Saturday, March 27, 2010

The same old thing

A common complaint about reading to little kids is that they want to read the same books over and over. It's true, they do. I've brought kids to bookstores and seen them zero in, unsurprisingly, on the books they already have at home. Kids find comfort in the familiar, of course, but I think there's more to it than that. Books they already know provide great scaffolding for them to discover new things their brains can do.

I'll use an example with which I've become very, very familiar: reading Goodnight Moon to A, aged 18 months. On our earliest readings, she rarely let me stay on a page long enough to finish it (and they aren't exactly wordy pages). The only exception was when she was so glassy-eyed that she wouldn't have moved a muscle if I'd tried to read her the complete works of Shakespeare.

But since then, she's transformed into a much more active listener. She usually selects the book herself now, and once we get started, she participates. She always tries to say "balloon" when we get to the red balloon on the first spread, and she makes sounds for many of the animals referenced. (I never realized just how many animals are in even picture books that don't focus on them until I sat for A, who does a rollicking "roar" and a mean "meow.") My personal favorite, though, is when we get to the page with "the old lady whispering hush," and A puts her finger to her lips and says, "Ssshhh."

After a first read-through, A will often take the book and leaf through it herself. Watching the way her eyes take it all in, I could swear she's literally reading.

So yes, I often end up reading the same book to the same child. But as long as she keeps making new discoveries, each reading will be just slightly different from the last for both of us.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night.

Mousy Meg was already getting more attention of late. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, a Newbery winner in its own right, plays a significant role in Rebecca Stead's (literally and figuratively fantastic) When You Reach Me, which won this year's Newbery. I've enjoyed having that excuse to chat about Wrinkle with bookstore customers. And now, Jeff Stockwell is set to direct a new Wrinkle in Time film. If that means we'll be chatting about L'Engle for a few months, I'm all for it!

This isn't the first film adaptation anyone's done of Wrinkle, but I'm still curious as to how this version will handle the story's particular challenges. In some ways, this is a story that lends itself more to imagining (i.e. reading) than to seeing. Though there's plenty of action, some major sequences focus mostly on ideas or on what's happening in people's minds. There's also [AWIT spoilers ahead] a whole planet of beings who can't see, but who experience the world through senses far beyond those of humans. Yes, we encounter that planet from Meg's point of view, not that of Aunt Beast or any of its other inhabitants, but the idea of a better-than-seeing sense is easier to understand through a book's words than it might be through a movie's images. Then again, maybe it's not a bad thing for us to find ourselves as confounded as Meg does.

I'm one for giving films-of-books a chance (though my list of movies I like better than their books is very, very short). I'm also one for clinging to beloved scenes and lines and quibbling with the changes a movie makes. ("That very night, in Max's room, a forest grew." Is that so hard? And I liked that movie.) But really, even that is just a fun way of expressing affection for a book.

So I'm looking forward to this, at least for the moment. But if Miley Cyrus gets cast as Meg (nothing against you, Miley, but you're no Meg Murry), I'm tessering out of here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

If you are a dreamer...

...come in!

Shel Silverstein was a prolific jotter, and some of the jottings left out of his original books will appear in a new collection in fall 2011. If their "leftover" status means they're a bit less polished than his earlier published poems, I kind of don't care. If anyone could come up with something funny, beautiful, or both by letting his mind run free, it was Shel. (Take that as you will, but I speak here of his writing for children.)

And :sigh: I suppose it's time to have the Shel Silverstein talk.

Shel sometimes gets a bad rap for being the only poet a lot of kids know, and I suppose there's some validity there. Kids are capable of understanding and liking a wider variety of poetry. Letting them see that some poetry doesn't rhyme might make it seem more possible that they, too, can write it. And wonderful as Shel's work is, an isolated Light in the Attic doesn't shed much, well, light on how to appreciate adult poetry. No wonder a lot of adults feel lost around the poems intended for them.

But as far as I know, Shel never told anyone to expose children only to his work and work like it. And in isolation or not, it does so much good. When I read weekly to classes at a local elementary school, I closed each session with a poem, starting with Shel's work and then including that of other poets. Games of "guess the rhyme" kept them engaged, the content kept them giggling, and after a week or two, the announcement that a poem was next met with a fist-pumping "yes!"

I'll meet the new collection's release the same way.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Backwards and forwards

a writer seeking diversion
the same words,
making new meaning,
the world
upside-down, is

But someone did it.

More than one someone, actually.

Upside-down is
the world.
making new meaning from
the same words
a writer seeking diversion.

Monday, March 15, 2010

In which this blog introduces itself

Emily Byrd Starr wrote letters to her father on the road to heaven. Harriet M. Welsch wrote notes on things that were none of her business. Anastasia Krupnik wrote lists of things she loved and things she hated. And I guess I write blog posts now.

Welcome! This is going to be a place for discussion of children's lit and the writing life. I mean it when I say "discussion," so please feel free to comment. If there are topics you'd like this blog to bring up - anything from specific books to broader matters of reading and writing - please say so. Also please note that this blog is not affiliated with any organization.

There are lots of great blogs out there that focus on whatever's brand-new in children's lit. I'm sure I'll do some of that, but this will also be a place to discuss literature that's been around a while. After all, everything's new to someone, especially in a field where new readers are literally being born. (And yes, "literature that's been around a while" does indicate that more L.M. Montgomery references will likely pop up. What can I say? I'm an Anne-girl fangirl.)

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you here again!