US author Joan Lowery Nixon, best known for her young adult mystery novels, died at the weekend, following complications subsequent to surgery.
June 2003 Archives
Contains a report on his Japanese tour...
"the amount of copies of my books sold in Japan now stands at an incredible 2.5 million -- yes, TWO AND A HALF MILLION!!!! -- copies!!!!!! And they're all hardbacks -- the paperback edition hasn't been released there yet! My head starts to spin every time I think about that!!!!!!!!)"
Marina Warner regrets the loss of "bubbling larkiness" from the world of Hogwarts.
"...Something about Harry growing up has taken away Rowling's own sense of fun and, with it, Harry's hopes and high spirits. Maybe this matches teenagers' experience, but it does deepen the dark. "
Peter Kemp on Order of the Phoenix / Recommended
"... ...When Rowling's series started, it seemed primarily concerned to contrast the drab world of Muggles (non-magic people, epitomised at their most cloddish by the Dursleys, who are reluctantly rearing their nephew Harry) and that of wizards, shimmering with the enchantingly unexpected. Then the focus shifted to the juxtaposing of two ideologies: the tolerant, diversity-loving ethos of Dumbledore and his allies and the %u201Cpure-blood%u201D creed of Voldemort and his followers who loathe %u201Cmud-bloods%u201D (anyone not of untainted wizard descent). As liberalism and totalitarianism clash, under gaudy guises, values to the fore are bravery and, increasingly, self-control, stoicism and ready-wittedness... ..."
Nicholas Lezard hands it to J K Rowling...
"... ...The pressures Rowling is under, both to deliver and not to crack up, are almost inconceivable. This may give her a sympathetic push when describing Harry's trials. (The critic Robert Winder suggested to me that one of Harry's punishments in Phoenix is strikingly reminiscent of Kafka's "In the Penal Colony". I won't spoil either story for you by saying which.) But however she's managed it, she's still on form. You have to hand it to her."
Canadian libraries are urged to stock more comic books and graphic novels...
"People think they're easier to read, but they're not," said Kirsten Anderson, who works in the young adult section of the Richmond Public Library. "The word count is high, the language level is just as high.... A comic book is not lowbrow."
This is a superb review, by David Robinson, literary editor of The Scotsman, published Monday 23rd. I've only just found the link.
Teenage Fiction reviews from The Scotsman...
Kevin Brooks paid heartfelt tribute to his editor, Barry Cunningham, when receiving the Branford Boase Award for his first novel Martyn Pig in London last night.
"The DeWitt Public Library Board voted Monday to support a summer reading program for children despite a mother's protest.
Stefanie Huffaker raised concerns after her 9- and 10-year-old children brought home four books called graphic novels to fill a square in a bingo game that's part of the program... ..."
I'm a convert! Finished reading at 8.30 this evening. Wrote piece for TES. Watched Newsnight feature about group of 15 yr-old boys from Bristol who wouldn't admit to reading. Nick Tucker and Kate Wilson amongst the interviewed commentators. Checked piece and submitted it. Erica Wagner [see Blog entry below] says there are no surprises in the new book. I think there are.
Sarah Johnson and Erica Wagner react to the new Harry Potter...
"Five years ago, before she got big, J. K. Rowling had lunch with me at my home. As we talked, and as Jo smoked several furtive cigarettes when her four-year-old daughter wasn%u2019t watching, she threw me a gold nugget: an important little fact concerning the denouement of the whole Harry Potter story - a crucial plot point, to be honest. Then she took a taxi back to Platform 9? at King's Cross, never to be seen in Shepherd's Bush again.
I have kept my fist tight round that nugget, and five years on JK's is a very different world."
"Rowling also has a gift ? which she could exploit without the distractions of magic, and I hope one day she will ? for absolutely entering the minds of her young creations. Their jealousies, their anxieties, their hopes are all completely believable; there is greater magic there than in wizards and their wands.... ..."
BBC page about Tim & Chris Cross's Cool-Reads site...
Still 200 pages to go. Had hoped to be a little further on, but coudn't miss 24 - last 70pp have seen the psychological pressures on Harry mounting...
Harry and Cho Chang have kissed (under the mistletoe and off-camera, so-to-speak). And there has been a death, but not THE death.
Harry, Ron and Hermione have a lot of homework and Ron, especially, has started using the young-adult conversational patois ".... ...., mate", but other than that there's nothing especially teenage-driven about the way the three main characters behave. Other than the book's length and unnecessarily slow start, there is very little in Book #5 to deter Rowling's younger readership, while older readers may well find Harry's hesitancy to do so much as hold Cho's hand a little pathetic (although the scene in which this happens is well-written, with a cinematic visualisation).
Have any other ealry readers of the book spotted places where Rowling is now being influenced by the knowledge that the book will ultimately be filmed? Click 'Comments' to respond.
Have hit p400 - which is just over halfway in the 766pp UK edition (I gather the US printing is over 800 pages long) - and everything's moving along quite well. We've had a quidditch match, and a colourful member of the regular cast has turned up at last. As I closed the book, just before lunch, the year has moved on to December and I'm in the middle of chapter called 'The Eye Of The Snake'.
ST Children's Book of the Week:
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier (current ACHUKA CHICE)
HP review in Indpendent On Sunday by Suzi Feay, Literary Editor
"Harry's misunderstood boy hero routine is starting to grate..."
Review, by Lindsey Fraser of Harry Potter and the Phoenix :
"The hype, of which we've heard so much, has changed things for these books, but it cannot cloud the unadulterated delight and enthusiasm of its target readers, many of whom, I'm sure, are by now turning back to the beginning to give this book another thorough grilling."
"Emotionally thin, and overburdened with rambling incident, the novel's length does not signify an increased grandeur of purpose. I applaud those children who will lose sleep to finish it. Adults, meanwhile, may find themselves wishing for a red pen."
"J.K. Rowling's father has spoken for the first time of how she rose from the depths of despair after the death of her mother and a violent first marriage.... ..."
WHAT CHILDREN REALLY THINK ABOUT ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
"This time, Rowling meanders as if in search of her story. She casts her spell, but not to the entrancement of all..."
"The number of adults reading Harry Potter for themselves should hardly be surprising, given the infantilisation of our culture..."
Fairly lame piece about regression into childhood being a defining characteristic of modern culture. You've heard it all before.
Longish NYT piece about the new Harry Potter (not a review) by Charles McGrath, editor of The New York Times Book Review.
Another hundred pages (now on p333) and Harry, Ron and Hermione are heading up a rearguard action against a sadistic and inspectorial new teacher called Umbridge. There's a good, page-turning momentum in this section of the book, which establishes a satisfying and suspenseful situation.
Now on p225. Harry doesn't arrive at Hogwarts until p182, which seems a long time to keep readers waiting, especially as the pages between p57 (when he leaves Little Whinging, by broom, for London) and p182 are not exactly teeming with incident. In London, Harry comes before the Ministry of Magic to answer a charge of illegally producing a magic charm - if found guilty, he will be expelled from Hogwarts, so the outcome of the trial is hardly in doubt.
For a long book, the proof-reading has been excellent. There are no doubt a few others, but I have only spotted one very minor error so far. A comma on p40 instead of a full-stop.
Have read first 100 pages. Opening 50 pages superb. Next 50, set in London HQ of the Order of the Phoenix, slightly less so, with too many rather directionless conversations. But I'm enjoying it, and genuinely looking forward to getting back into the story, after an afternoon in Brighton.
I was asked, at short notice yesterday, if I would read the new Harry Potter book and write a short review for the TES, deadline Tuesday. Because I didn't have a copy, I had to buy it this morning. In our small town there is very little ballyhoo surrounding its sale. No midnight openings. No queues at opening time, so far as I'm aware, though I did go out some half hour after the shops opened. I paid ?9.99 for my copy, purchasing it in Waitrose, where it was stacked on a top shelf at the end of an aisle. As far as I can recall this is the first time I have bought a book in a supermarket, but not the first time I have needed to buy a book to review. Quite what Bloomsbury's policy on sending out review copies of the Order of the Phoenix is, I am unsure. The only mailing I have received on the subject was an invtation to the Royal Albert Hall event, which I was unable to take up.
I had been rather looking forward to a weekend free of deadlines. Ah well. I heard Tim & Chris Cross on the radio this morning saying the book was very slow to get going, and a frighteningly articulate 14 year-old girl who claimed to have read the entire book between midnight and 8am said that the writing was 'flat'. I intend reaching p766 by Monday evening, and will post updates on my progress over the weekend.
In the meantime, here are two new views of the ACHUKA desk:
"John Lawrence uses tools and techniques that go back to the 18th century, yet his illustrations look bang up to date, says Joanna Carey... ..."
"Jane Stevenson tracks down BookSleuth, ABE's web service that enables readers to trace dimly - but fondly - remembered books from childhood... ..."
"Spurned at birth in New York by her mother, Paula Fox had a turbulent childhood in the US and Cuba. At 20 she gave up her own daughter for adoption. She went on to write controversial but award-winning children's books as well as autobiographical novels. At 80, she is enjoying a revival as her adult fiction is championed by a new generation of American writers..."
Full transcript of BBC interview with J K Rowling
"The inspiration for one of Britain's great modern children's books shut its doors yesterday after a vain struggle to preserve the cosy world of Mrs Goggins, Postman Pat and Jess the cat. ..."
Decided not to go to the Macmillan Party for Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler after coming back from a whole-day cricket tournament to find a heap of papers to go through. The school team was unbeaten in four games, and won the Cup, so I turned to the paperwork cheerily enough, while listening to archived jazz Radio 3 programmes on my laptop, proofreading annual reports, scheduling review meetings etc. etc. We learnt last week that Ofsted is 'inspecting' us in September, so the paperwork during the last month of this term is already intensifying.
Bother that game! This afternoon's school cricket match lasted a little too long for me to be able to get up to London in time for Judith Kerr's 80th Birthday celebration at The Ivy. A big disappointment, because the Mog books have been such family favourites. At least we won the match.
Wonder what the score in the day-night game between England & Pakistan is?
Bother that too! Looks like a comfortable win for Pakistan. 55 needed off 12 overs with 6 wickets in hand.
Amid the glitter in Los Angeles, it was the novels that shone most brightly for children's booksellers at this year's BEA
Long TIME article about Harry Potter:
"I think she's a terrific writer," says Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of 80 children's books, who has read the first book. "And she's a ripper- offer, like me. She has taken from some of the best English literature and cooked up her own stew. It's brilliant, and I have every intention of reading the others; otherwise children I know will kill me."
"...it is the odd book, the unexpected small book that can resonate most deeply in years to come. I did not even remember "I Can Fly" until well into my adulthood. But when I saw a copy in a secondhand bookstore, the intense pleasure and wonder that I had felt reading it as a child came back to me in a rush. As conscientious parents and teachers we offer our children a wide range of good books from which to choose, but why one makes a lasting impression above all the others is still something of a lovely mystery."
Still waiting for word on the winner of The Red House Children's Book Award presented this afternoon at the Roof Gardens, Kensington. No update on the website yet, but the above link should give the results shortly (I would hope).
Somebody giving a presentation about the education authority's secure 'extranet' this afternoon was demonstrating the Virtual Schoolbag, intended to replace the twice-weekly courier delivery to schools of paper documents. Attempting to explain that one of the advantages of the new online system would be that all postings could be archived, she said, "And of course you'll always be able to look at any of the old bags..." It took her several seconds to 'get' why her audience found this amusing. Bit like me, who for some time was blind to the ambiguity in my monthly declarations of PENI'S NEW COLUMN...
The winner of the first CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education)
Poetry Award is Under the Moon and Over the Sea edited by John Agard and Grace Nichols and published by Walker Books. The award was presented on Wednesday 11th June in the Chelsfield Room at the Royal Festival Hall by Michael Rosen, who was one of the judges along with Morag Styles and Margaret Meek Spencer, who chaired the panel.
Michael Rosen, writing in the current edition of the Times Educational Supplement, calls the book "a post-colonial 'treasury'. subverting all those connotations of heritage, plunder and piracy - a great first winner of the CLPE Poetry Award."
""I am thinking of putting up a sign `I don't sell Harry Potter and I'm proud of it,'" says owner Linda Spiegel, who was a schoolteacher before becoming a bookseller 14 years ago."
The bad run of diary clashes preventing me from attending some key children's books events is continuing. On top of missing last week's Puffin Party (school residential visit to France), tonight's Lines In The Sand launch (important first-round cricket match), this weekend's Children's Book Award (school Summer Fayre), and two book launches next Wednesday (Governors meeting), I've now got to decline a Media Invitation for the J K Rowling At The Royal Albert Hall event (sports day). I can't possibly go to everything, and normally school commitments filter things quite neatly, saving me from having to make complicated choices, but I can't remember ever having quite such a bad run.
Having been surprised by a complete absence of hayfever symptoms so far this summer, I am itchy-eyed, headsweaty and sneezing almightily tonight. A glass of ice-cold Manzanilla beckons.
The annual Branford Boase Award (which celebrates the most promising book for seven year-olds and upwards by a first-time novelist, and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new authors) was set up in memory of the outstanding children?s writer Henrietta Branford and the gifted editor, Wendy Boase, Editorial Director of Walker Books.
Julia Bell ? Massive (Macmillan)
Kevin Brooks ? Martyn Pig (Chicken House)
Patricia Elliott ? The Ice Boy (Hodder)
Richard MacSween ? The Firing (Andersen)
Livi Michael ? Frank and the Black Hamster of Narkiz (Puffin)
Simon Mason - The Quigleys (David Fickling Books)
Nicky Singer ? Feather Boy (HarperCollins)
BEST ENGLISH-LANGUAGE TITLE
Cold Jac, Rob Lewis ? Gomer/Pont
Corbenic, Catherine Fisher ? Random House
Lake of Shadows, Malachy Doyle & Jac Jones ? Gomer/Pont
BEST WELSH-LANGUAGE FICTION
Gwil Bril a?r Gath Ddu, Si?n Lewis ? Gwasg Gomer
Sg?r, Bethan Gwanas ? Y Lolfa
Tad-cu yn Bwyta Popeth, Martin Morgan ? Dref Wen
BEST WELSH-LANGUAGE NON-FICTION
Dewi Sant, Rhiannon Ifans & Margaret Jones ? Y Lolfa
Mwy o J?cs Cipyn Caws ? Urdd Gobaith Cymru
Psst!, Gwyn Morgan ? Dref Wen
British tabloid J. K. Rowling feature...
A bookseller's view on the Harry Potter embargo and price war. Thought-provoking.
Spent yesterday afternoon at a back-garden market in Lewes, which raised (I've just seen on their website) over ?1000 for the Send A Cow appeal. I annoyed one jazz fan by picking up an old double-vinyl Jack Teagarden LP before he saw it. 'I hope you're going to listen to that,' he said. And later, 'I wish you wouldn't stand there holding that in my face, it's annoying me.' Although in jest, there was a hard edge of irritation in his voice as well. The funniest (to my mind) overheard comment of the afternoon was, "This is just like Glastonbury - in the early days." You have to have been there, in the windy back garden by the carboot type stalls, to have appreciated the bizarre beauty of this remark. Book-wise, my find was a jacketed 1955 first edition of How Much For The Pony? by Margaret Stanley Wrench (a winner of the undergraduate Oxford University Newdigate Prize for poetry).
"...for the first time, Dahl's drafts, jottings and letters are being sorted and catalogued, giving fascinating glimpses of the genesis of some of his most popular characters and a fresh insight into the author's mind."
Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week:
Lines In The Sand ed. by Mary Hoffman & Rhiannon Lassiter
" 'Pottermedia' is now worth an estimated ?3bn a year and with another two books and a possible five films on the way, Harry is set to outshine - and outearn - any other star...
So how did Harry get to be so huge?... "
Michael Morpurgo calls for the abolition of primary school tests.
Having been discouraged by Scholastic from placing overly large orders, US booksellers are worried that they will quickly run out of stock of the new Harry Potter title.
"Parents have become "a little frantic," says Roger Sutton, editor in chief of the Boston-based The Horn Book, which reviews children's and young adult books. "It's ridiculous to read the series to 4-year-olds. The humor is wasted on them," he says.
Children should read Harry Potter when they can read it themselves, he says... Sutton believes the series has infected children's publishing with a new level of commercial hysteria.
"The musical received mostly positive reviews when it opened April 13 at the Cort Theatre, but never caught on at the box office. Last week, it took in $147,984, playing to only 44 percent capacity."
What a change from the last few days! - Friday we spent walking on the Downs up at BoPeep, after lunchtime drink at The Cricketers, Berwick village - took the path towards Alfriston but didn't go down into the town - Saturday in Brighton - pavement table lunch stop at Costa in south Lanes - bought 2 Gillian Welch CDs in south lanes:
and HELL AMONG THE YEARLINGS
- all in bright sunshine - today wet and thundery throughout - haven't been out, except for the papers - otherwise, getting the Update & TES review done, packing for France, watching the latest episode of 24
"It's not exhausting to write books, but it is exhausting to be on the road doing this marketing stuff.
"Sendak is tackling a particularly personal as well as global nightmare in his latest project. He has designed sets and costumes for "Brundibar," the 1938 children's opera by Czech composer Hans Krasa that was infamously performed by children detained in the Nazis' "showcase" concentration camp, Theresienstadt, during World War II..."