One-Minute Book Reviews

September 6, 2007

What Makes a Story Work? Quote of the Day (Chris Van Allsburg)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:05 am
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Writers since Aristotle have tried to define what makes a story work. Some have argued that good stories are character-driven. Others have said that they are plot-driven. And still others have avoided both terms and contended, for example, that good fiction is “moral” – it tells a story but doesn’t “just” tell a story. It serves a higher purpose. Chris Van Allsburg made this comment in talking about his most famous picture book, The Polar Express:

“A good story uses the description of events to reveal some kind of moral or psychological premise.”

Chris Van Allsburg www.chrisvanallsburg.com in The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators (Houghton Mifflin, $17, paperback), edited by Anita Silvey.

Comment by Janice Harayda:

What makes a story work for you?

On Saturday I’ll be reviewing Van Allsburg’s underrated The Z Was Zapped, and I came across his quote while doing research for that post. If you know this immensely gifted artist only through The Polar Express, you’re missing some of his best books. Please check back this weekend then if you’d like to know more about why critics regard him as one of our greatest living author-illustrators.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

August 11, 2007

Is Writing for Children Easier Than Writing for Adults? Quote of the Day (Maurice Sendak)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:19 pm
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Nothing frustrates many picture-book artists more than hearing people say that writing for children is “easier” than writing for adults. Maurice Sendak suggests why it isn’t easier in these comments on the work of the great French-born American illustrator Tomi Ungerer (Moon Man), winner of the 1998 Hans Christian Andersen Award for illustration:

“Some adults look at [Ungerer’s] work, then rush to drag out the bromide that explains how easy it is to make a picture book: ‘Just a handful of sentences and a lot of blazing pictures.’ These critics fail to see that a successful picture book is a visual poem.”

Maurice Sendak in Caledcott & Co.: Notes on Books and Pictures (Farrar, Straus/Michael di Capua, 1990), by Maurice Sendak.

Comment by Janice Harayda:
Maurice Sendak is one of the few living picture-book artists who is also a great critic. Caldedott & Co. collects his reviews of books by or about authors or illustrators who include Edward Ardizzone, Randolph Caldecott, Walt Disney, Beatrix Potter, Margaret Wise Brown and Arthur Yorkinks and Richard Egielski. This book would help almost anyone gain a better understanding – and appreciation of – the gifts of the artists he considers.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

July 22, 2007

When They’re NOT ‘Just Wild About Harry’ … Books for Adolescents and Teenagers Who Have Lost Interest in the Harry Potter Series

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What kinds of books would interest older adolescents who have outgrown Harry Potter? One-Minute Book Reviews had suggestions for teenage boys on July 6, 2007 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/07/06. Today: a couple of recommendations for teenage girls. Both of the following new releases are adult books that may also interest many girls ages 13 and up (and some younger ones who are strong readers).

By Janice Harayda

Looking for a book for a teenage girl who loves to read? Consider Mindy Schneider’s Not a Happy Camper (Grove, $24) www.not-a-happy-camper.com. Schneider remembers her eight weeks an off-the-wall summer camp at the age of 13 in this light and lively memoir. (Sample experience: A bunkhouse burned down when a group of boys put candles under their beds to see if they could warm them up by nightfall.) Not a Happy Camper is a book for adults, reviewed on this site on July 17 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/07/17/, that teenagers and their parents may enjoy for different reasons. And because it is an adult book, you don’t have to worry that most 16-year-olds will find it “too young.”

Teenage girls may also enjoy Marjorie Hart’s lovely memoir, Summer at Tiffany (Morrow, $14.95). As students at the University of Iowa, Hart and one of her sorority sisters become the first female pages at Tiffany & Co. in 1946, when the Fifth Avenue jewelry store had trouble finding male employees because World War II. And Hart recalls the experience warmly in Summer at Tiffany, reviewed on this site on July 2, 2007 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/07/02. Bcause Japanese surrendered while she was living in the city, she also gives a memorable account of how New Yorkers celebrated the end of World War II.

Caveat lector: The books reviewed today and on July 6 are not gender-specific. Many girls might like the books reviewed two weeks ago, and many boys might like those discussed today. I’ve recommended the books for “boys” or “girls” only because many parents come to this site looking for books for one sex or the other. And those labels will make it easier for them to find the posts through search engines.

Read excerpts from Not a Happy Camper and Summer at Tiffany: You can read an excerpt from Not a Happy Camper at www.teenreads.com/reviews/0802118488.asp. To read the first chapter of Summer at Tiffany, to www.harpercollins.com and search for the title of the book. Click on “Search Inside,” then on “Chapter 1.” When you see the first page of Chapter 1 on your screen, click on the arrows on the top of the toolbar to “turn” the pages.

Click on “Children’s Books” under “Categories” in the right-hand column on the One-Minute Book Reviews home page to read reviews of books for younger children, including toddlers, preschoolers and young school-age children.

A review of a book or books for children or teenagers appears every Saturday on One-Minute Book Reviews. Today’s review is a day late because of the Harry Potter feeding frenzy and, in a normal week, would have appeared yesterday.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

July 21, 2007

Alas! Harry Potter 16, Philip Larkin 0

Filed under: Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:04 pm
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Game over for boy-wizard-versus-titan-of-20th-century-poetry?

Alas! All the Harry Potter posts have finally ousted the great English poet Philip Larkin from the top 50 posts in the Entertainment category on the WordPress News Front Page www.news.wordpress.com. As of 6 p.m. Eastern time there were 16 posts about Potter and none about Larkin. Or, more specifically, no sign of “The Case Against Poetry Readings” www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/07/19 that’s been holding for a day or.

So this match is over unless Larkin gets a link big enough to thrust him back into the limelight. Do you think there’s any chance that Scobleizer will develop a sudden interest in poetry? Some of those tech geek bloggers must know that Larkin is a Killer App …

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

News Flash on Philip Larkin/Harry Potter Title Bout on WordPress News Front Page

Filed under: Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:47 am
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A miracle! After nearly 24 hours, dead English poet Philip Larkin is still holding his own against all the Harry Potter posts among the top 50 posts in the Entertainment category on the WordPress News Front Page www.news.wordpress.com. Larkin now stands at #42 on the list for his comments on poetry readings in “The Case Against Poetry Readings,” posted on One-Minute Book Reviews on July 19 www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/07/19/. Why isn’t Bob Costas covering this?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 20, 2007

Could This Weekend’s Group Grope of Harry Potter Actually HARM Children? Quote of the Day

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:59 pm
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What could possibly be wrong with millions of children lining up to buy and read the same book at the same time? Here’s an answer from Ron Charles of the Washington Post:

“Consider that, with the release of each new volume, Rowling’s readers have been driven not only into greater fits of enthusiasm but into more precise synchronization with one another. Through a marvel of modern publishing, advertising and distribution, millions of people will receive or buy The Deathly Hallows on a single day. There’s something thrilling about that sort of unity, except that it has almost nothing to do with the unique pleasures of reading a novel: that increasingly rare opportunity to step out of sync with the world, to experience something intimate and private, the sense that you and an author are conspiring for a few hours to experience a place by yourselves — without a movie version or a set of action figures. Through no fault of Rowling’s, Potter mania nonetheless trains children and adults to expect the roar of the coliseum, a mass-media experience that no other novel can possibly provide.”

Ron Charles, a senior editor of the Washington Post’s Book World Section, in “Harry Potter and the Death of Reading,” Sunday, July 15, 2007, Page B01. I can’t link directly to this post but you can find it by Googling “Harry Potter and the Death of Reading.”

Comment by Janice Harayda:
I love Charles’s observation that reading a novel offers “that increasingly rare opportunity to step out of sync with the world, to experience something intimate and private, the sense that you and an author are conspiring for a few hours to experience a place by your selves.” This suggests the possible dark side not just of Harry Potter mania but of book clubs and all those campaigns that aim to get all the adults in a town to read the same book.

Could such efforts be a subtle way of co-opting the solitary pleasures of reading? What do you think?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

More Shocking Poetry News! Philip Larkin Is GAINING on Harry Potter!

Filed under: Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:16 pm
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Could it be the result of one of those magical potions they have at Hogwarts?

Dead English poet Philip Larkin is actually gaining on Harry Potter.

Just before 4 p.m. today there were 14 posts about Harry Potter among the top 50 Entertainment posts on the WordPress News Front Page www.news.wordpress.com. Twelve of the Potter posts were above the One-Minute Book Reviews post on Philip Larkin www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/07/19/ and two were below it. At 9 p.m. eight of the Harry Potter posts are above the Larkin post (which has moved up to #31 from of #42) and six are below it. Larkin somehow passed four of the Potter posts while I was out having a slice of pizza.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Shocking News in Poetry! Philip Larkin Chases Harry Potter on WordPress News Front Page

Filed under: Poetry — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:00 pm
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Can a dead English poet continue to hold his own against the boy magician?

Just looked at the top 50 posts of the day in the Entertainment category on the WordPress News Front Page www.news.wordpress.com … and here is a shocker. Philip Larkin is holding his own against Harry Potter. Fourteen of the top Entertainment posts on WordPress (including the top two) deal with the final installment in J.K. Rowling’s series. But clocking in at #42 (at about 3:45 p.m. Eastern Time) is the quote of the day from Larkin on One-Minute Book Reviews www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2007/07/19/. Larkin actually came in ahead of two of the Harry Potter posts. This can’t last, so if you’re a poetry-lover and could use a little cheer, check out the WordPress News Front Page now.

I don’t usually mention it when One-Minute Book Reviews makes it into one of those categories like “top blogs” or “top posts,” because it usually happens when I do a post on somebody like Mitch Albom, and I don’t want to depress you by pointing that out. But today may be the first day I’ve gotten there for a post about a writer I actually like, one of the great English poets of the 20th century (who earned his living as a university librarian). I may owe this partly to a nice link from Bookslut www.bookslut.com. Is a counterreaction to Potter mania already setting in?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 6, 2007

A Sneaky Way to Get a Child to Read Books

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:08 am
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How can you encourage a child to read? Here’s how the parents of Daniel Handler, the creator of Lemony Snicket, did it:

“Handler’s parents helped instill a love of books in him as a child. When reading to him at night, his parents would often stop at suspenseful moments and tell him he would have to wait until the next night to hear the rest. They warned him that under no circumstances should he turn on the light and continue reading once they left the room. This tactic of raising a story’s suspense to almost unbearable heights encouraged Daniel to continue reading his books deep into the night.”

Hayley Mitchell Haugen in Daniel Handler: The Real Lemony Snicket: Inventors and Creators. (Gale/KidHaven, 2005). The “Inventors and Creators” www.gale.com/kidhaven/ series includes biographies of J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, Laura Ingalls Wilder and others for elementary- and (some middle-) school students.

Comment by Janice Harayda:
I’ve read (and written) a lot about how to help children develop a love of reading. But I hadn’t heard about this tactic until I read Daniel Handler: The Real Lemony Snicket. What do you think of this approach? Have you tried any similarly unusual methods of getting a child to read? What worked and what didn’t?

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

July 1, 2007

Is Harry Potter Sexist? Quote of the Day #32

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:15 pm
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Are the Harry Potter books or movies sexist? A children’s biography of Daniel Handler, the creator of Lemony Snicket, says he is wary of how movie versions of books can change authors’ characters:

“After viewing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for example, Handler was annoyed at the film’s portrayal of J.K. Rowling’s character Hermione Granger.

“He remembers Hermione as being smart and appreciated for it in Rowling’s book. In the film version, however, he said he noticed that every time Hermione said something smart, the camera would pan over to catch a shot of the boys rolling their eyes. He explains, ‘If you are a girl seeing the movie – and you’re the kind of girl who is always reading a lot, learning a lot of facts – then the lesson you’re going to get from this film is that somehow, that is not the appealing and acceptable way for a girl to behave.’”

Hayley Mitchell Haugen in Daniel Handler: The Real Lemony Snicket: Inventors and Creators. (Gale/KidHaven, 2005). The “Inventors and Creators” series www.gale.com/kidhaven/ includes biographies of J.K. Rowling, Roald Dahl, Laura Ingalls Wilder and others for elementary- and (some middle-) school students.

Comment by Janice Harayda:
I saw Harry and Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone but didn’t notice the pattern Handler describes. And I haven’t read any of the novels. If you’ve read the books or seen the movies, what do you think? Are they ever sexist?

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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