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June 2005

Harry Potter Meets Academia

Oh, dear. It looks like Trekkie conventions may have a new rival.  Over at the University of Reading  in the U.K., the organization Accio will host a conference (for adults only) devoted to the Wizard of Hogwarts, July  29th-31st.

Conference chair Ali Hewison has this to say:

Accio 2005 is an unofficial friendly event, hosted over the weekend of 29-31st July 2005 at the University of Reading, UK. We're bringing together academics and adult Harry Potter fans to discuss all aspects of J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter books, in the first such conference in the UK. Planned events include presentations, panels, speeches, games, a feast, and informal discussions into the small hours.

Registration ranges in price from £160 to £235. We've PayPal options and instalment plans so check out the registration page if you haven't already registered. All residential memberships will include all meals for the event, and non-residential membership will include everything apart from bed and breakfast. Prices will be guaranteed until 31 May 2005.

Honk, Honk. Honey, the Bus Is Here

Thanks to Laurel Graeber at the NY Times, we've been alerted to the presence of the Magic School Bus at the Children's Museum of Manhattan (through May 30th). Since the bus is magic and can be in several places at one time,  you can also visit it at the Chicago Children's Museum (through June 12) and  Orlando Science Center (arriving in June). Who knows where else Ralphie, Liz, Wanda and their wacky teacher Ms. Frizzle will turn up?

The Magic School Bus books, most written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, constitute a wonderful science series aimed at the early-elementary-school ages. Almost comic-book-ish in its appeal and slightly frenetic organization, the Scholastic series was also the basis of an animated PBS TV show, which you can still see in re-runs and on video. Lily Tomlin provided the voice for  Ms. Frizzle, who leads her class on all sorts of adventures. Her exortation "Take chances! Get messy!" is our motto.

Look for the videos at your local library. And look for the paperback "Magic School Bus" es  at thrift stores and tag sales; we've found quite a few that way.  At the local Goodwill store, they're only 25 cents apiece.

Orlando Bloom, Library Man

Speaking of the American Library Association (see the "Where the Wind Comes..." post, below), the group is selling a most lovely product. I know that my husband, Elroy, Sr., joins me in encouraging literacy, so I'm sure he doesn't mind Mr. Bloom's decorating our book-filled home. Junior's sense of decor is a bit underdeveloped, so he may not even notice the fine art.

Orlando_bloom_1For those of you unfamiliar with Orlando's oeuvre, he is the star of The Lord of the Rings movies, which are, of course based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien. If you do know Mr. Bloom and his work, you may want to order your own poster because you can't have mine. I'm saving it for, um, Children's Book Week, November 14-20. Yeah, yeah, Children's Book Week. That's the ticket.

Summer Reading: Had Me a Blast

Dear Chicken Spaghetti,
Hi. There's this series. It's about this guy named Harry Potter. The author is a lady. She lives in Scotland. The sixth book goes on sale in the Unitted Kingdom and the Unitted States of America on July 16th. Many people like Harry Potter. The End. Signed, A Harry Potter Fan.

Yesterday in an NPR report by Steve Inskeep, a Seattle librarian named Nancy Pearl offered a promising list of books for children who enjoy H.P. and want to read more fantasy.This is one summer reading roster that sounds like fun.

You're Fired

Bill Rancic is the "author" of Beyond the Lemonade Stand, a business guide for children ages eight to ten. It will be published in September. "How fascinating," you must be thinking, "but who is Bill Rancic? I can't quite place the name."  Find out more, if you must, by clicking here.

P.S., Eeeeeewwwwwwwww. 

Moby's Kiddie Lit

The May 23rd New York magazine features a Q. & A. with the musician Moby, who tells contributing writer Sara Cardace that authors he read as a pre-teen included Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Bukowski. Moby grew up in Darien, Connecticut, but that didn't stop him from reading Faulkner, too.

So now you know how inty-leck-tual we are up here in New England. Why, just the other day my son Junior came home from kindergarten and asked, "Mommy, what is postmodernism?"  As usual with his many questions, I had to reply, "I don't know, Sweetie. Let's go look it up in your Childcraft encyclopedia." Sure enough, there it was, right between "possum" and "potato." Thank God for Childcraft: The How and Why Library.

All kidding aside, when Junior becomes a famous chef/fireman/Hummer driver, please don't buy it when he announces in an interview that his main literary influence was The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen. For the record, for the week of May 16th, Junior's favorite book is Mr. Putter & Tabby Feed the Fish,  written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Arthur Howard. Try it—if you and your dearest five-year-old don't laugh out loud, I'll be surprised.

Where the Wind Comes Sweeping Out the Library

KoniThe Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a resolution that asks libraries to move gay-themed children's books to the adult section.

The book that allegedly so offended a parent that the Oklahoma lawmakers got involved? King & King, by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, an import from the Netherlands. (The title of the book is not "King of Kings," as reported by KOTV.)  In King & King, two princes fall in love and marry. The followup, by the way, is King & King & Family, in which the kings adopt a daughter.

King & King is not new to controversy. According to the American Library Assocation, de Haan's and Nijland's work was one of the ten most frequently challenged books in the U.S last year, along with Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series and Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen.

When King & King was published here in the States, neither Publishers Weekly nor School Library Journal was crazy about the art work, though SLJ commended the book for its "good intentions."

(Thanks to for the news bulletin on this subject.)

Follow-up: May 18th.  A North Carolina congressman has taken to carrying King & King around with him, not to read aloud to his august colleagues in the U.S. House of Represenatives but to promote his Parental Empowerment Act of 2005, a proposal to restrict federal funds to "states that fail to adopt guidelines for elementary-school book purchases...." You can read more about the topic here, in the Jacksonville, North Carolina, Daily News. Gosh, what funny timing. They're all upset about this book in Oklahoma, too.

May 20: And now a Louisiana state rep, prompted by a constituent reportedly upset over King & King, is offering yet another resolution. Click the link for the  (New Orleans) Times- Picayune article. May 26 update: The Louisiana resolution died in committeeTimes-Picayune reporter Ed Anderson writes:

Charlene Cain, who chairs the intellectual freedom committee of the Louisiana Library Association, urged the panel to kill the resolution. "We are talking about pre-emptive censorship," she said. "Some parents may want their children to read this book. . . . I would not want someone telling my child what to read.

May 21: NPR's Jennifer Ludden talks to Nathalie op de Beeck about "Same Sex Parents: A New Theme in Kids' Books," including King & King. Op de Beeck, a professor at Illinois State University, recently wrote about the subject for Publishers Weekly (April 25th issue), but the article is not available online unless you have a subscription.