Monthly Archives: July 2013

Travers and Disney

I knew the story of P. L. Travers’ unhappy experience in L.A. during the making of the Mary Poppins movie, but hadn’t heard until now that Disney has turned that story into a movie as well, “Saving Mr. Banks,” out this December. With Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks as Disney, this post about the new movie’s script and the following trailer has me hopeful.

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Andy Mulligan’s Trash to be a Movie

I’m a big fan of Andy Mulligan’s Trash and so am warily interested in its being turned into a movie. This article, though focusing on the adults involved, gives a pretty accurate description of the story which is promising:

… The story concerns three street kids — Raphael, Gardo, and Rat (who will be by newcomers/unknowns Rickson Tevez, Eduardo Luis and Gabriel Weinstein) — who have no homes, no parents, no money, and no education. They live in an unnamed third world country and survive by picking through a mostly human waste-filled garbage dump on the outskirts of a large city. One day, one of them finds a small leather bag with a wallet with some money and an ID card, a folded-up map, and a key. A police officer offers them a reward for this parcel but that makes them realize something’s amiss, and they decide to hang on to it. That decision puts them in danger and they’re soon on a mission, having to lie, steal and fight against corrupt forces in both the corporate world and the government.

Sounds like another potential “Slumdog Millionaire,” and it’s crude reading, but the potential is there. We’d guess the stars in the movie are really on the sidelines to the boys’ adventure, that will see them run into Father Julliard (Sheen) and an NGO worker named Olivia (Mara) along the way.

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In the Classroom: More About Introverted Teaching

This past February, after reading an article by an extroverted teacher who felt it was important to grade her introverted students in class participation,  I wrote a post providing my own perspective as an introverted teacher. It was seen by a reporter at the UK educational journal TES who contacted me for an interview and now you can read her article, “How introverts can thrive as teachers.”

To clarify and extend some of what I said in the article I wrote the following comment:

Lovely to see this. I do just want to clarify that I scheduled the interview for when my class was out of the room. (The article suggests that my class sat silently throughout the conversation which would have been very strange!) But we were still speaking when they returned and I let them know I was finishing up an interview with someone in England. They then politely and quietly played with their Slinkies (which they’d just gotten from their science teacher) until we had finished. I would certainly not have done the whole thing with them there listening!

The comments about noticing the children in distress or not interested really resonated. Too often I worry about the success of a lesson based on the one or two kids who I sensed were disconnected and have to remind myself of the majority who were loving the lesson.  I was interested to learn that extroverts focus more on the latter while we introverts focus more on the former.

I should also say that what I hate about the evening events (and these are where I have to do presentations to large groups of parents not just do small talk)  is the timing — if they were first thing in the morning, before a full day of school, I wouldn’t mind them nearly so much.  (In the article I say over and over how much I hate doing this which is quite true, but I wanted to make it clear it is because of exhaustion after a long day at school and not social anxiety.) And while I feel my best form of communication is by writing (as here) and prefer it for small problems, I do prefer face-to-face for anything serious. I think the problem for me with phone conversations is that I can’t see the person’s response and that may be more about me being more visual than auditory than being introverted. (I certainly don’t communicate really bad stuff via email — that would be awful.)

Anyway, very glad to see this and know I’m not alone.

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My ALA Recap

I’m not a librarian, but the Midwinter and Annual American Library Association meetings are two of the more exhilarating times of my year as they are just rich beyond measure when it comes to children and their books. This year’s Annual in Chicago was no exception and here are some highlights of my time there.

Attending the Peter Sieruta Memorial Event. Peter Seiruta was the shy blogger of the plainly named, but remarkable Collecting Children’s Books. If you didn’t follow it, I urge you to take a look through it as the posts are  still amazing. He died unexpectedly and much too soon a little over a year ago of a blood clot. Among many other things, Peter was the co-author with Betsy Bird and Jules Danielson of the forthcoming book, Wild Things, from Candlewick for which the following card (just provided as a teaser not the final cover or anything) was given out. It was moving to hear Peter’s brother John speak so beautifully about him and others as well. Betsy has also written about the event here.


Breakfasting with Patrick Ness. I’ve been a longtime fan of this author, ever since reading The Knife of Never Letting Go five years ago. (My rave review is here.) My first Huffington Post entry (also crossposted here) was “It’s All About the Horror of War in Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay and Patrick Ness’s Monsters of Men” (I still wear my Monsters of Men t-shirt proudly) and as for A Monster Calls — do read this post in which two friends of mine who lost their mothers when young discuss the book with Patrick responding. They have long wanted a signed copy and I’m so glad they will finally get their wish. I’ve got an ARC of the forthcoming More Than This and can’t wait to read it (although I’m a little frightened as well as his books, in my experience, are emotionally wrenching). Patrick was fabulous in person (and I highly recommend following him on twitter as he is consistently hilarious in 140 characters).

Dressing for the Newbery Caldecott Wilder Banquet. My roomie Roxanne Feldman was on this year’s Newbery Committee and so had a great time dashing about from one celebratory meal to the next. Our friend Nina Lindsay was one of the organizers of the Caldecott Award’s 75th year commemoration. Among other things, they asked us to dress up for the banquet in some sort of Caldecott way and so I came up with an idea involving David Macaulay’s 1991 winner Black & White and Roxanne ran with it!


Of course this is NOT Jon Klassen’s hat.


Having a moment with Robert Byrd, illustrator of Africa is My Home. It was incredibly moving for me to listen to Bob talk about his research and the amazing decisions he made for the art. It is really glorious — you all wait and see. Here we are with the book’s fabulous editor, Sarah Ketchersid.


Visiting Candy Fleming and Eric Rohman. My first personal contact with Candy was in 2005 when she wrote to me, expressing enthusiasm for my advocacy for teaching with primary sources, especially via my book for teachers, Seeking History. Since then we’ve met up when we can, but not often enough so we were both very excited to have a chance to really talk. I came early and so we did— talk about some of my projects and about Candy’s (and I must say I don’t know how she does it all!) — before others arrived. And then Eric brought us to his studio and showed us glorious stuff — journals, and sketches, and book dummies, letters, and art, and art, and art. Just all sorts of marvelous material about his work.

There were plenty of other fantastic moments including:

  • listening to Katherine Applegate, Jon Klassen, and Katherine Paterson speaking with such passion and intelligence at the Banquet;
  • watching Laura Amy Schlitz skip to the dais to receive her Newbery Honor plaque;
  • reconnecting with Sheila Turnage;
  • gushing to Steve Sheinkin;
  • admiring Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s green toenails;
  • not winning Melissa Sweet’s contributions to the Chronicle 25th anniversary raffle;
  • enjoying Brandon Mull’s Yoda;
  • learning from Mo Willems that his forthcoming book was the most “fecal” one he had ever done;
  • having excellent meals and conversations with some of the aformentioned as well as other terrific folks;
  • parties of various sorts (including the one in the Hyatt lobby that featured the Stanley Cup);
  • exploring the exhibits;
  • getting a chance to meet people in person I had only known before online;
  • seeing friends I don’t get to see except at ALA;
  • and a whole lot more.

It was a very grand time indeed.


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Sarah Harrison Smith, the New NYTBR Children’s Book Editor

The new children’s book editor at the New York Times Book Review Sarah Harrison Smith’s first reviews were of two picture books from the Canadian publisher, Simply Read Books. The message was quiet, but clear: recognizing the importance of the youngest readers of all, Sarah is continuing the weekly online picture book reviews begun by her predecessor Pamela Paul, and paying close attention to titles from publishers small and large, near and far. Recently I chatted with Sarah about her background, books (of course!), New York City, and some of her ideas for children’s book coverage at the Book Review.

Sarah grew up among book lovers and creators. Her grandfather co-published the Babar books, she knew Rumer Godden’s editor, and illustrator Pamela Bianco was a family friend. After graduate studies in English literature at Columbia and Oxford she spent several years at The New Yorker as one of its famed fact checkers and later joined the Times in a similar role. The result of her expertise was The Fact Checker’s Bible: A Guide to Getting it Right. After some time as managing editor of the New York Times Magazine Sarah moved to the Metropolitan section where she has enjoyed exploring New York in all its variety. Sarah’s love and appreciation of the city comes through loud and clear when you speak with her. During one of our conversations she spoke with such excitement about the Brooklyn Navy Yard — a place she had recently visited for an article — that I wanted to put down the phone and go there immediately.

Books that she remembers with special fondness from her childhood are those that incorporate art, a favorite illustrator being Edward Ardizzone. Christina Brand’s Nurse Matilda books (on which the recent Nanny McPhee movies are based) were cherished; her children have also relished their naughty sensibilities. Laura Ingall Wilder’s Little House books had a tremendous impact on her; they provided a great view for her on how a family lived with so little. Having noticed a tweet of hers about one of my childhood favorites, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, I asked Sarah about it and she spoke with enthusiasm for author Betty MacDonald’s ability to write for children while including clever touches for the adults reading the books aloud, say naming characters after the colleges Bryn Mawr and Cornell.

Sarah is excited about the potential for more online multimedia features such as podcasts and videos celebrating the artistic process. She is also eager to make more connections with related Times content, for example centralizing all articles about Roald Dahl’s Matilda from those related to the current Broadway show to others about Dahl and the book’s illustrator Quentin Blake. No doubt because of her love for New York City, Sarah is also interested in organizing information about children’s literature set there so that you could easily find material about such iconic literary spots as the pond in Central Park where Stuart Little sailed his boat.

Something that I found especially exciting was Sarah’s interest in looking into ways for children to contribute their own opinions about books on the Book Review site.  Certainly, I know my students would love such an opportunity. Both of us admire the Guardian’s children’s book site where young readers are already writing reviews. I also encouraged Sarah to check out the Carnegie Greenaway Shadowing site, an ambitious program where groups of children read and consider the shortlists for those two prestigious awards (comparable to the US Newbery and Caldecott Awards).

Upon the announcement of her new position, Sarah tweeted “I’m VERY excited to be joining the Times Book Review as children’s book editor! #dreamcometrue”  I think so too and wish her well as she goes forward in this new role.

Also at Huffington Post.


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