Tag Archives: Children’s Literature

R. Kipling: Comparative Psychologist

In all the expressions of appreciation that Mr. Kipling’s Jungle Books still arouse, I wonder if any one has yet pointed out the change these works have quietly wrought in our attitude toward the rest of the animal world?

R. Kipling: Comparative Psychologist
[Ed. Note. This review first ran in the Atlantic Monthly, June 1898.]


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Micki Nevett

Librarian Micki Nevett, one of the wittiest and gentlest and smartest people I’ve ever known, died yesterday, unexpectedly and way too soon.

Micki and I first met on child_lit. Before long we both also became enthusiastic members of adbooks. While both of us worked with elementary-aged children, we enjoyed the energy of the jhunt awards (when the group works with a list of YA books, voting off one a week — Survivor style — till there is a winner), relishing the intellectual fights about books we would probably never give to our own students. Later we met for real at ALA and at the CLNE summer institutes. And then a couple of years ago we were both voted on to this year’s Newbery committee. Since then we’ve often touched base about the hard work of the Committee and were to be roommates next month when we have our final meetings. We’d even been IMing this past Sunday about what invitations to accept, The Golden Compass movie (Micki liked it!), and the daunting amount of rereading we had to do.

Micki was a very wonderful and incredibly special individual who touch many, many lives. It is going to be very hard for those who knew her to go on without her. My thoughts to her family, friends, colleagues, students, and all who knew and will miss her terribly.

There is an obituary in the Albany Times Union where you can post condolences.

A note from Micki’s husband, David Galletly, and her eulogy are here.

Judith Ridge has a moving tribute to Micki here.

Elizabeth Bird at Fuse # 8 mentioned her too.

Please visit the incredibly moving slide show of Micki’s library at Westmere School. Deb Picker writes that it is a:

…display in Micki’s honor that grew up spontaneously. It began with four little bookmarks left (by children) on a ledge that spans the length of the library in the hallway at Westmere Elementary School. The closeups are meant to be read. Don’t miss ” What It’s Like in Heaven ” where Micki becomes a Wild Thing…Photos of the library interior, too, including Micki’s special reading chair.(Photos by Josh Picker). Micki Nevett-Westmere School-Memorial Display and Library.

Deb also has posted the poem read at Micki’s funeral at her blog.





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Madeleine L’Engle’s Memorial Service

Today is Madeleine L’Engle’s birthday. Because of that, yesterday a memorial service was held for her at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine here in New York City. It was quite extraordinary for me as I’ve not attended too many high church services. It was really moving in so many ways. She was very important to the children’s literature community, the Church’s, and the wider Episcopal Church community as well (two of my colleagues came because they’d known her through that world not the children’s literature one). Many moving words about her were said and some wonderful excerpts from one of her adult books were read. As I wrote before, her books were very important to me when young so I am happy I had a chance to pay my respects at this extraordinary event.


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Worthwhile Overview of Children’s Book Illustration

How children’s books became wild. – By Emily Bazelon and Erica S. Perl – Slate Magazine

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A. S. Byatt on (Sort of) Fairies

Fairies and other spirits have long haunted the words and images of English literature. AS Byatt looks beyond the bright-cheeked children and pretty dolls of Edwardian illustrators to explore the menace that lurks beneath.

“The Wild Ones” in today’s Guardian.

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Imaginary Worlds

Amanda Craig on Imaginary worlds from Philip Pullman to Terry Pratchett

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Overlooked Books

“The Ones That Got Away–Great Books that Didn’t Get Their Due” is an interesting feature in this month’s School Library Journal. Various librarians, editors, reviewers, and booksellers were asked to name one book “…published between 2001 and 2006, and only those titles that had not received a lot of marketing hoopla or a major American award could be considered…” I was delighted to see many worthy titles on the list. (If Roger Sutton hadn’t, I might have mentioned Peter Sis’s The Tree of Life as I agree with him completely that it was sadly overlooked.) I’m still mulling this question over, but I might nominate —- surprise, surprise  — Megan Whalen Turner’s The King of Attolia (most likely suffering from the sequel problem).

So, what are some of your overlooked books of the past five years?


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Sarah Ellis

Congratulations to Sarah for winning the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for her elegant and intelligent novel Odd Man Out.

I got to know Sarah at the now-no-more Children’s Literature New England summer institutes. I learned to wait with bated breath for her talks as they were always witty, thought-provoking, and engrossing. Her books are like that too. If you haven’t encountered them, go thee now to find a few! Odd Man Out is wonderful as are her earlier books for children, not to mention those on literature, and her articles. (Roger notes that she has been writing quite a few for his little journal.) I’m partial to From Reader to Writer: Writing Through Classic Children’s Books as she includes many of my favorites.

So once again, congratulations, Sarah!

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The ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ Movie Script

We’ve Got Dave Eggers’s and Spike Jonze’s Script for ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ — Vulture — Entertainment & Culture Blog — New York Magazine

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Thoughts on Newbery: In The Style Of

I know, I know. Style is one of those ephemeral things like voice, hard to pin down. But lately I’ve read a number of books that appear to be consciously written in the style of a bygone, but well-known adult author. Dickens, Chaucer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll have clearly influenced a number of recent books for children.

Writing “in the style of” a well-known and beloved writer seems tricky to me. I’m a Jane Austen fan. I’ve read her works many times and have quite enjoyed some of the films based on them. However, I’ve yet to appreciate novels written in her style. For example, I tried and quickly tired of one of adult writer Stephanie Barron‘s Jane Austen mysteries. It seems I like too much Austen’s actual prose to appreciate someone else’s efforts to imitate it. While Austen’s sentences delight me, Barron’s did not.

I have a similar problem with those who pay homage to Lewis Carroll. Rarely, rarely, rarely do their works succeed for me. For example, I found the much-admired Un Lun Dun by China Miéville just okay. There was Carrolian-ish whimsy galore, but what I like best about Carroll is not the whimsy, but his wit, his language, his imaginative play. The one writer who does successfully capture Carroll’s style for me is Jon Scieszka, especially his parodies in Science Verse.

And then there is Charles Dickens. I first read him when I was in 6th grade. We were in a rented house for a year where there was a bookcase on a staircase landing full of the complete works of Dickens and the complete works of L. Frank Baum. Alternating between the two, I read them all that year. I returned to them when living in Africa and again recently — this time I’m listening to them. As a result I’m really noticing his style in a new way; this means I am sensitive to those attempting to emulate it in a new way too. One author might get the atmosphere, another the characters, and still another the plot. I have yet to read one that manages to do it all to my admittedly fussy satisfaction.

Two of this sort that did worked for me are Richard Reeve’s Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Outer Space and its sequel Starcross: A Stirring Adventure of Spies, Time Travel and Curious Hats. These seem to be both homages and parodies of a variety of Victorian novelists. Either because they don’t seem to point to any one writer strongly or because those that are being parodied are not familiar enough to me for me to notice any weaknesses, they worked for me. Further, Reeve takes on issues related to colonialism in very interesting ways.

So what does this have to do with Newbery? Well, how do I evaluate books like this? After all, the intended child reader is unlikely to have read Chaucer, Dickens, Austen, or Carroll. If I know them well I may be unduly sensitive to such efforts than for those works whose writers I don’t know so well. One thing is certain — it isn’t going to matter to the child reader. If it is a good story, well written, who am I to complain if it doesn’t seem to work as well as an homage to a particular writer? If it doesn’t seem successfully Dickensian or Carrollian or Austenian (is that a word?) or something else — what does it matter? For child readers? Probably not at all. For me? Probably too much.

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