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March 2006
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May 2006

A Tale for Poetry Friday

I was volunteering at the school library today when a wide-eyed fifth-grade girl ran in and breathlessly asked the librarian for Where the Sidewalk Ends. Pointed in the right direction, she dashed over to the 811's, exclaiming, "I need it for my buddy class." (Fifth graders are paired up with "buddies" in kindergarten at Junior's school.) The drama of the moment impressed me as  I tried to imagine what sort of situation (and we all know there are plenty of situations in kindergarten) demanded to be remedied by Shel Silverstein's book of poems and drawings. Whatever it was, I admired the fifth-grader's ingenuity and taste.

The funny thing is that my six-year-old and I spent close to an hour (an hour!) reading Where the Sidewalk Ends yesterday. The 30th anniversary edition was one of my thrift-store finds last year, but I'd forgotten about it until I pulled it off the shelf last night. "Read another!" Junior kept saying. We'd laugh at one, then read some more. Except for the one on the soundtrack of "Free to Be You and Me," I didn't know these poems, either. When Silverstein titled one poem "Naked Hippo" and rhymed "Hippopotamus" and "bottomus," well, I think Junior found a new favorite book. Tonight after his bath he came into the room where I was working at the computer and asked me where "that funny poem book" was because he wanted to share it with his dad. He asked in a much less dramatic fashion than the fifth-grader, but clearly it was just the thing he needed,  too.

Is This How Hollywood Thinks? Really?

"And, in a story coming today from PW sister publication, Variety, it was reported that DreamWorks, the studio which acquired movie rights to Opal Mehta, had received an initial script for the project just as news was breaking about Viswanathan's potential plagiarism. According to the Variety report, though the studio first considered acquiring McCafferty's work, it now seems that the project is being dropped entirely."

—Rachel Deahl, Publishers Weekly

(The emphasis is mine.)

More Winners: The Edgars

The Mystery Writers of America honored books in many categories last night. Melanie Rehak snagged an Edgar for Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew... (best critical/biographical). Winners for their works for children are John Feinstein for Last Shot (best young adult) and D. James Smith for The Boys of San Joaquin (best juvenile). For the complete list of who got what, click on this link.

For some good blog coverage of Edgars week, check out Sarah Weinman's Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind.

What a newsy couple of days!

Peace Power

The Jane Addams awards for children's books were announced today by the Jane Addams Peace Association. The winners are

The awards ceremony takes place in October. The web site of the Jane Addams Peace Organization contains further information, including an explanation of the prizes. The following is from the site:  "The Jane Addams Children's Book Awards are given annually to the children's books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence."

PEN World Voices

After attending the PEN World Voices gathering, Maud Newton files a thorough report on the "Faith and Reason" presentation by some of the world's literary all-stars. You'll find additional coverage of the World Voices festival at Bud Parr's excellent MetaxuCafé LitBlog Network.

By the way, if you are a literary blogger, consider signing up over at MetaxuCafé; an affiliation with the site sends traffic your way. There's a KidLit category, too.

World Voices' sponsoring organization is the PEN American Center, "an association of writers working to advance literature, defend free expression, and foster international literary fellowship."

LA Is a Great Big Book Place

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books takes over the town this weekend. With so many choices, I had a hard time deciding which panels to attend (if I could click my heels and magically transport myself to LA, that is), but a few caught my eye. Panels are free, but you have to sign up in advance. Children's activities and many more literary happenings are also on the bill. Go see the whole roster over at the Festival web site.

Saturday, April 29th

2:30 PM - Creating New Worlds: Young Adult Fantasy Writing
Fowler Museum Lenart Auditorium PANEL 1064
Moderator Ms. Denise Hamilton
Ms. Cornelia Funke
Mr. Adam Gopnik
Ms. Margo Lanagan

2:30 PM - Taylor Branch in Conversation with Tavis Smiley
Moore 100 PANEL 1104
Interviewer Mr. Tavis Smiley
Mr. Taylor Branch

Sunday, April 29th

10:00 AM - First Fiction: Finding A Voice
            Moore 100 PANEL 2101
            Moderator Mr. Mark Rozzo
            Ms. Lisa Fugard
            Mr. Marlon James
            Ms. Laila Lalami [MoorishGirl!]
            Ms. Adrienne Sharp

3:00 PM - Fiction: L.A. Lit
Fowler Museum Lenart Auditorium PANEL 2064
Moderator Ms. Janet Fitch
Mr. Chris Abani
Mr. Steve Erickson
Ms. Michelle Huneven [Have you read Jamesland? Very good book.]
Mr. Jim Krusoe

3:00 PM - Sarah Vowell & David Rakoff in Conversation     with Tod Goldberg
    Royce Hall PANEL 2053
    Interviewer Mr. Tod Goldberg
    Mr. David Rakoff
    Ms. Sarah Vowell

3:00 PM - Young Minds, Young Eyes: The Picture Book
    Young Hall CS 24 PANEL 2084
    Moderator Ms. Mary Ellen Walker
    Mr. Eric Drachman
    Ms. Rachel Victoria Rodriguez
    Ms. Paula Yoo   

Opal Mehta Off the Shelves

In my last post, I was wanting to hear more from Kaavya Viswanathan's publisher. Looks like we have.  The New York Times provides an update this evening:

The publisher Little, Brown and the author Kaavya Viswanathan have agreed to withdraw all editions of her chick-lit novel, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life," from the market, the publisher said today in a statement.

Motoko Rich and Dinitia Smith's complete article can be found here. Link  via GalleyCat.

See also the Harvard Crimson, who broke this whole story.

On the Opal Mehta Beat

The New York Times journalist Motoko Rich has moved on from Fibs into plagiarism. Hey, wait a minute. That need some explanation, doesn't it?  Several weeks ago, Rich was reporting on Fibonacci poetry (a.k.a., Fibs), the web phenomenon that Gregory Pincus launched on his blog, GottaBook. In today's paper Ms. Rich and Dinitia Smith share a byline on an article examining the role of book packagers in "tween lit." Very interesting piece. The two Timesers include some new information about Alloy Entertainment/17th Street Productions, the packager behind the now controversial novel Opal Mehta. Written by Kaavya Viswanathan, the book  includes many apparently plagiarized passages.

Meanwhile, the author Mitali Perkins gives thoughtful consideration to Viswanathan's current troubles. Perkins wrote the wonderful YA novel Monsoon Summer, and like Viswanathan, she comes from a South Asian background. You can read Perkins's opinions on her blog, Mitali's Fire Escape.

I don't know that we will ever know the complete story about how Opal Mehta was written—or put together. I would like to hear more from both the publisher and the packager. Right now it looks like the reading public has been told some fibs, and I don't mean the Fibonacci kind.

For thorough coverage of the Viswanathan scandal, see MediaBistro's GalleyCat.

In the Booth

"This is a shout-out to all my token booth peeps."

I heard a d.j. on KISS-FM say that the other day as he introduced a song, and I just loved it. KISS-FM is a funky New York soul station (98.7 on the dial); we even get it way up here in New England. I pictured  hundreds of isolated token-booth clerks in subway stations all over New York suddenly hearing their shout-out and dancing along to the record. It made my day.

So, to all my token booth peeps and everyone else, happy Wednesday!

Critics' Blog

The board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle started a blog, Critical Mass. Participants include New York Times regulars Laura Miller and David Orr. Welcome, critics! Yesterday the crew weighed in on the latest alleged plagiarism scandal, that of Kaavya Viswanathan.  By the way, MediaBistro's GalleyCat is doing an excellent job covering that controversy about the Harvard sophomore and author of  How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got A Life : A Novel.

Thank you to Publishers Weekly for the Critical Mass tip.