I just received a large number of "comments" to this blog, all from students asking questions. I don't publish comments of that sort here. This is a reminder to students that if you have comments or questions about books I've written----go to the place on my website that says "e-mail me" (upper right corner)---click on that and it will allow you to send me a personal e-mail. Happy to reply to those! But not on the blog.
Lois Lowry's Blog
These are my grandsons, Grey and Rhys, 10 and 8, playing together in the barn over this past weekend when they were visiting here at the farm. The weather was iffy, boating excursions were curtailed, the beach wasn't an option. But a barn? Yes! A barn is always intriguing. And there is STUFF in a barn. (Actually, to the left, you can see a corner of a hammock; to the right, an end of a canoe).
And here, come to think of it, from several years ago, is another grandchild---with her best friend--also in the barn: the other end, where a stall was turned into a special theater where a lot of puppet shows have taken place.
All of this makes me remember summers of my small-town childhood, where when school ended, I kicked off my shoes and entered summer barefoot and carefree. Out the door in the morning, sometimes back home for lunch---other times ignoring lunch altogether---off on (bare) feet or bike, and knowing all the favorite familiar places: a stream to be waded; an abandoned building to be explored; a wall to be walked on; an overgrown vacant lot to be explored---even the college football field, which was unused in summer, and we could actually climb into the scoreboard and hang out there, peering out of the window where, during the season, score numbers appeared....
Well, my Tibetan Terrier's two Golden Retriever cousins came to visit yesterday. And there is no question. Goldens are more photogenic.
My grandsons, 10 and 8, came to visit yesterday. They had hoped to spend the Sunday afternoon on their dad's boat on the lake...but it was raining and so we stayed in, played board games, and watched the Red Sox get trounced in Philadelphia.
This is their last week of the school year, and the older boy, finishing fifth grade, told me that his class had just finished reading my book "Gossamer."
He and I were standing in the kitchen when he told me this. Then he said, "You know what? Remember the scene where the boy, John, describes a kid he knew (yeah, right, said my grandson, nudging me and winking) whose dad made him eat dogfood?"
Yes, I told him, I remembered the scene where the abused child reveals what his past has been like.
"Well," my grandson said, "In my head, while the teacher read, I pictured this kitchen!" He looked around. "I could see the dogfood bowl there, by the refrigerator."...
As you know, publishing takes place over a long span of time, and when the writer types, "The End"---it is really the beginning. I have a picture book coming out in the fall and showed you a glimpse of it some weeks ago. I'll be talking about it more as its publication approaches.
So: the "package" that I described in my last post was actually the galleys of an upcoming book which is scheduled for publication in Spring 2010. I'll show you a quick glimpse of a page (in galley form) so that you can see and appreciate the illustrations done by my friend Jules Feiffer. I once told Jules he drew FEET better than anyone else, and that is true, but you can't really see it in this one small drawing. What you can see is the whimsical charm of his work....very appropriate for this completely whimsical book, set in a mthyical kingdom with all the standard accoutrements: royalty, castles, serving maids and suitors.
In this scene, the large wheelbarrow is filled, I am sorry to say, with newly-neck-wrung pigeons. That's right: dead birds. Soon to be served, creamed, along with many other luxurious goodies, at The Birthday Ball (which is the title of the book)...
The UPS guy just arrived and delivered a package. "Dog's harmless," I called to him. "I know he is," he called back. "Hi, Alfie!" he said, and handed him a biscuit. Then he said to me, while I took the package: "Saw you at Dunkin Donuts this morning but you drove away before I could give you the package."
Busted! Yes, I was at Dunkin Donuts this morning. I went to the dump and it was on the way and I was feeling inadequately coffee'ed.
Today Alfie and I drove to Maine, where we will be for the summer except for a few (blessedly few) interruptions.
He is ecstatic to be here---has been racing around and around, checking out all of his favorite haunts, and a little nonplussed to discover that I had hired my much-loved handyman to close off any access to the enticing under-the-barn. Enticing to Alfie because of what LIVES under there: critters of all sorts. Woodchucks, I know, because I've seen them. Porcupines, I know, because Alfie tangled with one and was the worse for it. Probably many other critters, likely including skunks. So I don't want him under there. He wants to go under there. I win. So there. Hah.
Peonies are in bloom, and some lilies, though I have many varieties of dayilies and they will bloom all summer.
Lupine. Think of Miss Rumphius in the Barbara Cooney book....
Now that I've heard from people completely grossed out by my description of a leaky hotel-room toilet, I thought I'd change the subject by adding one more photo from Africa. This is a close-up from a menu at a cafe in Johannesburg.
No, I can't tell you how the monkey gland burger tasted.
I can tell you, though, that wart hog isn't bad. A wart hog is of the pig family, of course. We were served sweet-and-sour warthog and it was fairly tasty.
As for impala? I asked the guy at the buffet, as he was slicing the roast, "What does impala taste like?" He gave that some thought and replied: "A little like springbok."
I am in a hotel room in Lancaster, California, and I am up at 6 AM---in fact have been up since 5:30 AM---partly because my brain is on Massachusetts time, and it is three hours later there. But also because I was awakened by the sound of water. Not gush, gush, but trickle, trickle. Not drip, but trickle...meaning it is flowing, though not very fast.
I got up to investigate and discovered that the toilet is leaking. The floor around it was quite awash, though now I have mopped it up and the base of the toilet is swathed in towels. It continues to flow, and I will have to add new towels soon. Here is a photo (and some of you loyal readers will cringe at the awareness that I published another hotel-toilet photo not terribly long ago. There is a trend here. Sorry).
This would not be a terribly serious problem were it not for the OTHER photo which I will now add, the photo of the cartons and cartons of books delivered here on a dolly by Barnes and Noble last night. You can't appreciate the geography from these two photos. But the flood is inching toward the cartons.
No, I will not further bombard you with Africa photos, except for these. It was fascinating to me to see the protectiveness that this elephant herd showed toward their littlest one. You can see the baby on the left --- he (or she? Dunno) was at all time surrounded by the others, and when we--in our vehicle---got a little too close for their comfort, the one nearest to the baby always let us know it. Here (above) you can see the mildly confrontational stance, the ears extended... And then here (below)...
.....when we didn't sufficiently back off, the guardian of the baby became a little more clearly annoyed. When she was finally satisfied that we were not a threat, she tore off a tree branch and fed the baby some leaves. Then, gradually, they all moved off into the underbrush and went on their stately, lumbering way...as did we (less stately). We could watch the movement of the trees as they continued on their way. For us, it was an awe-inspiring encounter. For them? Ho hum....
I don't know the answer to WHY but I can testify that they DO and that one certainly gives them the right of way. I am writing this from northwest South Africa, where yesterday I visited a second grade class in a primary school in a small Zulu village. About 45 children with just one teacher, and as I neared the classroom I could hear them singing the traditional "A B C D E F G" song---they start learning English very young--- enthusiastically.
They were lovely kids, all grins and giggles, and it is easy to see how one could fall into the Madonna/Angelina syndrome and want to take a few home.
I am in the town of Hluhluwe, which I can in no way pronounce. The landscape is vast and breathtaking, the people warm and welcoming, the poverty and unemployment heartbreaking. The night sky is incredible and makes me remember the Kurt Weill song "Lost in the Stars" from Alan Paton's book "Cry the Beloved Country" which deals with the days of Apartheid here....
On Saturday the Mormon Church just down the street from us caught fire and burned. My friend who lives next door---VERY close---was in her kitchen at the time, and was ordered out by the fire chief, who said that her house was likely going to go. It was the classic what-to-save situation. She said she looked around and realized that it was all "just stuff." She took her laptop and her cell phone.
And she was lucky because her house is unscathed. Eventually some salvaged valuables from the church were stored briefly in her house---but she said, "Lots of paintings of Jesus. I wonder if he felt comfortable in our Jewish household." After a while Jesus was moved to the Friends Meeting House nearby and presumably will stay there---among friends--- for a while.
I have just come back from Dubuque, Iowa, a quick trip---a flight out there, a speech in the evening, and a flight home the next day. But it was a nice time. A good crowd, interesting poeple and a lovely city.
Then, last night, here in Cambridge, a wonderful fund-raising event headed by writer Alice Hoffman, She does this almost every year, to raise money for the Hoffman Breast Center at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. Alice was treated there for breast cancer some years ago, and now, in part because of her incredible fund-raising, it is a world-class facility and has been a source of healing and hope for many, mnay women....
This is the front of a Mothers Day card from my son Ben. The inside says: "Thanks for reading us more than the riot act"---and it's amazing that he found such an apt card (four children two girls and two boys)--okay, so we never had the ugly lamp or the ugly wallpaper or the ugly drapes...but we certainly had the nightly story-reading and the giggles pictured here.
But I am thinking of another child, a little boy named Anthony, who spent three summers with our family. On the anniversary of Brown.v. Board of Education, a book called LINDA BROWN, YOU ARE NOT ALONE anthologized stories related to that momentous decision. I wrote about Anthony for that book, now out of print; and I'll copy my contribution here.
“He’s crying. We were playing keepaway and he just started to cry.” My children, all four of them, came thundering through the back door into the kitchen, where I was stirring spaghetti sauce. “What should we do?”
I drove up to Maine yesterday and when I got here and set up my laptop realized that I didn't have the power cord. I'd planned to work on several things but realized that I wouldn't be able to, once the battery was depleted, so had decided to go home two days early----then, luckily, I found the cord in an obscure pocket of my bag. So all is well, except that I am appalled at how dependent I am upon the computer.
It is 7:30 AM and I have been up for two hours. Martin is still asleep, and so is Andy, my stepson who came with us for the weekend (and with whom I am going to see "Star Trek" this afternoon). But Alfie wanted to go out at 5:30, and I went with him; I didn't want to let him run loose at that hour because he might bark and annoy the neighbors. So I wandered around at the end of the leash while he peed and sniffed, and munched some grass and then barfed, in the mysterious way of dogs. Now he is sound asleep on the couch in the studio where I work, and I am wide awake.
At 6:20 AM I heard what sounded a gunshot in the distance. I looked at my watch when I heard it because I envisioned being questioned by the police. If the local once-a-week paper says "Local resident killed by gun sometime Saturday morning" I will step forward and testify.
I was in Philadelphia earlier this week in order to meet with the theater director who will be directing "Gossamer" at the People's Light and Theater during their 2009-2010 season, and to speak to their subscribers at an event Tuesday night. Flew home in time to introduce M.T. Anderson when he was awarded the St. Botolph Foundation Distinguished Artist Award Thursday night and to hear him make a brilliant speech. At dinner, afterward, conversation turned to old movies, especially old "noir" films, and I mentioned having recently rented and watched "The Postman Always Rings Twice"---the old version, with Lana Turner and John Garfield---and Susan Cooper, sitting across the table from me, said, "Oh, I think my husband was in that!" (Susan was married to the late Hume Cronym) ---and it is true; he was; he appears late in the film, after the murder; he plays a lawyer. But isn't that an odd coincidence, that I would have rented and watched a 1946 movie and then mentioned it while sitting across from the wife of...well. Coincidence is what makes life interesting.
I read this in this morning's NY Times Magazine and was so moved by it that I thought at first I would direct everyone how to find it online. Then I decided to simply copy it here. This may, of course, violate copyright law. But not to make it accessible seems to violate some other law of the heart.
The New York Times
May 3, 2009
Without a Prayer
By MAGGIE ROBBINS...
I am in the middle of some finishing-up, some final work on a manuscript that I will give to my editor when we meet for lunch on Monday.
But no one can work on one thing non-stop and so I take breaks from time to time. Today, over lunch, I picked up and read a few pages of a book I recently bought after reading a review. The book is called THE HOUSEKEEPER AND THE PROFESSOR, by Yoko Ogawa.
I have not read very far, but already I love this book, and the spare quality of its prose---a little like a Japanese garden or house: everything placed exactly right, no excess at all.
Here (to my mind) are three perfect sentences:...
Yesterday afternoon two things happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I live.
One, the Dalai Lama made a speech. Two, a branch of Bank of America was robbed at gunpoint.
Guess which event I was at. The wrong one.
Once again "And Tango Makes Three" has led the ALA list of "Most Challenged Books" this year. For those of you who been locked in a soundproof room for the last decade, this book is the true story of two male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo who, after they had been best pals for several years, were seen trying to hatch a rock that vaguely resembled an egg. Zookeepers gave them the second egg from another couple, and the two males hatched and raised the baby, thereby becoming the kind of caring family we wish every child in the world could have.
(None of my books is on the current top ten list, though at the moment "The Giver" is under fire in Nashua, New Hampshire).
The SLJ Battle of the Books is entering its final two weeks, with judges Linda Sue Park and Chris Crutcher selecting the two from which I have to choose the winner. I was insane to agree to playing that role, which guarantees that I will be hated and reviled by half the people following the battle. My own personal favorite got dumped early on, waahhh. But the truth is, every book in the running is a winner.
And even though it is not a contender in this particular contest, I hereby declare "And Tango makes Three" a champion.
Here is one Q and A from an interview with me that can be found at the Abbeville Press website (actually, at their blog, called Abbeville Manual of Style).
AMoS: You are the Final Judge for this year’s “Battle of the (Kids’) Books” tournament held by School Library Journal. Do you find it fun or difficult (or both) to judge your fellow authors’ work?
LL: I find it impossible. I once was a judge for the National Book Awards and it just about did me in. However, this “Battle of the Books” thing is an entertainment, more than anything else, and I am treating it as such. All the contending books are brilliant books—none is “better” than another. It’s a circus act, and it’s fun, and at the end I’ll say whether I applauded more at the dancing elephant or the juggling seal. That’s all.
As for the ongoing Battle of the Books, it is narrowing down day by day....you can get to it by going to the School Library Journal and from there to their blog. (For some reason I can't seem to master the art of inserting a url into a blog post. Sorry.)
Recently I received an invitation to speak in Regina, Saskatchewan. Of course I said yes. It is someplace I would never see, otherwise! But here's the astonishing thing: the invitation was for the spring of 2012.
I am 72 years old. In the spring of 2012 I'll be 75. Assuming I am still alive. And functional. This morning's NY Times has an article about Margaret Drabble, who has called it quits, writing-wise, because she is 69 and feels she has nothing left to say.
Scott O'Dell died at 91 and was working on a new book, I was told by his editor, when he died. So I am thinking of Scott O'Dell and hoping to emulate him, instead of Margaret Drabble.
And here is a funny Scott O'Dell story, Two, actually.
In 1979 I was in New York for whatever convention was being held there---probably ALA---and I was invited to a cocktail party honoring Scott O'Dell. I was in my hotel room, alone, getting dressed to go that party, when I realized that I couldn't reach the middle button on the back of my dress. It was just at that one place that was unreachable though I contorted myself trying before I gave up. Finally I decided the heck with it, and I left my room with the button unbuttoned....