Tag Archives: Children’s Literature

Around the Common Room: October 19, 2012

It’s not particularly Halloweenish–though The Hobbit certainly has its creepy moments–but perhaps owing to the upcoming first The Hobbit film, Tolkien seems to be in the news a lot. This week, we’ve got Buy Cheap Viagra Onlineilynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/10/harpercollins-to-publish-jrr-tolkien-epic-poem-next-year”>HarperCollins announcing publication of a never-before-published epic poem by the good professor, USA Today weighs in on why we still love The Hobbit, Blastr has 17 little known facts about Tolkien and his work (did you know he was briefly kidnapped as a baby? I didn’t), Warner Bros. is creating a couple of free online Hobbit games, and a man from Bainbridge Island, WA, not far from where yours truly lives, has built a Hobbit-like house.

On that last note: whimsy, often very enjoyable whimsy, appears to be making the rounds. Example A: Introvert fairy tales. Also, The Weather Channel thought it would be fun to start naming winter storms, and especially fun to use mythological names–which include Draco, Luna, and Gandolf (yes, spelled that way; named after a different fantasy character, apparently, but their chosen namesake is hardly the one everyone will think of.) Author Shannon Hale recently hosted a competition looking for the best pictures of boys reading ‘girl books’ and got an enthusiastic and rather adorable response. A very well-done Simon and Garfunkel filk on Battlestar Galactica has hit the interwebs: The Sound of Cylons. And I find myself wondering whether this customer is unusually uninhibited, or if she just lost a bet.

Meanwhile, Rowling claims her next book will be for children, and English professor Ben Yagoda credits her with introducing a lot of British words and phrases into American common speech. (I know I use “nicked” and “mental”, “ginger” and “snog”, and occasionally even “effing.” Don’t you?)

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Around the Common Room 3/31/12

Our last Common Room post having been nearly a month ago, we’ve aggregated quite a number of links, so prepare yourselves for a full and (hopefully) satisfying websurfing experience.

We all know the Internet world has exploded with Hunger Games movie reviews. Along with those have come various spinoff posts, including Slate.com’s fascinating “How Will They Make a Movie out of Mockingjay?” and FilmCritic.com’s “How YA Like ‘The Hunger Games’ Came to Rule Fantasy and Scifi Films“. For those who read The Hunger Games and want more books along the same lines, Tor.com offers “Hunger No More: YA Fiction to Fill the Hunger Games Void“, and Flavorwire gives us a similar post starring mostly different books, titled “Required Reading: Dystopic Books where Kids Meet Tragic Fates“.

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Classic Children’s Fantasy Comes to Life

Our good friends over at the Middle-Earth Network have been working long and hard on a very special project just for children: My Little-earth! From the site:

My Little-earth is a community project of The Middle-earth Network that is dedicated to bringing to life classic fantasy literature for children of all ages and their families through both print and the dramatized audiobook medium.

Their first audio work is a great little novel that I just read a couple of months ago: George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin. The tale of a brave young princess, a quick-thinking miner boy, and a magical woman who spins magical thread of spiders’ webs, this story is a beautiful, engaging read. Pub regulars have also probably heard our resident MacDonald enthusiast, Mr. Pond, mention the story at some point; it’s a great intro to the Scotsman’s fairy tales.

Actor Tyler Michael Jonsson dramatizes the story, releasing new episodes every Sunday at 1 and 7 PM EST on Middle-Earth Network Radio. Music is composed by Arjan Kiel.  The episodes are available for listening and download over at My Little-earth. More information is available on the MEN news page.

Also of potential interest to Pub members: fantasy-themed Christmas music! Be sure and check out Arjan Kiel’s “White Hand Christmas” via the Network’s SwordSong Records.

A Displaced Hedgehog at Hogwarts

It’s no secret that plenty of us academic types don’t take Harry Potter very seriously. For a while, the fashion was to sneer at the saga of the Boy Who Lived as puerile and childish. Now there’s a bit of a fashion of making new critical discoveries about the series, which John Granger made ten years ago.

So now, amid all the buzz and excitement surrounding the movie, as fourteen years of memories and squabbles and adventures come sweeping over us again, it’s a delight to discover a leading academic taking Harry Potter seriously.

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Reading George MacDonald

An Introduction

Do you remember the first time as a child that you read a story that fascinated you? A book that caught your imagination and took you out of yourself, out of your chair, into another world? And when at last you reluctantly put the story aside, you could hardly believe any time had passed.

George MacDonald, 1824-1905For me, that story was by George MacDonald. He’s not as well known now as he should be, but George MacDonald was a Scot who wrote poems and novels and sermons and some of the finest children’s stories of the 19th century. The stories I found first were his fairy tales.

When I say ‘fairy tales,’ I don’t mean the usual handsome-prince-saves-helpless-princess tales we usually see these days. I mean fairy tales that strange and haunting and amazing and, to use the Scots, unco.

Stories like ‘The Day Boy and the Night Girl,’ about a witch who wants to create the perfect, masculine boy and the perfect, feminine girl. So she raises a boy who never sees the dark, and a girl who never sees the light. And the story is about what happens when the Night Girl sees the Day Boy sees the dark for the first time, and what happens when they meet each other.

Stories like ‘The Wow ‘o Rivven,’ about an old man with mental illness, and the young woman who becomes his friend—how she learns how to listen to the great bell in the ruined church, and how she begins to realise that the bell is calling to her.

Stories like ‘The Shadows,’ full of strange, shadow-creatures that visit Ralph Rinkelmann—a humorist and poet who also happens to be the King of Fairyland.

Once you’ve read these stories, you never forget them. Continue reading

No More Fairy Tales — and that’s good?

She ain't no Disney Princess! But she's still Cinderella.

If you care about fairy tales, or if you care about movies, or especially if you care about fairy tale movies, you probably heard the news long before I did.

Disney Animation, that bastion of childhood innocence and crass commercialism–

Disney Animation, that beloved, abhorred creative teller of fairy tales–

Disney Animation, who revived Broadway with fairy tales and inspired thousands, nay, millions of wannabe princesses around the world–

Disney Animation has announced they will tell no more fairy tales.Or, for that matter, musicals.

After this mind-bending corporate decision in November, an insightful piece ran in the LA Times, wherein the execs explain some of their reasoning. Continue reading

C.S. Lewis and The Doctor

For me, two very important events happened yesterday and today.  Yesterday, November 22, 1963, C.S. Lewis died, his death being overshadowed by the assasination of John F. Kennedy.  Aldous Huxley also died that day too.  Lewis is well known for his Chronicles of Narnia books and also for his Christian apologetical works, even giving a series of radio lectures during World War II which would later form the book Mere Christianity.  Among many works, Lewis also wrote science fiction, The Space Trilogy, and also, what I consider to be his best work, Till We Have Faces, a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Continue reading

Top 10 Scariest Kid-Lit Villains

The Scotsman reports the results of a Penguin Group poll on the scariest villains in children’s literature.  They are:

1 White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis – 1950)
2 Captain Hook (Peter Pan by JM Barrie – 1904)
3 The Grand High Witch (The Witches by Roald Dahl – 1983)
4 Wicked Stepmother (Snow White by Brothers Grimm – 1810)
5 Cruella De Vil (The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith – 1956)
6 Voldemort (Harry Potter books by JK Rowling – 1997)
7 The Child Catcher (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming – from the 1968 film. Not the original book)
8 Miss Trunchbull (Matilda by Roald Dahl – 1988)
9 The Wolf (Red Riding Hood by Brothers Grimm – 1810)
10 Long John Silver (Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – 1883)