- Sophia Moss, a five-year-old from Louisiana, is a girl after our own hearts! The kindergarten student has read 875 books, blowing through most of the books in her school’s first grade and kindergarten section. What would you recommend to her?
- Thanks to Tracy Lerner, our fearless Senior Library Marketing Manager, we’ve all become obsessed with NPR’s podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. Are you guys fans? Each week they cover a whole variety of topic–”geek” culture, books, films, comics, you name it. (Also on NPR: Yes, Your Cat Can Get a Movie Deal.)
- It’s Book Expo America week! If you’re not familiar with BEA, it’s our big industry convention held here in NYC, at the Javits Center. Authors are signing, bloggers and librarians are grabbing ARCs, and there are panels galore! Random Buzzers has live coverage (and tons of photos!) over on their twitter. One particularly cool thing: a number of booksellers were invited to tour the studios of different illustrators. Here’s Tad Hills and the real Rocket!
It’s hard to believe, but this month marks the 10th anniversary of Jeanne DuPrau’s bestselling modern-day classic, The City of Ember. One part action-adventure, one part mystery, and one part dystopian, it became an instant hit with librarians, educators, and kids across the country. From there it spawned three sequels: The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold. In 2008, there was a feature film made starring Bill Murray , Tim Robbins, and Saoirse Ronan.
The City of Ember is the story of Lina Mayfleet and her friend Doon Harrow as they try to uncover the mystery of why the lights of their city, Ember, seem to be going out. Of course, this problem wouldn’t be half as terrifying if 1) Ember wasn’t built far beneath the ground 2) electricity provides the only source of light available and 3) its inhabitants believe that it is the only light left in a dark world. When asked about her inspiration for the story, DuPrau explained that she was partially inspired by the nuclear fears that came hand-in-hand with growing up in the 1950s. Likewise, she was fascinated by the idea of a city that had no light outside of its flickering electricity. In her own words:
“What would it be like to live in such darkness, and to know that light and food and supplies were all running out? And not to know about weather or trees or animals (except for a few rats and insects) or any other places? All this grabbed my imagination. And once I’d written The City of Ember, I hoped it would make people think about our world—about the sun and the moon, the forests and the ocean, the wind and the rain—and how precious it all is.”
As with all great dystopian books, there’s some element of our modern day world—some nagging concern the author is trying to explore. They tend to serve as both a reflection of our times and, occasionally, a cautionary tale if certain measures aren’t taken to correct that course. What makes The City of Ember such a great book is that it does possess these great underlying questions about environmentalism, questioning society, and exploration through science… but it’s also just plain fun to read.
To celebration this big birthday, Random House Children’s Books has released a paperback deluxe edition that includes an introduction, a full-color poster, and a brand-new story by the author herself. There is also a beautifully illustrated graphic novel edition available if you’d like to immerse yourself in the world of Ember on your next return visit.
Are you or your students fans of The City of Ember? How would you incorporate the text in a classroom setting?
If the title or premise sounds familiar to you, it’s likely because Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains was originally released as an adult book. It was adapted this year for younger readers by Michael French–it underwent “youngification,” as we call it in the biz! If you’re interested in more of these Youngifications, which are, indeed, perfect for integrating Common Core Standards in your classrooms, we have a handy guide for you to look through.
Speaking of book-to-film adaptations, how excited are you for the upcoming movie of Tiger Eyes?! (We’re pretty excited, if you couldn’t tell!) Are you there, Judy Blume fans? Be sure to check out this in-depth interview with the author herself.
Have you seen this group of famous authors’ handwritten outlines? JK Rowling’s outline for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has been floating around line for a few years, but it’s always so impressive to see how incredibly detailed she was in plotting each story out.
Over the years, we’ve seen countless interpretations of the original He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named emerge both on screen and on the page. If you’re not familiar with the tale, it goes a little something like this: a foolish miller lies to a king and tells him his daughter can spin gold into straw. The king, of course, then takes the miller’s daughter and locks her up in a tower with a mountain of straw and a spinning wheel. She thinks all is lost when, suddenly, a nameless creature suddenly appears and spins the straw into gold for her… in exchange for her necklace. The next night he demands a ring, and so on and so forth until, finally, he escalates his requests by asking her first-born child. The miller’s daughter only escapes the bad bargain she’s made into by figuring out his true name.
It’s a fascinating exercise for students to read or listen to the original Brothers Grimm tale and suss out all the clever ways the story has been modified and re-envisioned to fit the needs of a book or film. For instance, the Rumpelstiltskin (AKA Mr. Gold) of the TV show Once Upon a Time possesses all kinds of magic in addition to being able to produce gold (and fits into tales as different as Beauty and the Beast to Peter Pan), but he operates using deals–both magical and otherwise–to manipulate others and get his way. The creators of Shrek Forever After also chose to focus heavily on this aspect of his character, making him a wheelin’, dealin’ kind of scammer–of course he, too, has higher aspirations for himself.
Another thing most of these reimaginings have in common? Rumpelstiltskin is the villain.
I think that’s why it was so refreshing to read Liesl Shurtliff’s middle grade novel Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin. For once, the legend–called Rump in this story (more on this in a bit!)–gets to play the role of the hero. More over, he’s the kind of clever, funny, underdog main character that makes it easy to root for him as he discovers his strange ability to spin gold and gets himself literally and metaphorically tangled up in the scheming of the miller, the miller’s daughter, and the king.
My favorite aspect of the story, though, ties pretty closely to something that always bothered me about the fairytale: what’s up with the name Rumpelstiltskin? A little research tells us that the original German name, Rumpelstilzchen translates to “little rattle stilt.” (Perhaps not by coincidence, the German words rumpelstilt or rumpelstilz was the name of a kind of goblin.) Here, Rump only knows half his name–and in a kingdom where your name is your destiny… well, let’s just say Rump feels he’s not in store for an easy, simple life. As he explains in the opening of the book:
My mother named me after a cow’s rear-end. It’s the favorite village joke, and probably the only one, but it’s not really true. At least I don’t think it’s true, and neither does Gran. Really my mother had another name for me, a wonderful name, but no one ever heard it. They only heard the first part. The worst part.
Mother had been very ill when I was born. Gran said she was fevered and coughing and I came before I was supposed to. Still, my mother held me close and whispered my name in my ear. No one heard it but me.
“His name?” Gran asked. “Tell me his name.”
“His name is Rump . . . haaa-cough-cough-cough . . .” Gran gave Mother something warm to drink and pried me from her arms.
“Tell me his name Anna. All of it.”
But Mother never did. She took a breath and then let out all the air and didn’t take any more in. Ever.
Gran said that I cried then, but I never hear that in my imagination. All I hear is silence. Not a move or a breath. The fire doesn’t crack and even the pixies are still.
Finally, Gran holds me up and says, “Rump. His name is Rump.”
The next morning the village bells chimed and the gnomes ran all over The Mountain crying, “Rump! Rump! The new boy’s name is Rump!”
My name couldn’t be changed or taken back, because in The Kingdom your name isn’t just what people call you. Your name is full of meaning and power. Your name is your destiny.
My destiny really stinks.
(c) Liesl Shurtliff 2013
Rump’s voice is irresistible, and if that’s not enough of a hook for kids, there’s also his sassy, brave best friend Red Riding Hood there to help him along his exciting hero’s journey. Though I always hesitate to make these kinds of comparisons, it’s truly a great next-read for anyone who loved Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
Have you used any fairy tale retellings in your classrooms or libraries to engage kids in the original classics? Sound off in the comments below!
Check out the great group of titles releasing today!
Toys in Space Written by Mini Grey ISBN (13 digit): 9780307978127 Imprint: Alfred A. Knopf BFYR On Sale Date: 05/14/2013 Format – Web: Hardcover Price (US): $16.99 Age Range: 5-8 years
The Mighty Lalouche Written by Matthew Olshan;
illustrated by Sophie Blackall ISBN (13 digit): 9780375862250 Imprint: Schwartz & Wade On Sale Date: 05/14/2013 Format – Web: Hardcover Price (US): $17.99 Age Range: 4-8 years
Water in the Park Written by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Stephanie Graegin ISBN (13 digit): 9780375870026 Imprint: Schwartz & Wade On Sale Date: 05/14/2013 Format – Web: Hardcover Price (US): $16.99 Age Range: 3-7 years