Friday, February 26, 2010

If the Wild Things wasn't enough...

So, as a bonus feature on the Where the Wild Things Are DVD, there will be a short film of Higglety Pigglety Pop! Something about turning picture books, in which sparse text and detailed illustrations make the story, into live-action films, doesn't quite make sense. Granted, I still haven't seen Where the Wild Things Are, and I promise I will when it's out on DVD, but I'm still skeptical. You can see some clips here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Another link- The Hunger Games (again)

Sorry for the bout of links this week, but I keep finding things! On her blog, Irene Gallo (art director at Tor) has posted the cover of Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games series, as well as a wish for publishers and reviewers to credit the illustrators and designers who create tempting covers (this topic deserves its' own post, but it will have to wait until later).

Also, check out Tim O'Brien's post on the creation of The Hunger Games cover.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Comics for Kids

I've been a fan of Little Lit ever since I grabbed a copy (based entirely on its' cover, mind you). In case you're unaware, the little lit collection is a series of collected comics by renown authors and illustrators like Art Spiegelman, Jules Feiffer, and Maurice Sendak. Francoise Mouly, art director at New Yorker magazine, launched TOON books, which includes little lit and a series of comic books for young readers. An article on the subject can be found here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Illustrations for Favorite Books

Check out The Picture Book Report where fifteen contributors are posting illustrations to their favorite books, including Nix's Sabriel, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ella Minnow Pea, and The Hobbit.

The World of Thursday Next Could Happen

My friend Sarah alerted me to this article on creating neanderthal clones. For those of you who have read Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, you may recall the issues of reverse-engineering neanderthals.... Will it happen to our own world? Or remain a fixture of fiction?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Catching Fire

I have accomplished nothing today. For I have spent the entire day racing through Catching Fire. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s series with cliffhangers that the author hasn’t finished writing yet. That’s the annoying thing about discovering great authors while their masterpieces are in the process of being made- you have to sit out the bloody wait. And you don’t want to rush them along because you know, in the rational part of your mind, that if you do the book won’t be as good as it could be (cough- Meghan Whalen Turner). But the dead ones are even worse if they had the misfortune to die in the middle of their assuredly brilliant career (Adams, anyone?). While I’ve survived this numerous times (Nix’s Abhorsen came out during midterms, guess which went on hold) it’s always annoying in the emotional book-junkie part of the brain.

Now, since I have frittered away the day frivolously devouring fiction like a box of Belgian chocolates, I will force myself to do something constructive in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Apologies, and a large number of things to find

Firstly, I'd like to apologize for the infrequency with which I post. This blog is currently secondary to my illustration one, and to a number of things I'm currently working on. I wish this were not the case, but so is life.
Secondly, books!

I've been trying to catch up on recent teen fiction. Last night I had to force myself to put down Catching Fire and go to bed. I devoured The Hunger Games last week and couldn't wait to get my mitts on the sequel (a search reveals the 3rd is soon to come!). My mom says the local school used it in reading classes this year as a follow up to The Giver. I'd like to take a moment to give my whole-hearted approval to teaching dystopian sci-fi in schools. While reading a book in class may ruin it for a select few, these people will probably find themselves picking it up at an earlier date anyway. I think science-fiction, particularly the dystopian novel, desperately wants to be discussed politically, socially, religiously, and economically. Discussing these aspects of a fictional narrative introduces students to viewpoints they may not see at home, or in the community in which they live. It also gives thoughtful students a lens through which to view their own society. So, though I never ever ever thought I'd say this, good job, Glens Falls Middle School. But don't think this book is just for the preteen and teen crowd- there is crossover potential here.
That being said, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire have much more to offer than the possibility of good discussion. The story will pull you in. Even thought you know there's a sequel, you will worry for the safety of the characters, rushing through the book to make sure they'll survive to the end. The Hunger Games are held once a year in the Capitol. Each of twelve districts is required to send one girl and one boy to participate. Everyone of a certain age has their name entered to be selected to go, but individuals may opt to enter their name again and, in return, will receive meager food for their family. Now these games are not along the lines of go fish, but more gladiatorial; those sent must fight one another to the death and the sole survivor receives food for their impoverished district. And now, as there are startling and wonderful surprises within the first few chapters, I will end, telling you to take this pause to reserve it at your library.
I've been listening to a number of audio books of late as I can do artwork and listen at the same time. I picked up some of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and thoroughly enjoyed them. Also, as a friend said, British accents make listening most enjoyable. This is the sort of recording I'd recommend for a group trip or car ride as a range of people will enjoy it.
Terry Prachett. Also British, yes, but probably not who you expected to follow Holmes. I've spent most of my life not being a Prachett fan. Before you yell at me for this, hear me out. In a fictional world, the author must make you believe, without question, that the world and what happens in it are beyond a doubt. The author should not have to go off on frequent and lengthy tangents to explain why the world is how it is. Furthermore, a reader should not wish for this! Details and explanations should be woven into the narrative in such a way that the reader does not doubt the plausibility of of the world. And, as with art, vital symbols in the narrative should not require a symbolic dictionary written by the same author. Now that you have heard me out, I will go on to say some nice things about Terry Prachett, so there is no need to post those harsh comments you were composing.
Terry Prachett Audio Books. I loved listening to The Carpet People when I was little, never knowing it was a Prachett. I recently picked up Hat Made of Sky at the library and also enjoyed it. My friend Sarah, a Prachett fan, said that his young adult books are a good place to start, as falling headlong into Discworld may be a harrowing experience that only results in confusion. But I also managed to pick up an adult Discworld novel on audio, Unseen Academicals. And you know, I liked it. Yes, it was obvious what would happen in the end, but it was entertaining to listen to while my hands were occupied with sculpting and sewing (if I hadn't been otherwise engaged while listening, or had been reading it in it's novel form instead, it may not have gone down so well).

And now for something completely different!
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing
- I know you weren't expecting that. This book has been sitting on my shelf for a few months now, but I've never gotten around to actually reading it. So when I ran across the audio book, I resolved to listen to it while working. I didn't enjoy it, but I think it is brilliant. First of all, though this book won a number of awards, it just doesn't strike me as something that would fly as a teen novel. I think Candlewick Press should have released it as adult fiction, for while teens will check the adult shelves, adults don't check the teen shelves as often. I can see why it was published as teen, the narrative is a coming of age story, but I think it might do better if it were shelved differently. Listening to the philosophic lectures, Revolutionary war stories, and racial and political discussions, it struck me that this would be a perfect book club book (adults or teens, but specifically adults) or teaching aid. For while it is fiction, M.T. Anderson worked to make the syntax, events, and ideas era-appropriate.

And back to books not listened to! Graceling is Kristin Cashore's debut novel. It's a quick, enjoyable read, but contains nothing surprising (to me). It would be a good romp for Tamora Pierce lovers, and the equivalent of a nice cup of hot cocoa on a cold day to fantasy lovers.

Now go to your local library or independent bookstore! Make a cup of tea! Dig out your chocolate stash! Read and prosper!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Northerner’s Guide to Snow for Southerners

As we all know, inclement weather is the perfect time to curl up with a book (unless that weather is snow and you're a skier). In honor of the huge dumping of snow the South has received, I have some recommendations. Not the sort you think. These are recommendations for what to do in the snow. Then, when you're sufficiently tired out, try one of the books reviewed on this blog.

The first thing you’ll probably think about when you see snow is: “How will I go outside and enjoy this new and wonderful experience?” If you do not ask yourself this question, your priorities are in the wrong places and you should hastily rearrange them.

The first step to going outside is getting dressed. There is a very simple rule you should follow in doing this: Don’t wear cotton. This is very simple. Wear articles of clothing made from materials other than cotton, like synthetic fibers and wool. As this probably eliminates the majority of your wardrobe, you may wish to know why. When cotton gets wet, it stays wet. It even absorbs the wet, which will make you very wet and exceedingly miserable. Other fabrics and fibers wick moisture, pulling it away from your body, or repel moisture, keeping it away from your skin.

I will assume you’ve now found clothing of appropriate materials. The first concept you must be introduced to is that of layering. This means, don’t just wear a shirt and a coat, but wear two or three or more shirts and a vest and a jacket if that is what you need to stay warm. Just because it looks like outdoor clothing doesn’t mean it performs as such. Note: if you have a problem with this trickery, feel free to take it up with clothing manufacturers.

No Cotton! Surprised you with that, didn’t I? That’s because I know you are currently attempting to put on heavy cotton socks. Don’t do it. While wool and synthetic socks are outrageously expensive, they will save your cute little tosie-wosies. Once you have appropriated a proper pair of socks, or even two pairs, you will need shoes.

When looking for shoes, rubber is good. Boots can be good. Things that have a grip are good. Waterproof is good. And if you’ve just pulled out a pair of heeled boots, you should just go ahead and lock yourself in the house until summer. Style only matters if you want to be a good-looking corpse. And while we’re on the topic of style, don’t wear those leather gloves. Mittens are warmest, and wind and water blocking fabrics best. Got it? And don’t go skipping out the door without your hat on! Hasn’t anyone ever told you most of your body heat is lost from your head?! True. I suppose they haven’t. Well, now you know.

You may attempt to venture outside now.

Now that you’re outside, you’re probably wondering what you should do. Sure the snow looks pretty, but can you do anything with it? The answer to this query is a resounding yes. I will now outline a few very popular snow activities.

Sledding. To sled, you will need two things: a sled-like device and a hill. We will start with the sled device. Inflatable water toys work well. Old fashioned wood and metal sleds work, but will give you a sore bum and increase your likelihood of injury (and as I bet your emergency crews are having enough trouble as it is, let’s refrain from giving them any more). Students will find their best bet is to steal a cafeteria tray from the dining hall. While your bum may hurt tomorrow, the fun today will be well worth it. Furthermore, this method is cost-effective, as it costs nothing. As for ‘stealing,’ you’re already giving the school more than enough money to cover a dinner tray or two.

The second thing you will need to find is a hill. The most important aspect of the hill is that it should never, under any circumstances, lead into a street or traffic or a body of water. If you pick a hill that does this, natural selection will jump into action and you will most likely find yourself in a long, dark box. Also, the hill should not have trees, rocks, jumps, or tons of people. When you go to sled down the hill, sled down the middle of the hill and walk up the sides. This way your friends will not hit you nor will you have to write an embarrassing eulogy later.

Now for the most important skill: bailing out. Bailing out involves throwing yourself off the sled before you hit something, get hurt, or do something stupid. You should practice this skill. If you become bruised while doing this, you should show off the bruises later and brag of your bailing prowess.

Snowball fights. This is in fact an advanced topic because you must have the proper snow consistency to engage in a snowball fight. The temperature must be warm enough to cause the snow to be packable, but it must not form a hard and hurtful ball. You may have to experiment with this. Basic rules: 1) Never hit the face. If you want to know the why of this rule, have someone throw a snowball at your face. Then you’ll understand. 2) Don’t throw snowballs at cars because they can kill you very easily. 3) Don’t play in the road. (This shouldn’t even be a rule, but people are incredibly stupid- don’t be one of them!) 4) Snowballs can be more effective than you think. If you have a crotchety old neighbor, you would be well advised to keep snowballs away from their property; they’ll like a snowball through their window even less than a baseball. 5) If you throw a snowball at someone who doesn’t want you to, there is a special circle of Washington DC reserved just for you. (Wait, you’re probably in DC; I shall have to come up with a new circle of hell just for you. Hehe.)

Snowmen. This is sexist, so we will instead call them Snowcreatures. Why not snowpeople you ask? Because snowcreatures include snowdinosaurs, snowvikings, snowbabies, snowbears, snowbigfoots, and millions of others. As with snowballs, snowcreatures require a certain consistency of snow. Here the range is a bit broader; it must be packable. Packing up a mound of snow or rolling various balls is a good way to begin. You don’t know how to roll a snow ball?! Where the hell have you bee- Right. The South. To roll a large ball, start with a small, hand- or arm- formed sphere. Roll this in the snow, changing direction as you roll to avoid ending up with a snow-jelly-roll. Unless, of course, you want a snow-jelly-roll shape, which has many purposes. These rolls and balls may be stacked, but you must pack snow at their connections to ensure that they stay together. Snow can be further packed on to make details like noses and ears.

You may have seen pictures of snowmen in books and on greeting cards. These snowmen often have scarves and hats and mittens and carrot noses and are incredibly boring. And you wouldn’t want to build a boring snowman, now would you? Various vegetables, sticks, leaves, and evergreen boughs are great for decorating your snowcreature. Note: Make sure to take photos of the creature if you wish to see it again. It will melt or fall down or get kicked by an idiot, guaranteed. Note the Second: Never ever knock down someone’s snowcreature; angry people with snow shovels and iceballs will come after you.

After frolicking about in the snow for a while, you may begin to worry about the mailman and the newspaper delivery person and your neighbors walking on your sidewalks. Now Northerners, having lots of experience, know how to keep driveways and sidewalks clear. If you know a transplanted Northerner, you might ask them to explain it to you, or pay their children to do it for you. But if you don’t know a transplanted Northerner or wish to clear the snow away yourself, here is how you go about it. Get a shovel. Plastic works best but if the store’s sold out and no one will let you borrow one, a flat metal one also works, though the lifting is more difficult.

First of all, it is best to shovel snow before people walk through it. When people walk through it, they pack it down leaving lumps that may not go away until summer and will become ice globs in the coming weeks. Walking over these ice globs will cause similar ones to erupt on your noggin when you fall. If ice lumps already exist, try to scrape them up; you’ll praise yourself in a few weeks.

Now you may shovel. But make sure to shovel the entire sidewalk and driveway, because if you don’t go to the edges, when the next snowfall comes you won’t have anyplace to push the snow and it will take over your driveway by degrees. Also make sure to shovel the nasty piles the plows make at the end of the driveway. If you don’t, you will have icy speed bumps or quicksand traps, which are to be avoided at all costs.

You may have noticed salt and sand being sold in local stores under the pretense that they melt the snow. They can do this (though you should know that the salt isn’t good for pets and may leech into your ground water). I think spreading salt and sand is for wusses, but if you live with the elderly or infirm and wish to sand your sidewalk, there is a method to it. Don’t just drop handfuls on the sidewalk. I know you were going to do this- don’t. Also, use a lot less than you think you should. Here’s the key that allows you to do this: spread the salt or sand around, so that it finely dusts dangerous areas. Remember, sand is not a replacement for shoveling! Shovel and then sand, otherwise you will shovel away the sand you’ve just spread.

Driving. You may find that you need to nip over to the store to pick up some hot cocoa mix. Don’t. Just don’t do it. Stay away from the car (except to clean it off so that it doesn’t freeze closed. Also, you should clean off the car before you shovel so that you don’t have to re-shovel the area around the car). This is for your own safety; even if you learned to drive in a New England winter, your idiotic neighbors are out driving and cannot be trusted. While I can and have driven about during snowstorms, and could give you some tips, I won’t because I don’t want to tempt you into trying something that will end up with someone getting hurt (and trust me, people and vehicles will get hurt).

As I’m sure you have now had enough fun in the snow, go inside and dry your clothing so that it will be ready for your next excursion. Drink some water. Even if you don’t feel sweaty, you will be dehydrated. Then you may wish for a warm drink. Get a blanket to curl up with. And now, if you have power, you should pull out that computer of yours and send an email to your elected representatives telling them that a) global warming exists and b) they should do something about it. Please note that doing something about it does not include 1) ignoring it and 2) yelling that it doesn’t exist. Besides, this second tactic is sooo Kindergarten. Also, in thanks for this advice I’ve just dolled out for you, you should tell the storms that I, in the North, with five pairs of skis ready to go, need the snow much more than you.