Saturday, December 2, 2017


NOTE: Students are to pick ONE of the final TWO posts - 1. Karen Russell or Sam Lipsyte OR 2. Anthropomorphic Animals. Comments should be posted by Tues. Dec 12. If you need extra credit, do both.

Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the combined reading and viewing linked or noted below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

One of my favorite talking animals is Phillip Pullman's polar bear, Iorek Byrnison. I remember being very struck by this moment when Lyra meets Iorek:

"Lyra's heart was thumping hard, because something in the bear's presence made her feel close to coldness, danger, brutal power, but a power controlled by intelligence; and not a human intelligence, nothing like a human, because of course bears had no daemons. This strange hulking presence gnawing at its meat was like nothing she had ever imagined, and she felt a profound admiration and pity for the lonely creature. He dropped the reindeer leg in the dirt and slumped on all fours to the gate. Then he reared up massively, ten feet or more high, as if to show how mighty he was, to remind them how useless the gate would be as a barrier, and he spoke to them from that height.

'Well? Who are you?'

The voice was so deep it seemed to shake the earth. The rank smell that came from his body was almost overpowering."

Andrew O'Hagan on Fiction's Talking Animals: "From Achilles' horse to Lassie, animals provide moral authority and sympathy in fiction, often giving voice to the silenced and oppressed."  Click heading to read the rest of the article.

Then click link below to read an excerpt from ONE of the following. (Or write about a talking animal book you've already read.)

 And, finally, click HERE, to watch Mark Wahlberg talk to farm animals.


NOTE: Students are to pick ONE of the final TWO posts - 1. Karen Russell or Sam Lipsyte OR 2. Anthropomorphic Animals. Comments should be posted by Tues. Dec 12. If you need extra credit, do both.

Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the assigned reading(s) linked below. Students are to pick ONE either Karen Russell OR Sam Lipsyte. Extra credit to those who read both interviews, both stories, and post two separate reactions. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

Click HERE to read the Interview Magazine interview with Karen Russell OR HERE to read her interview with Guernica.

"Ava Wrestles the Alligator" by Karen Russell: My sister and I are staying in Grandpa Sawtooth's old house until our father, Chief Bigtree, gets back from the Mainland. It's our first summer alone in the swamp. "You girls will be fine," the Chief slurred. "Feed the gators, don't talk to strangers. Lock the door at night." The Chief must have forgotten that it's a screen door at Grandpa's — there is no key, no lock. The old house is a rust-checkered yellow bungalow at the edge of the wild bird estuary. It has a single, airless room; three crude, palmetto windows, with mosquito-blackened sills; a tin roof that hums with the memory of rain. I love it here. Whenever the wind gusts in off the river, the sky rains leaves and feathers. During mating season, the bedroom window rattles with the ardor of birds. Click the title (and scroll down) to read the rest of the excerpt.


The Dungeon Master by Sam Lipsyte: The Dungeon Master has detention. We wait at his house by the county road. The Dungeon Master’s little brother Marco puts out corn chips and orange soda. Marco is a paladin. He fights for the glory of Christ. Marco has been many paladins since winter break. They are all named Valentine, and the Dungeon Master makes certain they die with the least possible amount of dignity. (Click heading to read story.)

Every Morpheme Counts: The Sam Lipsyte Interview: I go through a lot of revision to get the timing, not just of the comic element but of everything. So I pay a lot of close attention to rhythm and cadence and acoustics and where things land, how sentences land, how paragraphs land, how we transition. A lot of comedy can be found in transitions too, I think. Barry Hannah was the master at landing in the right way, making the familiar strange and funny and terrifying—all of those things that the writers I like strive to do. He was such an amazing example. (Click heading to read interview.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Students are to post one response (min 350 words) to the readings linked belowStudents are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

A New Way for Gay Characters in YA by Jenn Doll: Scholastic Publisher and Editorial Director David Leviathan (the same Levithan behind Two Boys Kissing, Invisibility, and 2003's Boy Meets Boy) told me that the environment for gay characters in Y.A. literature has indeed changed remarkably in the past 10 years. "For so many years, so many characters have been defined by their sexuality—they're 'gay'; we don't have to give them any other characteristics," he says. "But gay characters and gay kids have lots of other things going on. No one is just this one thing." In these new books, being gay or bi or lesbian or transgendered is wrapped up in conversations of identity that often transcend sexuality, and ask what happens beyond acknowledgment, coming out, and even generalized acceptance of one's choices."

A Graphic Guide to LGBTQ YA Literature (from coming out stories to sci-fi adventures). These books aren’t necessarily right for every reader, and don’t constitute the best, or the only, LGBTQIA+ fiction for young adults available. But it is a good starting off point for those interested in exploring the way these identities are portrayed in YA fiction. Click HERE to visit the page.

Malinda Lo is the author of the young adult novels Ash, Huntress, Adaptation, and Inheritance. Ash was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and was a Kirkus Best Book for Children and Teens. She has been a three-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Malinda’s nonfiction has been published by The New York Times Book Review, NPR, The Huffington Post, The Toast, The Horn Book, and AfterEllen. Malinda is co-founder with Cindy Pon of Diversity in YA, a project that celebrates diversity in young adult books. Over the past several years she's written a lot about YA with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters or issues. Click here for the index of her LGBT posts. Read two.
Pick one author/book highlighted in any of the above posts/articles/etc. and read an excerpt (excerpts can be had by Googling the book title and the word "excerpt," or finding the book on Amazon and clicking "Look Inside.")

Thursday, November 9, 2017


Students are to post ONE reaction (minimum 350 words) to the assigned listening/reading/viewing linked below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

"The Autumnal Genius of John Bellairs" by Grady Hendrix: "There’s a particular kind of nostalgia that smells like burning autumn leaves on an overcast day. It sounds like a static-filled radio station playing Brylcreem advertisements in the other room. It feels like a scratchy wool blanket. It looks like a wood-paneled library stuffed with leather-bound books. This is the flavor of occult nostalgia conjured up by author John Bellairs and his illustrator, Edward Gorey, in their middle grade gothic New Zebedee books featuring low-key poker-playing wizards, portents of the apocalypse, gloomy weather, and some of the most complicated names this side of the list of ingredients on a packet of Twinkies." Click heading to read essay.

"Is there still room for scares in John Bellairs?" by Erik Adams: "The imagery and atmosphere of Bellairs’ work inspired a previous generation of readers to become a new generation of writers: The John Bellairs Fandæmonium website collects testimonies from such fans-turned-authors; The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy recently dropped Bellairs’ name in an NPR interview about Under Wildwood, his second YA effort with wife/personal Edward Gorey Carson Ellis. It all goes to show that the art that most often sticks with us, the work that most terrorizes and tantalizes, is that which leaves room for the unknown and the unsaid, that which invites us back by leaving room to interpret what’s hovering just out of view." Click heading to read the essay.

THE HOUSE WITH THE CLOCK IN ITS WALLS By John Bellairs. Click heading, then click on "First Pages" in the left hand "Search Inside" directory (or use right hand box to scroll down), to read an excerpt from the first chapter.


THE GASHLYCRUMB TINIES by Edward Gorey: "Part Tim Burton long before there was Burton, part Edgar Allan Poe long after Poe, the book exudes Gorey’s signature adult picture book mastery, not merely adorned by the gorgeously dark crosshatched illustrations but narratively driven by them." Click heading to read/view The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

THE HAPLESS CHILD by Edward Gorey: Click title to download PDF of The Hapless Child.

The Life of Edward Gorey, Told by an Old Friend: "They are cautionary tales bereft of moral resolution - stories of gin-soaked children and pale-faced newborns brought low by nameless monsters, sudden fires and mysterious vapours. The titles set the tone: The Hapless Child, The Listing Attic, The Fatal Lozenge. Gorey always insisted they were aimed at "reasonably small children", and unconvincingly denied taking any morbid relish in their creation. They are, almost without exception, unspeakably funny. Gorey is an unclassifiable genre: not really children's books, neither comic books, nor art stills. With their hand-lettering, queer layouts, their framed and ornate borders, the small books seem frightfully old-fashioned and biscuity, as if they had been secretly pressed out and printed in suspiciously limited editions in the dark, damp cellar of some creepy railway warehouse in nineteenth-century England by some old pinch-fisted joy-killer in a black claw-hammer coat with red-hot eyes, a black scowl, and a grudge against the world – and then managing to survive the must of long years by their sheer grotesquerie and horror." Click heading to read article, continue scrolling to read an excerpt from The Strange Case of Edward Gorey.