given how many in my school’s community are from outside of Manhattan I am grateful that the administration made the decision to keep school closed until Monday.  By then I hope that transportation is sufficiently back on track to make it possible for everyone to make it to school.

There was Halloween for children here, but those in New Jersey have had theirs postponed.  Roxanne was worried about the pumpkins rotting in her annual Haunted House (she turns the library in to one and it is always awesome), but a couple of staff members who live near the school thought to toss them before they became too rank. I’m sad that we didn’t have Halloween in school, but so it goes.

I’ve just an email out to my students’ parents to see how they are all doing.  Some of them live quite far from the school, in areas that are still suffering flooding and loss of power, so I am hoping they are managing.  I will be happy to be together with them again on Monday.  It has been a very strange time, this Sandy time.

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