Thursday, April 19, 2018


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

“How do you make children’s films appeal to adults?” Finlo Rohrer, BBC News Magazine: "You might be forgiven for thinking children's films are for children and adults have their own films. But 2009 - with the likes of Up and Where the Wild Things Are - has seen the triumph of the trend towards making children's films that speak to grown-ups too." Click heading to read article.

“Directors of the Decade: Miyazaki & Pixar,” Matt Zoller, Salon: "Miyazaki, who turns 69 next week, is still underappreciated in the United States. His last four features, “Princess Mononoke,” the Oscar-winning “Spirited Away,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Ponyo” were released stateside by Pixar’s parent company, Disney, in dubbed versions, earning critical praise but not a fraction of Pixar’s usual box office haul. Worldwide, however, Miyazaki’s last three features as director made about $700 million. That’s a Hollywood-studio-level number that’s noteworthy on its face, but it’s even more striking for those who appreciate Miyazaki’s willingness to depict situations, emotional conflicts and moral struggles that neither Pixar nor any of its U.S.-based competitors would dare touch. If Pixar is the Babysitter — the smart, likable professional you can trust — Miyazaki is the Grandfather: a wise and beloved elder who understands kids as deeply as (in some ways more deeply than) their parents do, and knows that while the ability to delight and comfort children is a rare talent, it’s not the only one worth cultivating."Click heading to read article.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox: Wes Anderson and the Capers of Middle Age," Cara Parks, The Huffington Post: "Both [Where the Wild Things Are and The Fantastic Mr. Fox] have sparked debate over what is and is not a children's movie, but both films seem designed less to appeal to a particular age demographic and more to a particular sensibility. The childhood of both films is filled with whimsy and wonder, the reckless adventuring no longer freely associated with what might be more aptly known as pre-adulthood. But it also recognizes the longing of children to grow up, the willingness to shed a certain amount of entitlement and freedom for the firm bonds of social attachment. Inside each of us may be a wild thing, or a wild animal, but there is also a future wife, father, or caretaker, learning to take the burdens of a complicated life. Mr. Fox's fantastic appeal lies not with an adult's inner child, but a child's inner adult." Click heading to read article.

The Childhood Whimsy of Wes Anderson. Click heading to watch video essay.

“Miyazaki brings the detail and also the silences. With Miyazaki you get nature and you get moments of peace, a kind of rhythm that is not so much in the American animation tradition. That inspired us quite a lot. There were times when I worked with Alexandre Desplat on the score and we found many places where we had to pull back from what we were doing musically because the movie wanted to be quiet. That came from Miyazaki.” - Wes Anderson (on Miyazaki as one of the main inspirations for Isle of Dogs)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


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.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


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 Rumpus 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.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Students are to post reactions (minimum 250 words) to the assigned reading/listening linked below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

Click HERE to read "The Apartheid of Children's Literature" by children's/YA author Christopher Meyers.

Click HERE to read "The Ongoing Problem of Race in YA."

Click HERE to read Daniel Jose Older's Buzzfeed essay: "Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing." Click HERE to listen to an excerpt from Older's acclaimed YA novel, Shadowshaper.

Click HERE to read an excerpt from Tomi Adeyemi's acclaimed YA novel, Children of Blood and Bone. Read at least the first five pages of Chapter One (which starts on pg 11).

Click HERE to review "17 #OwnVoices YA Books Coming Out This Year We Can’t Wait to Read."