Monday, July 30, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
www.librariesandliteracy.ca is a website and discussion forum for encouraging collaboration and information-sharing among literacy organizations and libraries. Identifying needs, sharing work that has already been done, developing project ideas, getting comments on work that is being developed, findingpartners are all ways that the site can be used.
Please visit the site, join forums, share with your colleagues!
www.librariesandliteracy.ca is a joint project of NALD - the National Adult Literacy Database and AFLIG - the Action for Literacy Interest Group of the Canadian Library Association.
The site was developed based on a need identified at the National Summit on Libraries and Literacy that took place on June 14, 2006 in Ottawa during the Canadian Library Association annual conference. Sponsoring organizations of the Summit were the National Literacy Secretariat, the Canadian Library Association, National Adult Literacy Database, AlphaPlus Centre, Canada Post Corporation, Libraries and Archives Canada, Canadian Urban Libraries Council, Vancouver Public Library, Toronto Public Library.
Greg Kelner, Chair of Steering Committee for 2006 Literacy Summit, member of AfLIG Thomas Quigley, Co-convenor of AfLIG Dawna Rowlson, Co-convenor of AfLIG
SLJ: July 27, 2007
Marco Torres is known informally as "the Rachel Ray of video."
She gets us to want to cook better. He to gets us to want to communicate better.
I first saw social studies teacher Marco Torres last year, when he keynoted at the BLC conference. His passion and his examples of student work grabbed a very crowded auditorium.
Marco teaches the language of media. He teaches effective communication. He wants his students to be able to use media to tell their stories and to get their voices heard. We know the grammatical rules for how to write effectively, we need to learn new grammatical rules for new media...
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
July 24, 2007 Five companies applied to be consultant to the OLA in its bid to replace retiring Executive Director, Larry Moore. President Esther Rosenfeld today informed the OLA Board of Directors that Ken Haycock and Associates have won the contract. Haycock, who is Director of the world's largest library school, is well known to OLA members as an internationally respected educator and an active advocate for Ontario libraries. His executive search services have been used by many libraries in Ontario and across the country to great effect. Haycock's firm was the only application to include knowledge and understanding of the library field as one of its strengths. As a long-time supporter of the Association, he is sensitive to the issues facing Ontario libraries and library associations in general. His firm will begin work in August.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
CHICAGO - Dan Pink's "A Whole New Mind" will be featured as the topic of discussion during the One Book One Conference session during the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) 13th National Conference & Exhibition in Reno, Nev., this October. One Book One Conference will be held on Friday, October 26, 2007 from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m., and all conference attendees are invited to take part in the discussion.
AASL's One Book One Conference is an early morning book discussion session, a popular conference attraction launched in Pittsburgh in 2005. In Reno, the conversation will center around the issues raised by Dan Pink, who will deliver the keynote speech at the Opening General Session on Thursday, October 25.
"A Whole New Mind," Pink's newest book, charts the rise of right-brain thinking. Pink lists six aptitudes that people and groups must have in order to succeed in this outsourced world: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning.
"We hope conference attendees read the book and come prepared to share their comments," said Carl A. Harvey II, AASL National Conference committee co-chair. "The One Book One Conference session will build on Mr. Pink's keynote speech, where participants will share their views on what the future will be like for today's students. During the book discussion, attendees will have the opportunity to address these ideas in terms of what it means to us as educators of our future workers and leaders."
In addition to One Book One Conference, the AASL 13th National Conference will feature three full-day and five half-day preconference workshops, more than 100 concurrent sessions, more than 200 exhibiting companies, school and educational tours, and special appearances by many award-winning children's and young adult authors. See http://www.ala.org/aasl/reno for details.
The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library media services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change, and develop leaders in the school library media field.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
This from the innocent world of children's books: In the same week Borders enjoyed opening-day sales of 1.2 million copies of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, smashing all previous single-day records, the worldwide bookseller threw plucky Belgian adventurer Tintin off the kiddie shelves and banished one of his books to the adult section.
Tintin's exile came after a customer in London complained that one of his comic books was racist.
The book was Tintin In The Congo.
In it, Tintin and his dog, Snowy, come to be worshipped as gods by the, um, natives.
It seems the complainant was a human-rights lawyer. It seems his wife was from Africa, and was black.
It seems he ignored the comic book's wrapping that warned it was an unexpurgated reissue of the 1931 original and that the crude stereotypes of blacks therein -- which even the author, Georges Remi, came to repudiate because he was embarrassed by them -- reflected the racist colonial prejudices of the time.
It seems Britain's ominously named Commission For Racial Equality agreed with the customer, found that the book was filled with "hideous racial prejudice" and wanted it removed from the shelves.
It seems this perfect storm of professional interest, racial affront and bureaucratic fulmination led to a gutless compromise:
While Tintin's other books will remain on the kiddy shelves, Tintin In The Congo will reside in the adult graphic novels section, where, presumably, it can be read by neo-Nazis, men in raincoats or the thousands of curious readers who will wonder what all the fuss was about.
Meanwhile, pagan, spell-casting Harry Potter, knee-deep in the blood of those several dozen characters viciously murdered around him, will remain right where he is, in the children's section.
Of course, there have been many attempts to lever Harry out of the kids' grubby paws, too. Plenty of cultural watchdogs have deemed it unfit for children.
According to the American Library Association, the Potter series was for several years among the most banned and challenged book in the U.S. school and library system.
It has impeccable company in that regard, including John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They angered parents for naughty words, sexual content and "immorality."
Closer to type, the Potter series joins many banned and challenged books in the children and adolescent genre, including Maurice Sendak's In The Night Kitchen, R. L. Stine's Goosebumps series, Dr. Suess's The Lorax (for its allegorical political commentary) and Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War, which, despite being written in 1974, hailed as a classic and made into a movie, is still after all these years near the top of the human rights hit list. And let us not forget James and The Giant Peach, The Bridge to Terabithia (recently released as a movie) and, I kid you not, Where's Waldo? Somebody must have thought he had something to hide.
And somebody out there seems to come up with any number of reasons for banning just about any book: for espousing a religious view, for not espousing a religious view; for homosexuality, for heterosexuality; for left-leaning political views, for right-leaning political views.
Borders should have told the Commission for Racial Equality to take a hike, but instead chose to engage in self-censorship, trading off one freedom for another and exiling a 76-year-old comic book to the furthest reaches of the adult shelves.
Meanwhile, it makes a killing peddling a pagan blockbuster to the hordes of underage Potterphiles.
Why is one deemed suitable for children and not the other?
Money, mainly. Potter is the motherlode. Tintin's not worth making a moral fuss over.
But more subtly, in relativist Western liberal democracies, the taboo of racial stereotyping, even racial stereotyping 76 years old that comes bound in a warning wrapper for the unsuspecting, now has a greater power to stigmatize than any affront to Christianity. Harry Potter practises pagan rituals? Hey, relax. It's just a kids' book.
And nobody believes in God any more, at least not so much as to take affront over a kids' book, unless they want to be thought of as a born-again cracker.
It makes me wonder what the "human rights" lawyer would have done if he had read another of Tintin's adventures, The Blue Lotus.
It, too, has been banned, though not for its depictions of Arab white slavers, pig-tailed Chinese and sadistic bucktoothed Japanese soldiers.
Published in 1946, it was banned in China for its pro-Kuomintang sympathies.
email@example.com or 604-605-2905
Monday, July 23, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
Re: It's not up to booksellers to censor offensive material, Guest Editorial, July 18
That's right: It's not up to private companies to determine and regulate offensive material. That is why concerned citizens, human-rights lawyers and the "anti-racism watchdog" in Britain are so important.
Cartoons with colonialist agendas are as hurtful and damaging as elitist fairy-tales and Disney films with sexist caricatures. They must be kept public, but out of children's sections and located in a context of critical perusing, i.e. as mature literature.
It is ultimately government's responsibility to control the display of educational material, of controlled literature (ref. Supreme Court Butler case), but a responsible big business can turn around and say, "Hey, it's in our best interest to file this next to The Merchant of Venice or Maus." For that much, I applaud Borders bookstores.
If it is impossible to "avoid offensive material and still be familiar with the classics," perhaps it is time for new classics and to change the way we read.
The B.C. Ministry of Education suggests that students should be competent at "reading strategically" and "making personal connections to texts" or "reading texts of different forms and genres" by Grades 5 according to the 2006 English curriculum. Are we expecting 10-year-olds to "get" the simian images and Eurocentric attitudes pervasive in Tintin in the Congo? The historical context?
The irony? That is silly. Tintin should still be read to kids, but by parents who can question why it is on the same shelf as Heart of Darkness.
Calen Nixon, Vancouver
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Special to the Sun
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Last week, I asked a bunch of young readers if it was a bad idea to write an opinion piece about the Harry Potter books, what with all the celebrations just about to get under way. "I might not exactly be Harry Potter's No. 1 fan," I added.
"You mean, like, trash it?" a girl who'd been texting during my author presentation piped up. Her friend, the text-message receiver, thrust her hand up, too. "You'll probably get an anthrax threat," she said. "J.K. Rowling did when she even just mentioned she was thinking about offing the twins."
"Or a bomb," said the boy who was scribbling a great black ghoul on his notebook cover. "Watch out for suspicious packages. Maybe check the wiring on your brakes." He glanced up, pencil tight in his fist. "What kind of car do you drive?"
So, for starters, let me say that the car is on blocks and I'm writing this under the cover of darkness at a remote location protected by electric fencing, a moat full of hungry piranhas and a pack of vicious dogs that would make Fluffy -- the terrifying three-headed dog of the first Potter book -- cower with however many tails between his legs.
Harry Potter and I go way back, all the way to the beginning, when I unpacked Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone from its first printing on to the shelves at Bollum's Books, where I hand-sold his tale of struggle and magic and Muggle muddles to teenaged customers who'd look at it with a scowl.
"As good as Diana Wynne Jones?" they'd ask because, inevitably, they'd finished all of her books and Lloyd Alexander's and Brian Jacques's and were desperately awaiting The Amber Spyglass from Phillip Pullman.
"Personally, I don't think so," I'd say. "But it's a good story. I liked it."
And I did. I still do. But back to that later.
Usually, they'd buy it. However, the next time they came in they didn't rave. They didn't flap on about how fantastic it was. And as Bollum's fell to the clutches of the big chain bookstores and Duthie Books stepped up to tackle the foundering store where I worked, Harry Potter's first readers did not exactly clamour for book 2. The general response was a shrug as they scanned the bookshelves with their hands jammed in their pockets.
And then the global swoon began. Time Warner scooped up the movie rights and word of mouth waggled its tongue worldwide and -- voila! -- we had a superstar on our hands.
A poorly constructed, straggly-limbed, overcooked superstar.
Let me explain.
I am not a snob. I read People magazine with as much zeal as I read Anna Karenina. I steal Reader's Digests from the doctor's office without so much as a guilty flinch. A piece of writing need not be brilliant, or even skilfully written, for me to enjoy it. I freely admit to bagging several mysteries of dubious quality from the library on a weekly basis. I simply love a good tale, from Charles Dickens to Ann Rule. And that includes Harry Potter.
But Rowling's use of adverbs has tipped me over the edge.
I grew up in a bunch of small B.C. towns where I gleaned all I could about the art of writing from good old library books. One of the biggest rules was to avoid hammering your readers with excess adverbs.
Later, as a young writer, I was told in no uncertain terms never to include more than six "wrylies" -- as many scriptwriters call them -- in any given short story.
I consistently find six to 10 of them on a two-page spread in dear old HP. Someone in Rowling's inner circle should escort her post-haste to the nearest 12-step gathering of Adverbs Anonymous.
With few exceptions, her heavy-handed use of adverbs is distracting and unnecessary. By now, we know her vast cast of characters well enough not to need to be told that he or she or it is saying something quellingly, vehemently, dispassionately, succinctly, despairingly or -- shudder! -- inconsequentially, as in " 'I'm tall,' said Ron inconsequentially." Where on earth (or whatever alternate magical realm she's in) is her blessed editor? Surely an intervention is long overdue.
What I appreciate about Rowling is that she has inspired a legion of folks to read where they did not before, unless forced to or lured by salacious content. And she has given us Hogwarts and all its inner Sturm und Drang, which makes for a romping good yarn.
I'll miss the characters and the world, but I won't miss the cumbersome storylines and glaring plot devices, or the recapping of earlier plot that adds at least a hundred pages to each new instalment.
That said, I'd far rather attend a Hogwarts high school reunion than my own. And, quite frankly, I'd like to be adopted into the Weasley family. I really want one of those sweaters.
So while I'll miss much of Rowling's magical world, I must say that we aren't bidding goodbye to a great literary contribution, as we did when Lyra's story was complete in Pullman's third His Dark Materials book or when Narnia had been chronicled by C.S. Lewis. We are simply shutting the lights off in a warehouse that has been emptied of a large amount of stock, fire-sale style -- 10 million copies in Canada alone, so I hear.
Come to think of it, if Chapters is selling the seventh Potter book for 46 per cent off, can it even be considered a book? Perhaps it should be displayed along with the paperweights and other cutesy knick-knacks. No wonder Canadian publisher Raincoast Books is going green with its printing. It'd be lynched for clearing what's left of the forests if it didn't. (Yes, this does have something to do with the fact that the Duthie's I used to work at is now a drugstore.)
What I hope for, upon the birthday of this last book, is that HP followers find something else to grab on to, preferably something of better quality. Rowling can even keep her wretched wrylies if it means more kids will be on the hunt for a good book to read.
I just hope they purchase them from a genuine bookstore befitting Diagon Alley and don't just pluck them from the discount bin at the nearest monochromatic superstore.
"I'm so glad it's over," I say exasperatedly. "What's next?"
Carrie Mac is the author of The Beckoners, Charmed, Crush, The Droughtlanders and Retribution.
Her website is Carriemac.com.
Special to the Sun
Saturday, July 21, 2007
It may be hard to recall, but there once was a time before the global juggernaut of Harry Potter-mania. Before googling the name "Harry Potter" brought up 86.2 million hits. Before Muggles, Quidditch and He Who Cannot Be Named were household words. Before the Harry Potter series topped the list of the most challenged and censored books of the 21st century. Before Canadian publisher Raincoast Books sold 650,000 copies of the sixth book in the first 48 hours after its release, this in a country where a children's book that sells 5,000 copies is a bestseller.
Before all that, in 1997 an unheralded, unhyped book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, made a modest appearance as a new fantasy novel. Joanne Kathleen Rowling's first book made its way into children's hearts as booksellers and children's librarians spread the word about this perfect mix of adventure, fantasy and humour.
These specialists pluck their picks from an annual flood of tens of thousands of new children's books. In Harry Potter 1, what they saw was not something new and entirely original, but rather a familiar type of children's book that imaginatively and cleverly combines standard forms of storytelling.
They saw a page-turning pulse, a strong narrative arc, humour, conflict and drama, memorable characters and the archetypes and symbols at the core of epic fantasy.
It's most likely that the essence of the series' appeal lies in how Rowling mines the rich traditions of children's literature.
She revises and spoofs the British boarding school story. Cricket matches are transmuted into Quidditch, while classes in British history and maths are replaced by lessons on spells and potions. The traditional details of school life remain -- children living a subculture life with little adult interference; fierce loyalties; harsh rivalries; sports competitions; farcical and revered teachers; rich, spoiled and evil kids in conflict with poor, clever and noble ones.
Rowling also adroitly manipulates the techniques, expectations and stereotypes of children's formula adventures. Her cliff-hanging chapter endings are well known in England from Enid Blyton's series for children.
As is usual in adventure series, the characters are quite thinly and repetitively described; usually they are identified by single visual characteristics. Dumbledore is repeatedly described as having twinkling eyes, which tells us he is a genial fellow. Snape, the potions master and Harry's enemy, is always sallow-faced, hook-nosed and greasy-haired.
Only Harry and his friends develop into more three-dimensional characters.
Rowling salutes children's-book writers by imitating or parodying them. Her humour ranges from subtle adult wit to caricature. She jokes around with anachronisms, creates moments of slapstick and delights in the kind of gross humour enjoyed by 11-year-olds.
Punchy and satirical, her humour is similar to Roald Dahl's. And through her inventive melodrama and highly coloured caricatures, she shows a kinship with Charles Dickens, who also wrote about oppressed orphans.
Part of the pleasure of reading the series, particularly for older readers, is savouring the way she creates new words for fantasy places, people, objects and thoughts -- for example, "Parselmouth" for one who can speak Parseltongue, or snake language.
Her one-word mock-Latin spells (Expelliarmus) have a rightness only a linguist could create. Also clever is Diagon Alley, for the diagonal, crooked alley that houses wizard shops, and her characters' names -- in Harry Potter 3, the divination teacher is Sybill Trelawney, a reference to the oracular Greek sibyls whose gift of prophecy was often disbelieved and suspect.
Among her mythic allusions is her bestiary, which includes a basilisk, a dragon and a sphinx. Their names can be ironic: The ferocious three-headed dog guarding the entrance to the Hogwarts cellars answers to Fluffy, making him a wonderfully comic avatar of Cerberus.
Perhaps what resonates most is the way she tells a coming-of-age story using the metaphor of the hero's quest, a narrative with extremely deep roots. The books explore the relationship of good and evil and moral choice and redemption.
In a time of social and cultural anxiety and stress, this offers escape, so that readers can return to the real world renewed and emboldened. J.R.R. Tolkien called this "recovery, escape, and consolation."
Just as Harry is branded on his forehead with the lightning bolt of defiant magic, the genre of fantasy is marked by an element of otherness, magic or wonder. Fantasy is a threshold literature, exploring the boundaries of the possible.
Both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis believed the taste for fantasy is innate and long-lived, that its deeply moral and philosophical nature appeals to a particular temperament found in all ages.
Rowling combines elements of high epic fantasy with parallel-world fantasy in which the separate but sliding worlds of human Muggles and supernatural witches and wizards jostle comically, uncomfortably -- and, at times, tragically.
Epic fantasy's major theme is the battle of good versus evil. Rowling follows this tradition as Harry and Voldemort struggle in the climax of each book.
Throughout the series, she reworks what Joseph Campbell called the monomyth -- the recurring hero's journey from childhood to adulthood. The journeys and quests are those of a hero who, like King Arthur and Moses, is orphaned and exiled. Harry lives his orphaned childhood in obscurity, despised and ridiculed by the Dursley family. His true identity is revealed at puberty when, following the monomyth, he goes off to fulfil his superhuman destiny.
He's sent to Hogwarts, the magical boarding school for wizards and witches, to receive not just immersion in wizard lore but also an education in loyalty and moral courage. His study of magic is a metaphor for both technology and the imagination.
Questions of moral and spiritual growth are addressed as the apprentice gains competence: Will the young wizard use his carefully honed skills and new power for good or evil?
Harry must overcome the evil wizard Lord Voldemort, murderer of his parents, and prove he is worthy of his parents' love and sacrifice for him. What shape Harry's final meeting with Voldemort will take in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is today being revealed.
Rowling has carefully created for Harry a different sense of destiny than that found in the predetermined fate of many a mythic orphaned hero. She has written his journey as a struggle toward personal heroism deeply affected by Dumbledore's teachings.
In almost every book, he journeys out of the secure world into the dangerous unknown. In each book, his quest includes an adolescent defiance of folkloric prohibition as he emerges into the dangerous outside universe. Almost always, at some point, he is the single, isolated hero, fighting and overcoming fear and evil with courage, fortitude and raw wits.
Often it is Harry's human attributes and what he does with them, rather than his magical powers, that overcome evil and danger.
Fantasy is the most spiritual form of children's literature, a genre that reflects the imagery found in dreams, myth and religion. Through her Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling has added to children's imaginative and moral growth.
She's an old-fashioned storyteller writing with a compelling modern voice, melding many literary and ancient conventions into a single new compelling whole.
Judith Saltman chairs the University of B.C.'s master of arts program in children's literature.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Superb writing is being done for teenagers these days, but praiseworthy books often contain scenes that raise a protective adult's hackles. During a Vancouver panel discussion of censorship of young-adult literature, Ken Setterington gave Chris Crutcher's 1989 novel, Chinese Handcuffs, as an example.
In it, a teenage boy is lifted out of his wheelchair and forced to participate in a gang rape.
Afterward, he can't live with what has happened and shoots himself dead. That is, as they say, gritty. But look on Amazon.ca and you'll see that the novel has a 41/2-star (out of five) approval rating, with some of the warmest reviews coming from kids.
Setterington, the Toronto Public Library's child and youth advocate, said the original publisher of Chinese Handcuffs was one known for its children's books, so librarians mistakenly shelved it in the children's department. Later, "we moved it to YA [young-adult]. I don't consider that censorship."
At Simon Fraser University's downtown campus, where the Summer Publishing Workshops hosted a day-long symposium on children's lit last Saturday, the Georgia Straight's John Burns named a YA novel he won't be sharing with his 11-year-old son -- Retribution, by B.C.'s Carrie Mac (who has a piece on page C1 today).
Himself the author of a YA novel (Runnerland), Burns insisted he (a) disagrees with censorship and (b) greatly admires Mac's writing. But he said the shooting-gallery scene made the decision for him. It's like the way he feels about Quentin Tarantino's movies: He's welcome to make them, but I don't have to go see them.
(I recognize the child-protecting impulse. A dozen years ago, I started reading American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis, while on a summer camping trip. I stopped early, at the point where Patrick Bateman disembowels a beggar on the street. I hid the book from my daughter and son, then about 8 and 11, and it's been inside my night-table ever since.)
Susan Patron's Newbery Medal-winning The Higher Power of Lucky (which got more than the usual amount of publicity because a dog's scrotum is referred to as such in the second paragraph) inevitably entered the discussion. So did Scud, by Vancouver's Dennis Foon, who was present. It contains no real swear words, but its fake ones are so realistic that they got parents' backs up.
Author Kit Pearson recalled that when she was a children's librarian, she and her colleagues wore T-shirts that said, "I have something in my library that will offend everyone." Jo-Anne Naslund, an education librarian at the University of B.C., pointed out that the website of Parents Against Bad Books in Schools (Pabbis.com) carries the passages parents find offensive. So much for hiding them in the night-table.
Setterington stressed the importance of context. "Read the books that are challenged -- not just the [parts in question], but the books in their entirety," he said. He knows whereof he speaks: He's the author of the children's book Mom and Mum Are Getting Married!
- - -
Spook Country, the follow-up to Pattern Recognition, is coming in August from Vancouver's William Gibson. He was recently featured in Discover magazine, which described the novel as a high-style political techno-thriller set -- surprisingly, for a writer famous for telling the future -- in February 2006.
Sun Books Editor
Friday, July 20, 2007
Agence France- Presse
Vancouver Sun: 2007 July 20
NEW YORK — Bookselling chain Borders is to pull copies of Tintin in the Congo from the children’s shelves in its U. S. stores over claims the comic is racist, the firm said this week.
The company’s British stores yanked copies of the controversial book last week after Britain’s Commission for Racial Equality described the book as containing “ imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice.”
“ With respect to the specific title Tintin in the Congo, which could be considered offensive by some of our customers, we have decided to place this title in a section of our store intended primarily for adults — the Graphic Novels section,” the U. S. arm of Borders said in a statement.
“ We believe adults have the capacity to evaluate this work within historical context and make their own decision whether to read it or not. Other Tintin titles will remain in the children’s section,” it said.
Tintin in the Congo, which first appeared in Belgian newspaper Le Vingtieme Siecle as a comic strip in 19301931, is part of the series The Adventures of Tintin by the Belgian author and illustrator Herge.
But its tale of boy reporter Tintin’s trip with his dog Snowy to what was then the Belgian Congo is seen as controversial because of its depiction of colonialism and racism, as well as casual violence towards animals.
Herge later justified the book by saying it was merely a reflection of the naive views of the time.
Some of the scenes were revised for later editions.
Directors Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have said they’ll join forces to direct and produce a series of three films based on Tintin.
Entertainment journal Daily Variety reported recently that the legendary filmmakers would direct at least one of the films each, and serve as producers on all three.
The report said Tintin had been a long- time pet project for Spielberg, who finally secured the film rights to the comic series in the past 12 months.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Guelph Mercury (Jul 19, 2007)
It's been five years since Harry Potter snagged Valerie Hruska's heart.
The 12-year-old remembers the day vividly. Her Grade 2 teacher picked up "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and began reading it to the class. Every day, she read a few pages.
And every day, Hruska fell for Harry a little more.
"It's just so different from everything else that's out there," Hruska says of the world J.K. Rowling created 10 years ago. "You get to see this whole other world that's hidden from us."
The fantasy books already lining bookstore and library shelves when Rowling's first book was released in 1997 did have magical elements, such as trolls, fairies and giants, Hruska says. But there was a difference between them and the wizards and witches Rowling penned.
According to Hruska, Rowling's characters are more "spunky and real."
On Saturday at 12:01 a.m. the last instalment of the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," will end the era where reluctant readers were magically changed into page-turning prose lovers. Will these kids now feel a void?
Hruska says there are enough Harry fans out there that she sees people creating more Harry stories for several years to come.
Daniel Fischlin, an English and theatre studies professor at the University of Guelph, says the emotional investment people have made with Harry is comparable to the ties people formed with William Shakespeare's characters.
The sense of the tragic confrontation between good and evil is the same, Fischlin says.
Just as people anticipated the death of Hamlet or Othello, many Harry fans are tense about his fate, he says.
"When a character you connect with dies, that's what moves you."
Many of Harry's fans will feel any pain that's inflicted on him as their own because they've grown up alongside him, the professor says Fischlin adds other storytellers will capitalize on what Rowling has created to fill any void in a child's life.
"It's like a Wal-Mart complex," he says. "When Wal-Mart moves in, other stores move in because they know there'll be high-traffic there."
Fantasy novels will continue to capture kids who have that imaginative bent, who are seeking that sense of play and fantasy in their lives, Fischlin says.
"It's a huge sweet spot in the market and it's what parents are sympathetic to because what parent wants their kids to feel that the world is a horrible place?" he asks.
Rowling may even go on to create other stories her Harry fans will faithfully read, Fischlin says.
Sya Van Geest, who conducts online workshops for the Ontario Library Association says it's always sad to say goodbye to characters people have fallen in love with, but that's what happens with any good story: it ends.
The death of Rowling's series won't mean kids who picked up her books will now stop turning pages every night, she says.
Harry Potter books are a substantial piece of literature, she says.
For a kid to get through those pages -- several of the books clock in at 700-plus pages -- they've now become a reader and it's easier to turn them on to other similar tales, Van Geest says.
For Harry lovers, teacher-librarian Beth McEwen has recommended books such as the "Spiderwick Chronicles," written by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.
Just as Harry's world has been chronicled in field guides and books explaining and examining all aspects of the wizarding world, the "Spiderwick Chronicles" have their guides as well.
There are also authors who have written non-fiction books explaining everything from religion, science, philosophy, psychology and myths in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, McEwen says.
While his fate on the printed page is still unknown, Harry isn't going to die from the minds of readers anytime soon, she says.
McEwen sees the Harry Potter series as a timeless classic that will be passed down from generation to generation.
TURNING THE PAGE ON POTTER
Recommended reading for the dark days after Harry
Sya Van Geest of the Ontario Library Association and teacher-librarian Beth McEwan have come up with some books that might interest those who have finished the Harry Potter series and are looking for new reading material. Guelph Public Library also has a long list of books similar to Harry Potter.
"The Earthsea Trilogy" by Urusula K. Le Guin
"The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis
"The Spiderwick Chronicles" by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
"So You Want to Be a Wizard" by Diane Duane
The "Wing" novels by Kenneth Oppel
"Hidden Myths in Harry Potter" by David Colbert
"The Psychology of Harry Potter" by Neil Mulholland
"The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works" by Roger Highfield
"Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts." by David Baggett
This year, a new collection of Talespinners is being offered to schools and libraries for the first time. Talespinners 2 for ages 5-9 features stories of children who deal successfully with personal challenges using ingenuity and creativity. They are resourceful, responsible and resilient, and even though they're animated characters, they portray very human emotions. They turn negatives into positives. They deal with anger and disappointment constructively. They overcome obstacles and demonstrate personal growth. They succeed in small, but authentic, ways.
Talespinners 2 includes ALA 2007 Notable Children Video Selection winner The Girl Who Hated Books as well as other animated children's stories.
All films include lesson ideas.
* Language Arts and Literacy
* Health and Wellness
* Citizenship: getting along with and understanding others
* Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving
* Critical Thinking
* Interpersonal skills
* Personal identity
* Fine Arts
* Media Literacy
To borrow these DVDs from the NFB for Book Week 2007, please email Tey Cottingham (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The NFB will pay to ship the DVDs to schools and libraries however each recipient must pay the mailing costs to return the DVDs to the NFB by regular post. The films will be sent to you in October and must be sent back to the NFB by December 20, 2007.
Don't miss this opportunity to make books come alive through award-winning animation for children.
For Immediate Release
July 19, 2007
Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts
VICTORIA – The city of Victoria will host the 2008 National Historica Fair next year as part of BC2008 – the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the colony of British Columbia, announced Tourism, Sport and the Arts Minister Stan Hagen today.
“This is only the second time B.C. has been chosen to host the National Historica Fair and they couldn’t have picked a better year,” said Hagen. “BC2008 will be an opportunity to reflect on our past and celebrate our future, and we are excited that students from across Canada will be able to share their history, diversity and achievements with us while we commemorate ours with them.”
Historica heritage fairs are held across Canada to help students connect with provincial and national history. Students from grades 4 to 9 use the medium of their choice to bring history to life. Public exhibitions of the projects take place during regional, provincial and national fairs.
“We’re tremendously excited to bring the National Historica Fair to Victoria during BC2008 celebrations,” said 2008 National Historica Fair chair Kris Andersen. “Victoria will be celebrating many anniversaries – the 150th anniversaries of Victoria’s Chinatown and the Sisters of St. Ann, and of course the founding of the Colony. It’s a great time to be visiting the Capital.”
This year, 15 B.C. Regional Historica Fair students made the trip to the National Historica Fair in Lethbridge, Alberta, where they showed off their winning entries and immersed themselves in the history of others. Next year will be B.C.’s turn to make history.
The delegates were selected from more than 32,000 students from 137 schools who participated in regional and local Historica Fairs last May. Winners were selected by a panel of volunteer judges, representing a range of fields including education, history, media, business and local government.
The Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts’ BC2008 secretariat and heritage branch and the Provincial Capital Commission are among the sponsors of the 2008 National Historica Fair.
To learn more about the National Historica Fair, please visit www.histori.ca/fairs/.
For more information on BC2008, please visit www.bc2008.gov.bc.ca.
For information on the ministry’s heritage branch, visit www.tsa.gov.bc.ca/heritage/.
Lynn Mitges, The Province
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Kidsbooks co-owner Phyllis Simon says the Harry Potter books 'cultivate the notion that reading is cool in children and teens and young adults.'
The last time a Harry Potter book was released, there were 4,000 people on West Broadway in Kitsilano.
One group of teenage girls had camped out all day from 9 a.m. until the book's release at midnight at the Kidsbooks Vancouver branch.
Saturday is the last chance to witness an event that is unmatched in literary history and which certainly must have a touch of wizardry about it.
The Kidsbooks' Saturday-at-midnight release of Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows will take place at VanDusen Botanical Garden, which will be transformed into a fantastic kingdom. There will also be events at the branches in Kitsilano and North Vancouver.
"People who are going are there to celebrate," says Phyllis Simon, co-owner of Kidsbooks. "It's wonderful to be a part of it."
A $32 key will permit Muggles to enter a specially created Ministry of Magic and head toward the 12th locked door -- and open it.
At that point, the key can be exchanged for a copy of the hottest book on the planet.
If all goes well, there will be no leaked copies and no details revealed beforehand. Two years ago, 14 copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince were mistakenly sold four days in advance of the book's release at a Coquitlam Superstore. A court injunction followed, barring recipients of the book from reading, copying, discussing or selling it. (All but one copy -- which was mailed to the U.S. and in transit when the release date arrived -- were returned to the store. A happy ending.)
The book is under tight security. Neither booksellers nor the Vancouver-based publishing house, Raincoast, will divulge any details about where the book is or will be.
Sorya Gaulin, vice-president of public relations at Indigo Books & Music, says their Midnight Madness event at about 130 locations across the country is carefully planned.
"Our staff sign almost an oath of confidentiality. Unlike other retailers, we will not do events that insinuate that books are here or there because it's really something that J.K. Rowling herself has said is hugely important. Once you identify a location, the risk of spoiling it all is much greater," she says.
"I think J.K. Rowling's decision and hope was that almost everybody around the world would get to unveil the story simultaneously, and that's a beautiful vision that we wish to respect and facilitate."
Indigo has big farewell celebrations planned at each venue with activities, potions, entertainers, musicians -- and the highlight is getting your hands on the book. Indigo has created a special stamp and will also have fans sign a thank-you book for Rowling. Once complete, the book will be shipped to the billionaire author in the U.K.
But the evening doesn't end with the book release.
"Kids just want to linger and talk and connect with others and experience this once-in-a-lifetime moment," says Gaulin, who likens the event to a previous generation's defining moment: The death of John F. Kennedy. "Now it will be 'Where were you when the last Harry Potter came out?'" she says.
Harry Potter has transformed literature. Period.
Simon says it's been rewarding to have the series validate what she and her staff have been saying for years.
"Here we are, all along saying books are terrific: read, read, read. Don't worry, the book is not dying -- and then this," says Simon.
"What it does is cultivate the notion that reading is cool in children and teens and young adults. And once that happens, they need to find more to read because you cannot make your diet on Harry Potter alone."
The series made Vancouver's Raincoast a household name. After more than 10 million copies sold, it must be a bittersweet moment for the independent publishing house.
"We always knew there were going to be seven books," says Jamie Broadhurst, Raincoast's director of marketing. "We always knew it would come to an end."
The series has forever changed the industry, says Broadhurst.
"The reason we focus on children's publishing is that we see double-digit growth and the reason we do, and no small part of that, is due to Harry Potter."
After a decade of Pottermania, several studies have cited an increase in children's reading as a direct result of the series. More boys are reading for fun, kids in general are into books again, specifically fantasy series -- and most kids say they will move on to a new series after the final Potter book.
"What we have found with Harry Potter is that children are reading more," says Broadhurst.
"Children are not intimidated by a long narrative. They're hungry for complexity."
Ten years ago no one would have predicted that a 700-page novel with a complicated plot, multiple characters and arcane detail would sell millions of copies. But kids -- and even adults -- are eating it up.
"Once you have that high, it's a good addiction," says Simon.
- The first Canadian order for the first Harry Potter book, Philosopher's Stone, came from Vancouver Kidsbooks.
- A bestseller in Canada is defined as a book that sells more than 5,000 copies. More than 10 million copies of the Harry Potter books have been sold in Canada.
- The first run of the first Harry Potter book in England had a press run of 3,000 copies.
- Upon release of The Half-Blood Prince, 6.9 million copies were sold in the first 24 hours.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
“This legislation would benefit the one million Canadians who currently access library materials with Canada Post’s help,” says CLA President Alvin Schrader, “and would expand access to information for even more Canadians. We urge Parliament to pass it.”
The Library Book Rate is a Canada Post service that since 1939 has provided a reduced rate for mailing library books between libraries and from libraries to their users. It costs Canada Post about $8 million per year.
Merv Tweed, MP for Brandon-Souris, Manitoba, has put forward a private member’s Bill that would allow the government to compensate Canada Post for Library Rate costs, and extend the list of eligible materials to include CDs, DVDs and other audio-visual materials that are currently ineligible for the reduced rate.
“CLA has been working extremely hard to ensure that Canadians have equal access to library and information services, regardless of where they live, and the Library Book Rate is a key component of this,” says Schrader. “CLA has invested thousands of our members’ dollars in working with Canada Post to make refinements to the Book Rate implementation system, and for years CLA has urged the Department of Canadian Heritage to enter into an agreement with Canada Post to ensure the sustainability of the Rate.”
“This Bill is a step in the right direction,” he says.
With over 2,000 libraries actively using the Library Book Rate and an estimated one million Canadians benefiting from it annually, the Library Book Rate is an indispensable part of the service delivered by the public, academic, school and special libraries. Since 2005, Canada Post has been renewing the Rate on a year-by-year basis, rather than making a sustained commitment, and librarians are concerned that the Rate is at risk.
The proposed extension of the Rate to audio-visual materials “has been an issue for the library community since the late 1960s,” according to CLA Executive Director Don Butcher. “The addition of audio-visual materials as eligible library materials would recognize that people need access to information on a whole host of audio-visual media.”
The Canadian Library Association is the largest national library group in Canada, encompassing public, academic, school and special libraries.
To see Bill C-458, visit the Parliament of Canada Website:
For further information, contact CLA Executive Director Don Butcher at 613-232-9625 ext. 306 or email@example.com.
The British anti- racism watchdog has overbarked dramatically with its attack on Tintin in the Congo.
The classic comic- book tale by the Belgian Georges Rémi ( known by his pen name Hergé) about an adventuresome reporter depicts natives in the then- colony as nearly simian, so the Commission for Racial Equality wants it taken off British bookstore shelves. As a compromise, the big bookseller Borders has moved it out of the children’s section and onto the shelves with more mature graphic novels. This is silly. First serialized in 1930 and 1931, Tintin in the Congo is indeed racist, in the sort of oblivious way virtually anything from the era might have been. It wasn’t a white- supremacist tract; Hergé himself later repudiated the ignorance it expressed. Many of the other Tintin adventures, and similar series such as the Asterix books, trade in cartoonish stereotypes, too — because they’re cartoons. Tintin’s associates include a drunken sea captain, two stiff detectives in bowler hats, an absent- minded professor and a long- suffering butler. They’re all ridiculous, and only by luck are they not now unacceptable.
It’s impossible to avoid offensive material and still be familiar with the classics, whether it’s Tintin or Robinson Crusoe or The Merchant of Venice or The Canterbury Tales. Parents must be familiar with the stories their young children are consuming and be able to discuss the material with them; it’s not booksellers’ duty to act as censors.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Jul 17 2007
Summer school started early for some kids in Chilliwack.
A large group of four and five year olds spent last week in a preschool literacy camp at Cheam elementary learning the basics for Kindergarten.
In the spring, Cheam elementary received funding through the Early Years Committee – a committee geared towards the development of children newborn to five years old – to create the program.
A variety of educational experts were invited to participate in the camp throughout the week. A music teacher performed action songs. A physical education specialist engaged in gross motor activities. A numeracy representative taught math lessons.
“It really gave these children a way of seeing what Kindergarten would be like,” said Cheam teacher-librarian Lisa Mazerolle, who created the program. “We really focussed on music, gross motor, numeracy and literacy. We tried to get the whole person health.”
Parents also had opportunity to learn.
A speech language pathologist showed parents how to further their child’s communication skills. A representative from Chilliwack Early Years discussed brain development. And a dental hygienist outlined proper teeth cleaning practices for young children to follow.
“We encouraged parents to stand back as much as their child felt comfortable, during various activity time, so that they could observe how their child relates to their peers, how they listen in groups and how they learn and interact in that sort of setting,” said Mazerolle. “And it was neat seeing the children become more and more comfortable with their peers as the days went by.
“In that way, we’ve prepared them socially for Kindergarten.”
The preschool literacy camp – which was free – had 18 participants and their parents. It expects to exceed that number next year if the program continues.
“I really do hope to continue it,” said Mazerolle. “I would think it would be a wise thing to do because it’s had such a positive response already.”
But it needs continued funding in order to continue the program.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Each year, the BC Book Prizes sends several finalist authors on tour around the province. As part of BC Book Prizes On Tour, these authors tour communities visiting one elementary school and one high school in each community, as well reading at a public event in a local bookstore or library (with book sales).
The 2007 BC Book Prizes On Tour is our biggest tour to date, visiting a record 15 communities and bringing “real live authors” to literally thousands of children and adults throughout BC. This year we established the Adopt-a-Library program to leave a lasting, tangible legacy of these author visits: a library of BC Book Prize finalist books donated to libraries in BC schools. These books will be purchased by the Book Prizes directly from the publishers with funding from local community-minded businesses and individuals, whose support will be acknowledged in commemorative book plates.
In its fledgeling year, the Adopt-a-Library program has confirmed the following sponsors of this initiative, so far:
Andy Wilhelmsen, Prince George Royal LePage
D.P. Todd Secondary School (Prince George) (photo)
Bulkley Valley Credit Union
Smithers Secondary School (Smithers) (photo)
The Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver
Malaspina Elementary School (Prince George)
Gulbranson Logging Ltd.
Evelyn Dickson Elementary School (Vanderhoof) (photo)
Britannia Elementary and Secondary Schools (Vancouver)
Vancouver Technical Secondary School (Vancouver)
16-37 Community Futures Development Corp.
Caledonia Senior Secondary School (Terrace) (photo)
Thanks to all for helping to bring the best of BC writing and publishing to the next generation of readers and authors.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
In September, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will publish the popular colonial era children's graphic novel Tintin in the Congo for the first time in the U.S., despite a controversy that erupted in the U.K. yesterday around the book's racist content that resulted in bookstores moving it out of the children's section and reshelving it with adult books.
Little, Brown is the longtime publisher of the Tintin books series in the U.S. The Congo title is one of three Tintin books, including Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin and Alph-Art, it is publishing this fall to mark the centenary of it's author, Belgian artist Hergé. The book shows Africans drawn to have a strong resemblance to primates and contains scenes such as one in which a black woman bows to Tintin saying: "White man very great... White mister is big juju man!"
A note on Little, Brown's Web site says Tintin in the Congo "may be considered somewhat controversial, as it reflects the colonial attitudes of the time it was created. Hergé depicts African people according to the stereotypes of the time period, but in this edition it will be contextualized for the reader in an explanatory preface." The publisher will include a similar statement on a belly band that will wrap around the book. Executives at Little, Brown declined to comment further on how they plan to position the book.
Also as part of it's centenary celebration of Hergé's birth, Little, Brown will publish a boxed set containing all 24 Tintin books in November. The set will include all its previously published Tintin books, as well as the final three.
Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Tex., said she could not decide where she will shelve Congo until she sees the book. But she said the series is not very popular in her store: "We’re not talking about Harry Potter here. By and large, the mom who walks in here who grew up in Houston, she doesn’t know who Tintin is." Leslie Reiner, owner of Inkwood Books in Tampa Bay, Fla., plans on shelving the book in her store's graphic novels section. She said Tintin books "haven't been selling that well, but I anticipate more sales with the fall release." Barnes & Noble and Borders did not respond to requests for comment.
The Tintin books have long been widely read in Europe and are poised to cut a much higher profile in America in 2009, when DreamWorks releases a trilogy based on the comic-strip hero. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have teamed to direct and produce the films.
In the U.K. this week, Borders removed the 1931 book from the children's book section and reshelved it in the stores’ adult “graphics” section. The move was prompted by a complaint from a British lawyer that the “highly offensive” book contained racist images.
According to a report in the Evening Standard, a hate crime division of the Hertfordshire police has noted the sale of the book as a “racist incident” and is considering whether to take further action.
The lawyer who initiated the complaint, with support from Britain’s Commission on Racial Equality, asked that Borders stop selling the book altogether, telling the Evening Standard he was “appalled” when he and his black wife and two young children found the book in a Borders store near their home. He was compelled to complain to the store in a letter: “Before passing the book to my wife and two boys (aged two-and-a-half and seven) I opened the book. I was utterly astonished and aghast to see page after page of representations of black African people as baboons or monkeys, bowing before a white teenager and speaking like retarded baboons.”
A Borders response argued that the retailer “cannot and will not act as moral judge and jury in deciding what material we sell to our customers,” agreeing only to stock it outside the children’s department.
© 2007, Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Saturday, July 14, 2007
In a week's time, millions of eager readers will have switched off their computers and TVs, cracked open their copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and surrendered to the delicious pleasure of seeing how J.K. Rowling ends the fantasy series that has so far sold 325 million copies and made her the world's first billionaire writer.
Having the end of Harry Potter magic looming leads book lovers to wonder: Could this extraordinary phenomenon happen again? Are there other authors coming onstream whose talents could one day cause a publisher to print their imaginings in 12 million copies -- as Scholastic is doing with Deathly Hallows in the United States?
Phyllis Simon, co-owner of Vancouver Kidsbooks, isn't holding her breath. Potter frenzy is "a once-in-a-millennium kind of experience," she believes. Even with the instant communication of the Internet age, which fanned the Potter fire, it's a rare book that can "galvanize the entire world."
Indigo Books & Music has produced a top-10 list of possible Potter successors, yet most of the writers on it -- C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lemony Snicket, Cornelia Funke, Eoin Colfer, Christopher Paolini -- are already very well known.
Simon, by contrast, is excited by a book that isn't well known, even though it won a Governor General's Award last year. Pirate's Passage, written and beautifully illustrated by Nova Scotia's William Gilkerson, is about a precarious friendship, with suspense and the history of Western piracy woven in. The jury that gave it the GG called it "a challenging children's novel with a dangerous edge" and Simon says, "I couldn't believe how much I loved it."
Chauni Haslet, owner of Seattle's All for Kids Books & Music, steers book-hungry Potter-lovers toward The Alchemyst, by Irish fantasy master Michael Scott. It's about real-life 14th-century alchemist Nicholas Flamel, who also appears in the Rowling books. "It's flying off our shelves," she says.
Haslet also sees Potter fans going crazy for Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief and its three sequels and for Suzanne Collins's five-book series that starts with Gregor the Overlander.
The Lightning Thief, which is about Perseus (Percy) Jackson, a 12-year-old who learns he's a demigod, plays with mythology and is drawing in both well-read kids and reluctant readers, Haslet reports.
The Gregor books unfurl the adventures of an 11-year-old New Yorker who has fallen through a laundry chute into a fantastical subterranean world beneath the metropolis. "Marvellous," Haslet says.
Allison Taylor McBryde, coordinator of children's and young-adult services at the North Vancouver District Public Library, says Rowling has given young people an unparalleled entree into literature by way of fantasy. Kids have entered "the Harry corridor, gone down and opened every single door to find other authors who are like that."
At her library, the hot properties this summer are the Warriors series, animal fantasy stories by the pseudonymous Erin Hunter ("The girls like them because they're [about] cats," one young man told the librarian, "and the guys like them 'cause there's fighting") and the spy thriller Stormbreaker, by "fabulous" British author Anthony Horowitz.
Taylor McBryde can't resist mentioning Charles Higson's books Silverfin and Blood Fever, books with boy appeal -- they're about James Bond as a teenager. And she says boys and girls alike are reading Cornelia Funke's Inkheart and Inkspell and Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy.
Aaron Martin, a 14-year-old in North Delta who used to advise the Chapters/Indigo chain on teen tastes, is swept up in Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Trilogy and the Pendragon adventures by D.J. MacHale. The eighth Pendragon book is out and two more are expected. "That's pretty cool," says Aaron.
Tonya Martin (no relation to Aaron), the children's book editor at Raincoast Books, maintains that a series needs enthusiastic male readers if it's to catch fire with kids. In her previous job, at Scholastic in New York, she was the lead editor on K.A. Applegate's top-selling Animorphs series. She knows from experience that "boys do read, and they read en masse.
"The best way to get a series off the ground that all kids will read is to go for the boys."
Although most of the titles mentioned in this article are from the fantasy realm, Martin thinks that genre has been overdone, with publishers riding on Harry's coattails, and that that particular market is "glutted."
She says a book needn't be a fantasy to score big with kids. Rather, it'll find readers if, "when they open that cover, there's a voice that speaks to them or characters they want to be, or be friends with." And if a series grabs them when they're in the middle grades, the author "will have them for four or five years."
At Kidsbooks, Simon says there's a wealth of wonderful literature for young people to discover once they're done with Harry.
Neither she nor Tonya Martin can predict the next big phenom, but Martin says "it'll be kind of nice that there's a lull so that [readers] can get back to grassroots book-buying and not be swayed by 'I've got to get the next Harry!' Maybe they'll see what else is out there."
Sun Books Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
MONDAY IN ARTS & LIFE Potter celebrations in Vancouver
For more about Harry Potter, including a review of the movie, go to www.vancouversun.com
© The Vancouver Sun 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
For Immediate Release
July 13, 2007
Ministry of Education
PRINCE GEORGE – The Province will provide over $88,000 to help North Central libraries develop the fourth Library Federation in B.C. and improve library services throughout the North Central region, Education Minister Shirley Bond announced today.
“Through the federation, libraries work together to share resources and provide high-quality programs and services,” said Bond. “This will encourage and enable more people in the North Central area to take advantage of their community libraries.”
The North Central Library Federation includes libraries from Valemount to Burns Lake and 100 Mile House to Mackenzie. The participating libraries will work with the Ministry of Education to accomplish four main goals:
· Implement state-of-the-art technologies
· Develop and share special collections
· Develop group purchasing agreements, and
· Provide continuing education opportunities for staff and trustees
“We are committed to creating a dynamic library system,” said Elaine Wiebe, North Central Library Federation Steering Committee member. “This new federation of libraries will be beneficial to all communities in the north central region.”
There are currently three other library federations in B.C., including the Public Library InterLINK, the Kootenay Library Federation and the North Coast Library Federation.
“Library Federations bring ideas together and promote the development and expansion of valuable literacy programs across the province,” said Bond. “Libraries working in partnership will enhance B.C.’s capacity to reach its goal of being the best-educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent.”
The agreement to create the North Central Library Federation was signed by all 10 public library boards in the region. Library representatives will meet this summer and fall to continue the development of the new federation.
1 backgrounder(s) attached.
Public Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Education
250 356-5963 250 920-9040 (Cell)
For more information on government services or to subscribe to the Province’s news feeds using RSS, visit the Province’s website at http://www.gov.bc.ca/.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
EDMONTON - Two people broke into S. Bruce Smith School late Tuesday night, wreaking havoc in the junior high school's library.
Edmonton Public School Board spokeswoman Jane Farrell said the young people sprayed a fire extinguisher in the library, leaving behind about $125,000 in damages.
Computers, windows and shelves were damaged at the school at 5545 184th St. A 15-year-old boy was arrested as he was running from the building.
His accomplice was not found Tuesday night.
© The Edmonton Journal 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Saturday, July 7, 2007
They may be plugged into their iPods, avidly surfing the Web and chatting on their cell phones, but many teens also are tapped into an activity that is decidedly low-tech -- reading.
"A wonderful trend in the book industry is the increase in young readers," said Eileen Fesco, owner of the Book Mouse in Ottawa.
Nationwide, teen readers are the fastest growing segment of book buyers, with teen book sales on the rise even though adult book sales are falling. And teens are borrowing more books as well. The Young Adult Library Services Association is the fastest growing division of the American Library Association.
Locally, book sellers and libraries have seen similar trends. Fesco said book sales figures for adult fiction are neck-and-neck with sales of books for teens and children.
Jessica Parker, Teen Zone coordinator at Reddick Library in Ottawa, said circulation of teen books is steadily increasing and this year's enrollment in the teen summer reading program is at an all-time high. Patti Smith, assistant director at Robert W. Rowe Public Library in Sheridan, said circulation has climbed among teen readers since the library created a young adult section and created programming geared toward that age.
So what's driving the teen book market?
One factor may be that those in the book industry recognize there is a teen book market. Where once teens graduated from the children's section to the adult shelves with little offered in between, books aimed at a variety of teen interests now can be found.
"Teen fiction deals with real topics that teens deal with. The Teen Zone (at the library) is different in that we have to weed out books because topics are constantly changing," said Parker.
More and more authors are writing specifically for teens, bringing with them quality text and diverse subject matter -- but Fesco warns that sometimes the topics of these tales may ruffle parents' feathers.
"We carry books about the death of family members, about sexuality, about teen drug and alcohol abuse, about teen pregnancy, about family dysfunction -- they may come from a family where the mom or the dad is an addict," she said. "(Teens) need these books. Sometimes they don't know where to go and they are trying to understand."
Smith saidwhile topics like suicide and homosexuality may not be what adults would choose for teens, these books often strike a chord with young people as they try to understand the world around them
"You really have to put aside your own ideas about what kids that age should be reading," she said. "We think they are too young, that they shouldn't want to know about these things. But we have to remember that it is 2007 and those things are out there."
Fesco notes one theme always is en vogue for teen girls -- love and romance, though even that theme has taken on a new twist since love stories involving witches and vampires, such as "Twilight" and "New Moon," are popular, emulating the success of such TV shows as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Charmed."
Girls tend to read more than boys, Smith, Parker and Fesco noted, and as such more books are geared toward female interests. Books about cliques at school -- the latest title in Lisi Harrison's popular Clique series is "It's Not Easy Being Mean" -- and friendships, such as the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" series, are top sellers.
But that doesn't mean boys aren't reading, too, though their interests tend to gravitate toward sports. Books like "Heat" and "Travel Team" are popular and increasingly books about the military and war are creeping onto shelves as the conflict in the Middle East continues.
"They like the vampire books, too, but not the ones about being in love," said Fesco.
Boys -- and girls -- like graphic novels as well. Graphic novels tell their stories in comic book fashion, using illustrations as well as dialogue. Graphic novels are aimed "at two populations we have trouble attracting -- boys and reluctant readers," said Parker. "But I love reading them, too. I had a hard time getting started, but now I'm hooked."
Smith said her library has tapped into these quality teen books to draw young people into the library. Creating a young adult section with books geared specifically for that age and offering programming teens enjoy, like a young adult book discussion group and movie and game days, has helped boost circulation in that department, she said.
"If you get in books that they like, they will come in and grab them," she said.
Parker said libraries are responding to today's teens, hoping to ditch the stodgy image some teens associate with the library by remaining up to date in terms of technology and teen interests. Libraries across the country, already offering online access, also are beginning to purchase MP3 players and video games to be checked out in the same way they lend CDs and DVDs.
The hope, she said, is that while teens are at the library to go online or check out a video game, they also may pick up a book that interests them at one of the displays of popular teen books.
And once they start reading these books, they are often hooked.
"They want to read about kids doing thing, teens doing things, important, life-changing things," said Parker. "They relate to that more than a story about a guy who is 40 years old."
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
July 6, 2007 at 11:59 PM EDT
‘He'll be famous – a legend – I wouldn't be surprised if today were known as Harry Potter day in the future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!'
And lo, it came to pass. The story of how the magical baby Harry escaped certain death, and saved his people from the evil Voldemort, spread through the nations. And Harry Potter was idolized by millions from Beijing to Brandon. And every child in our world knew his name.
And then, of course, the critics began to carp. The great Harold Bloom decided this wasn't great literature. Christian fundamentalists had to have it explained to them that good always triumphs over evil in a Harry Potter book. Marxist theorists subjected Hogwarts to class analysis. Feminists pointed out that Hermione is a drip. Is it possible, just possible, scholars began to wonder, that kids know Harry's name only because their white, middle-class parents have seized on these nostalgic books to quiet their fears about juvenile illiteracy, cultural diversity and creeping technology?
When first-time author Joanne Rowling produced Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1997, the book about a young wizard at a magical boarding school was an instant success in her native Britain, and was soon imported into Canada. It was published in the United States the following year; the series, now translated into 65 languages, was soon selling tens of millions of copies as readers seized on the next three Harry Potters that appeared annually.
In the new millennium, the combination of a three-year wait for book five (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, published in 2003) and the release of a Hollywood version of the first book in 2001 launched Harry into the stratosphere. With sales outstripping all other contemporary titles, the series began to change the publishing industry, blurring the line between adult and children's fiction. In 2000, The New York Times created a second bestseller list for children's literature because it believed the Potter books were distorting its adult list. In Canada, the series turned tiny Raincoast Books of Vancouver into a Harry Potter marketing machine.
It was in these years that the now-familiar Pavlovian pattern of Harrymania also took hold: Lineups of readers wait outside bookstores on publication day for the release of the newest title at the stroke of midnight; the media breathlessly report on the publishers' elaborate security precautions and the excitement among “the Muggles.”
That's the pattern that will be repeated two weeks from today, when the seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is released at midnight Greenwich Mean Time in London, and then at 12 a.m. in each of North America's time zones. Fans will be discussing the book online by morning – although the last four books are all over 600 pages, children as young as 8 are reported to devour them in a matter of days, if not hours.
And with the film of book five already in theatres by then (it opens Wednesday), this will be another summer of inescapable Potter worship. Nor is there any sign, with two more films to go, and potential new readers arriving in maternity wards every second, that the publication of the final book is going to end the phenomenon.
It's not hard to see why the Harry Potter books are popular. They're fast-paced and humorous, with page-turning plots that are essentially teen-detective stories.
And in an era when parents worry about boys' literacy, and the entertainment industry believes boys won't accept female protagonists, the male hero draws in readers of both sexes. The books have also increasingly crossed over into the adult market, where they are sold with darker, photographic covers, partly because young adults now read them as fantasy titles, and partly because Rowling has held on to her readers as they grow up – only slightly faster than Harry, who has aged seven years in a decade.
What this doesn't explain is why the Potter books are, with the exception of such religious and political tracts as the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress and The Thoughts of Chairman Mao, the bestselling books of all time, with numbers already challenging even J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and Agatha Christie's top titles. Academic critics of the books, some of whom praise their power as popular culture, some of whom condemn their formulaic prose and question their political messages, speculate there are particular social circumstances that have given rise to the mania.
“Perhaps the Harry Potter phenomenon is such because these books offer exactly what we unthinkingly desire…,” writes Suman Gupta, a lecturer in English at Britain's Open University, in Re-reading Harry Potter (2003).
So, what do we unthinkingly desire? In Britain, it might be a world that upholds traditional notions of class. In the United States, where Christian fundamentalists have denounced the books for glorifying witchcraft, perhaps it's a world where men are superior to women. And in kinder, gentler Canada, we might just want a world where people still read books.
Although Rowling, perhaps at the instigation of her copyright lawyers, is always insisting on the books' utter originality, scholars can point to the many precedents for Harry's magical coming-of-age, from British boarding-school fiction to the Bible, by way of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll. Canadians could apply their own Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism to the books, and see in Harry an archetypal hero who, like the Greek hero Perseus, or Christ in the apocryphal Harrowing of Hell, must descend underground to vanquish monsters.
Whether or not they believe the books are well-written – and many critics, most notably the conservative Bloom, who has denounced Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as cliché-ridden escapism – scholars can place the books in a tradition of children's literature that helps prepare readers for adult life through the safety of a fantasy realm.
“Fairy tales, like all metaphoric literature, are significant psychologically because they enable young readers to gain a certain distance from a conflict they are having. They don't have to identify with the protagonist,” explains Jack Zipes, a professor of German at the University of Minnesota, who is also a specialist in children's literature and author of Sticks and Stones: The Troublesome Success of Children's Literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter. “It enables the child to work through, without any danger, something that is troubling them.”
He is no Harry Potter fan, but Zipes does believe that the character's status as an orphan who magically escapes abusive guardians makes him a Cinderella figure who appeals to contemporary readers shaken by marital breakdown and child abuse.
Whether escaping their problems or working through them, young readers are exploring a world through Harry Potter that is, for all its flying broomsticks and mythical monsters, a pretty conventional one. As outraged fans, parents and even Rowling herself have explained to Harry's Christian critics, the books are traditionally moral.
Some academic critics, however, also note that Harry's is a socially conservative realm. Zipes agrees with feminist critics who have called the books sexist; Gupta thinks they are fundamentally racist.
Evidence of Rowling's sexism is not hard to find. Her magical world is a place where women are cast in secondary roles at best. At worst, they are portrayed as gross stereotypes. Harry's female friend, the bookish Hermione, is a sidekick, and an annoyingly earnest one at that; the sympathetic and generous Mrs. Weasley, mother to Harry's best buddy, Ron, is the clucking mother hen. And Harry's aunt, Mrs. Dursley, is a social-climbing gossip.
Issues of race and class in the books are more complicated. Some argue that the four houses at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry reflect the social structure of Tony Blair's Cool Britannia, with the hated Slytherin representing the aristocracy and the Gryffindor representing the dependable lower-middle class. This is a place where social status is predetermined and immutable.
Purity of blood is a recurring theme in the books: The Slytherin are prejudiced against any witch or wizard of common or Muggles parentage; the term “mudblood” induces instant offence and outrage. Because these attitudes are those of the villains, Rowling is often seen as a liberal: In her book A Guide to the Harry Potter Novels (2002), British journalist Julia Eccleshare, for example, argues that the series is clearly a statement against racism.
Subtler critics argue, however, that this is only a gloss. Gupta notes that Rowling's magical world is essentialist: Harry is the chosen one; it is in his essence to be a wizard, just as it is in the nature of house elves to be slaves (despite Hermione's campaign to free them.) Gupta complains that “...everything significant in the Harry Potter books is innate, inborn, essential, simply manifest and definitively inexplicable in terms of rational principles,” and argues that the books are thus guilty of their own kind of social or racial prejudice.
Gupta also argues that the books are anti-rational – Harry's world operates on magic, after all – and speculates that they may appeal to a society that is both alarmed by racial diversity, and distrustful of science and technology.
Such a political debate may seem rarefied, but it is not entirely lost on parents of Potter fans. Just as feminist defenders of the books will argue they depict a world of gender imbalance as children experience it (rather than as feminists might like to imagine it), so do parents occasionally attribute the books' success to their lack of political correctness.
Indeed, Eccleshare traces Harry's initial success to a reaction against the social-realist school of children's literature of the 1980s and 1990s that had attempted to prepare children for a real world of divorce, danger and diversity with stories about single-parent families, child abuse and gay couples: Refreshingly, Harry does not have two mummies.
Theorists of popular culture are kinder to the books than literary critics, and less skeptical of their success. If Gupta thinks the series might appeal to a fear of science, Peter Appelbaum, a professor of education at Arcadia University near Philadelphia and a specialist in how to teach mathematics, has argued that the books are popular with children because they represent magic the same way children experience technology: as a consumer commodity.
Indeed, part of the charm of the Harry Potter books is the way in which Rowling creates magical equivalents for iPods, cellphones and Nike running shoes: Harry has a much-coveted Nimbus Two Thousand broomstick; his school books feature moving images; and Quidditch, the sport that Hogwarts pupils play on broomsticks, is like a three-dimensional version of a computer game.
If Harry's magic can seem amusingly modern, it is also appropriately dusty, relying as it does on ancient spells, forgotten codes and mouldy books. Kevin McNeilly, a University of British Columbia English professor who uses Harry Potter as a case study in classes on popular culture, argues that images of books and reading are central to the series. He believes the series itself is about literacy.
“The students tend to discover it's about reading, why people have to have books,” McNeilly says, citing books as the characters' main source of knowledge about magic. “The kids in Harry Potter don't have mass media, the telephone, the Internet. Instead they have magic, and they need books.”
He speculates that in the real world, the books are therefore greeted with great enthusiasm by a society worried about literacy. “Amid middle-class North Americans, there must be some kind of anxiety about missing books.… People were ready to read again,” he says.
Indeed, a common testimonial from parents, teachers and librarians is that the Potter books turn kids into readers.
All of these theories tend to suggest that it's parents, rather than children, who are Harry-crazed. Zipes, in particular, sees the books' success as part of adults' homogenization of childhood through mass culture. “Our imaginations have been invaded by the media and by corporations who study the way we think and our desires,” he says. “It's difficult for us to imagine things that have not already been relayed to us by the media.”
McNeilly disagrees, arguing that the image of anesthetized young people buying only the junk that is marketed to them gives neither popular culture nor its fans enough credit. “The books are magical and spellbinding and they take you in, but they also encourage you to be a critical reader and not to be taken in,” he says, noting the instances in the series where reading properly, or not misreading, is critical to solving a mystery. “The books encourage creative response.”
Young people eagerly reinvent and continue the stories both in the massive on-line community of fans and in face-to-face discussions with family and friends.
“It won't be so much fun after the seventh book comes out; there won't be any more plots to discuss,” observes 15-year-old Dylan Tate-Howarth, a Toronto high-school student who has been a fan of the books ever since her father began reading the first volume to her and her twin sister, Sasha, when they were 7. The twins and several friends have written their own epistolary prequel to Harry Potter, and act it out as a fantasy role-playing game that has included staging the wedding of two characters. They enjoy minute discussions of characters' behaviour, and trace their real addiction to the fourth title in the series.
“By that time, our friends had caught up with us. It was getting more popular, and we had people to talk to about it,” Sasha recalls. “ I read the sixth one in less than a day.”
“I took a couple more hours,” Dylan recalls, “and Sasha was like, ‘Finish this so I can discuss it with you.'”
Perhaps the books appeal to middle-class, outwardly liberal parents' secret nostalgia for a less culturally complicated age, one full of white people reading long books. But children like the Tate-Howarth twins have definitely turned the Harry Potter series into a thing of the 21st century. Recurring characters in most children's fiction are either frozen in time or age very slowly, providing material for a target age group that eventually graduates to other reading.
Harry Potter, on the other hand, is growing up with his readers, providing them with a sense of immediacy that vaults the character into their culture. With their midnight purchases followed by marathon reading sessions, young readers then turn the reading experience itself into something more instantaneous than leisurely. Next, they rush to their computers and communicate their reactions not only to the kids down the block, but also to millions of others around the world.
In the media-saturated age of the Internet, it takes only the touch of a button to turn the merely popular into the phenomenal. Like Gupta's Harry-the-chosen-one, the Harry Potter craze is simply manifest. Harry is bigger than Jesus … just because he is.
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