Monday, December 27, 2004

Make It Go Away

Christmas is over. Now I wish I could just wave a magic wand and make the mess go away. What does this have to do with children's lit or writing, you may well ask? I get the same feeling when I finish a long, intense draft.

Well, here's a little round up of things I've noticed:

I often see references to January Magazine. It appears to a be a collection of book reviews and interviews with authors. It has posted its "Best of 2004" lists including a Best Children's Books list. These best books don't look like a particularly fun bunch. Not that I'm dissing the list, by any means. I hope to make it one day. I'm hoping to make any and all lists some day.

I'm linking to this article on breaking into creative nonfiction because I hope to do that one day, too. I also hope to get around to reading this article at some point, and by linking to it here, I might be able to find it again.

(Thanks to Karin at Southern Comfort for those two links.)

Quite some time after reading this article about the house that is supposed to have been the inspiration for Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre, I remembered that I'm a Jane Eyre groupie and should be really excited about this.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


I have avoided reading anything by Diana Wynne Jones because she writes fantasy, and, as I may have stated before, I really don't care for it. However, I had been reading that an animated version of one of her books was making a big splash in Japan so I decided to give it a try.

I am talking about Howl's Moving Castle.

Now, I found the plot hard to follow. The curse the Wizard Howl was worried about was a mystery to me. However, Howl, himself, was marvelous. The book is so worth reading for that one character. The fire demon was a charmer, too, and the spunky girl narrator was, well, spunky. But Howl--what a creation.

I definitely believe that a good character can redeem a book. Anne Shirley is the powerhouse that drives the rather formulaic Anne of Green Gables. Sherlock Holmes is the only reason to read any of the books involving him. And Howl just plain rocks.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Anxious for Literary Thoughts

Okay, the Christmas cards are out. Except for a couple. The tree was purchased and trimmed this afternoon. Just in time, it seems, since there was no one else at the tree lot, and there were only markdowns to choose from. I've baked a bunch of cookies, bought a bunch of presents, and almost finished wrapping them. And I don't have to make Christmas dinner this year.

So as far as I'm concerned, the holiday is almost over and it's time to start thinking about other things. Bookie things, for instance. Writer-type things.

I've been thinking about something that happened at writers' group the other night. The Guy and I were the only ones who showed up. The Guy is a very nice human being who is really willing to glue his butt to a chair and work. He likes to write very plot-driven sci-fi/horror thrillers. The one he's working on right now includes a male character and a female character who seem destined for a romantic entanglement.

Now, I don't care for romantic entanglements, anyway, and I felt this one seemed a little predictable. So I suggested some alternatives. The Guy's response? "People want the romantic entanglement."

I repeated this story to a young relative who is studying scriptwriting. His response? "The Guy is right.

Well, this raises all kinds of questions in my mind. Who wants a romantic entanglement? Readers? Editors? Do publishing companies choose new authors on the basis of their ability to produce a predictable romance? Are publishers looking for the same old, same old or do they want something different? Are readers looking for the same old, same old or do they want something different? And are writers obligated to write what they think will make their book marketable? What makes a book marketable? The same old, same old or something different?

I hear both sides of this argument all the time. As a reader, I have to come down on the side of wanting something different. Which means that as a writer, I want to deliver something different.

Friday, December 17, 2004

December Stinks

December is always a lousy month for me because I can't multi-task so getting ready for Christmas while working and just walking around living is way, way too much for me. After my incredibly intense November taking part in National Novel Writing Month (don't worry--I'm not going to get started on that again; though they did send me my NaNoWriMo decal this past week)all I've done this month is work on updating my website. And that's not done yet. Oh, wait. I wrote an essay for my black belt promotion test. Oh, wait again. That's not actually work related.

Oh, wait a third time! I did a seventh--that's seventh--draft of Happy Kid!. The work involved was minor, and I was able to turn the job around in 48 hours.

So I'm looking forward to January, which is a favorite month for me. I'm thinking about making a big effort to do even one little work related thing each day in the new year no matter what. Of course, last year at this time I think I said that in the new year I would write in my journal every day, which would be doing something work related.

I've got to think of an easier work related thing I can do every day.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Princess Diaries

I finally saw The Princess Diaries. I agree with the person who wrote the review I linked to. The movie is pleasant but not extraordinary. I did think Julie Andrews had a great deal of screen presence, and the movie was more interesting when she was on-screen. She also had great clothes. I'm afraid that thinking that makes me an old coot.

I may try reading one of Meg Cabot's Princess Diary books now. Not because I found the story so gripping but because I'd like to see how the book differs from the movie. I got the impression from the website that the princess's father isn't dead in the book.

Cabot says at her website that when she was a child she used to tell her parents that her real parents, the king and queen, would be coming to get her soon. I can remember having fantasies that my real parents were someone other than the people I lived with. Except in my case they were wealthy Mafia kingpins. I guess I believed it was more likely that I'd be related to criminals than royalty.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Where Have I Been?

Working on Christmas--which is always overwhelming for me--and studying for a black belt test. Oh, and I've had trouble getting on Blogger, too.

But enough about me. That's not why you're here. You're here for professional book and writer stuff.

Well, this past Sunday was the awards ceremony for the Connecticut Book Awards. I didn't win but a picture of me made their website. Scroll down to the bottom of the page. They even identify me. Not bad for a runner up. (The hot guy with his back to the camera is my husband.)

During the ceremony we sat with Susan Campbell of the Hartford Courant. I know Pegi Deitz Shea, who won the award in our category, though I haven't seen her for years. Pegi introduced me to another author, who, it turned out, I had already met because we'd appeared together somewhere. I also saw Nancy Antle, who I'd met a couple of years ago at an authors' tea in New York City. And Katharine Weber, who I know from Readerville and have met in the real world a couple of times, was there because she was nominated for adult fiction.

The above is not supposed to be a "La-di-da look at the literary people I know" kind of thing. It's a "La-di-da I know any literary people at all" kind of thing. I didn't think I did.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Blurb...Excuse me-e-e-e

The Hartford Courant recently carried an article by its book editor, Carole Goldberg, entitled Jacket Flak. It carried the subtitle "Do Book Blurbs Bear Sincere Praise Of Peers, Or False Fawning Of Friends?"

Now, I barely knew what a blurb was until a couple of years ago when I joined the writing community at Readerville. Many of the writers there were very concerned about finding authors to read and "blurb" their new books, meaning write a nice little quotable quote that could be quoted on the cover. I had seen such things but didn't know it was my responsibility to approach writers to do it for me.

Needless to say, there's never been a blurb on any of my books.

I don't loose any sleep over the matter. What does worry me is what do I do if someone asks me to blurb their book? My legion of frequent readers know what a crabby reader I am. Just what are the chances of my reading a book that's handed to me and liking it at all, let alone enough to be inspired to come up with a marvy quote someone would actually want on his or her cover? Not great. Thank goodness my opinion doesn't matter to anyone, and I've never been approached.

Goldberg's article didn't cover that aspect of blurbing. Wally Lamb was quoted as saying he'd passed on blurbing an important novel, but he didn't say how. What do you say to an author whose book you've read and hated? Is it too late to say, "Thanks, but no thanks" at that point?

Evidently some writers do blurbs a number of times a year. Some of them want to help new authors, which really is very kind of them. But isn't getting your name on someone else's book free advertising for yourself, too? Doesn't it suggest that you're important because people care what you think? Not that I'm saying free advertising is a bad thing. Hey, I spend plenty of time trying to come up with cheap, easy ways to get my name out in front of as many people as I can.

But here's the thing: When I read a book with glowing blurbs from well-known authors and I think the book is breathtakingly awful, my opinion of the blurber drops significantly. Especially if I've only heard of the blurber and haven't read anything by her. Is that just me or do other readers feel that way?

If I'm not just a one-of-a-kind witch, maybe blurbing isn't worth the risk.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I Am Such A Witch

Sometimes I don't know how I can stand myself. Particularly when I dislike a book everyone else in the world seems to have loved. Take Ida B. by Katherine Hannigan, for instance. This book was really well reviewed. It has generated buzz.

I finally had to start skimming to get through it.

I found Ida B. to be one of those really annoying book childen, who are almost always girls by the way, who are wise, have unusually large vocabularies, and behave eccentrically in a stereotypically eccentric sort of way. Ida B. was into nature and her valley, something I, a farm kid, never understood until I did research for a book on Ethan Allen a few years ago and finally realized that in days of old without land you didn't eat. No wonder people were obsessed with holding onto their land. But the romanticized "the land, oh, the land" raving thing in books and movies is usually lost on me. As it was here.

Ida is dealing with a traumatic situation. Her mother has been diagnosed with cancer and because of her illness Ida's life changes in ways she doesn't like. Personally, I thought she was a selfish brat. I wouldn't have had a problem with Ida being a selfish brat under those circumstances. Stress makes all of us selfish at one time or another. But I didn't feel her behavior was ever really recognized for what it was. We got a lot of talk from Ida about her cold, hard heart, which I think I was supposed to find charming. I didn't.

We also got a lot of Ida talking to trees. The trees talked back. I think I was supposed to find that charming, too, but I kept thinking, "Hey, this kid is crazy. When are they going to do something about this kid being crazy?"

Like I said, it must just be me because everyone else loved this book.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Throwing Together A Post--Again

I am obsessed with reaching the 50,000 word point on the novel I'm writing for National Novel Writing Month and angsting over whether I should test for black belt at the end of December or wait until the end of March. Which I wouldn't mention, but I need a plenty big excuse for the lack of posts recently and justification for the meager thought I'm putting into this one.

And What's the National Book Award Winner About?
Godless by Pete Hautman won the National Book Award for Young People's literature. If you go to the Godless link at the beginning of this paragraph, you'll find that Amazon doesn't have any reviews up for the book except for a few from customers. Doesn't seem to be hurting sales, though.

A New Kidlit Site
Just a year or two ago kidlit sites were few and far between. Not so any longer. Wayfarer's All is my most recent find. It's very new with only a few posts to date. But I love the title.

Jane Yolen Update
I haven't mentioned my addiction to Jane Yolen's on-line journal in a while. She hasn't done an update recently, either. In the past I've wondered if reading about Jane's powerful work ethic wouldn't improve my own work habits. However, recently I've noticed that not only does Jane spend more time working than I do, she also spends more time shopping and going out to eat than I do. I'm wondering if reading her journal isn't bad for me.

This post includes the word "Again" in the title because I wrote it two days ago, couldn't make it upload, and then lost the whole thing. Just want you to know I've been trying.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A Review of a Review

Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book (a favorite magazine, though I'm always 2 to 3 issues behind in reading it), had a review in the November 14 New York Times entitled 'The Red Book' and 'Into the Forest': Metafiction for Beginners.

Though I've heard Sutton speak and enjoyed him, I have to admit that some of this review was a little over my head. For instance, I don't know what "self-reflexive stories" are. I also had trouble figuring out why he wasn't crazy for Into the Forest. Did he mean a kid couldn't understand it without help from an adult? And I was really disappointed that the word "Metafiction" was in the title but never used in the review. Not that I'm such a big fan of metafiction. I was hoping he'd explain what it is.

At any rate, I thought that both The Red Book and Into the Forest sounded as if they're worth a look.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Hey! I Read Some Nonfiction!

I don't believe I've mentioned that my book, Saving the Planet & Stuff is a finalist for the Connecticut Book Awardin the children's literature division. I am one of four books nominated, all the books being dramatically different. My fellow finalists are Patricia Hubbell for Black All Around (a picture book with rhyming text), Pegi Deitz Shea for Tangled Threads(a young adult novel about a contemporary immigrant), and Winfred Rembert for Don't Hold Me Back, a memoir by a folk artist. I just finished reading Don't Hold Me Back a couple of days ago.

Rembert is a folk artist whose work illustrates his memoir of life in the south in the 1950s and beyond. What little I know about folk art suggests that such artists use their art to document their lives, and that's what Rembert does here with both his pictures and his text. He writes about a culture that was certainly different for this reader. I found it disturbing to think that someone who is nearly my own contemporary had to pick cotton as a child and saw the bodies of lynched black men still hanging from trees. And it was very moving to read that he was afraid of white children when he was a boy.

I think this would be an excellent book for elementary school libraries not just for the historical aspect but because it helps to illustrate how writers pick events from their lives to write about.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Third Book

Okay, so almost three weeks ago I read three younger kid books while on a car trip, and I still haven't told you about the one I liked best. I've got to get moving on this because 1. The books may be overdue at the library by now and 2. I'll be back on the road in another week and reading another batch of books.

So, my favorite book from my last car trip was...ta-ta-ta-ta Franny K. Stein: Lunch Walks Among Us!, which is one of three Franny K. titles by Jim Benton.

Just as my beloved Artemis Fowl is a master criminal, Franny K. Stein is a mad scientist. In Lunch Walks Among Us she has trouble fitting in with the other kids at her elementary school--as one might expect a mad scientist would. Adults might find this "be true to yourself" tale a little predictable. But adults aren't the primary readers of this serious, so to heck with us. There are clever, noncloying illustrations on every page, and Franny definitely saves the day through her own ingenuity.

Franny K. Stein, herself, has been named one of the "Year's Hottest Hotties" by The National Enquirer. I kid you not.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Common Ground?

I spent the day giving author talks at an elementary school and spoke with the teachers there at the end of the day on "Techniques to Encourage Children to Read and Write." Yeah, I know. That sounds very grand coming from me.

However, I think that writers and teachers both share a concern regarding reading. Teachers teach readers to read. Writers write books for readers to read. The NEA report that came out this summer (I'd link to it, but I'm tired. Did I mention I did an honest day's work today?)indicating that people of all ages are spending less time reading is of concern to both groups. For teachers, why are they doing all this work teaching if no one is going to use what they learn? For writers, why are they doing all this work writing if no one is going to read what they write?

Plus writers need to sell what they write to make a living. And publishers don't want to publish the work of writers whose books don't sell. Fewer readers, fewer sales. You see where I'm going with this.

Anyway, writers tend to sit and complain about this situation. It seems to me that instead we ought to get together with teachers and somehow work together on encouraging a culture of readers.

If I figure out a way to do this, I'll let you know.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

When Do We Get To Move On?

Philip Pullman, author of the glorious Golden Compass (I'm not being sarcastic--I thought the book was breath taking), has said that George W. Bush would make a good villain in one of his books. It sounds as if it is was only one thing he said in an interview relating to the release of his new book, The Scarecrow and His Servant.

It is a mildly interesting comment, especially given that Pullman doesn't live in the United States and isn't a U.S. citizen. But everyone has been quoting him and linking to the article, using Pullman to make a political statement for them.

Give it up, people. The election is over. Okay, a lot of us didn't get what we wanted. That's the way the American system works. Move on and pick up your work again. If you think the situation is that bad, then get moving and do something about it. Get involved with one of those schools that's losing funding. Volunteer to help promote reading or writing somewhere. Subscribe to some publication that's having trouble keeping itself afloat because it can't get a grant. You don't like what's going on in Iraq? Write your Congressperson. Write him or her again. Support a service person or an Iraqi relief agency.

But stop your whining! Especially those of you involved with children. What kind of role models are you? You didn't win so you're going to pout and stick your tongues out at the people who did? The whole thing is going to begin again with another presidential campaign in maybe 3 years or even less.

And then we'll get a chance to do the whole thing over again. Personally, I'm looking forward to it.

And that is the end of my political rant. Everyone is doing one, and I didn't want to be left out.

Friday, November 05, 2004

More on My Car Reading

Today, folks, we will discuss my second least favorite book (or second favorite, since I only read three) from my car trip last weekend.

Here is the problem I see with The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer--it's not one of Colfer's Artemis Fowl books! Colfer made the mistake of writing a series of books that is too good. It's hard to keep up the standard when you're moving out into other topics.

After getting that off my chest, I must admit The Legend of Spud Murphy is not bad and will have much to recommend it to those reluctant boy readers I read about earlier this fall. It's about a couple of wild brothers who are forced to go to the library where they must contend with an evil librarian who tries to keep them from reading books. It's not terribly long, and it's light in tone. I, personally, felt the ending was a little predictable, but I've read a lot more books then the seven to eleven year olds this book is published for. They may very well be surprised.

This would be a decent book for them to make due with while they're waiting to grow old enough to enjoy Colfer's Fowl series.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Doing Good in Cyberspace

Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure is an online auction of artists' snowflakes, proceeds from which will go to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. What looks to me to be an extensive number of artists have created snowflakes that will be auctioned off through eBay through December 12, 2004. Read all about it and view the art. Oh, and buy it, too.

Best wishes to the Robert who inspired this art sale.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Not a Favorite

This past weekend I spent the better part of 12 hours in the car. Again. This time I was loaded with younger kid books. I keep getting them from the library and taking them back, overdue and unread. Not this time. I read three new books. That's right. I said new books.

Today I'll tell you about my least favorite of the bunch, Winchell Mink by Steve Young. Like Rob Thomas, who I've mentioned before, Young is also a TV guy. He's written for a number of shows including Boy Meets World, which I think was a kid favorite, but I wouldn't want to bet my life on it.

Now, about Winchell Mink. The philosophy behind this book seems to be that kids like wild and wacky things and that wild and wacky things are all a kids' book needs. The book is filled with wild and wacky episodes that are barely strung together. Winchell Mink does have a point, though I have to admit that I've forgotten it. I think the Captain Underpants books do a much better job in the wild and wacky department because the two I read had story lines.

Winchell Mink is subtitled "The Misadventure Begins," suggesting there will be more books. We'll have to see about that.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Hmmm. Text and Sound

There's lots of kidlit material in the blogs today. I could just fill up my own post with material I've ripped off from others. But that would be wrong. Besides, I'm all worn out from my first day of National Novel Writing Month activity. So I'll just refer you to Strong Bad's Children's Book, with many thanks to Kids Lit.

I considered e-mail this link to my writers' group, but those folks don't always get me, forget about Strong Bad.

Well, some people need to go get an ice cream sandwich. Gail needs to go get an ice cream sandwich.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Let the Dog Live!

I finished a neat book today--No More Dead Dogs by Gordan Korman.

The book is a light-hearted take on a subject I've talked about recently--downer books for kids. The basic story begins when a very honest boy writes a report on a book called Old Shep, My Pal, complaining that it's boring. He also says he knew the dog in the story was going to die before he even began the book "because the dog always dies."

As luck would have it, I was reading the July/August edition of The Horn Book, which carries an advertisement for a book called Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas. There's a picture of a dog on the cover. Any bets as to what happens?

No More Dead Dogs is written from shifting points of view, which I feel is a little overdone in kids' books. But Korman does it well. The story really does progress as each kid is telling it. The main character gets himself into realistic trouble. The letters to Julia Roberts, which could have been sappy, aren't. The ending is both modestly unexpected and believable.

And I'm sure a lot of kids will like this book even more than I did.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Once Again, Exactly What Is YA Literature?

Hooray for me. I finished the May/June 2004 issue of The Horn Book, which means that I am now only two issues behind. Again I'm going to tell you about a great article by Patty Campbell. (See 4/25/03 and 9/29/03 blog entries.)

In an article called Our Side of the Fence Campbell talks about definitions for YA literature, something she has done before. She says:

The central theme of YA fiction is becoming an adult, finding the answer to the question "Who am I, and what am I going to do about it?"

Whether it is told in first or third (or even second person), to be a YA novel a book must have a teen protagonist speaking from an adolescent point of view, with all the limitations of understanding this implies.

To be a YA novel, then, a book must have a climactic epiphany of new maturity as the subtext and be told in the YA voice from the limited adolescent viewpoint. In addition, it must be relevant to the lives of young readers in some way.

I couldn't agree more, especially regarding the central theme of YA fiction. And what could be a more important theme, at any point in life? I think the central theme for a lot of books about mid-life is the other side of the same coin. "Who am I, and what have I done about it?" The major theme of adolescence then, is linked to a major theme throughout literature.

I also agree that a good teen protagonist isn't all knowing in a mature sophisticated way because most adolescents aren't that way. That's a major complaint for me when reading books for young people.

And as far as "it must be relevant to the lives of young readers in some way" is concerned, well, yeah, it's about the kid. A lot of writers do forget that.

It's always a great pleasure to read an essay in which the author agrees with you on almost everything.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Something New

I thought this article about English novelist Philip Kerr (also known as P.B. Kerr) author of Children of the Lamp was just lovely. I think he sounds like a charming man.

Don't I sound like an old coot?

I enjoyed the article even though Kerr talks about being driven by limo to his school appearances while I must haul myself from place to place with only MapQuest to guide me.

As my constant readers are well aware, I'm not a huge fan of fantasy. Nonetheless, I believe I'll read Children of the Lamp at some point. Of course, since I have that problem, which I've discussed before, with always being late, it will probably be some years from now.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Something Old...Again

I know I am always way behind the curve with trying things (though I did see Shaun of the Dead while it was still in the theater. Unfortunately, it was too cool and hip for most of the people I know to have heard about)and I thought I'd accepted that about myself, but since I've been trying to do a decent job at maintaining this blog it's begun to get me down. Nonetheless, this morning I finished reading Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas who is this Rob Thomas not this Rob Thomas. I bought Rats Saw God maybe six or seven years ago as a gift for a young male relative. This was a really neat thing for me to do, since I now know the book has a pretty juicy sex scene.

I liked Thomas's book Slave Day and the television show Cupid on which he was an executive producer. He also wrote a book for younger kids called Green Thumb, which I personally found kind of preachy.

Well, what about Rats Saw God? You know, I think teenagers may like this. For the sex, if nothing else. But it just seemed sort of...oh, just another teen suffering story. I don't mean a true horrible problem book. Just run of the mill teen suffering. I lost my girlfriend to my teacher. I didn't like my father when I was younger but now he's not so bad. I was sort skimming stuff because there was nothing there that really grabbed me.

But wait! I just found out that Rob Thomas is involved with the new show Veronica Mars ! (Boy, Thomas's website is really, really out of date. I feel a lot better about mine.) I'd wondered what that show was doing in my TV listings. One on-line site compared it to Buffy. I will take a look for that reason alone.

I hope I get to it before it's off the air and in syndication somewhere.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Yikes! It's Almost National Novel Writing Month!

I have signed up to take part in National Novel Writing Month. What is it, you may ask? I'll let the NaNoWriMo folks explain in their own words.

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

I happen to be finishing up the sixth and final draft before copy editing of my next book. (I actually made a huge attempt at getting it done in say, four or five. Ha!) So this would be a good time for me to try something new. I see this as an opportunity to force me to structure my time better and control my inner editor. (Writer talk. Forgive me.) I've had an adult book idea kicking around for some time, I've actually done two drafts of the first seven pages and kept a notebook of ideas, so I'm in good shape for this project. Plus, since I have a really poor track record at selling adult fiction, I'd only be sacrificing one month of time to this project before getting started on my next kid book.

Now, Blogger, which is the...what? software? mysterious genie?...that makes my weblog possible is getting involved with this, too. Some of their staff are going to do NaNoWriMo and they are suggesting that people blog their November manuscripts. I will have to think about that.

I have massive amounts of work to do in the next week so that I can clear the decks, as they say, for this next project.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I'm Not Through Talking About Vacation Yet

While I was up in Canada, I bought a copy of Canadian Children's Book News. The article I was particularly interested in was A New Breed of Book Club by Lisa Doucet who writes book reviews for CM: Canadian Review of Materials. Her article in Children's Book News was about a book club for adult readers of YA literature. Its members are librarians and others connected with young readers as well as adults who just like to read YA literature.

I bought the magazine in a Chapters, which is very much like a Borders or a Barnes & Noble. I've been to a few of those stores on various trips to Canada. I'm always looking around in them for books by Canadian authors. This trip, I was walking around these stores, looking for Canadian books, and thinking how weird it must be to be in a store in your own country that's just full of books from another country, namely, the United States. (Books you have to pay a couple of dollars more for, by the way, then Americans do when they're buying them down here.) And then when you find a book by a real Canadian, it costs a bundle. I was seeing paperback Canadian books for over twenty dollars.

I think I would feel very odd about that if I were Canadian.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Another Day

So here's the deal on Anne of Green Gables, in my humble opinion:

Anne Shirley is terrific. As soon as she appears on the scene--around Chapter 4, I believe--she packs a wallop. She's a really strong character. She's a chatterbox and melodramatic and fanciful. And then she grows up and becomes a conforming young woman who sacrifices her education to do the right thing. I brought Anne up with the professorial- and librarian-types at Child_Lit and the feeling there seemed to be that this kind of conforming to expectations ending was common in books of the period.

I wonder if Anne of Green Gables would find a publisher today. Not because of the conformity. Plenty of today's books are conforming, they just conform to something different. No, I wonder if it would be published today because my understanding of kidlit is that the publishing world likes a strong plot rather than strong characters. The only plot in Anne of Green Gables is that Anne grows up. I also don't think the lengthy descriptions would go over well with the publishing world. I'm not saying kids wouldn't like them. I've asked around and kids seem to still be reading Anne, so it doesn't bother them. But I think it bothers the adults who make publishing decisions.

I forgot to mention in my earlier post that there is an L.M. Montgomery Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island (or UPEI, to those of us in the know)where you can find out all kinds of stuff about Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anne's creator. I also just learned today about the Kindred Spirits listserv where you can go to talk about Anne and Maude. Lo and behold! The Kindred Spirits listserv is part of the L.M.Montgomery Institute.

So now you know a lot about what I did and thought about on my vacation. Aren't you glad?

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Land of Anne

Back to my vacation, which I am sure you are all anxiously waiting to hear about.

So, we went to the Maritime Provinces, or at least some of them. Since Prince Edward Island (or P.E.I., to those of us in the know) was one of them, I decided to read Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery.

By the time I started reading the book we were in New Brunswick. We started seeing Anne of Green Gables dolls in gift shops. As soon as we got over the bridge onto P.E.I. we stopped at the first tourist area and found an entire shop full of Anne paraphernalia. Anne of Green Gables the Musical was playing in Charlottetown when we got there. Evidently, it's been playing in Charlottetown every summer since 1965. There is an Anne of Green Gables gift shop in the city as well as an Anne of Green Gables Chocolate Shop.

Then we went to Cavendish, where we visited Green Gables.

No, I did not have too much Anne.

Another day I'll talk about the book itself.

For more Anne of Green Gables images, check out my Land of Anne Pinterest board.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Fascinating Turnpike Reading

I should be writing about all fascinating things relating to my vacation before all that becomes too old. However, yesterday afternoon while waiting for an hour and a half at a rest area on the MassPike for someone I was supposed to meet (doesn't that sound creepy?), I read this incredibly interesting article in School Library Journal. I found a hard copy on my desk. I have no idea how I was originally directed to the thing.

Anyway, the article was called Why Johnny Won't Readby Michael Sullivan. I suppose I should have known what Sullivan says in this article but it still seemed like news. In short, Sullivan says that boys' brains are wired differently than girls. "...boys' brains engage in less cross-hemisphere activity than girls. In other words, boys use only half of their brain at any given time. That means when boys read, they need an extra jolt of sound, color, motion, or some physical stimulation to get their brains up to speed." This explains why they like books about activities--sports, adventures, fantasies that involve adventures. They also model themselves on their fathers who tend to read more newspapers and informational materials that tell them how to do things because, remember, their dads are big boys with that same kind of brain wiring. So both physically and culturally, boys are different in terms of their reading.

However, Sullivan says, schools promote girl-type books--books that involve relationships, books that require internal reflection rather than action, books that emphasize the emotional rather than the physical. When boys never see the kinds of things they're interested in reading taught or on reading lists, they come to think that reading isn't something for them.

I can give you an example of this happening with an older boy. He was a great reader as a grade schooler and even in middle school. So good, in fact, that he ended up taking honors and AP English courses all through high school. And what kinds of things did he read there? The Awakening by Kat Chopin. To the Lighthouse by Ginnie Wolfe. And Belovedby Toni Morri. Those books are too girlie for a lot of women, forget an adolescent boy. And, yes, he gave up reading by the time he was a junior in high school.

I so hope I haven't written anything that turns boys off reading.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I'm B-a-a-a-ck

I'm totally refreshed and not feeling the least bit stressed because I'm so far behind reading my favorite blogs and my messages at Child_Lit and Readerville and the continuing saga at Jane Yolen's On-line Journal.

I have so much to write about, too. I hardly know where to begin. So, I've decided to start with a book I read on vacation because it's overdue at the library.

I read E.L. Konigsburg's Silent to the Bone even though I wasn't crazy about her later book, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place, which is sort of connected since it's about the childhood of an adult character in Silent. Hope you followed that.

Anyway, I liked Silent to the Bone much better. Nonetheless, I can't say I'm a huge fan. Silent is one of those books adults like because it exposes kids to the titles of adult books or psychological theories or other smart stuff. It also includes some psychic leaps that I couldn't quite follow. For instance, the main character's sister writes a letter that everyone raves about, but it was way too subtle for me. And I felt that Connor, the main character, had way too much power in the story. Adults were way too willing to talk to this kid.

However, the central event, the central relationship between the au pair and her charge I felt was very well done and very believable. I'm guessing there's going to be a whole generation of kids who've read this book who will never allow an au pair in their homes.

Friday, September 24, 2004

We All Need A Break From One Another

No, no, no, I'm not giving up the blog for a while. I love the sound of my own thoughts way too much. I'm just going on vacation for a couple of weeks, which is why my recent postings have been a little sporadic. I can only concentrate on a few things at a time, and getting ready for a two-week vacation is kind of time consuming for me.

Oh, no, you're thinking. She's going to start talking about her vacation and this is a children's literature blog. Stay on task, Gail! Well, I am, because one of the places I'm going is Prince Edward Island, home to Lucy Maude Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables. I've never read the book, but it sounds like just the thing I would have sucked up with a straw when I was young. I kid you not. I loved all that old stuff back in the day.

I was planning to buy a copy of the book while visiting a Lucy Maude Montgomery site. Evidently she is a tourist industry in P.E.I.. But one day I was leaving my library and there was what looked like a brand new paperback copy of Anne of Green Gables on the sale cart. For 50 cents. Seriously, who could pass that up?

I already have a little stack of stuff I've collected to write about, and when I get back I should have much more. And think of all the things I'll have to catch up on with at Readerville, Child_Lit, and, of course, Jane Yolen's on-line journal.

I can't wait to get back!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Why Little Women Is Still Popular

Yesterday I went to hear Katharine Weber speak. Katharine has written a book called The Little Women, which I actually liked and you all know how cranky and hypercritical I am. The Little Women is a modern day story with characters who are sort of familiar to anyone who has read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. But you shouldn't think of it as a modern day version. Think of it as a modern day...variation.

Anyway, Katharine said something interesting. She said many interesting things, actually, but I'm only going to tell you about one of them. She said that perhaps Alcott's Little Women is still beloved because it is rarely taught. Very few people are forced to read it. Very few people have a teacher's analysis forced upon them. People read Little Women for pleasure.

Well, I thought it was an interesting suggestion, anyway.

Monday, September 20, 2004

I Know Exactly What He Meant

Saturday morning I was doing a little channel surfing while waiting for my pilates tape to rewind when I stumbled upon one of those Book TV that I always only find by accident. This one involved Walter Dean Myers who wrote a marvelous book called Monster so I decided to kick back and watch for a while.

Myers was talking with his son, Christopher an author and illustrator who has done the artwork for a couple of Caldecott Honor Books, which is not too shabby. The two of them had this...this...joking, not take each other too seriously thing going that I don't think the audience totally got. Sometimes you click with an audience, sometimes you don't.

But young Myers said something that totally clicked with me. He said that growing up the child of an author, as he did, writing was something he just believed was open to him. He did not have to convince himself that writing was something he could do.

Having grown up, myself, the child of a farmer and a housewife who later became a cafeteria cook, I knew immediately what he was talking about. Writing was so far away from the experience of my family and the people we knew that I might as well have been thinking of becoming an astronaut. Definitely it was a struggle to convince myself that writing was something I could do.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Look Who Has Written A Kids' Book! arrived today so I took a look hoping I would be inspired to write something about new books I haven't read. What should I see there under Cool New Books for September but Peter Pan and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Hmmm, I thought. Could this be the Dave Barry? The one whose column I occasionally read and whose books my twenty-one-year-old nameless relative can't get enough of?

Well, it is. Barry and Pearson (who I've never heard of but, hey, he's got a really top-notch website) have written a prequel to Peter Pan. My faithful readers (that would be me) are aware that as a young, young child I had an obsession with Peter. I may have to check this book out.

Dave Barry has a blog, by the way. Yeah, I know. Who doesn't?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Big News Day for Kidlit

Judy Blume is this year's winner of an honorary National Book Award. I believe this is the award that Stephen King won last year. There was all kinds of sniping and hissyfitting about it. Will anyone have complaints because a children's author was given the award? Let's stay tuned!

Friday, September 10, 2004

More on The Places You Will Go

Daphne Lin, who maintains The Places You Will Go weblog, e-mailed me to let me know how I can find some information on her. Well, to tell the truth, I can find information about her by going to the "About" link on her weblog. (Go ahead. Laugh.) She does book reviews for The Star, a publication in Maylaysia. (Someone from Malaysia e-mailed me. That is so-o-o far away.)

Right now Daphne is reading The Artemis Fowl Files. The book doesn't come out until next month, but she received a copy for review. Lucky, lucky woman.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Some Net News

Okay, I'm Looking For It

ACHOKABLOG's Sept. 7 post says that The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor "should appeal to the type of reader who likes Artemis Fowl." Me! He's talking about me!

Why Isn't This Happening On A National Level?

Read on Wisconsin! is a statewide book club in...well, Wisconsin, obviously. It appears to be promoted by the state's First Lady. (Wish I knew her name.) It only covers books for infants through high schoolers, and I, personally, think that it should include adult books, too, if it's really going to call itself "Read on Wisconsin!" but that is just a minor, minor quibble. I am all for this book club.

Given that we have a national First Lady who is a former librarian and was supposed to be promoting books, I think it would be terrific if she did something like this. Or she could start some kind of movement to have each state do a "Read on Wisconsin!" type book club. If her husband is still employed after January, maybe I should write her a letter.

Another Book List

USA Today has a list of YA books. They are a little on the downer side. Thanks to h20boro lib blog for the link.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Really, There is a Kidlit Connection Here

My many, many, many fans know that I am somewhat obsessed with Jane Yolen's On-line Journal, mainly because Jane is a maniac for work and I, well, I'm not. I hoped that reading Jane's journal of her work life would inspire me to make a greater effort. If anything, it's made things worse. The time I should be spending working, I'm spending reading about Jane work.

Now, if I were keeping an on-line journal of my working life instead of a weblog on the subject of children's literature, I would tell you all about how today I went biking at Quabbin Reservoir, which was formed in the 1930s by flooding four towns in Massachusetts. We found the wreckage of a plane that crashed in the 1950s, as well as the abandoned town of Dana.

You are probably thinking, "But you don't keep an on-line journal, Gail, so this is all a pointless waste of my valuable time." No it is not! Because Jane Yolen, my writing master, wrote a picture book about Quabbin Reservoir and the flooding of one of the towns it now covers. How cool is that?

On top of that, my husband's family owned a couple of stores in the area that was flooded. So a couple of years ago when Jane and I were both somewhere for an event (I think it was a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference--Jane was a presenter, I was a nobody) I bought two copies of Letting Swift River Go and had her sign them for my mother-in-law and niece.

The connections just go on and on. And guess what? I have pictures of today's excursion. If my computer guy ever figures out how to insert them into my blog, I'll add them here.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Oh, No! I Found Another One!

Another children's literature blog! Last spring I could only find a few. Now they're multiplying. I keep adding them to my list of daily web reading. Soon that's all I'll be doing--reading weblogs.

Anyway, this weekend I found The Places You Will Go. It appears to have only been around since May, which explains why I didn't find it this past spring when I was looking for kidlit blogs. (Though other such blogs--including this one--just didn't show up when I searched.) I couldn't find any info about the author at The Places You Will Go, though I am, as usual, rushed and may have missed it. There are a number of Favorite Book and Author links for me to check out at some point, which will probably mean I'll find even more sites I'll want to go to regularly.

Once a week this blogger publishes a Poem of the Week, which is an interesting and unique twist. Also, a quick scan of earlier entries suggests that this blogger, like me, is always cleaning her desk.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Have I Mentioned I'm Not Crazy About Fantasy?

I love the Artemis Fowlbooks because they are really cop thrillers. As a general rule, though, I really don't care for real fantasy. Which is why I enjoyed How To Write a Best Selling Fantasy Novel. I read about it in another blog which will remain nameless because the title includes a word I probably shouldn't use in a weblog written for young folk as well as old ones. I'll just call it The Bookblog That Shall Not Be Named.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Well, I'm Embarrassed Now

I've written about live journals here before. They are traditional journals as far as content, but they're kept on-line and the journals can open them to readers. Being on-line they have various bells and whistles--you can use little icons to indicate your mood and make it possible for others to comment on your posts.

Well, someone has started a live journal called Middle Grades Book Club
all about books for students. And what's more, more then one person can post to this journal. I think you have to have your own live journal and somehow or another you post in your live journal and this one, too. But I don't know for sure. I thought I was quite sophisticated because I blog, but live journals are a bit beyond me.

From the Middle Grades Book Club I was able to go to other live journals and have found that there is Live Journal for Young Adult Literature Lovers. There are probably many, many more.

And the NEA says no one is reading?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I So Want to be Holly Short

That's Captain Holly Short, folks. And that's in spite of the fact that I've always found leprechauns boring. That's because I didn't know the word should actually be spelled LEPrecon for Lower Elements Police reconnaisance.

Have you guessed that I've been reading Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl again? Yep, I whipped through Artemis Fowl The Arctic Incident and then sat right down to read Artemis Fowl The Eternity Code. I love these things.

Now, in The Eternity Code Artemis doesn't dominate the action quite as much as he does in the other books, and I think some kidlit folks might complain about that, seeing how he's the only kid in the book and all. And I'm sure the Point of View Nazis are probably nashing their teeth because the action switches scenes quite frequently, though the author practically gives you a road map so you can follow where's going. My attitude is these books prove that authors can do whatever they want to--so long as the story works. And Artemis Fowl works.

Eoin Colfer is supposed to have described these books as "Die Hard with fairies." (For the record, I was very fond of the first two Die Hard movies, too.) But these books aren't totally escapist thrill rides. The fairy folk think we humans are pigs and constantly complaining that we are wrecking our environment. While I was reading the third book in the series I was washing my hands in a ladies room at a mall. Instead of using the hand dryer, I pulled out a paper towel, a totally unnecessary use of an object. As I dried my hands, I thought, "Filthy mud person," which just happens to be what the fairies in Artemis Fowl call us humans. I'm getting the message.

A new book is coming in October.
Thank goodness that's only a month away.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Too Late. Just Move On.

I found the article I wanted to write about last week, but it's dated now and blogs are supposed to be cutting edge, right? So forget about it.

Instead, I'll tell you that I've read that S.E. Hinton of The Outsiders fame is supposed to be publishing a book for adults soon. This is probably old news, too, but since I just heard about it it's new news to me. I have never read any of Hinton's books, and watching The Outsiders movie on video is most definitely on my personal Top Ten List of Terrible Experiences. However, Hinton was just a teen when she started publishing, which I certainly respect, and she is wildly popular with young readers, whose opinion I value. So this is newsworthy.

What's more, I have a family member who was a huge, huge Outsiders fan as a sixth grader and for years thereafter. Perhaps this new Hinton book will be waiting for him Christmas morning this year.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Don't Panic!

Yesterday I tried to go out to the garage. The Fed Ex guy had opened the screen door and left a package with my manuscript in it propped against the inner door. This just goes to show that no place is safe. But everything is going to be okay. I didn't have plans this weekend, anyway.

Good News at Your Local Bookstore

It seems as if I've been in a lot of Barnes & Noble and Borders' bookstores this summer where I've been seeing a lot of YA books prominently displayed, as I may have mentioned earlier. This past weekend I was in a Borders in Syracuse, New York where I saw a good sized counter with multiple shelves on each side. Near an entrance, too. The whole thing was covered in YA. And it was almost all hardcover YA. In my experience, this is almost unheard of.

Now there was a lot of those Georgia Nicolson wannabe books that I'm always complaining about--wisemouth girls who keep diaries, hang out with friends, gush over boys, and have loser parents. I am calling them Little Chick Lit. However, I also saw a copy of one of the Adrian Mole books. Before there was Georgia, before there was Bridget, there was Adrian. Read him and see how a diary-type story ought to be written.

Weird News At Your Local Bookstore

At that same Borders I saw a rack of Mensa improve your IQ with puzzles and games books. (The game has not been created that will improve my IQ and since I rarely understand puzzles, they aren't much help to me, either.) In Mensa's defense, these books didn't actually say they were for improving children's IQ's, but they were in the children's section.

Now, most people would take this opportunity to rant about how awful it is to try to manipulate kids' minds. Yeah, yeah, yeah. What I keep thinking, though, is just how smart does a person have to be to get through this life? Isn't there some IQ level after which you're just wasting it?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


I am totally overwhelmed because I was away Saturday and Sunday and fell behind in reading my favorite blogs, my listserv, and my Readerville forums. Actually I signed up for another listserv at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators site, but it functions differently then Child_Lit and I haven't been keeping up with it at all. I'm also having working woman problems--I'm having trouble managing keeping up a house and a writing career. (I consider this a professional problem, which is why I'm mentioning it here.)

As part of the overwhelmed mess I'm in right now I've lost the article I was going to write about today. I also have three manuscripts to read for my writers' group, which meets tomorrow night. I made the mistake of reading my spiritual advisor's (Jane Yolen's)on-line journal. She did, oh, I don't know, forty or fifty things in the last three days.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Deserving of Hype

I've been hearing about Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card for years. It's one of those books I've been meaning to read but wasn't looking forward to for some reason or other.

First off, I need to try to categorize this book because I am obsessive about that. I often see Ender's Game shelved with adult sci-fi, but it's often in the Young Adult section in libraries. Plus I've always heard of it in relation to teenagers. This kind of thing drives me crazy. What the heck is this thing? Well, the ALA maintains a list called Adult Books for Young Adults. I like that phrase. So, after reading Ender's Game, I've decided to classify it as an Adult Book for Young Adults because it doesn't have any YA characters and it deals with political and philosophical questions most real young adults won't find themselves dealing with.

Specifically, Ender's Game involves training brilliant people through game playing for combat in a war to save civilization. Ender Wiggin is believed to have the right combination of intelligence, killer instinct, and empathy to do the job.

Ender is six years old. By the end of the book he's in his early teens, a brilliant soldier who still doesn't get dirty jokes. The book asks questions about childhood and how children should be treated as well as just what a civilization has a right to do in order to defend itself. It's a novel of ideas, something I enjoy running across every now and then.

I found the book a little demanding of the reader. It requires some commitment to get through it. This isn't a criticism by any means. Commitment is a good thing. I'm just pointing out that it isn't a quick read. (At least for me. More serious sci-fi fans may feel differently.) The climax had a bit of a twist and not the twist I was expecting. (This is good, too.) The ending seemed a little rushed and got into religion a bit, which always tends to mystify me. But it left an opening for a sequel and I think there have been seven Ender books altogether.

There are 2,049 reader reviews of Ender's Game at Amazon. A stunning tribute. I so hope there will be a movie.

Friday, August 20, 2004

My Old Boyfriend

When I was in second grade I had a wicked crush on Peter Pan. I don't mean the Mary Martin Peter Pan of the Disney play. I mean the true, blue Peter Pan of the play itself. I recall reading it in a big book at school. Or maybe I read a narrative version that Barrie published a number of years after he wrote the play. Anyway, a girl who lived next door to me would leave me notes claiming they were from Peter and that he lived in the woods behind our house.

Wow, talk about heartbreak when I learned the truth.

All this came to mind because I just read that a hospital charity that holds the copyright to Peter Pan is looking for an author to write a sequel. I'm sure there will be plenty of people who will feel that tampering with a classic is some kind of crime. I, however, definitely look forward to reading more about my old flame.

Now I Get It

Judith Ridge of the Misrule blog wrote to let me know that Eoin Colfer pronounces his first name Owen--which I guess is how all people named Eoin pronounce it. Thank goodness she tipped me off because my guess would have been Ian.

Judith's timing couldn't have been better because I just started reading Colfer's second Artemis Fowl book this evening. I began it a few hours after finishing another book about a brilliant child, Ender's Game.

I'm going to have to pull my thoughts together about old Ender before I tell you anything about that experience.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

What is Ender's Game?

I finally got hold of a copy of Ender's Game, but I haven't finished reading it. I am, however, intrigued. More to come.

I am still addicted to Jane Yolen's journal. She never talks about killing a couple of hours on-line reading blogs and listservs the way I just did.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Two Lists I'm Not On

Children's Literature has released its Choice List of 2004. I'm not on it. Anywhere.

And the Young Adult Library Services Association has a list called Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Life Long Learners that doesn't include me, either. Actually the YALSA has a lot of lists. You won't find my name on any of them.

Hey, but I'm mature! I'm bringing these worthy organizations to your attention anyway.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

But Isn't This About Adults?

"It's time for parents, educators and cultural critics alike to face the facts of our own making. Today's educational and professional realities don't foster the reflective context that enables students to become broad and patient readers."

So says Nancy Schnog in a Washington Post article entitled Reading? Oh, Sure. Just Give Them a Sec. I totally agree. Reading takes time, it takes solitude. The adult world doesn't believe kids should have either of those things. They should be doing things and being with people. Personally, I don't think we have any business complaining that kids don't read given the lifestyle we've imposed upon them.

However, Ms. Schnog's article was written in response to the National Endowment for the Arts study that indicated that Americans are reading less. That study was done on information collected from the census. Kids do not fill out census forms. Adults do. Ms. Schnog explains why kids aren't reading, but what about the adults who the NEA study actually studies? Hey, they're grown-ups. No one is making them go to dance class, Sunday school, Scouts, skating lessons, a different sporting event for every season AND volunteer to do good works and extra credit reports. What's the grown-ups' problem?

The Buzz at Child Lit

Child Lit is all agog over an article in the new issue of Harper that's supposed to be a downer about YA lit. However, no one has actually been able to find the magazine. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Of Course He's Going to Live to the Seventh Book

J.K. Rowling is playing the sneak peak game again and giving out bits of information about what's coming up in her Harry Potter books. Surprise! He's going to live to make it into the seventh book. Well, I guess she could have written a seventh book without him, but what would she have called it? Harry Potter in the Great Hereafter?

She's still sort of threatening to kill him off. I wouldn't mind seeing him go, myself, but I think all these little coming attraction talks Rowling gives between books are cheap marketing stunts. The woman's as good at pr as she is at writing.

Yeah, I know. I'm a witch.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

I Went to the Movies Last Night...

...and what did I see but The Village. I went because the controversy regarding whether or not M. Night Shyamalon ripped off a YA book from 1995 got me all psyched to see the movie. Once again, I am not revealing the name of the book because I've read it. If you have read it, knowing that it shares some plot elements with The Village will ruin the movie for you. Since the movie has some big gaps in logic, anyway, I don't want to make anyone's viewing experience any worse then it needs to be.

Okay, here is my spin on the movie/book controversy: Yes, there is a similar basic plot. However, Shyamalon adds a couple of romances while the author of the YA book adds a sinister plot. And Shyamalon romanticizes the behavior of some of the characters while the author of the YA book holds them responsible for their actions.

I think the similarity could easily just be a coincidence. For one thing, how expensive could it have been to have bought the rights to this YA book? The book did okay, but we're not talking Harry Potter, here. Why would someone with as big a name as Shyamalon risk all this hassle by ripping off a book he could have easily bought the film rights for? It doesn't make sense.

But then, this is the guy who had a blind girl fight a bad guy in the woods and win. So...

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I Can't Wait to Get Back to the Library... I can take out the next Artemis Fowl book. I definitely enjoyed the first one. Oh, the author is Eoin Colfer. If I ever meet him in the flesh, I'll have to call him Mr. Colfer, because I don't have a clue how to pronounce Eoin. Well, I have a clue, but not a very good one.

Somehow I got the impression that Artemis Fowl is a Harry Potter wannabe. Not at all. The two books are very different, and, personally, I like Artemis much better. I think the story is much more unique, and Colfer tells it without stripping any forests of their trees.

It's great to have a series I actually like. I guess I shouldn't say that since I've only read the first book. Okay, it's great to have a series I hope I'm going to like.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Two New KidLit Blogs

When I did a search for children's literature blogs last spring I didn't come up with many. In less then a week I've run across two new ones through the listserv, Child_Lit

The Misrule Blog comes from Australia. Entries appear to start at the beginning of June of this year. It's part of the Misrule: Home of Australian Children's Books On-line website maintained by Judith Ridge.

A lot of good kids' books have come out of Australia over the years, and in today's entry Misrule mentions an author I've enjoyed in the past--Judith Clarke. I'm a fan of her book, The Heroic Life of Al Capsella. Misrule says Clare has a new book out called Kalpana's Dream and that it includes a "professionally irresponsible English teacher and (GET THIS!) her vampire boyfriend."

Book Kitten is another blog that appears to be quite new. Oops. I just found the archives. It goes back to November, 2003. It's maintained by a librarian here in the states whose name I can no longer find right now. While it doesn't appear to be dedicated just to kidlit, there's a lot of kidlit stuff there.

Both these blogs have pictures, and they are set up so that readers can comment on individual posts. They make me feel like a poor relation. I will have to see what I can do to jazz my blog up.

Friday, August 06, 2004

In the News

About Me

First off, I mailed my manuscript out yesterday morning. So you won't have to hear any more about my fourth draft. However, it shouldn't be long at all before you have to listen to me complain about the fifth one.

About Cornelia Funke

In an article about Cornelia Funke in The Guardian Kate Kellaway reports that Funke plans to extend Inkheart into a trilogy. This was interesting news since some people think the original book was plenty long enough. Kellaway also says that the book has been optioned by the studio that made Lord of the Rings, and that while Funke was imagining Mo, the father in the story, she was picturing Brendan Fraser.
I always thought of Mo as being older with less hair.

Ah, Now the Movie's Ruined

I read at a couple of different blogs that some folks believe that M. Night Shyamalan's The Village is a whole lot like a certain YA novel from a few years back. I'm not mentioning the novel or posting any links so that the movie won't be ruined for you the way it has been for me because I've read the book!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Almost There, Folks

I worked all day Sunday revising a chapter. That means I worked all weekend. Unheard of for me! Then I worked all day yesterday revising the last two chapters. Then I worked from around 11 AM this morning re-revising the last chapter and spellchecking and word counting and printing. Now I'm in the midst of putting everything in order and writing up little tags to stick here and there throughout the manuscript for my editor. Then I have to writer her a letter, which I've actually started because I worked on it as ideas came to me during the revision process.

I know there are some copy editing errors. I hope I can find them. And I want to add something about the main character's height somewhere. And maybe change the last paragraph.

I hope to mail this out tomorrow afternoon.

At this point in a project I get really excited about finishing. Not because oh, boy I've written a book, but because oh, boy we'll have clean, folded, and ironed clothes soon. We'll have food soon--in this case, tomorrow afternoon. I hope. Soon I can work on that essay I started nearly two years ago and update my website. There's lots to look forward to at this point.

Oh, I've been collecting lots of neat blog ideas this weekend. I can look forward to writing about them soon.

Jane Yolen updated her journal. She's distressed because she thinks she's not working hard enough. Yeah, Jane.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

A Rare Saturday Posting

I rarely work on weekends. I figure if God required a day of rest, it only stands to reason that I, a mere mortal, need two. At the very least.

However, I am so into this revision I'm working on. You will all remember, I'm sure, that yesterday I revised three chapters. Well, this morning I got up, went to the computer in my pajamas (not a pretty sight), and revised another. I am pretty close to being in flow now. Energized. Smokin'. I have three chapters left to go. If I can get into one of them tomorrow, is it too much to hope that I can knock off the last two on Monday? Probably, since work has been going way too smoothly lately. I should be running into a roadblock sometime soon.

I believe I owe this surge of creativity and ambition to my personal writing coach, Jane Yolen. Though we have never met--though she, actually, has never even heard of me--her online journal with its descriptions of her superhuman work habits shames my "inner Jane" and makes her work harder.

Hey, Jane, there hasn't been an update in a couple of days. I'm going to crash and burn here if I don't hear from you soon.

And How Do I Fit Into This Story?

The Telegraph
reports that J. K. Rowling's website "receives 27 million "hits" a week, compared with an average for other popular children's sites of one million."

I guess the important word there is "popular."

Friday, July 30, 2004

Ah, Funniest, You Say?

Philip Pullman of The Golden Compass fame (he's famous for other things, too, but The Golden Compass is my favorite) has an essay in Salon this week. Actually, the essay is adapted from his introduction to a book called Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay, and it's called The Funniest Children's Book Ever.

In short, Pullman claims that Magic Pudding is, well, the funniest children's book ever. He says he can't explain why it's funny, and it is true that sometimes humor can't be explained. He also says the language is so "fresh and lively that it might have been written yesterday." Then he gives some examples such as: "Sam Sawnoff's feet were sitting down and his body was standing up, because his feet were so short and his body so long that he had to do both together."

I totally do not get that. Perhaps you had to be there--a hundred years ago when the book was written!

Okay, I most definitely like bringing an old book to the public's attention, even if I personally don't get it. I certainly hope someone is writing introduction to reprints of my books a hundred years from now, whether or not the readers of that generation get me. Pullman says that Lindsay wrote Magic Pudding because "children liked eating and fighting."

I have to agree that that's been my experience, too.

Good News

I revised three chapters today, which is absolutely a massive amount of work for me. I even went back to work on the third chapter after dinner instead of exercising. (I have an exercise obsession.) I have written this entry as well.

I guess it did me a lot of good to read Jane Yolen's journal yesterday.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Just Can't Keep Up

I missed posting yesterday because I'm working on the fourth revision of a book (I mention this because I suspect there are people who think I don't do anything at all), and though it is going well, for a revision, I always get to a point where I am consumed. Not necessarily in the good sense of the word. Even when I'm not working on it, I have trouble doing much of anything else--like ironing, grocery shopping, other types of paperwork. I'm hoping to finish this revision next week and try to get back to what passes for a normal life for me.

I've noticed that Jane Yolen has started an on-line journal. It doesn't seem to be a traditional blog, but a traditional journal maintained on-line. I admire what she's doing, but I don't know if I'll be reading it much because...she does too much work . Her work habits are far better than mine, and I don't want to keep reminding myself.

On the other hand, maybe this is just what I need.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

In the News

So What Do Adult Books Teach?

Jose Saramago, a Nobel literature laureate from Portugal, believes the world would be a better place if adults were forced to read children's books. "They are moral fables that teach values which we consider indispensable like solidarity, respect for others and goodness," he says. (Thanks to Kids Lit)

As a general rule, I don't care much for books that teach me things. However, if adults are forced to read children's books, I hope they are forced to read mine.

Children Live in Terror Because of Books?

The subject of teen problem books came up again in an essay by Rachel Johnson called Read Me a Dirty Story, Mummy in the English paper...magazine...whatever it is...The Spectator. In her essay Johnson says, "It is a well-documented fact that even in stable, loving, smacking households, children live in terror of their parents divorcing or becoming alcoholics or shacking up with a same-sex partner, simply because that is all that seems to happen in many of the books they read."

This essay was discussed for a while at my listserv. No one seemed to know anything about this well-documented fact that Johnson was referring to.

Monday, July 26, 2004


On Saturday I went to visit Fruitlands in...oh, I don't know. Somewhere in Massachusetts. Why should I care, you ask? Well, if you remember one of my entries back in September 2002 or 2003 (hey, I've narrowed it down for you)I have a little thing about Little Men, which means I have a little thing about Louisa May Alcott, its author. One thing does not necessarily lead to another, but in this case it does.

Anyway, Fruitlands is the name of a farm where Louisa's father took the family when she was around 8 (according to the lady who gave us the little talk), hoping to start a commune with this other guy and his son. They may have managed to get as many as eight guests, besides themselves, to sign up for the communal experience but essentially the whole thing went bust in short order.

Believe it or not, I learned about this back in college when I did a paper on Alcott for my History of American Women course.

Years ago I also visited Orchard House, the Alcott's main home. This is the setting for Little Women.

Friday, July 23, 2004

My Trip to Barnes & Noble

I went to Barnes & Noble this week even though I've recently become a big fan of independent bookstores. However, there aren't any independent bookstores around here, and the B&N has attached itself to the mall where it sucks up customers like a black hole. I was one of them.

Near the mall entrance I found a table of new children's books, which I thought was very convenient. (Supposedly books get placed on those tables in the big chains because their publishers have paid for the space.) I found some titles I've already read, meaning that I am getting better at keeping up on what's new, and some new titles I loved--meaning I actually loved the titles. I'd never heard of the books, let alone read them.

Anyway, I found The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place , which I've read and didn't care for, and Inkheart, which I've also read and didn't care for. But my regular readers know that, right?

I also found a new middle grade book by M. T. Anderson called The Game of Sunken Places. I haven't read it, though I'm a fan of his book for older kids, Feed. But my regular readers know that, right?

The two titles I loved the sound of were One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones and The Meanest Doll in the World by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin. I'll be keeping my eye open for them.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

This Doesn't Change Anything

Missed me? I didn't post last night because I was with my writers' group. Good excuse, huh?

Okay, back to work. Yesterday I read an article about Antoine de Saint Exupéry in an English publication called The Telegraph. Saint Exupery is the author of The Little Prince, of course, but in France he is much more. He's a combination war hero and cult figure. I'm not sure if we in the U.S. have anyone whom we can compare to him.

Anyway, for 60 years Saint Exupery has been a mysterious figure because while out on a military mission his plane disappeared. It was found recently and, evidently, the mystery deepens because there are no signs of bullet holes in the wreckage. (Those of us who are afraid of flying are well aware that a plane could easily fall from the sky without being shot down. Why any of them stay up in the sky is the big mystery.)

Well, someone is theorizing that Saint Exupery may have committed suicide by flying his plane into the sea. The article reports that he is believed to have been suicidal before his death, that there are explanations for his feeling that way. It is a theory, and I'm not complaining about it. (The French may be getting a little hot under the collar about it, though.)

I've never really understood The Little Prince. However, when I first read it I was in college, working in the summer at this beautiful college campus in the Green Mountains. I associate the book with that wonderful time. I own English and French editions. (Or I think I still have them.) I read the English version to my kids when they were little. Whenever the French came out with a new book on Saint Exupery (which they seem to do with some regularity) I read the reviews. I got all excited when he appeared as a figure in an IMAX movie I saw years ago.

The possibility that this man may have committed suicide doesn't change anything for me. I don't think the suicide theory can ever be anything but a theory. It just adds a certain je ne sais pas quoi to the Saint Exupery cult. The idea that his death may have been misunderstood for half a century only adds to the tragedy of his shortened life. To pass judgment upon him for a decision he may or may not have made in the last moments of his life and to let that judgment change how his work is perceived would be cruel, not just for him but for fans of his work. This is truly a case where the work should be allowed to stand by itself.

I'm getting all choked up here, folks. Must be the French genes passed down to me through my Canadian ancestors. I'm going to have to go find my copy of The Little Prince and read it again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Okay, My Take on Summer Reading

My listserv and Kids Lit have been buzzing about a New York Times opinion piece called Summer Reading List Blues by Barbara Feinberg, author of Welcome to Lizard Motel. Feinberg's essay is about mandatory summer reading lists, which, she says, tend to require reading a lot of serious problem novels. She believes the joy is being taken out of summer reading for kids.

The professional reaction to this essay that I have been seeing on-line has been to defend the books Feinberg singles out as potentially distressing for children. In addition, Feinberg's essay has been described as a nostalgia piece written by someone yearning for the experiences of her own childhood.

What's Gail's spin on this whole thing? Since you asked, I think Feinberg's essay is dancing around a whole different issue, an issue related to education rather than reading. Kids, and even parents, have little power in the educational world and that includes what they read. We hear about this more often regarding parents objecting to a book on religious or moral grounds. But do kids ever get a chance to object to what they have to read? They certainly don't get a chance to do much choosing. Their literature is written by adults, edited by adults, published by adults, marketed by adults, and taught by adults.

There used to be a saying about kids learning to read from grades one through three and reading to learn from grades four up. (Now that kids are supposedly learning to read in kindergarten, the saying may no longer be true.) My point is that books are like funnels for kids. All the facts, the believes, everything, comes through them.

I am not a professional educator or librarian. I am a parent, though, and I can say that Feinberg is not the only parent to be concerned about the dark tone of many of the books that are promoted in schools, not just on reading lists but in the classrooms. Will a nice steady diet of books about relatives dying (which was popular when my kiddies were in grade school), children being abandoned by their parents, etc. turn kids into eager readers?

I'm not saying that kids shouldn't be reading serious fiction, but "serious" doesn't have to mean "problem." It could also mean "ideas."