“Each of us, in our kidhood, was a Huckleberry Finn, drifting on a current that seemed tortuously slow at times, poling for the shore to check out every slightest glimmer in the trees … the taste of Brussels sprouts … your first forward roll … cruising a mall without a parent … overnight it … making your own grilled cheese sandwich … the thousand landfalls of our adolescence .… And now we know what we did not know then: What an adventure it was!”
Monday, December 17, 2007
“Each of us, in our kidhood, was a Huckleberry Finn, drifting on a current that seemed tortuously slow at times, poling for the shore to check out every slightest glimmer in the trees … the taste of Brussels sprouts … your first forward roll … cruising a mall without a parent … overnight it … making your own grilled cheese sandwich … the thousand landfalls of our adolescence .… And now we know what we did not know then: What an adventure it was!”
This novel is set in the medieval era and the story revolves around an alchemist, his servant and his raven. The action begins with the alchemist using a mysterious Book Without Words to create the stones of life. His servant, Sybil and his raven, Odo come into the information that their Master plans to sacrifice them in order to gain eternal life and they must make a decision as to what plan of action to take in order to survive. The story is in the format of a fable with anthropomorphic characters and a final lesson to be learned.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
The first book “Spider Kane and the Mystery Under the May-Apple” takes you on an adventure to solve the case of a missing butterfly. Leon, a butterfly, discovers that his new girlfriend Mimi has vanished. With the advice of his ladybug friends he contacts Spider Kane, the brilliant detective of the insect world. With the help of Spider Kane, Leon and his lady bug friends discover Mimi was kidnapped and work together to solve the mystery of Mimi’s secretive past and her kidnapping.
Ultimately there aren’t many differences because Osborne has maintained the same formula she used for the first one. The only difference would be the second book is more complex than the first. The mystery isn’t one fold like the first book there are many components to the second mystery. Aside from it’s complexity there are no major differences between the two books. I believe their similarity is a wonderful plus point to this series. The style is maintained throughout both books allowing the second to truly be a sequel. Unlike many other authors whose books in a series differs from one another Osborne is an expert series writers and is able to maintain the similarities.
Mary Pope Osborne is the creator/writer of Magic Tree house, Magic Tree House Merlin Missions, Magic Tree House Research Guides, Spider Kane Mysteries, Tales from the Odyssey and many other independent books. This popular author of the the Magic Tree House series, Mary Pope Osborne’s life is quite an adventure just like her books. By the age of fifteen she had moved seven times due to her father's military career. "Moving was never traumatic for me, but staying in one place was" said Osborne in regards to her constant moving as a child. She enjoyed moving and learning about new places. For her each move was an adventure that took her into another world. Osborne describes her childhood as being rich due to her imagination. Her and brothers would spend hours playing make believe games using their imagination. This attachment to imagination and creativity isn't something Osborne gained as an adult and children’s author rather something that developed in her as a child.
After graduating from college Osborne decided to do what she loved, travel. She spend some times living in a cave in Crete followed by her extensive travel to about 11 Asian countries. Her trip came to a sudden stop when she nearly lost her life in Katmandu. Osborne was hospitalized due to blood poising and returned to America after some treatment. After recovering from this unfortunate illness Osborne continued her journey and began experimenting with different careers. She's worked as a waitress, window dresser, medical assistant, travel consultant, bartender, acting teacher, and an editor for children's magazine. In between her career search Osborne met and married Will Osborne. The couple moved to New York City but Mary was still unsure about her career path in life. She didn’t know what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. It wasn't until one day while writing in her journal she began to write a story about a young girl in the South much like herself as a child. She began formulating an exciting story that later became her first novel called Run, Run Fast as You Can. From the day she began writing that story she’s never stopped. Writing that novel led her to realized that what she wanted to for the rest of her life was become a children’s author.
Mary Pope Osborne is one of the most popular children’s writers of our time. She explained at a conference that she had planned to write only about four books to the Magic Tree House series but when children wrote her letters asking for her to write more books and suggesting ideas for her future books she was overcome with happiness and continued her series. Today the Magic Tree House series has over 30 books. In all Osborne has written about 80 books in the past 24 years as an author.
Osborne believes in encouraging children’s creativity and imagination. She is dedicated to keeping her books such that they spark imagination amongst children. This is why her and her husband refuse to turn this series into a television show or movies. They believe Osborne’s books are a means of taking children on imaginary worlds. Using their creativity they’ve created a Magic Tree House musical which continues to spark children’s imagination and is a creative addition to the Magic Tree House family.
Osborne’s success came mostly from the Magic Tree House series but she feels she enjoyed writing the Spider Kane mysteries the most. In an attempt to overcome her fear of spiders Osborne began to research the insect and found herself standing in the middle of an idea for another series. She says she enjoyed working on these books a lot because they take you into the lives of insects who are as human as you and I are.
Her biggest support in her adventures is her husband and partner Will Osborne. She gets inspiration from everything around her. Before drafting her stories each new topic is researched intensely. Osborne claims that about 70% of her efforts go into research and writing is only about 30%. Her love for adventures, imagination and writing helps her continue her journey as an author and contributes new ideas for new books.
For more information about Mary Pope Osborne Visit her website. For additional information about how Osborne writes you can view this short clip and learn how she spends her days writing and researching. The internet has alot of information about this talanted writer including biographies, interviews, videos, etc...
"A first-rate, poignant story...a lovely, well crafted, three dimensional work." - The New York Times
The tones of both of these books are very different. Although Ramona deals with difficult situations such as embarrassing herself in front of the school by cracking an egg on her head or feeling hurt because she overhears her teacher calling her a nuisance, it is written lightheartedly. Despite these being important situations with Ramona, it seems that in the end everything always works out and has a happy ending. Leigh deals with very serious matters that children deal more and more with everyday now. His parents are divorcing and on top of that he is starting a new school. It's not enough that he already feels like he didn't see his dad that often because he's a cross country truck driver but now it's even less because he doesn't even live there anymore. There is a lot of emotions in this book and Leigh's story doesn't have a happy ending so to speak. You read of his continuous feelings of hurt by his dad leaving and not bothering to contact Leigh very often, acting like he doesn't care. Dear Mr. Henshaw is a sad read, not like that of Ramona Quimby Age 8 but after reading I can definitely understand why it won the John Newbery Medal.
At first glance and reading the back cover of these books one might think they were written by different authors as well. However, one thing both books do have in common is the underlying theme, growing up is difficult. This topic and many others that occur throughout her books makes her books relatable and very appealing to young readers. Although these two characters encounter very different things they both deal with feelings of hurt, disappointment and the stages of growing up. These books provide two very different points of view on how children can deal with problems but it is good because that would appeal to a wide range of readers. I think it might be challenging for Dear Mr. Henshaw to appeal to girls and vice versa but the theme could invite any reader to enjoy both books.
Another similarity between these two books would be the comedic tone present. Ramona is a very entertaining character that gets herself into blunders and deals with things with a very matter of fact attitude. The following are excerpts from both books to give an example of the comedic tone present in each.
Both of these examples demonstrate the consistant humor Beverly Cleary uses regardless of the book. Reading both of these books, you witness Beverly Cleary's wide range of writting skills, which would contribute to the reason why she has such a huge audience. Sadly, I heard in an interview that Beverly Cleary would not be writing any more books but thankfully she has left us with many stories to read for future generations as well.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Every writer seeks to produce a memorable contribution to literature. In addition to the many challenges presented throughout the
writing process, in some ways, the successful completion of a piece of literature is the smallest in a series of feats. Writers are then met with the challenges of sustaining career longevity while creating fresh, original storylines and characters with each new endeavor. Judy Blume is no exception to this challenge. What is remarkable, however, is the fluidity Blume employs when approaching a new book, with its own distinctive theme.
There are many Judy Blume books to choose from, however two that provide a strong example of this, are Judy's books: Iggie's House and the very well known and lovable, Superfudge. Superfudge, is one in a series of Judy Blume books, following the life and adventures of Peter Hatcher and his younger brother Farley Drexel Hatcher, better known as Fudge. Judy has professed in many an interview that she tends to begin a new book at the pivotal moment that something changes in the life of the central character. In Superfudge, twelve year old Peter Hatcher is introduced to a world of change when his family announces they will be moving from New York city to New Jersey while his father attempts to write a book, and that his mother is pregnant with a new baby sister. Among the changes Peter faces, are those children face with the prospect of a new school and leaving the safety of a known entity, as was Peter's life in New York city. Adding to the mix of an already terrifying situation for Peter Hatcher, are the ongoing antics of his brother, Fudge, as he struggles to acclimate to family changes and a new environment. Peter finds himself having less time to devote to his own struggles, as most of the time, he winds up having to rescue Fudge from the newest mess he has made, and explain the ins and outs of change to his little brother.
Superfudge, is an example of one of Judy Blume's most recognized abilities to see the world of a child through a child's eyes. By means of this ability, she is able to speak to the issues children face as central and of utmost importance, as well as to reflect on how the decisions sometimes deemed trivial by adults, can deeply affect the lives of children. One of the ways she achieves this, is by writing in a manner reflective of everyday speech, specifically children's speech, and setting the stage of action in each chapter around everyday 'stuff', as she does in the first scene from Superfudge:
Life was going along okay when my mother and father dropped the news. Bam! Just like that!
From there, the reactions of the central character, Peter, are much as any child's would be, instead of excitement, he responds to the news of a new baby, with complete disdain. For the the few issues that are presented in Superfudge, it is primarily a lighthearted, comedic story about adjusting to change and the upside to new beginnings in life. This comedic lightheartedness is one of the book's many strengths, and also one of its few limitations. For all the laughs the reader will get at Fudge's expense, the storyline occasionally lacks any and all direction, becoming more of a snapshot into the everyday life of a family. For many readers, this serves to be a point of interest, for others, such as myself, it allows all too much room for the reader's interest level to fizzle. Though the chapter lengths in Superfudge assist with shifting the readers interest, the overall length of the book might benefit from being shorter.
Another strength of the book is the ever encourable, Fudge. He is depicted as a fun-loving, quirky and inquisitive menace. However, for as enjoyable as the messes Fudge makes are to read, there are some instances where the wrong message could be conveyed to young readers. Blume devotes an entire chapter to Fudge's first introduction to kindergarten and and his kindergarten teacher. The title of the chapter is: Farley Drexel Meets Rat Face. From the title alone, it is clear that Fudge's first impressions of his teacher are not favorable, and in the chapter itself, Fudge acts out when placed in a foreign situation. His brother, Peter, is brought in to intervene and remedy the situation. In an effort to avoid his teacher, Fudge has perched himself above the shelves of the cubby holes in his classroom and refuses to come down until his demands are met. To accomplish the task of getting Fudge down, this chapter concludes with the transferring of Fudge to another classroom where he might have full reign, per his demands.
Fudge climbed down to the top of the cubbies, and Mr. Green reached up and lifted him the rest of the way down.
"Good-bye, Farley Drexel," Mrs. Hildebrandt said.
"Good-bye, Rat Face," Fudge said to her.
I gave him an elbow and whispered,"You don't go around calling teachers Rat Face."
"Not even if they have one?" he asked.
"Not even then." I said.
Clearly, as a reader can extrapulate through this chapter, this scene is particularly comedic in nature, but not necessarily the best of examples as to how to respect adults or behave in new social situations. Such, are examples were the book's very strengths also serve as its primary weaknesses. The book is effectively designed with the purpose to engage children in a playful read with which they can relate on an everyday level. The book does not strive to make a political statement, preach morality, or establish a code of ethics. It is quite simply a book about 'being', and Judy Blume does 'being' very well.
An interesting meeting would take place between the character, Fudge and Winnifred Barringer, the central character in Judy Blume's novel Iggie's House. In contrast to Superfudge, Iggie's House is a book about what happens when just 'being' is no longer simple, and the challenges overcome the everyday. Judy Blume successfully depicts the most ordinary, sheltered suburban neighborhood. The house on Grove Street belonged to Winnie's best friend Iggie, and was a place of refuge for Winnie, one where she could explore her own ideas and be heard as an adult. Determined to keep the legacy of Iggie's house alive, she sets her sights on welcoming and befriending the Garbers, the new family set to move in. The Garbers are the first black family to settle into an all white neighborhood, and Winnie discovers she is one of the only people eager to welcome them. Blume began writing Iggie's House in the late 1960's when racial tensions were high and cites that her own naivety on the issue was similar to that which she creates in Winnie.
In contrast to the flow of the book Superfudge, Iggie's House is a book with a resonating plot and a very distinct path down which it takes its readers. The book is a strong exploration of both sides of the racial coin, through the heartfelt experiences of children as opposed to the more prevalent issues involving adults at the time. Every neighborhood has the characteristics of Grove Street and into every neighborhood a little Mrs. Landon must fall. Mrs. Landon, better known to Winnie as Germs Incorporated, is the character Blume creates to encapsulate the role of ring master. Each neighborhood has its most vocal leader, and in this case, Mrs. Landon has always been the neighborhood's most outspoken proponent for change. However, as the book evolves, it becomes clear to the reader that the change Mrs. Landon hopes to make is one much like the sign she chooses to nail to the Garber's lawn that reads: Go back where you belong. We don't want your kind around here!
The dialogue used throughout the course of the book is an effective blend of a child's voice, as manifested through Winifred, that evolves and matures as Winifred begins to take in the various experiences she encounters through befriending the Garbers. The scene selection is also concise and effective, moving the reader through a series of events from introduction and friendship to later rifts and turmoil surrounding the choice to make a stand. Young readers can identify with the emotions Winnie experiences and through her, be guided towards peaceful and open minded resolutions. In contrast to the journey of Superfudge, Blume takes a stand in Iggie's House and emphasizes human compassion and understanding as most important.
Glenn read the sign in a hoarse and whispery voice, as if he needed to say it out loud to believe that it was real.
GO BACK WHERE YOU BELONG. WE DON'T WANT YOUR KIND AROUND HERE!!!!!
Mr. Garber grabbed the sign, yanked it out of the ground and broke it in half over his knee. Winnie felt her cheeks burning. She was shaking all over. "We're not all like that," she heard a small voice say. "We're not...we're not...we're not." She realized the voice as her own and that she was crying. She turned and fled, tears streaming down her face.
The success of this book, is its ability to bring an issue as complex as racial equality, to the forefront in a way that pertains to us all. There exists an innately universal quality to the sentiment expressed by Winnie in this scene. At one time or another, most people have encountered some type of situation in which they felt much like Winnie does here. The limited weakness the book encounters at certain turns is the loss of the storyline to the enormity of the issue of race. At various points, it becomes difficult to separate the story of a girl named Winnie and her new friends the Garbers, or to identify an alternate theme, from that of the central one taking place about race.
Despite the weighty issue at the heart of Iggie's House, the book is a welcomed departure from the typical book one has come to expect of Judy Blume. The same characteristics of comedic playfulness set against a similar theme of change and new friendships arise in Iggie's House as they do in Superfudge. Both books begin at a very pivotal juncture in a child's life---change. The central characters in both are strong willed, eclectic, and witty individuals struggling to adapt themselves to their world(s) and the other way around. Judy Blume takes her readers on two very unique journeys, each most definitely worth the trip.
With her dreams about becoming a writer, it was only fitting that she choose to attend college in California where many go to fulfill their dreams as well. As a young women "who was sure where she wanted to go but did not know if she could find the money to get there," she ended up attending a junior college in Ontario, California where she got her Associate of Arts degree. She continued on to graduate from the University of California at Berkeley with a Bachelor's of Arts degree in English. She then continued to pursue her dream and got a degree in librarianship at the University of Washington in Seattle. After completing this degree she got her first full time job as a librarian and ran into students that also were searching for the kind of books she was as a child. That prompted her to write her first book Henry Huggins, where the character of Ramona Quimby made a debut.
When asked in an interview what prompted her to write the character of Ramona Quimby she replied by saying it was accidental because when writing the Henry book, it occurred to her that all the children appeared to be only children, so she added a little sister. She had heard someone yelling the name Ramona out the window and that's how it started. Then she was inspired by a little girl that lived near Cleary who was considered rather impossible. Cleary has a memory of the little girl coming home from the grocery store and she has a pound of butter, which she had opened and was just eating it. Ramona appeals to many young readers because she is a normal and an imperfect everyday kid and according to Cleary doesn't learn to be a better girl.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Do you dread discussing the Civil War in Social Studies class? Do you detest having to memorize the numerous dates, eras, and periods of various events throughout our history? Do you sit around wondering who had the hair-brained idea to name the Great Depression after the word "great", when it wasn't really great at all?! If you share in my loathing of all things "history", then have I got an author for you!
Patricia McKissack. That's her name. Plain and simply an author that will change your mind about what you think about history.
Patricia McKissack will make history come alive for you! This Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winning author does this by writing about real historic events, but as seen through the eyes of fictional characters. This genre is called historical fiction. When reading historical fiction, we get to walk alongside the main character through any trials and tribulations they may face, which is much different than just reading about historical events and the infamous names of those who took part in them.
Patricia McKissack was born Patricia L'Ann Carwell in the southern town of Smyrna, Tennessee on August 9, 1944. Her family moved North to St. Louis, Missouri shortly after her birth, which is where she spent the early part of her growing-up years. When Patricia was twelve, she moved back to Tennessee and developed a very close friendship with a boy named Fredrick McKissack who, many years later, would become her husband. Patricia and Fredrick attended Tennessee State University in Nashville together, and married the same year that Patricia graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1964. Patricia enjoyed a career as a teacher for several years before returning to St. Louis, now a mother of three, with her husband and sons to further her education at Webster University. She received her Masters in Early Childhood Literature and Media Programming in 1975. Patricia then switched careers and became an editor of children's books. She liked what she did for a living, but she wanted something more. Patricia's husband Fredrick knew this about his wife, so one day, as the two of them sat alone in their car, he asked her: "If you could do anything you wanted in this whole wide world for the rest of your life, what would you do?". Patricia answered: "Write books." And from that point on, with the help of her husband, that is exactly what she did. Patricia quit her editing job and her husband Fredrick quit his job as an engineer in order to pursue a writing partnership that has produced nearly 100 books....and counting!
Books with an African-American Focus
One of the primary reasons that Patricia desired to become an author of children's literature was because she felt that there was such a limited amount of material available to children that discussed the African American culture or their contributions to society. Both she and her husband, who grew up during the Civil Rights Era, sought "to enlighten, to change attitudes, to set goals - to build bridges with books." Though Patricia has relied on her own memories for some of the material of her books, she also thoroughly researches her books before writing them so that the material will be as authentic as possible. For example, with her book Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack traveled to Virginia for their research of a real plantation for this story that is set on an 1859 Virginia plantation. Patricia has actually seen the slave quarters that she describes in the book, and because of this, it becomes all the more "real" to the reader as well. Before writing fictional books, Patricia wrote mostly non-fiction books and biographies. She often tackled "controversial topics, such as racism", but did so in a way that invited all readers, regardless of their cultural background, to read (and to learn). And though her original goal was to produce writing that introduced children to "African and African American history and historical figures", Patricia has since branched out to writing the accounts of some Native-American tribes, as well as also writing about the Holocaust.
Patricia McKissack really is an author worth getting to know. Following this bio will be a critical analysis of two books that I have selected: Run Away Home and A Friendship for Today.
Click here to visit Patricia and Fredrick McKissack's Biography Writer's Workshop. This site will not only teach you how to research and write a biography, but will show you how to publish it!
African American families; feelings of hope and unity; racial prejudice; characters who overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles -- these are some of the themes you will find in almost any given novel by Patricia McKissack. Written primarily for audiences ages 10-14 years old, Patricia develops her characters so that readers will be able to relate to them almost as well as they might relate to a friend at school. You will root for these characters along every step of their journey, and in doing so, you will learn the true meaning of perseverance and self-pride -- attributes that all children should have in bounty.
A Tale of Two Books
The following is an analysis of two of Ms. McKissack's books: Run Away Home, published in 1997, and A Friendship for Today, published ten years later in 2007. Though each book is set in a different time period, they both center around a main character who is preteen and female. In Run Away Home, the story takes place in rural Alabama, 1888. The main themes in this book are respect for cultural differences, family unity and perseverance. McKissack pulls from her own African American and Native American ancestry to write a book that discusses the little-known relationship between these two cultures during a period in time when both cultures were being treated deplorably by the racist, Southern-white majority. In Run Away Home, we meet Sarah Crossman, who is an eleven-year old only child who adores her parents, her simple lifestyle, and her dog Buster. However, Sarah gets much more than she bargained for when she and her mother rescue a very sick runaway Apache boy whom Sarah had witnessed escaping from the train that runs through her town. What follows is a heartwarming story about how two children from very different cultures learn to respect and trust one another so deeply, despite their differences, that they become brother and sister in all ways other than blood. Though this is the human aspect of McKissack's novel, she is meanwhile teaching her readers about the important historical events that were occurring during this time period. African Americans had only recently been freed in the South, and most faced danger and death at almost every turn. The white Supremacist group, Knights of the Southern Order, was terrorizing men who attempted to vote, threatening families who were trying to better themselves financially, and burning down the homes of African Americans who tried to stand up against them. Even though this book deals with a lot of painful history, it is important that these stories still be told. McKissack addresses the issues eloquently by telling the story through the eyes of an innocent child.
In A Friendship for Today, the setting is now Kirkland, Missouri, "a town just outside of St. Louis" in 1954. The Supreme Court has just ordered that all schools be desegregated based on the landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. The major themes in this book are personal character, friendship, and racial prejudice. In this novel, the main character is now twelve-year-old Rosemary Patterson. The story begins with Rosemary and her best friend J.J. having just completed the fifth grade at an all-black school that will be closing its doors forever. Of their whole class, only Rosemary and J.J. will be attending the brand new Robertson Elementary School. Though the idea of going to an all-white school next year is very scary to Rosemary, she feels a lot better because she will be doing it right alongside her best friend in the whole wide world. Then tragedy strikes, forcing Rosemary to desegregate Robertson all by herself! Patricia McKissack artfully tells the story of a young girl who has an incredible responsibility placed upon her shoulders -- to change history. Along with historical events, this book (similar to Run Away Home) deals with several relationship themes as well. Rosemary faces the imminent divorce of her parents and feels as though her father no longer loves her. Rosemary worries about betraying her best friend J.J. by developing new friendships with some of the "white girls" at school. Life has suddenly gotten difficult for a young girl to whom most things, like the A's on her report cards and beating even the fastest boys in a race, has always come easy. Readers take Rosemary's journey of hardship and self-discovery right along with her. We feel her discomfort from being assigned to a building full of people who are different from her, many of whom don't want her there at all. We feel her anger and frustration when people call Rosemary by racial slurs. We feel her pride when she displays courage in both her words and actions. This book is about protecting one's own good character by treating everyone with respect, regardless of whether or not they show the same in return.
There are several similarities and differences that can be addressed with regard to each of the described novels. Both books focus on characters who have a strong sense of who they are, which certainly helps them in overcoming the many obstacles they have to face. These characters are also very open-minded, allowing them to form strong, supportive bonds with people who they'd considered "different" from themselves, only to discover that they weren't so different after all. Also contained in both books is a strong connection to African American culture, such as through the frequent discussion of superstition -- a common theme found in African American literature, and language that reflects the distinct vernacular of the particular time and place described within each novel. Both of these novels put a strong emphasis onto character description, making it easy for readers to visualize the different players within each of the stories. There are also distinct differences between the two novels. One such difference would be that of the social class of the main character. In Run Away Home, Sarah's family is very poor; they are barely able to make ends meet and are in danger of losing their farm. After experiencing a failed crop, much of the plot involves Papa trying to save the family home from being taken over by the racist whites in town. In A Friendship for Today, however, Rosemary's family could be described as middle class. They live in a nice home; both of Rosemary's parents are self-employed and running successful businesses. There is no discussion of financial hardship within Rosemary's family throughout the book. Despite such class differences, though, many of the issues faced by each of the main characters are similar: racial discrimination, fear for safety, and injustice. Another noteable difference between the two novels is the amount of power that each of the main characters realistically has to fight against the unfair treatment they are experiencing. In Run Away Home, Sarah and her family have incredible limitations placed upon what they can say and do to speak out, because doing so might cause the family to be physically hurt or killed. In A Friendship for Today, Rosemary has a great deal more freedom to speak up for herself without fearing for her life, as the times are much different. When discussing these differences, it becomes obvious that author Patricia McKissack has put an enormous amount of effort into researching the historical materal that is the basis of her fictional novels. It is extremely important to her that she accurately reflect the true attitudes and realistic dangers for African Americans during those respective time periods.
Each of these novels will provide readers some insight into what it might have been like to live during these time periods. Much like a movie, we can live vicariously through these characters to see what they saw and feel how they felt. Only the very best authors can do that, and Patricia McKissack is certainly one of those authors! Now...let's get to reading!
* For Some Extra Fun: After reading some of Patricia McKissack's books, test your knowledge about the author herself, and about some of the material from her many novels by clicking on this link.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Snow Is My Favorite and My Best
Today Judy Blume remains one of the most prolific authors of children's books in America. Her books have sold over 75 million copies and translated into twenty different languages. To her writing credit, she holds in excess of ninety awards including the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards award for Lifetime Achievement. It is, perhaps, for this reason, that people find it odd to hear Judy Blume speak of growing up to become a ballerina, and that of all things in her life, becoming a writer, was the ultimate surprise.
Born an initially shy Aquarius with a love for the color purple, Judy Blume grew up in Elizabeth town, New Jersey. As a child, Judy thought nothing of creating intricate characters and stories in her head. She confesses, however, that until the time is uniquely right, she does not introduce a single character or plot line to the page.
My characters live inside my head for a long time before I actually start to write a book about them. Then, they become so real to me I talk about them at the dinner table as if they are real. Some people consider this weird. But my family understands."
Judy went on to attend New York University. It was there that Judy met her first husband John M. Blume, and the two were married in 1959 while Judy was in her junior year of college. She graduated from New York University in 1961 with a B.S. in Education and the couple celebrated with the arrival of their first child, their daughter, Randy. The couple went on to have a son, Lawrence, before divorcing in 1975. Judy's second marraige to Thomas Kitchen a year later also resulted in divorce in 1978. She did not remarry again until 1987, when she met non-fiction writer George Cooper. The couple have three children between them, to include a step-daughter, Amanda.
It was during the years her children were old enough to attend pre-school that Judy began her early attempts at writing, and subsequently publishing. In an effort to ease her frustrations and fears over a rejection period of two years, Judy enrolled in writing courses at New York University. It was during this time, a period stretching over the course of two semesters, that Judy seemed to find her niche. She had some publishing success with magazines, wrote the early drafts of a book that would be known as Iggie's House, and at the age of twenty seven, published her first book: The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo. This marked the beginning of a highly successful career in writing, leading to future publications of over 21 books, an adoringly diverse fan base and a lifetime in the limelight.
To critics and readers alike, a key, contributing attribute that ensures Judy Blume's career longevity, has always been her remarkable authenticity. Whether through the voice of a main character experiencing puberty or referring to her own motivations to begin writing at twenty seven----the result has always been a candid, uncensored snapshot, of her thoughts and emotions. One such example can be seen in this excerpt of an interview with Arts Correspondent Jeffrey Brown in 2004, where Judy's powerful authenticity to say what many experience and few voice, appeared to leave him a bit surprised.
Judy: The voice in my head was the voice of a child, and the voice that came out spontaneously on paper was the voice of a child. And also I think, because at 27, when I really started to write, I felt that life was over for me. I had made my...
Jeffrey Brown: Over for you?
Judy: Over. I had made my choices. I married very young. I had my children, as we did then. And this was going to be it. I didn't know that there were any opportunities around the corner. You know, I mean, it...
Jeffrey Brown: You mean, you felt trapped.
Judy: Well, yes, I guess I did feel trapped. But I thought...looking back, that was the life that interested me, the child that I was when it seemed that everything was still possible, everything was new and exciting, everything was a first.
Jeffrey Brown: And then writing became a way to a new life?
Judy: It certainly did. What I remember when I started to write was how I couldn't wait to get up in the morning to get to my characters. And I just went from book to book to book because it...it gave me my life, again. It gave me my inner life, that connection that I had lost.
It is this connection to children, and to those issues for which she lends a voice, for which she has received widespread praise, and the merciless scrutiny of many a critic. She has been the target of many censorship efforts, aimed largely at restricting child access to books such as: Forever and Are you there God? It's Me Margaret, in which the characters deal with issues related to both puberty and sexuality.
Mark Oppenheimer, in his article for the NY Times Book Review, states his belief that the issues Blume explores in her books, can perhaps hit too close to home in the classroom, and therefore, are preferably avoided altogether. In his article, he recounts his own childhood reading experiences.
"Usually, in the world of children's literature, the same books are successful with readers, teachers and critics: think of E. B. White, Madeleine L'Engle, E. L. Konigsberg or Scott O'Dell. The committees that select the winners of the Newbery Medals are composed of librarians. Their awards are trusted, prompting teachers to assign the books to their fifth graders, who obligingly read and like them. From fourth through sixth grades, I was assigned O'Dell's ''Island of the Blue Dolphins'' three times and was made to read each volume of L'Engle's ''Time'' trilogy. No teacher ever assigned Judy Blume. "
Despite such obstacles, however, Judy Blume has managed to successfully stand the test of time. Today she lends a voice to the National Coalition Against Censorship, working to protect intellectual freedom. The span of Judy Blume's career has honored her with the title(s) of writer, activist, wife, mother, grandmother and inspiration to children everywhere.
My mom never talks about the things young girls think most about. She doesn't know how I feel. I don't know where I stand in the world. I don't know who I am. That's why I read, to find myself." Letter from Elizabeth/Reader/Age 13
Judy Blume: "...And Elizabeth is the reason that I keep writing."
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Lawn Boy is Gary Paulsen’s newest book, published earlier this year. This book is about a teen boy’s needs for a new tire for his bike. He decides to use the old lawnmower that his Grandmother gave him for his birthday to start mowing lawns. Along the way he accepts the help of Arnold, a stockbroker, who takes care of the money and invests it in many things including a prizefighter named Joey Pow. This is when his summer gets interesting.
Harris and Me is also about a young boy and how he spends his summer vacation. In this novel a young boy is sent to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm. This boy has lived many places over the years, due to his parents drinking, but nothing quite like farm life. Harris and his cousin spend their days wrestling pigs, catching mice, and jumping from the barn, and if they can survive they might just make it through the summer.
One way that Paulsen is able to give the reader this first hand experience in both of these novels is that he allows the reader to become the main character. Both of these books, written 13 years apart, have a nameless main character, something unusual for Gary Paulsen and his writing. These nameless characters allows the reader to jump in and experience exactly what that character is going through. At one point during Lawn Boy, the young boy is confronted by a competing lawn care company and Gary writes in such a way that you feel uncomfortable when the situation escalates and Joe Pow confronts them. The same is true in Harris and Me when you feel the excitement when Harris and his cousin are playing war and start to wrestle the pigs. Gary creates these characters that you feel connected to because you are reading it through their point of view.
Even though these two books share commonalities among them, the characters and themes are very different. In Lawn Boy we live the life of a young suburban boy with stable parents who simply spends his time mowing lawns and becomes wealthy because of his investments. In Harris and Me we get to examine the life of a young boy who does not have very stable parents and spends the summer using his imagination to build a bond with his cousin Harris. Although both characters have lived very different lives you are still able to feel for each of them. At points in both novels you find yourself deeply drawn to each character and truly care about them. In Lawn Boy you learn how one young boy invests his money to create a more comfortable life at home. His discovery is one of business sense and the accomplishment of starting something from nothing. The same is not true in Harris and Me, where Harris’s cousin finds a sense of self and is able to form an actual connection with another person. His investment is personal and he finds something inside himself that he has never felt before. This connection is something that is missing in his life and he greatly appreciates what Harris and his family has done for him.
The other major difference that you can pick up through these two novels is the backdrop. In one novel you see how the setting creates the experience and in the other you need to use your imagination to create a life of your own. In Harris and Me you are transported to the country life of living on a farm, and watching movies in the backroom of a bar. Although Harris and his family live comfortably, they have very little experience in life outside of their little community. Lawn Boy takes place in a suburban town where the boy lives comfortable but feels the need to help his parents out by making money to help pay bills. The experiences in Lawn Boy are created by this backdrop of the suburban neighborhood and how a boy can seek adventure and conflict in unexpected places. On the other hand, Harris and Me, examines the same themes but the experiences are true for what life is like in a small farming community. There is no money to be made its about a simple life and using your imagination to create the experiences that will last a lifetime. Both of these boys will remember there completely different summers for the rest of their lives.
Gary Paulsen’s unstable childhood coupled with his sense of adventure have created a great foundation for incredible novels for young readers. As evident in Lawn Boy and Harris and Me you are able to see that sense of real life experiences intertwined with the journey of two young boys to build bonds and find their way. It took many different circumstances for Gary to find his way to writing and he shares that experience with his readers in his novels. If your looking for a wonderful rags to riches story with plenty of humor and colorful characters then Lawn Boy is for you. If you want to experience adventures as wild as boyhood imaginations and a heartwarming story then you might want to read Harris and Me. However, would we even be able to experience either of these novels if it wasn’t for a librarian offering one simple card to a boy who was seeking some warmth?
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
He was born in Flint, Michigan, in 1953, the second of five children. His father, Herman E. Curtis, was a chiropodist (foot doctor), and his mother, Leslie, who attended Michigan State, was a homemaker. Due to economical and social issues, Dr. Curtis had to stop practicing medicine, and went to work at the Fisher Body plant. When CPC graduated from high school in 1971 he went to work on the assembly line with him. CPC was accepted at the University of Michigan-Flint, so it was supposed to be just a summer job, but the money was too good. He spent the next thirteen years on the assembly line, hanging eighty-pound car doors on Buicks, going to school at night and working toward his degree part time. CPC mother was so happy when he finally completed his degree, in the year of 2000.
Christopher contributes most of his success to his family, especially his wife Kaysandra. While dating, he used to write her letters about his job, family, and friends, and Kay said, “You’re good at this. You could be a writer.” So while working at Fisher Body, He, along with a coworker ,worked out a plan. Instead of them taking turns hang every other door, they decided each one would hang every door for half an hour while the other took a half-hour break. Christopher used this time to write as a way to escape the noise and boredom of the automobile factory. During this time, he married Kaysandra and they had two children, Steven and Cydney. Ok, it was delightful talking about CPC to all of you. I will provide some more history on this SUPER-DUPER creative and versatile author soon enough. I can only hope that my words do him the justice he deserves.
Kaysandra , Christopher's wife , encouraged him to quit his job at the plant and focus on writing full time. He took full advantage of this situation by approaching his writing as a job. He would wake up early in the morning and go to the children's section of the public library for creative motivation. He would spend hours upon hours reading and writing, which to him was great because he loved to write. CPC was not a prolific typist, so he reach out to his family for assistance. Steven, his son, volunteered to help by typing all his handwritten material--just another example on how Christopher's family provided the required support for him to be successful as an author.
I will discuss 2 of Christopher's books: Bud,Not Buddy, Mr. Chickee's Funny Money. These books are very different,they will provide insight on how CPC is so versatile, imaginative and capturing to readers of all ages. For a closer personal look into CPC, here are 2 interviews conducted by Tavis Smiley and Al Rooker. Enjoy! CPC and Tavis Smiley, Al Book Club