This morning two "comments' came in that I have deleted. I need to remind you again that I can't answer school related questons on the blog. if you have a question, send it through email; easy to do from my website. Thanks.
Lois Lowry's Blog
OKay, click on this image in order to enlarge and see it better. It's a photo of my 13-year-old granddaughter, made up of tiny photos of me and her grandfather. The actualy photo is 16"x20" and framed, and it is on its way to Germany for Christmas. The website for gettting this done is www.photowow.com .. and now I am guilty of....what do they call it in movies, when a character holds a highly-visible can of Pepsi? Product Placement.
But it is very cool product.
I get a lot of email every day. Mostly from kids, a lot of it like the email from a young person who recently wanted me to list "all the similes and metaphors" in one of my books.
But at the same time, I receive a lot of thought-provoking, sometimes very moving, email from readers of all ages. Today's mail brought a letter from a grandmother in Texas who feels THE GIVER is too disturbing a book for her grandson and who was distressed because it was required reading in his class. She was not in favor of censorship, I might add...just the fact that it was required of a boy who she felt was not ready for it.
In the same batch of mail was a letter from a 19-year-old who told me what a profound difference THE GIVER had made in his life. He wrote, speaking of a time in his own childhood:
I was given
your book and for the first time in my life I was intrigued by what I had
before my eyes. I won’t go into the subtleties of what you’ve written, as
you know it far better than I could hope to describe. But the importance
lies in how effectively my imagination was captured, not just by the words
you wrote, but the ideas and thoughts you spun. I was happy, I was angry, I
was saddened, but most of all I was scared. You thoroughly and
single-handedly demonstrated the power of thinking, and the ideas which
control the movement of a society through time. Maybe I didn’t fully
understand it at the time, but after your book I consumed every other with
the same ferociousness.
I wasn’t just after stories, I was after ideas, and the thoughts that
I am a list-maker. Always have been. When I wrote the first Anastasia book, ANASTASIA KRUPNIK, back in 1978, I created a child who made lisst in her private notebook. She could have been me at the same age. "Things I Love." "Interesting Words." "Favorite Foods." Typical lists from me at 10.
Now, of course, my lists are different. The one staring at me from my desk this morning says: Wrap Xmas gifts. Address Xmas cards. Buy dogfood. Prepare Power Point for Loudon County (that's Virginia, where I'll be later this week). Make doctor's appointment. Change sheets in guest room.
And none of that mentions that I have 24 people coming for dinner tonight. Potluck, so not a lot of cooking to do...but still.
So what am I doing? Sitting at the computer messing around, adding a post to the blog. Not even on the list. But it is 6:30 AM. Plenty of time for the other stuff.
Here's the thing about tonight. Over the past 1-2 years, several houses in our neighborhood have changed hands, and new people have moved in. It's a neighborhood of very busy people, all - or most -of them headed off to work each day. I know there's an architect, a pediatrician, a toxicologist, a Harvard professor, and others...some I haven't met, others I greet in passing but don't know anything about them. So I decided that before winter closes in and we are all snowbound, it would be fun to get together. I sent out invitations. As people RSVP-ed, some of them mentioned things about themselves. "I'm a poet," said one. Wow! A poet practically across the street! And someone else: a photographer! What fun to learn all this....
This is a very special picture and I hope you'll click on it to enlarge it so you can get something...(though it won't be enough)...of an idea of how lovely this is. It is a piece of jewelry - silver, gold, and pearls - designed especially for me, titled "Reading and Dreaming," and handcrafted by Mary Anne Spavins Owen of WINGED CAMEL METALWORKS in Colton, NY; it was delivered to me today by Susan Bloom, Professor Emeritus at Simmons College, as a thank you gift way out of proportion to the very small favor I had done.
Thank you, Susan. Thank you, Winged Camel!
This is Luke, my granddaughter's 3-year-old beagle, which has a beagle personality and stubborness but the face of ..what? a devout monk, maybe; or a melancholy scholar. That's me, trying to eat my pommes frites while pretending that there is not a mournful, starving (hah) critter at my elbow.
I am home now, after a long day of flying: Luxembourg to Zurich; Zurich to Boston. I read an excellent novel (THE NIGHT WATCH by Sarah Waters) on the plane. Had hoped to work more on a baby blanket that I'm knittiing for a friend's coming baby...and even went out and got wooden needles since Airport Security wouldn't have liked the metal ones I was using. But in my squished Economy seat the needles were too long to use without poking my neighbors so I had to give up on it.
Just for kicks, before we left, I called Swiss International to ask what it would cost to upgrade to business class. Hey, it never hurts to ask! But the answer was $6500. THAT hurt. And so I had to abandon my knitting....eight hours on that plane; it would have killed some time in a productive way. As an alternative, when I wasn't reading, I watched "The Last Samurai" on my little back-of-the-seat TV. Knitting would have been a more noble enterprise, I think....
Still in Germany, where my granddaughter and I are continuing to goof off, although she is now being mature and repsoinsible and has gone off for her violin lesson. But earlier today we were creating album covers for when we are famous rock stars. Here (photo) is mine. Hers (also attached) is more glamorous. And as for the singing career: this afternoon after school she sang me a brief selection of what they are working on in music class, and it was a selection from a Mozart opera. So Britney needn't be trembling in fear of being replaced.
This evening she has agreed to read the early chapters of my current book-in-progress.
One more day here and then I head back to Cambridge, and next week to NYC and Washington...
It is damp and gray in Germany, typical November weather, and here (see photo) is what my granddaughter and I have been doing...using my computer to make ourselves as weird-loking as possible. Who would have guessed that this praying mantis is actually a beautiful seventh grade girl? And what kind of bad grandma (or Oma, as I am called in her language) would teach a kid to play an addictive game like Cubis Gold, knowing that her mom has strict rules about the amount of time she spends on the computer?
And bad movies, as well. Last night she and I watched "Poseidon."
Nadine is taking English in her German school, required here though she has spoken it fluently since she learned to talk. Her description of the English lessons...taught in what she calls "Brit English"...is wonderfully funny because she can imitate accents so well, and sounds just like Helen Mirren.
Nice to see her bedroom stacked high with books. I was able to bring her a new German translation of my own "Messenger" and Phyllis Naylor has recently sent some German editions of her "Alice" series. But there are loads of good German kids' books as well...of course Cornelia Funke, though she has moved to the USA now, was originally from Germany.
Here are just a few of the things i am thankful for:
1. That while Alfie had to wait in line at the kennel, because so many dogs were checking in for the holiday, and he was surrounded by labs, retrievers, schnauzers, a Newf, and a couple of poodles..... he wagged his tail at all of them.
2. That we are boarding a plane this afternoon for Zurich, and therefore I don't have to cook a turkey.
3. That tomorrow morning we go from Zurich to Luxembourg and will be greeted by my daughter-in-law and granddaughter, two of my favorite people in this world.
4. That my Maine caretaker phoned yesterday to say that the exterminator DID show up to deal with the mice....
I am currently in a hotel in Siera Vista, Arizona, preparing to check out and head to Tucson to catch a flight back home. A lovely visit here, and 1300 kids in a big auditorium yesterday...all of them attentive and quiet for an hour! Amazing!....and I have been with good people surrounded by gorgeous scenery and breathing dry, crisp air. Altogether a great combination and I thank the town of Sierra Vista for choosing "The Giver" as their "One Book, One Community" read this year.
As I usually do, I have my laptop with me (very irritating that expensive hotels usually charge something like $10 a day to hook into the internet, and here a little Fairfield Inn gives me access at no charge. Waldorf Astoria: consider this a scolding) and this morning, killing a little time, I took a look at Roger Sutton's blog, which you can access through the Horn Book website. I like the Horn Book and I like Roger, who is smart and funny and irreverent and also knows more than most people about children's literature.
This morning I was startled to see a book of mine mentioned, and since his blog is public access I assume there is no problem with my quoting this post here:
Betty did advance a question that I thought might be of interest here. "Have you noticed," she asked, "that most of the book debate this year has been about allegory?" and went on to mention The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Gossamer, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It's true that each of these titles has inspired strong reactions; also true that what's often being debated is "the lesson" of each story, both its nature and effectiveness. All stories have lessons, of course, but these three seem particularly fixed upon "the representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form," my digital AHD's definition of allegory....
Someone asked if I would at least tell what age level or grade level the new book will be for. You know, that is not something I think at all about when I'm writing something. Publishers and reviewers grapple with that—publishers so that they can direct their marketing efforts; reviewers so that they can recommend or NOT recommend—and I suppose librarians and teachers as well, in order to purchase or not purchase, assign or not assign—but I never give it a thought.
However, having been asked, I re-read what I have written so far, (well, in truth I do this every morning: re-read; make small changes; re-think) and looked at it from the perspective of what-age-is-this-for.
I would say 8 to 80.
Maybe 90, if the sense of humor has remained intact..
And am I working on a new book (GOONEY THE FABULOUS being finished)?
Am I going to a) describe it b) talk about it c) tell any miniscule detail about it?
Several years ago I wrote the book called GOONEY BIRD GREENE, in which an unusual (precocious, self-confident, sometimes outrageous) second-grader arrives in a new school and changes the tempo and tenor of the entire classroom.
Kids loved it because they could see themselves and their classmates in it; teachers loved it because it contained, as part of the plot, some teaching tools..specifically, how to create stories.
The book was set in October because Gooney Bird had arrived, (as I often did when I was kid) in a new school a month afer school had begun. When it was clear how popular she had become, it occured to me that I could take her through an entire second grade year, month by month. So I set the second one (GOONEY BIRD AND THE ROOM MOTHER) in November.
But the question arose: how to deal with the "teaching" side of it, which teachers had enjoyed. The requests I got were for more of the same...that is, more story-telling by the main character. But I began remembering "If You GIve a Mouse a Cookie," which my own grandchildren had loved. There were many sequels to that book, and though small children didn't notice...it was all the same book, disguised each time by the use of a different character....
Here I am in Cromwell, Connecticut, having spent last night and today at the CEMA annual conference....Connecticut Educatonal Media Association. One of the good things about being with a lot of media experts is that you know the technology will work!!! I often use a power point presentation just because it is fun for people to see stuff (I know I'd rather look at pictures while smeone talks instead of just listening) but there is nothing worse than a lot of waiting around while people try to figure out how to get the LCD projector working (in the old days it was a slide projector, of course).
And needless to say, it is great to be with people who work in schools, and with kids, and with books.
Here is what WASN'T great, and it was my own doing...or undoing. I drove into Cromwell about 4 PM, and noticed maybe 10 miles earlier that most other cars had their lights on. So I flicked mine on, even though at four, it was not yet dark or even dusk. And: you got it: I forgot to turn them off. (My other car, a Volvo, has its lights on and.or off automatically with the igntion. The Honda CRV I was driving...which I love in every other way...does not.
I thought of it about 10 PM as I was watching the Patriots lose. Oh dear, I don't think I turned the car lights off. By then it was too late to do anything, and so I waited till 7 AM, went out to the hotel parking lot to check, and sure enough: dead battery.
This is like the game of "Fortunately, Unfortunately" that my granddaughter and I used to play....
Good morning! I am leaving today to drive to Connecticut to attend the annual CEMA convention in order to speak to the Connecticut school librarians tomorrow. But this morning...as every morning...I was going through the website e-mail and encountered, again, a too-frequent problem: that of spam filters that prevent my reply going through. PLEASE...If you e-mail me (which you can easily do by clicking on the "e-mail me" on the website) and if you want a reply, put my address on your list of approved e-mailers. Otherwise, I write a reply and it bounces back to me and it is a lot of wasted time and effort. With 50-60 e-mails arriving every day, I can't take the time to fill out the forms that such filters ask for. I hate disappointing people who email me, but if my reply is filtered out and bounced back, I am not going to go through the hoops and make a second try.
I'm sorry I don't have a camera here with me because I am in Maine, and there is a wonderful strong wind, and Alfie is acting like Baryshnikov, leaping and twirling.
I stopped on the way up here to have lunch with my son, dauughter-in-law, and two grandsons, who live in a suburb of Portland. It is my younger grandson, 5, who says so many oddball and amusing things that his parents keep a list. Yesterday was not particularly unusual but it's a good example. His older brother, 8, had called some neighborhood friends and invited them over to meet Alfie. When the doorbell rang it was the younger one who answered it and let in two children.
"There's Alfie," he said, pointing to the dog.
Then, gesturing toward me: "And over here we have a famous writer."
I have mentioned the symposium I was part of in New York a week ago today..."Fear and Fiction" ... and perhaps neglected to list the authors who were there: Mo Willems, Robie Harris, Martin Waddell, me, Pam Munoz Ryan, Neil Gaiman (who didn't make it and sent his speech to be read by someone else), Chris Crutcher, Jackie Woodson, and David Almond (who, similiarly, because of a family emergency had to send his words along to be read).
All of them are writers I admire, and many of them are people I know.
But I had never met Martin Waddell, who came in with his wife Rosaleen from northern Ireland for the conference, and who is a lovely man and a wonderful story-teller (and deserving recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Medal a couple of years ago)
Seeing him made me remember an experience I had a number of years ago, and which I was able to tell to him last week. I wrote about it at the time - ten years ago - and here is a copy of that essay (the child mentioned, my grandduaghter, had her 13th birthday yesterday):
Helping Children Cope...
I've just received a copy of the new jacket that will be on a new (and slightly larger in size) paperback edition of A SUMMER TO DIE.
A SUMMER TO DIE was my first book for kids, published in 1977...still around after 29 years!...and if I were to re-read it, I think I would probably not find it dated except for the fact that Meg's father uses a typewriter (as did I when I wrote the book.)
I had been asked by an editor to write something for young people (I was a writer for adults at the time) and the story that came to my mind was my own story, that of a younger girl facing the death of her much-loved older sister, as I did many years ago. In truth, my sister Helen was 28 when she died; I wass 25. But because I was writing for a young audience, I made the sisters 15 and 13. They were very much like Helen and me: the older girl pretty and popular, the younger one more scholarly and awkward. I always got better grades in school than Helen did, but I would have traded those grades in a heartbeat to be May Queen or Homecoming Queen or one of those silly things, and to have the ease and self-confidence with which she moved through the world of adolesence and school, while I plodded along a couple of years behind.
I do like this new jacket for the book; the old one had begun to seem a little tired and out of date. The hardcover has a lovely jacket which has not changed or become dated through the years...just a painting of the farmhouse where the book is set....
I have been off on a series of engagements...first, the Zolotow Lecture at the University of Wisconsin (and that, as the previous ones have been, will be available by webcast (google Zolotow Lecture and you'll get to it); then to New York for a fascinating conference co-sponsored by the Yale Child Study Center and the Anna Freud Centre in London. The title of the daylong event was "Fear and Fiction"..and a subtitle that I don't have in front of me, having to do with literature and the inner life of the child. Nine authors, each speaking abut a particular book he/she had written; and six child analysts and/or therapists, looking at the same books from their standpoint. So different from the "..and then I wrote" type of speech I frequently hear...and give. And a different audence as well, with many mental health professionals attending...and perhaps becoming newly aware, some of them, of the vital role that literature can play in the emotional life of a child.
Following that event, back to Boston where I moderated a panel on children's books that make the transition into film...how it happens, how it sometimes fails, why now and then it is a smooth and lasting transition into a different genre with its own strengths. Panelists were Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, who spoke about and showed a clip from SHILOH; Natalie Babbitt, speaking and showing a piece of TUCK EVERLASTING; and Randy Testa from Walden Media, the company that moved HOLES, HOOT, WINN-DIXIE, and NARNIA...among others...into film. He let us peek at a wonderful but sad (sob, sob) scene from CHARLOTTE'S WEB, due out soon.
Speaking of Charlottes, Alfie has a playdate tomorrow with a young corgi named Charlotte. His other best friend is Sophie, and since he is hanging out with girls so often, it is probably good that he has an appointment in early December for, ah, minor surgery. In the meantime, he starts obedience classes tongiht. I suppose they won't deal with the never-chew-up-a-ballpoint-pen issue.
Now, at home, I must tend the daily domestic chores like grocery-shopping which I have not done in much too long...last night it was take-out Chinese for dinner. And there are movies to catch up on. "Little Children" yesterday. Today, a quick sneak off to (speaking of corgis) "The Queen."