I was surprised last fall when, during a day of equity training at my school, some of my white Jewish colleagues struggled with the idea that they were privileged. This was due to their awareness of historical anti-semitism against Jews, especially the Holocaust, even though, in most cases, their own immediate families had not experienced this firsthand. As someone who is first generation German Jewish and did have immediate family who had experienced this, I was puzzled. My father, who fled Germany at age 14 after far too much experience with Nazis (his father stayed and was killed), always spoke of how lucky I was not to have experienced anti-semitism. He would have been the first to point out to me how fortunate I was to be able to attend a distinguished college (as he was at Columbia I was able to get multiple degrees there without having to pay tuition) and to do all sorts of things because of my race, education, class, and more. (Not money as we were extremely poor when I was young, something that might surprise people who would assume a young academic was financially comfortable. Not so.) I often repost this piece written by him about his experiences in Montgomery during the bus boycott when I was young. It makes me confident that he would scoff at the idea that his personal background allowed him to claim a lack of white privilege. As a young adult I used to find it enormously frustrating when I complained about something in my life and my father simply pointed out how fortunate and lucky I was. I now see how right he was.
In 1982 the acclaimed actress Kate Burton launched her career portraying Alice in the critically acclaimed Broadway revival of Alice in Wonderland. With Alice Symphony, Haddock’s Eyes, In Memory of A Summer Day, and other works, Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Del Tredici has conjured the sounds of wonderland throughout his career. In 1968 director Andre Gregory and his The Manhattan Project, a renege troupe of alternative theater performers, flung audience down a reinvented, psychedelic rabbit hole. Today, Monica Edinger, celebrated teacher, author, and blogger at “Educating Alice,” helps us understand in Lewis Carroll’s legacy, creating new stories about inquisitive, intelligent, adventurous children. Four great artists come to the Library to examine the enduring allure and fascination of Alice.
“Why, then, did … leave this one in the drawer?”
No, that isn’t someone asking about Harper Lee. It is New York Times children’s book editor Maria Russo wondering about Dr. Seuss in her thoughtful review of his new posthumously published book, What Pet Should I Get? I’d already seen the positive review by Michiko Kakutani’s for the weekday New York Times (done in Seussian rhyme no less), but it is Russo’s for the Book Review that really gets to the heart of the matter. She situates her review within a broader overview of Seuss’s work and time and indeed has a really smart answer to the question above, based on careful consideration of the historical record. Highly, highly recommended reading.
There’s a splendid new Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland exhibit at the Morgan Library here in NYC and you can read my report on it over at The Horn Book Magazine here. The exhibit is up till October so you’ve all got plenty of time to get to it. And I should say, the museum, in addition to this wonderful exhibit, is well worth visiting.
I’m enjoying the BBC’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (while revisiting the book via the audio edition) tremendously and am certain to be sad when it is over. So I am encouraged by this clip from the forthcoming Syfy series of Grossman’s The Magicians as I liked the books very much (though they are totally different from Clark’s book). There’s an earlier teaser trailer here.
Today the longlist for the Guardian Children’s Ficton Award was revealed. I love this prize and discovering new titles through it (especially ones that aren’t published in the U.S.). Here they are with some commentary from me:
- Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders. I first learned of this book when it was shortlisted for the Costa Prize and immediately ordered it from the U.K. I thought it outstanding (my review here) and was thrilled when it won the Costa. Very happy to see it on this list. Would be even happier if it was published in the U. S.
- My Name’s Not Friday by Jon Walter. I’ve heard such great things about this book (especially from its publisher David Fickling) and have moved the ARC way up on my to-read pile. Can’t wait to read it.
- An Island of our Own by Sally Nicholls. I was a big fan of this author’s earlier title, Ways to Live Forever (was a contender for the very first Battle of the Kids’ Books) and so, when I saw this title, immediately downloaded the ebook. Looks great fun.
- The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. I’m a big fan of this author and some time ago when I saw a review of this I immediately got the ebook (only edition available in the US). It is fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.
- El Deafo, by Cece Bell. Er… there is this and my thoughts here. Darn cool to see it here!
- A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond. This writer is always magical and here he is evidently reworking The Odyssey. I’m in and have moved the ARC up on my to-read pile.
- All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. This has gotten raves in the US.
- Apple and Rain Sarah Crossan. Another to move up on my to-read pile.