“If one imagines literature as a landscape, with realism here, myth there, poetry over on the coast, and so on, fantasy and utopia would clearly be neighbors. Both deviate from the known or observable and thereby offer new perspectives on the world we perceive. Both also draw upon the human desire for a better world. But fantasy and utopia require different kinds of deviation from reality, and they also incorporate very different visions of the good life. Fantasy and utopia are neighbors at war, and they have been at war at least since Plato banished the poets from his Republic.”—Brian Attebery, “Fantasy as an Anti-Utopian Mode” (1986)
When a group of literati last month published a list of the hundred greatest English-language novels of the 20th century, lionizing “Ulysses” and “The Great Gatsby” and “The Sun Also Rises,” I was privately disappointed they had not included “The Missing Chums.” I remembered “The Missing Chums” as the pinnacle of human achievement, a meticulously crafted work of American fiction in which Frank and Joe Hardy, the sons of famed sleuth Fenton Hardy, braved choppy seas and grizzled thugs to rescue their kidnapped friends. I had first read it in a backyard hammock strung between sycamore trees during the summer of my 12th year.
“I wanted to tell my daughters big, important things, like ‘being brave does not mean that you are not scared.’
When I was a kid, I thought I was a coward because I’d be scared sometimes. And I thought that, if you were brave, that you were never scared. And then I said, ‘I don’t think it means that: I think bravery is when you’re scared and you do it anyway’ because if you’re not scared, then there’s nothing to be brave about. Being not scared is something anybody can do, but being brave: that’s doing the right thing.”—Neil Gaiman
Both the Potter and Blyton books are about the childhood we can’t get over, the childhood that still marks us. A childhood that we want to relive in idealised and anaesthetised ways, but, unfortunately, can’t help reliving in ways that are more troublesome and unavoidable. And the same could be said for many of those who ostensibly write for children, who in doing so always reveal what they think of children, and what they think of where they themselves have come from, and where they wish they had come from.
From very early on, we both intuit and learn the language of pictorial representation, and most modern adults, the picturebook was our first dictionary of this visual vocabulary. Yet the picturebook — defined by its narrative framework of sequential imagery and minimalist text to convey meaning or tell a story, and different from the illustrated book in which pictures play a secondary narrative part, enhancing and decorating the narrative — is a surprisingly nascent medium.
Children’s books are a preparation for adulthood, says children’s author, Philip Womack. The best children’s literature reflects and distorts grown-up life, allowing children to get used to troubling thoughts, before returning to safety in the last chapter.
Hear audio clips of authors discussing how they came to write their series books. Access discussion questions, activities, and multimedia resources to enrich conversations about series books. Find resources for non-fiction series books too, including science books and biographies.
“Certainly we want to protect our children from new and painful experiences that are beyond their emotional comprehension and that intensify anxiety; and to a point we can prevent premature exposure to such experiences. That is obvious. But what is just as obvious—and what is too often overlooked—is the fact that from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, that fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, that they continually cope with frustration as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things.”—Maurice Sendak (p. 151)
Four out of five librarians are women, but when it comes to children’s book awards, nobody could accuse them of an excess of sisterhood. For decades the American Library Association has had a dismal record of honoring female artists with its Caldecott medal, given each year to “the most distinguished American picture book for children.” That record just got worse.
For those of you that have been with Book Trailers for All from the beginning, you know that we got our start as a group on Teacher Tube. Now, I love Teacher Tube because it is accessible in most school districts where our main site and our You Tube channel are sometimes not because of filtering…
The days when books were sold by word of mouth or via discreet ads in newspapers or magazines are long gone. Audiovisual trailers for books – in the same style as those for blockbuster movies – are now an essential part of any marketing campaign for a big-hitting new novel.
“I’ve spent the past year and a half of my life in library school, and about three years before that working in some capacity in rural, suburban, and urban libraries, and currently I’m currently at a cross-road in terms of…
RS: When I first started making pop-up books librarians would come to my book signing and tell me how much they enjoyed my books but that they could not circulate them in their own collections. It made me sad at the time but things have changed since then. Many librarians started using my books at story time, especially Cookie Count, and decided that they would find a way to make them accessible to their readers. Some keep them behind their desks for specific readers they know will enjoy them and some actually just circulate them knowing (thankfully) that if the book gets loved to tears they can justify getting a new one.
Attempts to invigorate books with video and other digital bells and whistles keep bumping up against this fundamental problem: You can’t really pay much attention to anything else while you’re reading, so in order to play with any of these new features, you have to stop reading. If you’re enjoying what you’re reading, then the attentional tug of all these peripheral doodads is vaguely annoying, and if you’re not engaged by the story, they aren’t enough on their own to win you over.
But these multiple reimaginings only perpetuate a process that Barrie himself began. The first problem faced by Maria Tatar, the editor of The Annotated Peter Pan, is what version of the story one would choose to annotate. There are least six possible contenders: The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island, purportedly by Peter Llewelyn Davies, a photo book of the Llewelyn Davies boys playing out the adventures of shipwrecked sailors, of which two copies were made in 1901; The Little White Bird (1902), a novel for adults with some chapters devoted to Peter Pan; the original stage play (1904); the Peter Pan chapters fromThe Little White Bird reissued, with Arthur Rackham’s wonderful illustrations, as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906); Peter and Wendy (1911), “the book of the play”, and the closest thing to a standard children’s book; and finally the printed, much revised play text of Peter Pan published in 1928. It’s a bibliographer’s dream, and an editor’s nightmare.
…the fifty-year birthday of a good children’s book marks a real passage, since it means that the book hasn’t been passed just from parent to child but from parent to child and on to child again. A book that has crossed that three-generation barrier has a good chance at permanence. So to note the fiftieth birthday of the closest thing that American literature has to an “Alice in Wonderland” of its own, Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth”—with illustrations, by Jules Feiffer, that are as perfectly matched to Juster’s text as Tenniel’s were to Carroll’s—is to mark an anniversary that matters.
With famously fiendish pedigrees, distinctly developed personalities, and hip attire, these teens are the perfect blend of creep and chic. Introduced by Mattel in July 2010, the Monster High brand of fashion dolls features a lineup of scary-cool teenage characters based on monster movies, horror fiction, and mythology. From Frankie Stein to Draculaura to Deuce Gorgon, each individual is either the offspring of or related to such eerie icons as Frankenstein, Dracula, and Medusa, and comes readymade with his or her own unique look, backstory, and “freaky flaw.”
Maurice Sendak looks like one of his own creations: beady eyes, pointy eyebrows, the odd monsterish tuft of hair and a reputation for fierceness that makes you tip-toe up the path of his beautiful house in Connecticut like a child in a fairytale. Sendak has lived here for 40 years – until recently with his partner Eugene, who died in 2007; and now alone with his dog, Herman (after Melville), a large alsatian who barges to the door to greet us. “He’s German,” says Sendak, getting up from the table where he is doing a jigsaw puzzle of a monster from his most famous book, Where the Wild Things Are. Sotto voce, he adds: “He doesn’t know I’m Jewish.”