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  • fairrosa 9:30 pm on October 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Low-Key Mayhem at New York Comic Con, 2014 – Episode 4 

    Two places that I’ll be buying stuff from and lots of sights from the four days!

    TOKIDOKI – Got a sketch and autograph from Simone Legno!!!

    Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 9.14.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-10-15 at 9.14.18 PM

    WETA Workshop online store for authentic replicas — got a bunch of books and things and have sketches and autographs!

    Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 9.17.30 PMScreen Shot 2014-10-15 at 9.16.51 PM

     

    Fun filled days…

     
  • fairrosa 8:32 pm on October 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    The War of the Worlds
    The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Even though there were passages and descriptions that are overly lengthy, as a whole, the story moves at an effective and at times breathless pace. Highly affecting! I am so impressed with how it set up so many prototypes, from physical descriptions to potential advanced technologies, for modern alien/alien invasion stories. A real classic!

    View all my goodreads books

     
    • J.W. Kurtz 1:13 am on October 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I agree. Fantastic and nearly timeless story. But…overly wordy and very dry. If it was a clean and fresh idea of now…and if the right author wrote it… Thankfully the idea of it pervaded into some strong sci-fi over the years with simply the influence of the original.

  • fairrosa 2:46 pm on October 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Low-Key Mayhem at New York Comic Con, 2014 – Episode 3 

    Since I thought (wrongly) that there were few panels or featured entertainers of interest this year when I went through the massive program lineup prior to the Con, I was mentally prepared to treat NYCC 2014 as my personal shopping spree opportunity.  It turned out that I spent a lot more time in the A1 area with good presentations than walking the show floor for merchandize browsing.   Still, one cannot help but collecting fun and funky things.  Here’s a catalog of almost everything I got.  Descriptions and notes are attached to the images. (Hover over each image to see the beginning of the note.  Click on an image to read the full note and also start the slideshow mode.)

     

     
  • fairrosa 11:48 am on October 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Hobbit, Marvel,   

    Low-Key Mayhem at New York Comic Con, 2014 – Episode 2 

    On Saturday, concept art designer Paul Tobin and artist Nick Keller from Weta Workshop shared the behind the scene character designing process for The Hobbit movies.

    This is Paul:

    Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 11.23.51 AM

    And this is Nick:

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    Here are some highlights of that panel.  Hover over the image to see the first words of the caption. Click on any image to view full captions in slideshow mode.

     

    On Sunday, I sat in the audience at the Women of Marvel panel.  On stage, there were more than a dozen women, editors, producers, writers, and artists, who work to bring various Marvel Comics to the readers — from new titles (such as Ms. Marvel) featuring strong female protagonists to traditional superhero series.  The high energy panel was full of hope and the women gave sound advice to audience questioning how to move the female movement forward in this very male dominant world.  I have my own thoughts on this after the recap of the event.

    The panel was moderated aptly by talent scout Jeanine Schaefer and presented a slideshow of upcoming Marvel original comics, and media tie-ins, and even a YA novel. Here are a few highlights. Hover over the image to see the first words of the caption. Click on any image to view full captions in slideshow mode.

    My hope is that the newer generation of super hero comics with strong female leads are not just echoing of the traditional male led comics.  I would like to see strong and tough heroines who behave like real women and not men-wanna-be’s.  I also would like to see these female characters drawn to be combat ready and not scantily clothed which are never really practical in fights but have been the canon because of the assumption of their sex appeal to the predominately young male readers. I believe they can appeal to readers in both genders if they come with appealing personalities and strong story lines.

     
  • fairrosa 12:05 am on October 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Low-Key Mayhem at New York Comic Con, 2014 – Episode 1 

    Comic Con Random Collages 2

     

    (Thursday afternoon.  First impression at the Con.)

     This year, I felt very much at home, at NYCC.  When asked by my friend Sharyn November on Facebook to share my Comic Con experience, I posted this: (modified slightly for this post)

    Enjoyed this year…. Four days of low key mayhem. What I learned by now is to not let myself feel too overwhelmed. Focus on just a few happy exciting fandoms. This year for me were:

    Weta Workshop, its replica store, and the two art conceptual designers Nick Kelly and Paul Tobin.
    Tokidoki and the designer Simone Legno.
    Women of Marvel and the upcoming series.
    Avatar: the last airbender and its fandom.
    Random artists and their work.

    ComicCon Random Collages 1

    Decided to not attend quite a few main stage presentations that did interest me (Patrick Stewart, Gotham, Doctor Who sneak peek, etc.) And didn’t get into two panels that I really wanted and waited more than an hour each for: XKCD creator Randall Munroe and Deathnote artist Takeshi Obata. Did I get upset?  Not at all.  On the contrary!  I enjoyed the wait time tremendously: reading and once in a while, chatting with fellow fans.  It definitely helped that the book, Marcus Sedgwick’s “She Is Not Invisible,” was engrossing.  The panels that I did get to see (at least 8, perhaps more) were mostly informative or just entertaining!

    The following few posts will feature highlights of these. Not in linear order, nor organized by importance.  Just want to record the events and thoughts, accompanied heavily by pictures and videos.

    First up.  Discovered welovefine, fan arts turned excellent merchandize.  Really liked the stormtrooper shirts.

    Comic Con 2014 Random Collages

    I got the Tardis Leggings: blue and silver.  A great find.  Bought it on Thursday night.  Wore it on Friday to school!  The gigantic bag comes free with my purchase.  It felt like already a success and I was only at the Con for about 10 minutes!

    roxannewithleggings

     
  • fairrosa 10:42 am on October 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Love You Forever: Funny or Repulsive? 

    A recent NYT article about THE GIVING TREE sparked much online discussion in the children’s literature world. Which reminded me that we had a heated discussion on Child_lit years ago on another Love or Hate book: LOVE YOU FOREVER by Robert Munsch. The discussion thread was archived by me with permission of online publication from all participants at the time for my original Fairrosa Cyber Library site which is slowly migrating to here.


    These email exchanges on the listserv occured in March & April of 1995.
    All rights reserved for individual contributors.


     

    • Dian Maureen Borek: Hi!I would like to go on record as one of those sentimental types that love Love You Forever. My only comment is as follows: let us not forget that although we often think of reading in static terms – (the art form is has been described as linear)- it is in fact a dynamic medium. What one gets out of books can be directly related to what we bring to them as readers. Our background, personality and other reading experiences are always part of our reading experience. I am an overly affectionate individual (I “hugga-lot”). Such an open display of affection, in Love You Forever, is not everyone’s “cup of tea.” Also, sometimes personal experiences can be intrusive in our reading interpretations. I do not believe that the work is meant to be taken so literally – ie driving across town and sneaking into a grown man’s bedroom- it is a metaphorical statement of a love that cannot be excluded by physical boundaries.Remember, Robert Munsch wrote this book for his still- born child. After several miscarriages he and his wife are now the proud parents of some ‘chosen’ children.

      Speaking of bringing outside experiences, I enjoyed the Giver but could not escape the similarities of other pieces of literature that struck me as marring the originality of the work. To name only one- the memories experiences of Aila in Clan of the Cave Bear were very similar to the Giver’s memories as was the method of sharing. Recognizing our own biases makes our reading experiences richer- but only if we acknowledge them. This whole exercise could be a good insight into reader’s perceptions and the big part they play in the critiquing of any literature. I guess the lesson is to realize these different perspectives exist. Afterall – who knows what experiences our young readers bring with them into the library? What might be fairly innocuous to us could be traumatic for them. Just some thoughts to keep in mind during any reader’s advisory we may give to our young patrons.

    • Jane Yolen: I am a hugger, too. I am sentimental. I am gooey over my first grandchild. I adore my grown children. BUTI find LOVE YOU FOREVER to be about an incredibly dysfunctional family, with a mother who infantilizes her child, invades his private space, never can say “I love you” when he is awake, and even when he is grown manages his life. I am convinced she drugs his cocoa, otherwise why does he sleep so soundly when she crawls (!) into his room and picks him up every single night.And when the teenage daughter awakes one night and finds her father holding her in his lap, she is going to call 911.

      Nope–this one is a very dangerous book. IMHO. And not at all amusing.

    • Emily Carton: I find I’ll Love you Forever an incredible loving book. As as parent, I understood the mother’s absolute love of her child, the necessity to let him go, and the desire to always hold him as her baby. And as a geriatric social worker, I thought the son’s understanding of his mother and his ultimate sensitivity to her and love for her that at the end translated to the next generation was an optimistic and loving portrayal of what can happen between parents and children ( although often it does not). As a parent, I read it to my children, a son and daughter, who intuitively and then later intellectually understood it. For months they had me read it over and over again. And to add a parting note, the first several time my husband read it, he had tears in his eyes. It might be “creepy,” to some. But to us, it spelled Love in a very deep and all too honest way.
    • Heather Wallace: Robert Munsch is one of the best children’s authors around as fa r as I am concerned. Please remember, not all books or stories have to have a moral to them — some can just be plain fun. most of Bob Munsch’s are. And if you have ever had the opportunity to see him tell his stories in front of children, (I luckily have!) you would be amazed at the response by the children. His stories are often repetitive, (children love it — they can help tell the story too), and many are ridiculous (another thing kids LOVE). I’ll love you forever, in my opinion, is not a story about a dysfunctional family, nor is it creepy, it is a story about a mother who loves her son. And he in turn loves his new daughter. If anuthing it is a wonderful story about loving your family. I don’t think we need to”read” anything more into it.And just to mention MY personal favorites: Do read Mortimer, the Paper Bag Princess, Pigs, and Show and Tell. they are all wonderful.
    • Emily Carton: Jane: where in the book to you find the signs of dyfunctional? In what ways is the osn not an ordinarly boy, teenager, adult? The mother, to me, is talking about her internal life and love of her child. She doesn’t stop him from being the crazy teenager, the messy kid – one who wouldn’t ever let a mom hug them. She loves him even when she couldn’t make contact with him. I saw her actions, more about her feelings – than literally do anything to interfere with his life. She always allowed herself those obsessive feelings at times when they could not possibily interfere with her son’s life. If the son were dysfunctional, he wouldn’t have moved out of the house. She would have literally held on. And what about his caring of her when she is old and alone. To me, as a geriatric social worker, children who do give their parents that kind of support in old age, have turned out to be quite remarkable people who feel that they had been given so much and want to give back. Most of my clients have children who run in the opposite direction.
    • Jane Yolen: You want disfunctional? I’ll give you dysfunctional–and I am not alone in my assessment Most of the booksellers, authors, children’s lit teachers, and librarians I know feel the same way.1. She never can say “I love you” when the child is awake. When he is awake she calls him an animal, thinks he should be in the zoo, etc. But late at night, when he is asleep, THEN she says “love you forever.”2. Late at night when he is asleep, she crawls into his room. Every bloody night of his life! CRAWLS????? If you do not find that creepy….3. Now I have raised three children, and after the child reached a certain age, one does not go into his/her room without permission. It really is a violation. Besides, have you ever tried even WALKING across a 10-17 year old’s floor? Floor?

      What floor? Unless you have an exceptionally neat child, you will meet some very odd things: old tuna fish sandwiches that have gone to argot heaven, pieces of board games, lost homework, left socks, dirty books, and I could go on. Walking is hard. CRAWLING?????

      4. The child never wakes during this every-night expedition. AND the child is always there. Never sneaks out. Never stays up later than the mother. Never goes to a friend’s house–or has a friend over. Never falls asleep downstairs in front of the tv.

      5. Then the mother blackmails her son when he grows up. And still infantilizes him every night by driving across town to climb into his upstairs window (this is extrapolated from the picture) and rock him. Ugh. Gives me the shudders.

      Then calls him up and says “I’m old and sick and you have to take care of me.” Or words to that effect. Controlling. Laying on the guilt.

      6. He runs off, leaving his (unseen) wife. We know she is around because he comes home to his own little baby daughter asleep upstairs. My guess is that she is standing in the doorway when he gets the call and stage whispers at him: “If you go over to that manipulating old bitch’s one more time, I am out of here!”

      I mean, how many times can that poor wife stand the old woman crawling in her bedroom window and picking up her husband and rocking him. Sick? I should think. Unless, of course, they sleep in separate bedrooms and she, too, has had her cocoa drugged.

      Am I exaggerating? Well, maybe my sense of humor does not match Bob Munch’s on this. I like some of his other work. But the reasons this one has been picked up (and is THE most popular book for “children” in America) by mothers and grandmothers makes me cringe.

    • Graciela Italiano: I subscribed to childlist about a week ago and have enjoyed many of the discussions. Being that I am very busy writing my dissertation at the moment I had promised myself no to get “too involved” in the topics and just watch what others were saying (cybervoyeurism?). Anyway, my silent period is over since I have to comment on the ongoing discussion about I’ll love you forever. I could not agree more with Jane Yolen’s response to the book.I am not that much of a hugger, but I do know true intimacy in my life, In my opinion this book suffers from terminal sentimentalism in much the same way soap operas do. Since when do we judge the quality of a book by the fact the it makes us cry? I think there is a difference between a good book which touches us deeply because it has reached that core of humanity we all share through our emotions and a superficially unreflective book which appeals to our sentiments (shallow feelings). I appreciated the comments about Munsch’s other books which I will make an effort an to see now.
    • Dian Maureen Borek: Hi:I have really opened up a can of worms here and I apologize I am sensing a rising level of emotion that is not constructive.However, please do not say MOST librarians because this is an unsubstantiated vague statement not supported by my experiences and I am in the profession. One other point – you might be interested to know the bulk of the sales of this book are not for children as one might expect – but rather to adults for adults. It is given as a gift. I have seen the stats on this recently, but I forget which article – check with the publisher.Enough, can we agree to disagree?
    • Jane Buchanan: Jane: I was wondering when you’d weigh in on this!There was a recent article (in the New York Times Book Review?) that discussed the strong feelings people have about this book, on both sides. The author wondered whether, if the illustrations were different, the response would be different.I agree with you, Jane, on every point on this book. My New Hampshire writers group could collectively go on for hours tearing this book apart. (And frequently did.) I do think some of the issues have to do with the illustrations (some of which don’t even fit the text). And I find it appalling that it is the best selling children’s book in America.I was having a (loud) discussion with a book store owner about it a few years ago, and an older woman came into the store. “What book are you talking about?” She asked. “I think I’ll buy it.” Aarrgh!
    • Russ Hunt: I absolutely agree with Jane Yolen about this book. BUT . . . as a teacher of literature, I’m presented over and over with the situation I see on this list: perfectly reasonable people, whose intelligence I must respect, think that a book I believe to be, well, repellent at best and dangerous at worst is just fine. And they often ask me, as someone whose opinion, in turn, they respect, “don’t you think [insert your least favorite title here] is a wonderful book?”I’m probably a coward. I beg off. I change the subject (“Here, have you seen _Owl Moon_? It’s a wonderful book about parental love.”) I don’t see what I can say about _Love You Forever_ that would actually be useful. Even on a list like this one I think voicing my view of _LYF_ — or the children’s books students often pick up in the supermarket — may do more harm than good; with my students I’m simply stopped cold.Anybody else have this problem?I have this problem with students who adore Stephen King.
    • Michelle Lane: I think this book can be read on many levels, and everyone is going to bring their own interpretation to it. I personally like the actual message, which is “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always”. If you overanalyze it, you lose that. I think you can ruin many things by by overanalysis. Some things are just to be taken at face value, and that’s that. I am not saying this is true for all things, of course, but for this book, that’s how I approach it. I first heard it in junior high, when a teacher of mine read it to us, and said “as long as we’re living, our teacher he’d be.” Of course he didn’t sneak into our rooms at night, or anything like that, he just meant simply what he said, that he’d be our teacher for always.I don’t think there is any right or wrong interpretation, it’s a personal reaction to the book. I suppose to get the intended meaning from the author, ask the author! Maybe the real value of the book is the varied interpretations it allows. Who knows…
    • Emily Carton: Jane, I do not understand why you read this book so literally and refuse to entertain the idea that the book is talking about the mother’s internal life. The book is not about what she expresses directly to her son but what she feels about him. As a mother, she certainly expresses both the unconditional love she has for him and the insanity he creates in her life. I don’t know any mother who hasn’t felt both extremes about her own children. My children understood instantly that this book was about feelings – just as they understand that fairy tales are not literal. I see the crawling of the mother as methaphor, as a wish. This is about love – not the reality of growing up. And if my husband’s mother was as loving to him as this mother was to hers and if she were old and dying, I can’t imagine that I would object to his leaving to rock her. I once had a client-daughter who took care of her dying mother and her response to me when I said what she was doing was amazing was “my mother wiped my butt when I was helpless, now I will do it for her.” I really can’t understand the level of intense anger – nearly rage that a book about loving – a metaphor about the possibilities of intense love and exhasperation that a child bring into one’s life could create. My children’s teacher’s loved it – the class loved it. They knew that even while the mother was saying look at this zoo – her feeling for her son was only one of love. I’ve said to my children theirs rooms are trash dumps etc. etc.. I have said all kinds of things to them that I’d never thought I would say, but feel normal after having said them. The book, in my mind was never about her talking to him. It is about her internal life. If you want to read more into it, then I would say even if she didn’t articulate I love you directly obviously the son knew. He cradles his own daughter the way she cradled him. In my own heart, I wish, I could crawl into my children’s room and watch them sleep as they did as babies – it is the re-creation of the loviest of memories. To me, there in not one shred of hate in that book. When she calls and says I am old and sick she is telling him the truth. To me ,she is saying come now, for it is going to be over soon. He goes to her but returns home to the next generation. I saw no guilt. Just honesty. Never in the book did she ask anything more of him. Why when most children’s books are interpreted methaphorically, or filled with fantasy, is this book views in the most literal of terms?
    • Elizabeth H Wiley: Thank you Russ Hunt and Jane Yolen. I like the solution of OWL MOON. I am amazed that anyone needs this sort of appalling, artless, slop to illustrate love of a child. Since Mr. Munsch is capable of better, I really wish he would retract this book and do another. Obviously the public is not capable of insisting upon it.Sat, 1 Apr 1995, Jane BuchananYes, Beth, I agree too. I think one of the biggest issues for some of us is, there are other books that do “the love thing” so much better.
    • Michael Levy: How do you deal with students who think Love You Forever is wonderful? I seem to be faced with this problem at least once per semester. Just yesterday, when my Early Childhood Education majors were supposed to bring in an excel- lent example of Contemporary Realistic Fiction, two of them brought in LYF. Totally aside from the question of whether or not it’s a good book, one wonders what kind of home they came from if they think it’s realistic!

      Anyway, what I tell them is the truth. That it’s a controversial book. That the world is divided into two kinds of people–those who hate LYF and those who love it. I explain why it’s hated and, to the best of my ability, why it’s liked. I make it clear that there are two sides to the question, but I then tellthem that I’m one of the people that hate it.

      I use basically the same approach for The Rainbow Fish, The Giving Tree, and a few other books.

      Are there any other books that people tend have this kind of radically differentfeeling about?

    • Emily Carton: Jane, By calling it “the love thing,” sounds very cynical about books that deal with love. I am only saying this because it weakens your intended message, which, although I don’t agree with was presently very strongly.
    • Shahnaz C Saad: Hello!I think the person who pointed out that _Love You Forever_ is *not* realistic fiction raised an excellent point. Obviously, it’s highly unlikely that a mother would creep into her grown son’s bedroom to rock him and sing him a lullaby. I think it’s a humorous book about a mother’s love for her son, not a book about things that did or could really happen. The total unreality of the situation is part of the book’s charm, and I enjoy the fact that the book acknowledges that we can love our family members even when they are driving us crazy. I could go on, but I’ll stop now…
    • Jane Yolen: Be aware that there are two Janes posting–Jane Buchanan (who said the”love thing”) and Jane Yolen (who did not.)Both Janes however dislike LOVE YOU FOREVER.I have no problem with the message that parents love their children forever. And like them. (Though not always!) My problem is with the presentation of the message. And even Munsch thought this a funny book and is puzzled by its success. I also heard–gossip, gossip–that when the book became such a phenom, the publisher wanted to use a different illustrator and Munsch refused, feeling that the illustrator deserved to be as much a part of it as he.That being said, I have to tell you that when I was teaching children’s lit, I would tell my students (this is pre LOVE YOU FOREVER days) that during the course of the semester, I was probably going to step on some of their most favorite books. But I would tell them why. And if they still loved that book–and could defend it with the critical tools I hoped they developed from the course–I had no problem with that. After all, not everyone liks ALICE IN WONDERLAND or PRIDE & PREJUDICE or REMEBRANCES OF THINGS PAST. (I only like one of the three!)

      The books I would then step on were THE GIVING TREE and THE VELVETEEN RABBIT which–of course–always brought gasps of dismay from some of the students.

    • elaine ostry: Hello:Leaving the merits of Munsch aside, I’d just like to say that schlock goes down very well, in my experience, with small children. Children need to hear explicitly from their parents and other loved ones that they are loved; they havne’t built up that ego (that is hopefully confidence and unfortunately can be cynicism insted) that adults have to deal with their feelings of vulnerability.I bring this up because this discussion reminded me of an incredibly sappy book called Wishes that my Dad used to read to me when I was very young (I can just barely remember this). He always ended by extemporizing–‘what do you wish for?’ and ‘here’s what I wish for you-” It was a very important ritual though the book itself is nothing much. Maybe that’s one reason I Love You Forever is so popular: it gives parents a chance to, through the story, be loving to their kids.
    • Bonita Kale: I don’t see how you can argue about LYF. It seems to be a pure gut reaction, either way. I picked it up in a bookstore and nearly barfed, I loathed it so much– and this was without considering it deeply, without even thinking about whether the family was dysfunctional or anything. Just instant revulsion. Other people seem to have the opposite idea.On the other hand, when The Rainbow Fish came in to the children’s room, my reaction was “ho hum”, and I’m surprised that anyone would care enough one way or another to argue about it. Just a gimmick book, I thought, with cute little holographic scales. Boring. I suppose you could make a message out of it, besides the sharing message, but I wouldn’t care enough to try.Different strokes…
    • Sharyn November: Didn’t we have this same discussion weeks ago? Can we please move on? I for one would rather discuss, for example, various portrayals of the elderly — LOOP THE LOOP and MEMORY and so forth.But, for the record, I think LOVE YOU FOREVER is disturbing, and the art is horrendous. On an intellectual level I understand why people respond to it, but my visceral response is very different. Children have enough problems with privacy — can you imagine believing that one’s mother will sneak into one’s room until one is 40? (I showed the book to my mother and she said, “OK, I won’t drive across town at 4 AM and spy on your brother.” He was very relieved, and thanked me. So did his girlfriend.)
    • Monica R. Edinger: I teach fourth grade and first came across LYF when a student brought it to school to read at the end of the day. The child read it aloud beautifully and my class was totally mesmerized. I was nonplussed at the time, really didn’t know what to think. Several months ago LYF was thoroughly dissected here on CHILDLIT and I started think harder about it and pretty much have to say I do find it creepy, but I find “Peter Pan” creepy too with all that weird mother stuff. (Oops, any great Barrie fans out there whom I have offended? I do admit to a nostalgic love of the old Mary Martin teleplay, but there you have the Indian problem.)Still I agree with Russ that as role models we have to be very careful in how we give our opinions about such beloved books. If a student presses me for an opinion I will say that it isn’t my favorite and leave it at that. It is like “The Bridges of Madison County.” I stay pretty quiet on that one too with people who would be terribly hurt if I was too honest. I want students/colleagues/friends/relatives to continue to listen to me and feel that I will listen to them. Giving a forceful negative opinion on books like these has the potential of breaking down hard won relationships of respect.
    • Masha K. Rudman: Dear Mike and all,I agree with the three you’ve chosen (especially LYF and The Giving Tree). I don’t think that the Rainbow Fish has the quality of writing of the other two to capture readers and entrap them in the (I hope) unintentional messages. But my all time favorite book to hate and worry about in terms of its negative impact is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and, in fact, most of Roald Dahl’s books). When the quality of writing is high, and the fantasy is enticing, then the message gets deep into the reader and it is difficult to sort it out, and even realize that it is being internalized.
    • Beverly Clark: Like Russ, Karla, and Mike, I too have trouble communicating my concerns to students about works that some of them love. I like the approach Mike describes. I’ve also tried getting students to compare two older books, one of which conveys a treacly view of childhood, the other of which does not. An advantage of this approach is that students are unlikely to have encountered the works before–and therefore unlikely to bring in strongly held pre-existing feelings about it. I’m afraid I can’t remember the secondary source that sparked the idea for comparing the two works, but the two are Joan Walsh Anglund’s A FRIEND IS SOMEONE WHO LIKES YOU (full of abstractions, treacly sentiment, cutesie-poo illustrations) and Ruth Krauss’s A HOLE IS TO DIG (illus. Sendak). I get students to discuss the two in small groups the first day of class–and maybe it helps that it’s the first day of class–our discussion orients students to some of my concerns (e.g., our cultural constructions of childhood) early.I’m tempted to think that sentimentalization of childhood may be a special temptation for those who are the age of traditional college students–it becomes a way of separating oneself from childhood perhaps. I know that when I was in college I was entranced by one such pseudo-children’s book (with a title something like I LOVE YOU BECAUSE YOU FEEL SO NICE)–and I admit as much to students that first day of class. I was rather shocked, too, when a professor I admired bemoaned the cult of THE LITTLE PRINCE; I’m not so shocked now.
    • Naomi J. Wood: Having participated in LYF discussions before, I thought I’d put my $.02 in here.My students frequently choose LYF to present to the class, and one of the most useful things one of them did was to do an audience survey of the book by reading it to different age groups, genders, etc. One of the things I found most interesting about this student’s findings (her surveyed group was her own family, from age 5 to age 85), was that young children found LYF humorous, her boyfriend found it stupid, and most of the adults in her family found it emotionally satisfying. Personally, the book gives me the creeps, but that may be because I find that kind of expression of love invasive–the kind of love that controls by insisting on its inviolability. The mother in the story seems so abject–groveling, crawling, invasive. . . . And I’m very curious about why it is that the son has to give this love to the next generation in the form of a daughter–it seems to make the whole question of love bizarrely heterosexist, as if same-sex parents can’t love their children that way.In another audience survey done by another student on *The Paperbag Princess*, she found that the 5-year-olds she read it to were outraged by the violation of the formula (when the princess doesn’t marry the prince) while fourth graders loved it, having been around long enough to get bored with the formula. Maybe Munsch can’t be assumed to say the same thing to everyone (even more than most authors).
    • Jane Yolen: Monica–in fact there is a lot of creepy mother stuff in Peter Pan, but that is the point. IF you read the original and then PETER PAN IN KENSINGTON GARDENS where Peter goes back home and the windows are closed to him and he looks in and there is his mother with a new little baby you will see Barrie playing out the whole mothering scene. I remember sobbing and sobbing at that as a child.The Peter Pan books are very autobiographical, I understand. But it has been years since I read them–and I haven’t read much on Barrie’s actual life. He was Very Victorian, however.
    • elizabeth ashley haigler: A opinion is what a an individual believes personally. If a student happens to like the book then that should be fine. Our own opinions are what make us individuals and inturn stronger people. If we all conform to what other people think then we might as well live the “sameness” as in The Giver. You deal with students who like the book by asking them why, maybe they can give you insight as to why it is a good book. Words in books are to be interperted into your own thoughts in your own head. Thats how we look at poetry; Whats the author trying to say?. Maybe I’m wrong in some peoples eyes BUT this is MY opinion!!!!!!!!!
    • Beth Rost: enjoyed the book. In talking about a dysfunctional family, does anyone know the real definition of what a dysfunctional family is? I think in some ways we dig to deep for negative connontations in books. Rather than just enjoy them as children do, we look for the “bad”. Robert Munsch is a wonderful children’s author. If he were to do the same types of stories over and over, we would be getting on him for that too.

      Unfortunately, through the media we have been taught if love goes too far as some of you think went on in I’ll Love you Forever, something is wrong! I believe it is about a mother who loves her child a lot. Nothing more, nothing less.

    • Kaia Wood: Elaine Ostray pointed out that children need to hear directly that they are loved because they lack confidence (I am paraphrasing). I think this is exactly part of the point made previously that the mother DOESN’t directly tell her child that she loves him. Yes, perhaps the children get the message anyway because they hear her singing, but theoretically the son in the book does not hear her singing. Also, what message is this sending in terms of love: conditional, or unconditional? If her love were truly unconditional she wouldn’t be so careless with her negative comments during the day. It seems to me she’s saying not only to her own son but to all children who hear the story that children are loveable only when they are quiet and at rest. I can see both sides presented here, but I think, like others, that this book isn’t of a high enough quality to gamble with the hidden messages it may give children. If adults like it, fine let them read it secretly every night and stay out of their childrens bedrooms!
    • Emily Carton

      I don’t have the same problems with LYF, but seeing the controversy has made me choose it for a class that I am teaching with seniors who will look out and review children’s books that depict aging. It will be interesting to get their perspective on it and I am sure will provoke some heated debate. I too, did not like the Bridges of Madison Country, don’t talk about it, but completely understand how, like Hollywood romance movies, which it will soon be, offers a great escape for people who feel like passion lies outside their life in some archtypal image. I see LYF as the same. Honestly, as a social worker, teacher, I don’t understand what harm it does. While it may not be great literature, I think the feelings of the mother, although highly exaggerated and not to be taken literally, are quite fair to what one feels, might wish (in a symbolic sense) but hopefully would never do. The children who I have known who have read, never once thought that the story was a fact, but just as much a fantasy as other books they have read. I’ll let you know next fall – if you all are not too sick of hearing about it – how the seniors, who are a retired group of professionals from all cornors viewed the book. Jane Yolen – thanks for clearing up the “love thing,” and who sent it. It was offended by the cyncism of it. Was anyone else? Or has this whole topic of LYF just touched a nerve – either positive or negative in all of us. I must say, there is something to be said for the book – that much is obvious. Cheers to everyone who has taken the debate and run with it.

    • Emily Carton: Maybe it is important to look out what the children who find the books satisfying are receiving from the book. And then those of who are writers, can perhaps do it better. I think the adults are over anaylzing – which we often do – into these books and projecting our own images of what we like or don’t like or what we want or don’t want from our own mother’s or our parenting. The children who this book seems to be aimed for, perhaps get the kind of comfort they need to have the repetition and the mother’s love over and over again. I have seen so many children hold onto that book like they do to teddy bears. Eventually, they give them up too.4 Apr 1995, Cynthia Stilleywhat is happening here is that the Munsch book is illustrating an emotion (love, particularly a Mother’s love) in such an abbreviated manner that the aspect of character development is totally ignored. Therefore, we see a raw, selfless, groveling and yes, impaired (read dysfunctional) individual. She seems to have no other life. She is out of context. And that is why the story gives some of us the creeps.
    • Jo-Ann Woolverton: I was very surprised when I joined this list to find a heated discussion of one of the books written by a favorite author. As a Canadian I guess I am very protective of our writers. Robert Munsch’s books range from the down right weird (Pigs) to ground breaking (Paper Bag Princess – one of the first in the current explosion of fractured fairy tales). Here in Canada his regulat publisher did not want to publish LYF because it did not have the humor that is always so prominent in his earlier works. Another publisher picked it up and I think we are the luckier for it.Please don’t take this as a blanket approval of all of his books. There are some which I have trouble with. They include “Good families don’t” and his newest, here in Canada, “Where is Gah-Ning?”
    • Beth Rost: I think we are digging a little deep into the story I’ll Love you Forever. It’s a simple story about a mother who adores and loves her son a lot. I think since our society has changed so much so have our attitudes so we expect and look for the worst when a mother does so much for her family. Before we can call it a dysfunctional family, I believe we must define dysfunctional. Just my opinion!
    • Jane Yolen: I think the problem with LOVE YOU FOREVER is that we don’t dig into it enough! In fact most of us (and I include myself in this) tend to read superficially and to not understand hidden meanings at all. Or if we do, we make easy equations–ie a book with a dragon is satanic, a book with an ecological message is New Age, etc.And I also think it is possible for well-meaning people to disagree on a book without being taken to task for dissecting it.
    • June Cummins Lewis: I agree that defining one’s terms is always helpful, but I must voice my concern about the suggestion to close off attempts at digging. First of all, I think it’s almost impossible ever to dig too deep when it comes to figuring out underlying messages of stories, particularly for children. It’s true that deep digging can get carried away, but some digging is almost always in order. Literature cannot exist in a vacuum; it always exists in a cultural context, and this is especially true when we read to children. But this is not my main point. My second point is that this book *especially* cries out to be discussed. The pictures are so strange, and the concepts so important that it behooves all readers to try to construct some meaning that may not be obviously presented in the text. Like others, I felt revulsion upon first reading this book, but I know many people who love it. When I have a reaction like that, I feel compelled to figure out why. And if my reaction were merely that I liked it, I still would want to know what was satisfying about the story. (Since I found the story so unsatisfying, my urge to pick it apart is even greater, I admit!) Anyway, the point of this diatribe is to offer the opinion that almost all books warrant some deep thinking, and this book, particularly, needs to be discussed and thought about.
    • Kathleen Jo Powell Hannah: Hear, hear! Aren’t we *here* to discuss books? Respecting others’ opinions is great, but refusing to analyze things in depth, because “it’s just everyone’s opinion,” is, well, for tabloid TV.
    • Dian Maureen Borek: Hi:I am now enjoying reading all the comments about love you forever. Since we got rid of the !!!!! and generalizations and accusations the discussion has become much more thought provoking. I have suggested putting it on the course list for a children’s course this summer since it seems to ignite so much controversy. As children’s librarians it helps to know and learn to be very cautious about reader’s advisory. I am always afraid of reccommending reading material for children, young mothers etc that could potentially be offensive.
    • Alice Naylor: I feel there is a difference between THE GIVING TREE, RAINBOW FISH, AND ILYF. Rainfish is a translation and the language is pretty ordinary, the plot pretty flat (as well as objectionable). LYF is not successful as a fantasy because the reader laughs — it is a strange combination of sentiment and ridiculousness. However, I think the QUALITY of THE GIVING TREE is high. I wanted to throw up when I first read it, but proably still do. But the quality of the book is unquestionable. Another one like that is THE FRIENDS OF EMILY CULPEPPER. I think it is out of print, but I use it in workshops becuse it gets everyone riled up. Its a Philomel book — the author escapes me at the moment — its Australian.
    • Barbara McGinn: I don’t know about anyone else but I am getting sick of the Love You Forever discussion. However, I’ve held back throughout this discussion and just can’t resist bringing up again something that I think has only been mentioned once. Aside from the writing, the theme, the interpretation etc., the illustrations alone are worth rejecting the book. It would take a pretty special children’s picture book to get beyond the garish illustrations (garish at best) and certainly Love You Forever doesn’t fit that category.
    • Perry Nodelman: O.K., so let’s see if I’ve got this straight:1. The reason those of us who are given the creeps by Love You Forever are being given those creeps by it is that we are reading it too literally. It’s a metaphor. It’s not really about a devouring mother who sneaks into her teenage son’s bedroom at night to adore him in secret. The devouring mother, the bedroom, and the son all stand for something else–something far more mystical and profound and innocuous. We creeped-out reader should stop paying so much attention and noticing so much; if we would learn how to read less carefully, we would enjoy the book more. We should lighten up. We should stop thinking. Thinking is bad for us.2. Or, alternately: the reason those of us who are given the creeps by Love You Forever are being given those creeps by it is that we are over-analyzing it. We are not reading it literally enough. It’s just a story, for gosh sake. We creeped-out readers should lighten up. We should stop thinking. Thinking is bad for us.So, which is it? Too literal, or too un-literal? I’m confused.

      But despite their contradictory nature, these positions have much in common, Both plead for less awareness and less thoughtfulness. Both are profoundly anti-intellectual, and profoundly anti-educational. In the context of this list, serving people with a professional interest in putting children into contact with literature, I find them both profoundly disturbing.

      Or is it just that I am thinking too much about them?


      This following part was saved from a previous thread re: Love You Forever.

      • Sharyn Novemberon 1/12, Bonita Kale wrote that “LOVE YOU FOREVER” came close to making her physically ill. Rest assured, you are not alone! Many people — including me — have had the same reaction.Here’s my take — there is something extremely creepy about this mother/son relationship. I can understand her singing to her young son, but once he gets older, it borders on the truly bizarre. Sneaking into his room? Driving to his house? It gave me the creeps, as did the picture in which the son holds the shrunken mother. One wonders what his wife thinks of all this (unless she does it with her father).In a joking moment I called the book “every Jewish son’s nightmare.” (As a Jew, I felt I could get away with this.) I don’t think of it as reassuring at all. There’s something unsettling about it — to say the least!
      • Jim MaroonWelll… I’m going to go against the grain here just a bit. When I first heard this story, it was told by a very gifted resource teacher who had decent presentation ability. Her love for it really came through. After her passionate presentation, I literally had goosebumps.Much later, I finally found a copy for myself. At first each time I read it, my mind read ith through her voice, but I was instantly disappointed with the pictures. I still liked it a great deal. I have grown to dislike it a bit, and I’m not sure why. Was it the pictures? Is it peer pressure? Or was it this teachers love for it that really showed through?My storytelling teacher, Bob Jenkins, once told me, “A good story can get through a bad telling better than a bad story can get through a good telling”. Maybe sometimes even a bad story can shine in the hands of a gifted teller? Or maybe there is something to this story we may be missing?
      • Bonita Kale”Enough already about Love You Forever. I heard Robert Munsch speak several years ago about his books, Love You Forever being one of them. He wrote the book as a children’s story. He added that the children to whom he had shared the book found it very funny.”Wow! A whole new take! Does that mean all that stuff about Mom driving across town and cuddling her “baby” was supposed to be -funny-? And it should have had James Marshall kind of illos, as if it were a book in the Stupids series,–“The Stupids Love Their Children”, perhaps?
      • Shahnaz C SaadHello! I have been reading the _Love You Forever_ commentary bemusedly, and I have decided to put in my 2 cents worth…The fact, is I did find the book funny as well as warm and rather sweet. This little old lady rocking her 40-year-old son *is* funny, especially to small children, who like the absurdity of it. And on a different level, I think it’s reassuring to many people of all ages that parental love doesn’t end when one hits a certain age or size.
      • Thomas B SmithTrue confessions: I kinda like _Love You Forever_; in fact, I’ve actually purchased it as a gift for new parents (a practice I stopped when some of them reacted as negatively as the members of this list! Oh, well…)In the middle of all this list discussion, I attended a child development seminar at which the speaker actually read LYF to about 200 early childhood professionals, had them chanting “back and forth” and singing the little song and everything. In the light of all your comments, I found the whole spectacle rather pathetic, somehow…but y’know, I still DO like the book!I’m mostly surprised by the fact that so many people insist on taking the thing so LITERALLY — it’s obvious to me that the mom driving through the night with the ladder on her car is meant to SYMBOLIZE her continuing feelings of connectedness to her child. Karen Traynor is on the right track when she says that she “interpreted that part of the story as a way of showing that love continues in a family no matter how old we get. . .”

        This interpretation raises larger questions about the book’s appropriateness for literal-minded young children — but it’s SO silly, I think they mostly get the message.

      • Karen also stated that: “I get tears in my eyes every time I read it.” which happens to me, too. Even during that silly seminar! Maybe (probably) the book is mawkish and blatantly manipulative, but for some of us at least, this strange little volume really offers a glimpse of the turning wheel of life.

     

     
  • fairrosa 11:28 am on October 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Recently finished books: Brown Girl Dreaming by Woodson; Revolution by Wiles; Americanah by Adichie; Egg & Spoon by Maguire; Illusive by Lloyd-Jones

     
  • fairrosa 5:21 pm on October 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Kirkus Prize Finalists — Very different from National Book Award Long List 

    Kirkus Book Reviews announced the finalists for the Kirkus Prize for several categories today. The finalists for the young readers are:

    EL DEAFO
    by Cece Bell, illustrated by Cece Bell

    THE RIGHT WORD: ROGET AND HIS THESAURUS
    by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

    THE KEY THAT SWALLOWED JOEY PIGZA
    by Jack Gantos

    THE STORY OF OWEN: DRAGON SLAYER OF TRONDHEIM
    by E.K. Johnston

    THE FREEDOM SUMMER MURDERS
    by Don Mitchell

    AVIARY WONDERS INC.: SPRING CATALOG AND INSTRUCTION MANUAL
    by Kate Samworth, illustrated by Kate Samworth

    Some observations:

    • Kirkus: 6 titles – NBA: 10 titles
    • Kirkus: 3 out of the 6 titles (50%) are NOT fiction and 1 more that is a mixture (lots of scientific information in an imagined environment) – NBA 2 out of 10 (20%) is NOT fiction with quite a few titles set against very realistic or historical backdrops.
    • Kirkus: All 6 titles are suitable for a sixth grader or younger – NBA, at least 3 titles pure YA and most are of interest to older readers.
    • Kirkus: 1 Graphic Novel – NBA no Graphic Novel

    The two lists definitely complement each other!

     
  • fairrosa 5:24 pm on September 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Maze Runner – Observing the Races (as in skin colors and not contests) 

    Went to see The Maze Runner with a group of high school students. We all agreed that the movie was quite satisfactory and more intense than we had anticipated. When watching big action films these days, we often discuss the racial components of what we saw, so here’s a collection of the immediate comments:

    • The first person who died was not black.
    • Two black people died — both are portrayed as heroic deaths.
    • The Asian dude (Korean) is portrayed as a cool guy. His name is Minho — like the pop singer in South Korea Choi Minho. Minho outran Thomas (the white hero) the whole time in the maze.
    • The main hero and heroine are white.
    • (and this is not about race, but gender) — Teresa kind of lost her intelligence in the movie while in the book she was a lot more involved in planning the escape and solving the problems along the way.

    No conclusions or judgments — just observations.

     
  • fairrosa 5:18 pm on September 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Because of the books I’ve been reading, I have been learning about Nigerian history and contemporary politics, the 60s America, especially in Mississippi but also overseas in Vietnam and the important people during that time, including LBJ, and about more fantastic creatures in Russian folklore.

     
  • fairrosa 12:22 am on September 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Found some old poems — and am moving them on to My Igloo Press blog — and will continue to write and post there, too!

     
  • fairrosa 11:02 pm on September 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    National Book Award Young Readers Long List 

    10 titles are on this list.  Which five will advance to be the finalists?  Let the speculation begin!  We have a whole month to read and compare.

    A few initial observations.  As it stands now, the real firmly trumps the fantastic.  The ten titles are from six publishing houses no stranger to awards and accolades. (I am combining Penguin and Random House here.) Six titles are by female authors.  One book is set in Africa.  Three others feature African American characters, stories, or history.  One of the ten authors is non-white. 

    * The Impossible Knife of Memory
    * Girls Like Us
    * Skink—No Surrender
    * Greenglass House
    * Threatened
    * The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
    * 100 Sideways Miles
    * Noggin
    * Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two
    * Brown Girl Dreaming

     
  • fairrosa 9:44 am on September 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    New trend? 

    Some of my high school students who witnessed the unpacking of publisher’s submissions this summer were slightly scandalized upon seeing this group of book covers.  Many of them are from the same imprint, but not all.  Is this a new trend in in YA cover design (gone with the partial faces and showing of only body parts?) Take a look through the Goodreads Popular 2014 YA list: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/ya-2014 and see what unfolds.

    IMG_20140903_101543

     
  • fairrosa 8:10 pm on September 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Do I have the right to be angry… 

    … at the really badly penned lyrics of a potentially interesting and weird Rock Musical? I sat through this off-Broadway production in painful silence, averting my eyes to the stage and the actors because I felt so sorry for them, having to deliver those lyrics! And anger simmered in my gut the whole time: how dare someone put on stage this production: in public, sell tickets, and demand all the production crew’s time and energy without at least putting SOME effort in coming up with more than 1 verse per song? Or at times, more than 10 words per song? The inane repetitive lyrics do not drive the points into the mind of this audience member but away from her thoughts – I tuned most of the words and ideas out when they were repeated 20 times over. I guess I just really dislike when I know that something could have been made better if only a little more effort was put into the process or perhaps the creators had bothered to seek some honest opinions to improve the results!

    Then some doubts set in. Do I have the right to be angry at something that is quite subjective. Apparently someone must have liked it enough, or is not bothered by the lack of writing talent to appreciate the production as a whole: weird but interesting world, most actors are capable or even quite talented, and a storyline that is simplistic and juvenile but at least has a convincing enough arc.

    All of these thoughts brought me back to the discussion of books and their flaws. I sometimes get really mad (or disappointed) when I find certain aspects or elements or devices in a book sub-par, and believe that these flaws could have been easily fixed. Sometimes, they become quite “fatal” and ruin my enjoyment of the whole. Over at Educating Alice, Monica Edinger wrote about her reaction to the Heavy Medal discussion on Fatal Flaws that might ruin the chances of a children’s book winning the Newbery. Fascinating discussion and valuable thoughts to digest. One person’s fatal flaw can be merely a blemish to another viewer or reader.

     
  • fairrosa 6:04 pm on September 12, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Review: Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us 

    Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us
    Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude M. Steele
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Although so much of the book seems like Common Sense to me, it’s always great to be reminded of our own biases and strategies that can alleviate tension and reduce misunderstanding and thus foster a positive learning environment for our students. I felt my time worth spent on this volume.

    View all my reviews

     
  • fairrosa 12:03 pm on September 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Here’s the updated BFYA nomination list as of September 4, 2014: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/bfya-nominations

    The newly added titles since the discussion in June to this list are: (more titles on the internal document — they will appear in the next update, I imagine.)

    Brezenoff, Steve. Guys in Real Life. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. 2014. 400 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-226683-5. When Lesh literally runs into Leah on his bike after a drunken night at a metal show, neither would guess their gamer worlds would collide romantically.

    Fredericks, Mariah. Season of the Witch. Random House/Schwartz and Wade. 2013. 256 p. ISBN: 978-0-449-81277-8. Tired of being bullied, Toni turns to a new friend and the possibility of revenge using hexes, spells, and other psychic abilities – witchcraft, in short.

    Giles, Gail. Girls Like Us. Candlewick Press. 2014. 224 p. ISBN: 978-0-7636-6267-7. Special ed graduates Quincy and Biddy move in together and discover an unlikely friendship as they navigate the challenges and often cruel complexities of living in the real world.

    Kuehn, Stephanie. Complicit. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2014. 256 p. ISBN: 978-1-250-04459-4. After two years, Jamie’s sister Cate has been released from juvenile detention threatening Jamie’s sanity and memories as he seeks out the truth about their shared past.

    Miller, Lauren. Free to Fall. HarperTeen. 2014. 480 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-219980-5. When Rory is accepted to the prestigious Theden Academy, she discovers a biotech conspiracy that could change civilization as we know it. The question: Will she survive her discovery?

    Pearson, Mary E. The Kiss of Deception. Holt. 2014. 496 p. ISBN: 978-0-8050-9923-2-51799. When 17-year-old Princess Lia flees an arranged marriage, the prince she has jilted sets off in pursuit of her. But so, too, does a trained assassin whose mission is to kill her. Who will find her first?

    Sedgwick, Marcus. She Is Not Invisible. Roaring Brook Press. 2014. 224 p. ISBN: 978-1596438019. When Laureth’s writer father goes missing from their British home, she impulsively decides to go to New York to find him. There’s only one problem: she’s blind.

     
  • fairrosa 10:22 am on September 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Summer YA Fiction Submissions 

    This is what I will unpack today. Reading at a frantic pace must commence NOW!  2014 Fall and Winter titles of YA fiction have been steadily delivered during summer break….

    image

     
  • fairrosa 9:01 pm on August 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

     
  • fairrosa 4:47 pm on August 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Sipping Rose Infused Tea 

    Drinking Pu-Er Tea infused with rose bought in a small tea shop on the northern path by the Greek Lake in Kunming, I sit in my living room and continue to remember and digest all this past summer contained — a summer unlike any other. I tried to summarize the experience of my 15-day trip and here’s the result (as posted on the Yak Yak board at WhereThereBeDragons.)

    More thoughts will come along and I decided to start using this blog to include more than just children’s and YA lit. book notes.

    Posted: August 20, 2014

    Practical, Cultural, Personal

    It has been almost 3 weeks since leaving Kunming and all the other cities/towns (Shaxi, Weishan, Weibaoshan, Shuanlang, Baoshan, Pupiao, etc.) I visited during the 15-day program with Dragons. On July 30th, I flew from Kunming to Shanghai and then to Vancouver to join my husband for a 2-week Alaskan cruise and did not get back to New York City until last Saturday. Much to sort through both in practical matters (laundry, pet care, grocery shopping) and internal matters — Dragons propelled me go through a most existentially challenging summer the intensity of which I cannot recall experiencing since in my 20s.

    Living a mere couple of blocks away from The 9/11 Memorial Ground which is now open to the public, I am used to threading my way through hundreds of tourists every time I need to get somewhere in the city (a ten-minute walk takes me to subway lines to the rest of the five boroughs.) This morning marked the first time I took that familiar walk since leaving for the China Educators program five weeks ago. And I was keenly aware of the reversal of roles – I, THE “local” and THEY, THE “tourists.” In my mind, I repeated the Dragons’ mantra: Tourist vs Traveler. Some of THEM surely are immersed travelers and aware of the culture and history of this place, but a whole lot of THEM surely are just tourists. By looking at me, a 4-foot-11, 51-year old Chinese woman, wearing sandals and a bamboo basket, who would know that I’m not a tourist/traveler? And how can I tell for sure that some of them are not 9/11 victims families coming from Brooklyn or New Jersey to pay tribute and respect to their loved ones?

    Thinking further: I’m not even sure that I can truly label myself as a “local” — being here for 23 years after growing up and educated in Taiwan kind of makes me only a semi-local, doesn’t it? Where could I truly call home? Taipei where I was raised? New York City where I reside now? Baoshan which was printed as my “origin city” on my Taiwan national ID?

    These kinds of multi-stepped thoughts manifested on an hourly-basis while I was with Dragons.

    They cropped up while the leaders, Max and Yingzhao, walked the five of us in the group through practical exercises for educators who might be leading a student group to a foreign country following Dragons’ experiential model. I took quite a bit of notes and asked a lot of questions about the stages of Group Dynamics, about the basics of Non Violent Communication (which I thought perhaps could be termed Non Aggressive Communication,) meditation techniques, and different icebreakers and check-in techniques. The hows, the whys, and the why-nots. The could it be…. and couldn’t it be… s as well. Whatever was given to us, I wanted to dig up more!

    Then there were the more complex issues of cultural adaptations, interpretations, mis-interpretations, encounters, understandings and misunderstandings. My life-long knowledge of Chinese history, geography, literature, and traditions both enriched my experiences during those 15 days and challenged my status as a “knowing” but “foreign” outsider. I don’t even know what an average monthly salary for a middle school teacher is and how is that compared to the living standard: what is the monthly rent for a 3-bedroom apartment and how much it will cost to buy such a unit? I don’t know who the most popular local singers are and where might I buy a reasonably priced rice cooker. I observed, I photographed, and I talked and talked and talked to any locals that would talk back to me. Making friends with Mr. Ma who had a sweet-soup stand in the courtyard shopping ground within the Green Lake Park gave me just a little window into the life of a local shop owner. He and his family are believers of the Islamic faith. They just finished observing Ramadan. The ingredients of their food come from rural Yunnan. His daughter is studying to go to college, and along with his wife and his nephew, who is 24, helps him with running the shop. Business is decent. We talked about my family root in Yunnan and the political relationships between Taiwan and China. His nephew firmly believes that Taiwan should just be absorbed as an official Province (or special political unit) of China. And I found out that the attitude toward Chiang Kai Shek and his military strategies during WWII, fighting against the Japanese invasion, has completely changed in China in the past few years. Now they recognize his and Kuomintang’s achievements. This altered view was confirmed time and time again by others whom I met during the time in Kunming. Much to my joy and relief, since being an army brat of the Kuomintang armed forces, I had always feared the animosity that could be hurled my way if my affiliation had been revealed.

    Meeting Lao Zhang, an artist and writer, who survived and thrived after The Cultural Revolution added even more cultural perspectives. I learned yet more from too many others to detail here…. Mr. Yu, a total stranger who gave me a ride and helped me find my ancestral home, my cousins, Ms. Ji, who runs a cafe in Shaxi, Shitou (Rock – a 25-year-old woman from Shandong province) who served as my impromptu tour guide in Shaxi, the Taoist priest who showed me the scripture he was reciting in the morning “lesson,” the girls who mind the shops in Baoshan, etc.

    Holding all of the information in my mind, feeling the powerful emotion of “going back to the motherland” for the first time in my heart, and trying to learn new techniques of group management while being part of a group that’s being managed, was truly too overwhelming for me to absorb at once in such a short time. (Not to mention miraculously finding my relatives separated since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, 65 years ago.)

    This finally led to the toughest, most complex, and mind-shattering aspect of the whole trip: my personal identity struggles. My many years of complacency of self-worth, self-awareness, and self-understanding were jolted by the thunder and lightning of an internal flash storm which questioned whether I actually knew myself — what was my own identity? Stripped off of the coziness constructed with long time friends, a loving family, fairly established professional standing, and the most satisfying dream-job, and many other aspects of my daily existence such as the art and music I love, I had an opportunity to examine me as ME, raw. It was a frightening experience, one that I am still trying to recover from, and yet it was also a truly incredible experience, leaving me hopeful that I might have learned a couple of new things, even though I did not go on this trip to re-establish my self-awareness or re-construct my ways of relating to others.
    It has been almost 3 weeks since leaving China… and I am still re-considering priorities, trying to decipher reasons behind my fears and reluctances, and figuring out how I can improve fluency in empathy.

     
  • fairrosa 2:11 pm on July 31, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Scavenger Hunt and More Food 

    This is from July 17th.  Internet speed prevented me from uploading this in Kunming’s hostel.

    The five educators in this program were put into two groups this morning and went around parts of Kunming to gather information and sample local cultures.  I went with Kabe and Feances.  Some of our tasks involved eating: dou hua mi xian for breakfast and local tea hunt;

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    others involve asking locals for information such as Kunming dialect and a baby’s name.  The best part for me was to actually stroll around the campus is Yunnan University, a place that my father once was and something only existed in my memory from reading Lu Qiao’s novel.  (The title escaped me for now but I will find it soon.)

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    Lunch was Muslim special food.  I got beef with thinly sliced squash pieces.  Spicy, of course.

    We did a lot of course work today: both on risk management for our own travels and for when we bring a group of students on such journeys and on the design and execution of scavenger hunts as a way to familiarize oneself and the group to the place we stay at.

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    Dinner was an amazing unlimited refillable vegetarian meal.  At $5.00 USD per person we had more than ten dishes to eat and to refill whenever one dish is finished by the group.  I got to eat to my heart’s content millet congee with white sugar and pumpkin.  The white cabbage was especially yummy and the mimic bacon made with hard dou fu and cumin was equally delicious.

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