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Lost & Found
by Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011
I first came across Shaun Tan’s bestselling Lost & Found when I was at The Harvard Bookstore in Boston. My co-worker’s good friend is the children’s book buyer for the store, and as we were wandering around the stacks, she playfully demanded, “You need to read this book.”
The front cover piqued my attention, grabbed my curiosity. What is that red, industrial looking machine on the cover? What kind of apocalyptic town is this story taking place? Then I flipped to the back cover. Who’s that girl carrying the metal box? Why is she surrounded in darkness? I had many questions. Luckily, the book provided answers. More than answers, Lost & Found does what great children’s literature should do: it presents challenging material to youth in a way that’s easily digestible. The book provides meditations on huge topics like depression, post colonialism, and apathy. Lost & Found is a collection of three stories: The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, and The Rabbits. The book takes these big topics and makes them easy to swallow with imagery and metaphors. In The Red Tree, dark imagery and a bleak urban landscape speak to a young girl’s depression and isolation. In The Lost Thing, a huge, red machine that’s lost in the city is paired up with a young boy, and we read into themes of displacement and friendship. In The Rabbits, a phalanx of rabbits invade a country and meditations on post colonialism arise.
Everyone suggests Shel Silverstein. My daughter, Zoe, 7, got her third copy for Christmas this year. You can’t go wrong with Where the Sidewalk Ends but everyone already knows that. Then, there are the books the kids love and ask me to read over and over like Goodnight Moon, Curious George and Panda Bear Panda Bear What Do You See? But I assume you have all those books memorized too.
The books I want to showcase are the books that I think play with language the best. I want to read books that make me say how did they do that? That make me wish I had written that. That let words linger on my tongue like butter and lemon. I want to read books to my kids in the same way I want to read books to myself. Because, wow. Words are awesome.
I picked up a copy of Owl Moon at Bookman’s for no reason except I like owls. I didn’t know that this book would make me and my daughter go walking in the night in the forest behind our house saying whoo whoo to the trees. But it did. The author, Jane Yolen, writes a poem that doesn’t seem like a poem because there’s adventure and story and owls but the way she uses linebreaks and repetition remind me every time I read it how poems work:
Family Days is this Saturday, February 16th from 10 a.m.-1p.m at the Poetry Center. And this Saturday's Family Day's book club feature is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Students do not need to read the book prior to the book club to participate, but if you'd like a preview, check out Wordplay blog volunteer Jeannie Wood's book review of the classic children's tale. Enjoy!
While The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is full of basic ideas of appreciating one’s surroundings and people, the book is written in such a fun and pun-ful way that it can make anyone re-think the words used in daily speech.
When Milo comes home from another boring day at boring school, he finds a box in the middle of his room: “FOR MILO, WHO HAS PLENTY OF TIME,” it reads. Milo is a very bored boy who doesn’t take interest or meaning in much of anything. This strange box begins Milo’s adventure. Literally, by way of the tollbooth, he drives right on through in his toy car, after paying his fee (of course). Milo enters a new world where people grow down, and not up; people buy letters for words at the market instead of food or trinkets; they mine for numbers which are more valuable than rubies.
At our next Family Days on Saturday, January 26th, our Book Club for 11 + feature will be The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. Book Club participants need not read the book in order to participate, but for those who are interested, the book is currently for sale at the Poetry Center, and will also be on sale the day of the event. Check out our website for more information.
The scenario is familiar and simple: a toy rabbit gets lost. It's a plot that reminds me of some of my favorite Pixar movies, like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. And of course it's reminsicent, too, of The Velveteen Rabbit. But what Kate DiCamillo writes in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane digs deeper, tugs harder, and gets darker. With amazing imagery, strong characterization, emotional honesty, and instructive morals, DiCamillo creates a world that's not so different from our own: beautiful and harsh, but ultimately one in which hope wins out in the end.
Edward Tulane isn't your typical toy rabbit. He's not some warm, velvety creature stuffed with love, but is instead "almost entirely made of china," except for his ears and tail, which are made of real rabbit fur. And he isn't personified as some lovable little guy, at least not at first. Instead he's kind of snotty: he "felt himself to be an exceptional specimen." Initially, he's not dressed in cute, laidback overalls, but instead in "handmade silk suits, custom shoes fashioned from the finest leather...and has a gold pocket watch." And it's no wonder, as he comes from a very wealthy family. His owner is the sweet Abilene Tulane, who "thought almost as highly of Edward as Edward thought of himself." But the problem with their relationship is that Edward doesn't reciprocate this love. He's not a good listener: "in truth, he was not very interested in what people had to say."
This is a list of my favorite series for older children and younger adults in the realm of magic, other realities, and the richly imagined. All of these books are fantastic, many are deeply poetic, and I recommend them for all ages — I can re-read them anytime, always with wonder and fascination.
The Sea of Trolls trilogy, Nancy Farmer, 2004-2009. Along with The Land of the Silver Apples and The Islands of the Blessed, this is a brilliant quest adventure of Norsemen and berserkers, slaves, gods and ogres — an exciting, exquisitely detailed world half legend and half fantasy, complete with humor and longing and even philosophy, that should be high up in the canon of children’s and young adult literature. (Note for locals: Farmer is an Arizona native who lives in the Chiricahua Mountains. She’s won plenty of awards, but still deserves to be far, far more widely read.)
The Worlds of Chrestomanci, Diana Wynne Jones, 1977-2006. A seven-book series about a multiverse peopled by a charming cast of relatable, endearing magical characters. Written by one of the world’s all-time finest fantasy writers, the British Wynne Jones, who wrote dozens of wonderful novels and short-story collections — of which I’ve devoured almost all — before she died just a couple of years ago. Wynne Jones’ books sparkle with vigor and wit.
His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman, 1995-2000. This excellent fantasy trilogy for young adults, beginning with The Golden Compass, is in fact, like most of the books on this list, for all ages. Gorgeous and almost infinitely memorable, it’ll stay with you for the rest of your life, I predict, once you fall in love. There’s also a movie.
Today, we're featuring the writing of our guest blogger, Eleanor Allen-Henderson. Eleanor was a volunteer this past summer at the Poetry Center's annual Creative Writing Camp. She has graciously agreed to share her writing with us. Below is one of her stories.
Ice Cream Dreams
This bite is about dreams
Reba Trimbolli knew from a young age that she was an ice cream girl. She lived in Tucson all her life and the many years she had suffered under the scorching heat has given her true appreciation for the cold treat. In fact, to this day, she remembers the moment she fell in love. The pavement was hot and the sunset maintained a look that was both beautiful and passive aggressive, threatening the smoldering descent of sun and expansiveness of sky. She had gotten a cone from a little shack, and the operator turned to her, said not a word, turned back and returned with what appeared to be some kind of chocolate. He explained it was a homemade creation of chocolate, three types of nuts, and the slightest hint of cherry. As she bit into the cold, she was overcome with the joy of chocolate. And that was it. Love.
Today, we're featuring the writing of our guest blogger, Eleanor Allen-Henderson. Eleanor was a volunteer this past summer at the Poetry Center's annual Creative Writing Camp. She has graciously agreed to share her writing with us. Below is one of her stories. Keep an eye out for more writing from Eleanor in the next month.
The bamboo wood, supporting the wall of glass, didn’t feel trusted. Bamboo wasn’t enough for Walls and there was Steel, outlining its every crevice. Bamboo wasn’t sure whether to be relieved of the weight or disheartened that it could not bear the weight of lives. Bamboo speculated people are like that too.
Today, we're featuring the writing of our guest blogger, Eleanor Allen-Henderson. Eleanor was a volunteer this past summer at the Poetry Center's annual Creative Writing Camp. She has graciously agreed to share her writing with us. Below is one of her stories. Keep an eye out for more writing from Eleanor in the next few months!
A burst of color smattered across her face. And by her, I mean my. I don’t mean to be so loud, but sometimes, my interest speaks louder than volumes, and what I feel is not quite equitable to words. So one day, they ask you, “What is Eleanor?” To which you reply, “Eleanor is a burst of color across my eyelids, and she’s never quite predictable, but sometimes she jumps just to get the point across. To say Eleanor, one is to say dancing of hands and the light of her eyes, brimming with all the things she cannot wait to say.” But this is just the capacity to which you know me.
My goal today, is to make you smile, like the fellow in this painting:
For whatever reason, I was curious what Wikipedia had to say about “humor.” I found this painting, with the caption, “smiling can imply a sense of humour and a state of amusement, as in this painting of Falstaff by Eduard von Grutzner." Inexplicably, my funny bone was struck, perhaps, because wiki tried to explain humor through a goofy painting?
It seems humor is difficult to traditionally define; we are able only by describing its reactions: smiling, laughing, amusement. It’s hard to say what we each find funny. I know my sense of humor is far different from some of my friends, but my sister and I are spot on. We learn our sense of humor from others, and then, simultaneously, we are amused by something no one else understands. This is intimidating for writers, because, what’s funny then? I figure, we just write what amuses us and write it well. If there is one rule for writers, it’s to own your work, something that seems especially necessary in humorous writing.
In anticipation of our next Family Days on Saturday, October 13th, we'd like to share some collaborative fiction pieces from a previous Family Days. Enjoy!
From Jupiter, Well, I'm From MARS
"Ouch! Loser," Anne cried as she tripped on my red sandal.
"Next time, be a litte more careful," I sneered, hiding my guilt.
"Nice work Jessie," my "bff" Chelsea said, high fiving me. Ever since I'd started trying to fit in, I had to be mean. These people weren't my friends! But it would take a long time for me to realize that those "popular" people were actually just using me.
I began to spend more time in the attic after supper, not for any particular reason, except perhaps that my subconscious was bored already with socializing with mundane people. One night, my mother didn't come to get me like she usually did. That was the night I found an object hidden in a chest behind some boxes.
I carefully peeked into the chest. I was expecting something marvelous, something that would change my life. Perhaps some kind of treasure that was hidden thousands of years ago by some famous pirates. But instead, what I found was a piece of pizza.
"Mmm... pizza," I said aloud. I looked around, made sure no one was watching, picked it up, and ate it! But immediately after I finished, I knew something was wrong.
I started to grow talons and feathers, my nose stretched out and became a sharp beak. Could it be true? Was I becoming an eagle of hope? It was everyone's dream to be one. I could fly around and drop hope into people's heads. That's where people got the idea about birds.
At last, I was happy.