Monthly Archives: October 2018

Just in Time for All Hallow’s Eve, A Q & A with Adam Gidwitz about Grimm, Grimmer, and Grimmest, a Delightfully Not-Too-Macabre Podcast

Adam Gidwitz, author of the wonderful A Tale Dark and Grimm series recently dropped a totally fantastic podcast series, Grimm, Grimmer, and Grimmest. Adam had told me it was in the works ages ago so I was excited to listen to it and was not disappointed. I’ve watched Adam tell stories to kids for ages and he is truly wonderful. And so is this podcast series as they’ve done a terrific job giving that same experience to listeners. The production is outstanding, heightening Adam’s unique and witty storytelling talent. I can’t recommend it enough anytime, not just today. In fact, last week I was on a field trip with my class of 4th graders and, on impulse, brought along a Bluetooth speaker and played three of the stories on the bus ride. The kids were completely absorbed. And right now, as I write, I’ve got three who couldn’t go to PE because of various ailments and they are listening (and giggling and participating) with pleasure. So, yes, I can’t recommend them enough!

To celebrate I invited Adam to answer a few questions about the podcast.

Let’s start by you giving us a bit of background as to why this sort of podcast exactly. What is it about the Grimm stories, the oral tradition, and the translating of that into a medium of today that speaks to you? 

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm wrote their stories down starting in 1810, drawing principally on stories that were part of the oral tradition in Germany at that time. Many of these were stories that were told around the hearth at night. Which meant that they weren’t just for kids. They were for everyone. Yes, the kids had to like the stories. But so did Mom, and Dad, and Grandma, and Crazy Uncle Friedrich. In a time with no electronic entertainment, no film, no radio—this was one of the prime modes of family entertainment. What’s exciting to me about podcasts is that they lend themselves to the same kind of family entertainment. Instead of turning on a TV and not looking at one another for three hours, I am imagining families making a fire in the fireplace, or everyone curling up in the big bed, and listening to an episode of Grimmest together. Or just laughing together on the drive to and from school. That works, too.

Where did the podcast idea come from and how did you work with Pinna to make it a reality?

I’ve been telling Grimm fairy tales to kids for about a decade now. The idea for my first book, A Tale Dark and Grimm, came from an experience of telling a truly grim Grimm tale to a classroom of second graders. One of them asked me to make it into a book, and I did. Since then, whenever I visit a school, a library, or a book festival, I am often telling real, grim Grimm tales to the kids. My favorite part of which is hearing them laugh and scream and make unexpectedly zany comments. I had been wishing that there was a way to share these experiences with more people. There was something so magical about telling these old tales live, and getting the reactions I was… So when Pinna came to me last year and said, “We’re looking for authors to create audio shows for kids; do you have any ideas?” I said, “YES!” 

So the podcast sounds like me going into a classroom of kids, and beginning to tell a story. But then we zoom off, aurally, to the Kingdom of Grimm, where actors and sound effects and atmospheric music help me tell the tale. But we keep jumping back into our world as I ask the kids questions, or they laugh, or they heckle me (yeah, they heckle me). All of that is unscripted and, in my opinion, the best part of the show. Though the stories are pretty good, too. 

How are you choosing the tales to tell? I mean, there are so many!

Right! Well, when I wrote my books A Tale Dark and Grimm, In a Glass Grimmly, and The Grimm Conclusion, I went through my big book of Grimm’s tales and chose some of my favorites. But they had to fit together somehow. And there were many that I loved but that I had not fit into the books. So I went back through the books and chose twenty of my favorite Grimm tales—ten for season one and ten for season two. I then did some rewriting. Not to fracture the tales: I’m honestly not a big fan of fractured fairy tales—I like the real ones. I just like them retold for modern kids. That doesn’t mean changing the setting or softening them at all. It means making the jokes work today (because humor, of any kind, doesn’t tend to age well), and ensuring that modern kids can care about the main characters, and get invested—which makes the modern kids more scared when something terrifying happens. 

How did you schools and kids participate? Did you do the sessions over and over or once and then just edited them? They sound incredibly immediate, just like the ones I’ve seen you do with our students over the years. 

Thank you! So, I would rewrite the tale, as I said above, and then I’d read it to the kids. They’d only get to hear it once, though we had two schools, and at one school there were two groups, so there were a few stories I was able to read three times. But always to different kids—so the kids’ reactions are indeed immediate and unscripted and absolutely genuine. I didn’t even ASK them to comment. But once they knew they could, comments just burst forth. And we captured them on the mics. The first time that happened, it was a magical moment. I was reading them my retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and I think I made them laugh, and there was this beautiful giggle. And I remember looking at a microphone and thinking, “We got that. We captured that. Everyone is going to get to hear what kids sound like when they really love one of these fairy tales.” It was one of the happiest moments of my year. 

What else would you like to tell us about the podcast, series, and anything else?

Only that everyone can hear all of Season 1 now, for FREE, on Apple Podcasts! We don’t know if they’ll be on there for free forever, so go listen right now! Just search Grimmest on Apple Podcasts and it comes right up! And I really recommend listening all the way through Episode 10. I think you’ll know why when you do… 

Indeed…thank you, Adam. Now, everyone, go and listen. You can thank me later. 

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Bank Street College’s Book Fest 2018

Yesterday was the annual Bookfest at the Bank Street College of Education. It was, as always, inspiring and exciting. Congratulations to Cynthia Weill and all of those who work so hard to make it happen.

My part was to lead a discussion group on Heroic Activists. It was terrific — the participants had such insightful comments to make about all the books. Here are my blurb and the list of books we discussed:

Let’s sustain ourselves in this challenging time by exploring the work of some passionate children’s book creators who are breaking the mold with original writing, vibrant art, and out-of-the-box design when telling stories of courageous boundary-breaking, resistance, and activism.

Group Leader: Monica Edinger – educator, reviewer, writer.

Discussion Titles:

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

Granddad Mandela by Zazi Ziwelene & Zindzi Mandela, illustrated by Sean Qualls

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, Illustrated by Shawn Harris

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song by Kathryn Erskine, illustrated by Charly Palmer

Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight by Duncan Tonatiuh

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

And guess what? The whole event was streamed live by Kidlit TV and you can see it below. (Looks like you need to click on the bar at the bottom a bit in to get it going. Hope that makes sense!) Under the video is the program so you know what to expect. All of it was outstanding!

9:35 – 10:25 AM
Collaborative Couples in Kid Lit

  • Candace Fleming and Eric Rohman, Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen
  • Pete Parnell and Justin Richardson, And Tango Makes Three
  • Cheryl Willis Hudson and Wade Hudson, We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices

Moderator: Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal


10:25 – 11:15 AM
Authors/Illustrators: School Visits and Their Impact on Practice

  • Adam Gidwitz, The Unicorn Rescue Society series
  • Rita Williams Garcia, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
  • Kat Yeh, The Way to BEA
  • Stephen Savage, Jack B. Ninja

Moderator: Emma Otheguy, PhD, Children’s Book Author


11:15 – 11:25 AM
Break


11:25 – 11:45 AM
Writing Boxes: The Reading/Writing Connection Supporting Literacy in the Library

  • Lisa Von Drasek, Curator, Kerlan Collection, University of Minnesota

11:45 – 12:45 PM
Book Discussion Sessions


12:45 – 1:45 PM
Pick up lunch, dine in the cafeteria or lobby
Lunchtime autographing session in the lobby


1:45 – 2:35 PM
Bringing the Real World to Life! Illustration in Informational Books

  • Maira Kalman, Bold and Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote
  • John Parra, Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos
  • Roxie Munro, Rodent Rascals
  • Melissa Sweet, Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White
  • Zeke Peña, Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide

Moderator: Gillian Engberg, Children’s Literature Consultant


2:35 – 3:05 PM
Closing Keynote

  • Adam Gidwitz, The Unicorn Rescue Society series

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2019 Boston Globe – Horn Book Awards

It is official — I’m chairing the 2019 Boston Globe – Horn Book award committee, serving with Kim Parker of Shady Hill School and Cynthia Ritter of the Horn Book. So excited to get to work with my distinguished fellow judges.

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Rick Riordan Presents: An Appreciation

I have long been an admirer of Rick Riordan.  After reading an ARC of The Lightning Thief and learning that the author was a middle school teacher, I checked him out and came across his comprehensive teacher’s guide for the book. (You can find it on this page.) Having also taught this content I was so impressed with his material — the lessons and more showed a sure understanding of the students he taught. And so I wrote him a letter expressing my admiration and appreciation and he wrote back. Sadly I have no idea what happened to that hand-written letter and the accompanying over-sized orange Camp Half-Blood t-shirt. I went on to read the following books, enjoying some more than others, but continuing to admire his ethos, the way his goodness came through in his writing. I was so glad when the 2017 Stonewall Committee gave Magnus Chase 2: The Hammer of Thor an award for Alex Fierro, a beautifully rendered genderfluid character. You can read Rick’s acceptance speech here.  Another celebratory post of mine on the man is here.

I’m here today to comment on the new Rick Riordan Presents. It is described thus:

Rick Riordan Presents is one small branch of the Disney-Hyperion Publishing family. We aim to publish about four books a year. All these will be books that my editor Stephanie Lurie and I feel will appeal to kids who like my books. In other words, they will probably be some type of middle grade fantasy, with lots of humor and action, and probably draw on myth or folklore in some way.

I’ve read the first few books, some of which are out and some almost out, and can say that they will be enjoyed by fans of Rick’s books. Each is very much its own, but still offers the great adventure, teen characters, snark, and more that make his books so popular.

The first I read was Roshani Chokshi’s Aru Shah and the End of Time, an enjoyable romp featuring a museum, artifacts, and the Hindu Mahabharata. The second in the series is soon to be out too.

The Storm Runner by J. C. Cervantes features Mayan mythology, complicated and scary, and including a road trip.

Then there is Yoon Ha Lee’s forthcoming Dragon Pearl. I loved it!  Probably my favorite thus far of the books in this imprint. A fast, funny, and furious space opera that involves terraforming, transforming foxes, and a smart and snarky main character — Min — it was a terrific read. At times made me think of Star Trek in the best way. Highly recommend this one!

Finally, I just finished the ARC for Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez also sci-fi, this time playing with time, space, physics and more. Sal’s another snarky narrator, but such a good guy. Gabi is a delight in her own way. In this one, I especially enjoyed the cultural bits — lots of Cuban food, love, music, and laughter from some very blended and unconventional families.

Bravo Rick and company — can’t wait to see what else you bring to us in this worthy imprint.

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Thinking About Rethinking Language

I found Jamie Naidoo‘s post on the ALSC blog, Words Matter: Owning and Learning from Our Mistakes, very thought-provoking. It is a model for apologizing, for reflecting, and more. I recommend reading the post, the comments, and adding in your own thoughts. Here are mine:

I was glad you called out the problem with the word “tolerance” as it has always bothered me. I’m a longtime subscriber to the excellent publication Teaching Tolerance, but the word has always rankled for the reasons you point out.

I was curious about the recommendation of using caregiver instead of parent. As a classroom teacher I work with all sorts of families and had thought it was okay to call those who identified as the parents of the children to just that whatever and however they gained that role. (I do address them collectively as “families” in my communications so as to include grandparents and others.) I’ve used caregiver for those paid to care — for children (here the terms used are nannies and babysitters) or elders (my parents both had caregivers including me). For instance, we are starting an oral history project and children often want to interview these individuals. Is there a different term we should be using? (As to the issue around doing so — that is different and we definitely discuss that. That these paid employees are placed in a difficult position by agreeing to do this. Some love it and some don’t. We definitely discuss this and try to help families consider this too. But that is a whole ‘nother issue.)

Anyway, much to think about. Thanks again.

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