Monday, April 24, 2017

4. ALMOND, LUIZ, or SMITH

NOTE: Students are to pick TWO of the final four posts - 1. Anthropomorphic Animals, 2. The Adult's Inner Child. 3. Junot Diaz (and a guy named Neil), and 4. David Almond, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, or Dodie Smith. Comments should be posted no later than Weds. May 3. If you were habitually late with blog posts (i.e. need a little extra credit), I strongly suggest doing all four.

 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.

Coming soon!

3. JUNOT DIAZ (AND A GUY NAMED NEIL)

 NOTE: Students are to pick TWO of the final four posts - 1. Anthropomorphic Animals, 2. The Adult's Inner Child. 3. Junot Diaz (and a guy named Neil), and 4. David Almond, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, or Dodie Smith. Comments should be posted no later than Weds. May 3. If you were habitually late with blog posts (i.e. need a little extra credit), I strongly suggest doing all four.

 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.

Geeking Out with Junot Diaz: "In addition to being a Pulitzer-winning, chart-topping novelist and short story writer, Junot Díaz is more than a little nerdy. Okay, very nerdy. His work is filled with references to geek-culture touchstones that blend seamlessly with historical analysis." Click heading to watch video.

NO FACE by Junot Diaz: "In the morning he pulls on his mask and grinds his fist into his palm. He goes to the guanábana tree and does his pull-ups, nearly fifty now, and then he picks up the café dehuller and holds it to his chest for a forty count. His arms, chest and neck bulge and the skin around his temple draws tight, about to split. But no! He’s unbeatable and drops the dehuller with a fat Yes. He knows that he should go but the morning fog covers everything and he listens to the roosters for a while. Then he hears his family stirring. Hurry up, he says to himself. He runs past his tío’s land and with a glance he knows how many beans of café his tío has growing red, black and green on his conucos. He runs past the water hose and the pasture, and then he says FLIGHT and jumps up and his shadow knifes over the tops of the trees and he can see his family’s fence and his mother washing his little brother, scrubbing his face and his feet." Click heading (and scroll down) to read the story.

FULL CIRCLE: Watch Junot Diaz in conversation w. Neil Gaiman. Click heading (video is at the bottom of rounded up highlights)

2. THE ADULT'S INNER CHILD

NOTE: Students are to pick TWO of the final four posts - 1. Anthropomorphic Animals, 2. The Adult's Inner Child. 3. Junot Diaz (and a guy named Neil), and 4. David Almond, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, or Dodie Smith. Comments should be posted no later than Weds. May 3. If you were habitually late with blog posts (i.e. need a little extra credit), I strongly suggest doing all four.

Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 350 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. 

After reading ALL THREE of the above posts, watch a film that fits in with the general thrust of the articles. (That is, a film that straddles generational demographics, not simply "winking" at grownups, but actually speaking to them, moving them.) If you plan to respond to a film you've already seen, please re-watch it in light of the above articles.

1. ANTHROPOMORPHIC ANIMALS

NOTE: Students are to pick TWO of the final four posts - 1. Anthropomorphic Animals, 2. The Adult's Inner Child. 3. Junot Diaz (and a guy named Neil), and 4. David Almond, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, or Dodie Smith. Comments should be posted no later than Weds. May 3. If you were habitually late with blog posts (i.e. need a little extra credit), I strongly suggest doing all four.

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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

LGBTQA+ YA

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.")

Friday, March 31, 2017

MATURE CONTENT

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

"Writing Bridges: How Writers Scaffold Mature Content in YA Literature" by Amy Bright: "Young adult literature frequently challenges its young readers. Its ability to connect compelling plot and characters with experimental and literary technique offers readers a unique reading experience that provokes and engages them. Three recent novels—Margo Lanagan's Tender  Morsels (2008), Libba Bray's Going Bovine (2009), and Andrew Smith's The Marbury Lens (2010)—characterize this distinctive environment. Lanagan's medieval portrayal of a damaged young woman who retreats into a fantasy world, Bray's protagonist Cameron, a teen suffering from Mad Cow Disease who sets off on a hallucinogenic adventure, and Smith's transportation of his protagonist to an ultra-violent fantasy world when he puts on a pair of glasses all contribute to broadening the category of young adult literature." Click heading (and scroll down) to read article. 

Click HERE (then click "Look Inside," then "First Pages") to read and excerpt from Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Click HERE to read an excerpt from Passenger, the sequel to Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith.

Click HERE to read an excerpt from Going Bovine by Libby Bray. Click HERE to read the NY Times review of Going Bovine.

Friday, March 17, 2017

KAREN RUSSELL or SAM LIPSYTE

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.

OR

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.)

Monday, March 6, 2017

DIVERSITY

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 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 Sherman Alexie's YA novel, Diary of a Part Time Indian, winner of the 2007 National Book Award for young people's literature.

Click HERE to review "30 Diverse YA Titles to Get on Your Radar" by Kelly Jensen.

Click HERE to review "60 Diverse Books to Look Forward To in 2017" from the blog "Bookishness & Tea."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

MG VS YA

MW 4,5 due Weds. Feb 22 & F 4,5 due Fri. Feb 25  

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

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Middle Grade: A Conversation w. Editor Molly O'Neill: "As you know, I have a marketing background, which means that whether or not I intend it, one of the first things my brain starts thinking about for a book is its readership: who is a book FOR? What kind of reader is it going to reach, and how? Maybe instead of asking “What is middle grade?” it’s easier to think about “Who is the middle grade reader, and what is he/she looking for in a book?” I think that a middle grade reader is often (and note, I’m speaking BROADLY, here) reading for one of two reasons: to understand, or to escape. Middle grade readers who read to understand look for stories that help them piece together the truths that seem to be opening up all around them, about the world and their place in it, and the connections between themselves and their family, their community, their friends, etc. Or they’re reading to understand about a different time/ place and what it was/would be like to be a kid then. Or they’re reading to just understand how stuff works, period—from the everyday mundane stuff to big concepts like justice and honesty and friendship and happiness and love. Click heading to read the rest of the interview.

 "A Definition of YA" by Brooklyn Arden: "So I've been thinking off and on about a practical definition of YA literature -- something I could look at to help me decide whether a manuscript is an adult novel or a middle-grade novel or, indeed, a YA. Such delineations don't matter to me as a reader -- a good book is a good book -- but they do matter to me as an editor and publisher, because I want every book I publish to find the audience that is right for it, and sometimes, despite a child or teenage protagonist, a manuscript is meant for an adult audience

An SFWA Introduction to Middle Grade & Young Adult: "For writers who are interested in writing middle grade or young adult fantasy or science fiction, the first step is puzzling out what exactly those categories mean. Science fiction and fantasy, after all, has a long tradition of featuring young protagonists — including such classics as Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings, and Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey — even if those novels weren’t originally published as middle grade or young adult books." Click heading to read the rest of the article.

"Middle Grade and YA: Where to Draw the Line?" by Judith Rosen: "Since Harry Potter first hit these shores in 1998, there’s been confusion over where best to shelve it: put it where most kids look for it, in middle grade (ages 8–12), or where the later, darker novels belong, in young adult (ages 12–up)? But J.K. Rowling’s books aren’t the only ones that fall into a gray area, especially as more kids aspire to “read up” because of popular films like Divergent and The Hunger Games. At the same time, adults have begun reading down, not just YA but also reaching for middle-grade books like Wonder and Out of My Mind, because they don’t want to miss out, either." Click heading to read the rest of the article.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

KELLY LINK

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

KELLY LINK Interview:  Kelly Link is the author of the young adult collection Pretty Monsters. She has written two other collections, Stranger Things Happen and Magic for Beginners. Her novellas and short stories have won a variety of awards. Most recently she has won the 2009 Locus Award for best novella for her story "Pretty Monsters". Neil Gaiman called her, "...the best short story writer out there, in any genre." She co-founded Small Beer Press with her husband, Gavin Grant, and edits the zine Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. Click heading to read the interview.

KELLY LINK NPR: Author Kelly Link says her short stories are inspired by what she calls "night time logic." In fiction that strives for realism, she says, everything has a place. Everything makes sense. It's kind of like dream logic, she tells NPR's Audie Cornish, "except that when you wake up from a dream, you think, well, that didn't make sense. Night time logic in stories, you think, I don't understand why that made sense, but I feel there was a kind of emotional truth to it." Click heading to listen to NPR interview.

THE SPECIALIST'S HAT by KELLY LINK : "When you're Dead," Samantha says, "you don't have to brush your teeth." "When you're Dead," Claire says, "you live in a box, and it's always dark, but you're not ever afraid." Claire and Samantha are identical twins. Their combined age is twenty years, four months, and six days. Claire is better at being Dead than Samantha. Click heading to read the rest of the story.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

THE YA DEBATE

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

"Against YA: Adults Should be Embarassed to read Young Adult Books" by Ruth Graham: "I’m a reader who did not weep, contra every article ever written about the book, when I read The Fault in Our Stars. I thought, Hmm, that’s a nicely written book for 13-year-olds. If I’m being honest, it also left me saying “Oh, brother” out loud more than once. Does this make me heartless? Or does it make me a grown-up? This is, after all, a book that features a devastatingly handsome teen boy who says things like “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things” to his girlfriend, whom he then tenderly deflowers on a European vacation he arranged." Click heading to read the rest of the article.

"I Write Young Adult Novels and I Refuse to Apologize for It" by Rachel Carter: "It is clear that Graham did a (very) little bit of homework, reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, two extremely popular contemporary YA novels. I’ve read and enjoyed both of these novels, and to hear Graham reduce them to a proverbial eye-roll was more than a little disappointing. Are these love stories? Yes. Do they sometimes employ romantic language that, as Graham put it, “left me saying ‘Oh brother,’ out loud more than once?” Perhaps. But at their heart, these are complicated stories about family, class, death, and how we form connections with people when our everyday lives are filled with turmoil. They’re about love, too, but to claim that they are only cheesy love stories with “uniformly satisfying” endings is a lazy reading of two well-written, moving novels." Click heading to read the rest of the article.

"The Death of Adulthood in American Culture" by A.O. Scott: "I will admit to feeling a twinge of disapproval when I see one of my peers clutching a volume of “Harry Potter” or “The Hunger Games.” I’m not necessarily proud of this reaction. As cultural critique, it belongs in the same category as the sneer I can’t quite suppress when I see guys my age (pushing 50) riding skateboards or wearing shorts and flip-flops, or the reflexive arching of my eyebrows when I notice that a woman at the office has plastic butterfly barrettes in her hair". Click heading to read the rest of the article.

"Ashamed of reading YA? The fault lies not in our stars but in our stores" by Alexandra Petri: "Ah, the arbitrary divisions of bookstores. Now it’s “Young Adult” and “Serious Fiction for Older Adults” and “Romance” and “Science Fiction.” In Dickens’s day, “Books About Winsome Orphans” and “Books About Prostitutes With Hearts of Gold” stood where “Teen Paranormal Romance” and “YA But Specifically YA About Finding Yourself” (a category I actually saw at a Barnes & Noble recently) stand today. I’m sure they evoked about equal measures of sneering. (Dickens was especially gifted and managed to get his book stocked on both shelves, guaranteeing that "Oliver Twist" would be a platinum-level bestseller.)" Click heading to read the rest of the article.

"Can 35 Million Book Buyers be Wrong? Yes." by Harold Bloom: "Taking arms against Harry Potter, at this moment, is to emulate Hamlet taking arms against a sea of troubles. By opposing the sea, you won't end it. The Harry Potter epiphenomenon will go on, doubtless for some time, as J. R. R. Tolkien did, and then wane." Click heading to read to open PDF and read the rest of the essay.

Friday, January 20, 2017

NEIL GAIMAN

Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the combined assigned viewing AND reading(s) linked below. Students need only post ONE comment addressing BOTH the viewing and the fictional excerpts. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

Neil Gaiman at the 2008 National Book Festival
Click link to watch the video.

AND

What the (very bad swear word) is a children's book, anyway?" by Neil Gaiman. Click link to read essay.

AND 

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman:"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately. The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet." Click heading to read the rest of the first chapter.

AND

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman: "I wore a black suit and a white shirt, a black tie and black shoes, all polished and shiny: clothes that normally would make me feel uncomfortable, as if I were in a stolen uniform, or pretending to be an adult. Today they gave me comfort, of a kind. I was wearing the right clothes for a hard day." Click heading to read the rest of the excerpt.