Posts Tagged ‘children’s books’
April 26, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
E. L. Konigsburg’s death last week, at the age of eighty-three, provoked a special kind of reaction. The loss of a collective piece of our childhood can be hard to articulate, because the connection is primal, the feelings and memories intensely personal. You remember the thrill of hearing From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler read aloud in fourth grade, and reading Father’s Arcane Daughter over the summer under a tree, or Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth in the school library. There is the delight of recalling her strong, interesting characters, many of them outsiders coping with realistic childhood situations. There is the unpreachy inclusion of history and culture. There are the shockingly uncommercial titles. And, of course, the bone-deep weirdness. (To anyone who disagrees, revisit Up from Jericho Tel. I did.) Like all great children’s writers, Konigsburg never patronized her readers. But she did even more than that: she not only encouraged breaking from the ordinary, but modeled it.
April 5, 2013 | by Elisabeth Donnelly
This year our Spring Revel will take place on April 9. In anticipation of the event, the Daily is featuring a series of essays celebrating Paula Fox, who is being honored this year with The Paris Review’s Hadada Prize.
When I saw the film adaptation of The Hunger Games last year, I left the theater feeling uneasy about the shaky-cam, blurry, PG-13–sanctioned violence of kids killing kids. It was videogame violence, the sort that disappeared in the span of a moment, not the sort of savagery that hits you in the gut, makes you understand what the cost of violence can be. Weeks later, the film did not sit well with me, lingering as a mediocrity only made palatable by the endless soul of Jennifer Lawrence’s presence onscreen.
And after rereading Paula Fox’s The Slave Dancer, a 1974 Newbery Award–winning children’s novel, I wonder, seriously, what she would make of the glib work aimed at children these days, particularly the uneven aspects of the Hunger Games series—on book and film—a work that puts its characters in thrilling situations and often on the precipice of horrible choices that will define their humanity, but all too often stops and takes the easy way out, in the form of deus ex machinas and conspiracies that go all the way to the top.
Because here’s the thing about Paula Fox’s work: she never takes the easy way out. And in her work for children, she writes with evenness and truth, never lying to children about the horrors of the world. Rather, she gives them the chance to find some light on the other side. Read More »
March 27, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
Argentinian children’s illustrator Isol has won the 2013 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an international prize given by the Swedish government in memory of the Pippi Longstocking author. With a purse of five million Swedish kronor (almost $800,000), it is the world’s biggest children’s literature prize, and has been awarded in the past to Maurice Sendak, Philip Pullman, and Katherine Paterson. The stated mission is to expand interest in children’s books and causes and, somewhat more confusingly, to “safeguard democratic values.” However you interpret that, we can all agree that Isol’s work is terrific: whimsical, fun, and sinister in only the best ways.
March 20, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
February 6, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
In second grade, I first read “The Little Match Girl.” To the uninitiated, this Hans Christian Andersen tale is about a beggar girl who, on Christmas Eve, warms herself by burning her matches one by one, imagining happier times with her dead grandmother by their light. In a final blaze, she imagines herself warm and happy, surrounded by love and the lights of a Christmas tree. Then we learn she’s actually frozen to death.
I was, to put it mildly, traumatized by the story. It haunted me. In the years since, I have learned that this is not an uncommon reaction; no fewer than two of my adult friends have revealed that, from time to time, “The Little Match Girl” intrudes on their thoughts and casts them into the doldrums. But as a seven-year-old, I was wholly unable to deal with my emotions. For days after hearing the story, I was quiet and withdrawn, my thoughts with the poor, cold match girl and her pathetic wares. My teacher, Mrs. Romer, noticed, and asked if everything was okay. I said yes, but one day, thinking of the tiny frozen body on the streets of wintry Copenhagen during a math lesson, I burst into uncontrollable sobs.
The fallout was humiliating. Mrs. Romer asked me to eat lunch with her privately so we could discuss what was bothering me; who knows what trauma she thought to uncover. I was too embarrassed to admit the actual source of my anguish—I knew it to be wildly babyish, as well as irrational—so I quickly concocted a lame story about my brother having the flu. I guess the implication was that I was afraid for his life; in any case, it was unconvincing enough that she called my parents.
Having learned early the dangers of giving into lit-related emotion, I was pleased to see a feature titled What to Do When Books Make You Cry on Public Transportation on BookRiot. Their advice is common sensical and wide-ranging, but does not address the concerns of younger readers. And, really, there is no time like childhood for emotionally wrenching books—if memory serves, in one school year we read Bridge to Terabithia, Number the Stars, Hatchet, and Where the Red Fern Grows. In one school year! Maybe our teachers were trying to toughen us up for public reading; personally, I think holding it together for Cormac McCarthy is a cakewalk after Sounder. “The Little Match Girl,” however, should be reserved for the truly stony hearted. Or at least the over-seven set.
September 21, 2012 | by The Paris Review
I spent a recent vacation totally engrossed by Richard Ellis’s Monsters of the Sea. An accomplished marine artist and writer, Ellis examines the great sea monsters of history—from the sea serpent to the Kraken to the mermaid—and explains the sources of the myths (basking shark, giant squid, and manatee, respectively). The book is a combination of lore, history, and scientific inquiry, and a fun and accessible read. Plus, it introduced me to the Journal of Cryptozoology. —Sadie O. Stein