Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Voices tomorrow night

Just a quick note that I'll be participating in another New Voices in Y.A. and Children's Literature event tomorrow night. It's at the Main Branch of the Brookline Public Library and starts at 6:30. The lineup also includes Hannah Gomez, Katrina Grigg-Saito, and Jessica Tackett.

I'm planning to read from a novel-in-progress that no one but me has seen yet. (I am, of course, completely calm about this.)

Hope to see you there if you're in the area!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Princess and the pain

This week, I found myself in a position to read The Princess and the Pea aloud repeatedly. I also found myself squeamish about it.

The version I had in hand was very basic: Prince is "miserable" because he can't find a bride he's sure is a princess; royal family takes in a rain-soaked woman who claims she's a princess; queen hides a pea under twenty mattresses and twenty quilts; guest complains about her "dreadful" night's sleep; wedding bells.

Many if not most fairy tales value royalty, and while I often find that problematic, I imagine that many young readers and listeners realize on some level that this is a fantasy world. Just as wizards, hobbits, and aliens act as stand-ins for real people in many stories, princes and princesses stand in for the people most readers are likely to encounter or become. "Princess" can allegorically mean "good person." But in that case, I want some evidence that she is one, and the sensitive sleeper in this story just comes off as whiny. Not that she can't politely express discomfort, but should a guest - especially a desperate, last-minute guest - really launch into a tirade about the terrible accommodations? Shouldn't the queen have to worm it out of her a bit? Shouldn't the prince want to know she's nice before he marries her?

I think other versions I've encountered placed more emphasis on the fact that the title character was a princess even though she didn't look like one at first. That was what made the story fun when I heard it as a child: there was something going on that the characters didn't expect, and that I could kind of predict.

Teaching lessons is not the job of a fairy tale, but if kids are going to hear these stories over and over, let's have heroes and heroines they can root for. Fancy clothes and sensitivity to peas make a well-dressed character with a backache. Consideration, appreciation, graciousness... Now, those make a princess.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I have gazed upon the face of the Once-Ler.

I am a blogger. I speak for the books.
The Lorax: The Movie? I know how it looks
when the Lorax sells products like Once-Lers hawk Thneeds,
when the Truffulas fall, and the ads grow like weeds.
Well, that part's commercial, ironic, and sad.
But believe it or not, guys, the movie's not bad.
It has logical leaps, and--hey, spoiler alert--
the trees are brought back so Zac Efron can flirt.
But The Lorax's theme is the same at its root,
though the bears never mention a Barbaloot Suit.
It still shows a plan that  seems sunny at first,
which grows and destroys till the bubble must burst.
It shows the regret that can come after greed
and the hope that empowers one Truffula seed.
The movie's about what the book is about.
And hey, even better? The book's selling out!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Happy World Read Aloud Day!

Today was World Read Aloud Day. I celebrated by reading Where the Wild Things Are, three Little Bear Stories, a Frog and Toad story, a Ladybug Girl book, and Harry and Horsie with a three-year-old sitting charge who knew most of the above well enough to fill in details, and by listening to her six-year-old sister recite-read an Elephant and Piggie book and Good Night, Gorilla. (Yes, I think there's some literacy involved in navigating a near-wordless book.) I also silently read the so-far hilarious The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, a recipe for hamentaschen, and plenty of websites of varying value, wrote a passage for a freelance project, and used G-chat and text messaging. None of the above was unusual, nor would it have been for most of the people I know.

At least 793 million people in the world right now are illiterate. Seven hundred ninety-three million.

According to the World Read Aloud website, "World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people." It's hard for me to imagine that there's anyone anywhere for whom that right doesn't go without saying.

I'm not sure I have answers. But 793 million? That's not okay. No question.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Make Way for The Duckling Gets a Cookie: Mo Willems is Coming!

Not to plug my store, but... okay, yes, to plug my store, but also to let you know of an upcoming chance to meet one of the best picture book creators of our era, which I think is a fair trade-off. Brookline Booksmith will welcome Mo Willems to the Coolidge Corner Theatre on Sunday, April 1 at 10:30 a.m. (No, not an April Fools' joke, unless they've got me snookered too.)

Here's the info from the store website:

Sunday, April 1st at 10:30am
Mo Willems
The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?
Tickets Required. Available 3/5.
Three-time Caldecott Honor winning author of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny, and the Elephant And Piggie books and Emmy-winning Sesame Street writer Mo Willems comes to share his brand-new kids’ book. We let the Pigeon take the stage when the duckling asks for a cookie…and gets it!!
By publisher request, this event is free. However, to comply with the Theatre’s maximum occupancy, we will require tickets. You may reserve up to 4 tickets per customer by stopping in or calling (617-566-6660) starting March 5th.