Miriam Drennan

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Very rarely in life do we understand blessings when they arrive. Blessings are misunderstood or scary until we have had time to process them. This is the main theme in Jerry Spinelli’s latest offering, Stargirl. When Stargirl Caraway enters Leo Borlock’s life, her impact is both disturbing and permanent. Stargirl is a ukulele-strumming, plain-faced, costume-donning character that enters a cookie-cutter student body at an Arizona high school. Her antics range from annoying to amusing, and the prevailing attitude is clearly defined by her peers as her fame rises and falls, time and again.

Middle school students will enjoy comparing and contrasting the characters, but high school students can delve much deeper into theme and application. This is not just another ‘underdog makes good’ story; in fact, a probing question is whether Stargirl’s actions are positive at all. She is an anti-teenager, if ever there was one: She’s not cool, she shuns the attentions and opinions of others, and offers her heart in completely constructive ways. Very few bother to discover what motivates this strange creature, and Stargirl’s effect lingers long after she vanishes. Stargirl is a the type of book that is ripe for multi-level discussion.

Very rarely in life do we understand blessings when they arrive. Blessings are misunderstood or scary until we have had time to process them. This is the main theme in Jerry Spinelli’s latest offering, Stargirl. When Stargirl Caraway enters Leo Borlock’s life, her impact is both disturbing and permanent. Stargirl is a ukulele-strumming, plain-faced, costume-donning […]
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Mother's birthday? Nephew's graduation? Second cousin twice removed's wedding? If you need help selecting a gift for any occasion, you've come to the right place. What gift is always the right color, the right size, and the right price? Why, books, of course! If you are not aware that the hottest new television series is found on PBS, you are not in the know. Don't despair, my friend; Workman Publishing has just the book for you. Carol Prisant's Antiques Roadshow Primer ($28.95, 076111775X, paperback, $19.95, 0761116249) will bring you up to speed on all that's essential in the world of antiques and collectibles. Included are sections that mention many of the show's more curious finds, quick tips for spotting a fabulous piece, common items mistakenly thought to be valuable, and a glossary. And should the Roadshow make a stop in your hometown, Antiques Roadshow Primer is the perfect gift to prepare packrats for their treasure hunts. Don't clean out the attic until you've read this book.

While antiques and collectibles go in and out of style, the concept of good manners is not beholden to seasons of change. With progress on both the social and technological fronts, however, there is always room for updates and improvement. Former White House staff coordinator Nancy Tuckerman and businesswoman Nancy Dunnan have updated and revised The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette (Doubleday, $32, 0385413424) to accommodate today's lifestyles, including correct protocol for cosmetic surgery and prenuptial agreements. Both authors have painstakingly rewritten this book considered by many to be the final answer to all etiquette questions in the spirit of its original author. While most consider etiquette books as engagement gifts, The Amy Vander- bilt Complete Book of Etiquette addresses an exhaustive number of issues and circumstances, making it an appropriate gift for any occasion or (even better) when there's no occasion at all.

Very often, the difference between a moment lost and a moment captured hinges on whether a camera hastily catches it. When a photograph evokes more senses than merely sight and more memories than the image itself represents, indeed, the photograph has extended its intent. Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs fit this definition and for the first time ever, all are bound into one volume in Moments: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographs. The Pulitzer Prize for photography was first awarded in 1942, so this collection is a wonderful visual record of the postwar era, with subjects ranging from Babe Ruth's formal good-bye to famine in Rwanda. Highs, lows, sports, science Moments includes timelines and commentary to supplement larger features. Not all of the images are happy, not all of the images are sad; rather, the images are used to tell the story of the latter half of the 20th century. It's a messy job, but then again, so is history.

However, if your giftee is more the tailored, designed type, perhaps you should consider purchasing Designing with Plants (Timber Press, $34.95, 0881924377). A collaborative effort of designers Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, the approach begins with basic elements to consider when designing your patch of earth: form, texture, and color are explained in detail, and photographic examples are included. From there, Oudolf and Kingsbury fill in the spaces, much like a child who has outlined a picture and is now ready to color it in. The authors explain how to combine the elements and customize with grasses, rhythm, and plant architecture. Don't despair, all you who dare to color outside the lines: there's even a section on breaking the rules. Also included are segments on mood reflection, year-round planting, and a directory. This book, while gorgeous enough to display, is very user-friendly for anyone interested in all that's green and flowery. If, as a rule, April showers bring May flowers, why not try and orchestrate the blooms?

Mother's birthday? Nephew's graduation? Second cousin twice removed's wedding? If you need help selecting a gift for any occasion, you've come to the right place. What gift is always the right color, the right size, and the right price? Why, books, of course! If you are not aware that the hottest new television series is […]
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Mother's birthday? Nephew's graduation? Second cousin twice removed's wedding? If you need help selecting a gift for any occasion, you've come to the right place. What gift is always the right color, the right size, and the right price? Why, books, of course!

Shake off the snowy-blowies of winter and turn your thoughts to spring. Author Mary Tonetti Dorra has teamed with photographer Richard Felber, and the result is Beautiful American Rose Gardens, a stunning volume of bloom and text. Crossing the country and back, in all four corners, Dorra is the ideal travel companion, because she knows when to talk and when to quietly marvel. Her text is just enough; we learn about the flowers, their tenders, and the history of each garden dwelling. Still, it is just enough; Dorra knows when to let readers absorb Felber's photographs. The images are so distinct, the fragrance of each petal practically rises from the page. Lush greens, deep crimsons, fiery yellows and pinks explode, whether they are located in carefully manicured gardens or natural settings.

Richard H. Jenrette has won numerous awards and acknowledgments for his amazing enthusiasm and dedication to restoring and preserving some of America's most beautiful historical homes. Six of the homes are owned by Jenrette himself, and he offers a personal account of his experiences in Adventures with Old Houses. Each chapter opens with a full-color spread, followed by ample photographs, floor plans, historical facts, and restoration details. It is a self-contained, portable museum, with a tour through many rooms. Jenrette's style is clearly not limited to architecture and antiques, however; his words are friendly and inviting, as if he is chatting with you over tea. With a foreword written by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Adventures with Old Houses is a gorgeous gift for anyone interested in old homes, architecture, and historic preservation.

Stone carver William Edmondson created works that pushed the boundaries of regional folk art. Edmondson, a native Nashvillian and son of former slaves, entered his trade creating tombstones. Eventually, he created figures inspired by his surroundings and undying faith, figures ranging from the most basic creatures to divine beings. The Art of William Edmondson captures the spirit of the artist, as well as his world. Amid dusty hands, frayed aprons, and a handwritten sign that reads, Tomb-Stones. For Sale. Garden Ornaments, Stone Work Wm. Edmondson, there are angels, eagles, sheep, and yes, tombstones. More importantly, however, is the essence of Edmondson, which is carefully captured in book form by the staff at Cheekwood (Nashville, Tennessee) and the University Press of Mississippi. Edmondson, the first African-American artist featured in a solo exhibit at New York City's Museum of Modern Art, has been long-deserving of such an in-depth tribute.

Time co-founder Henry Luce had a unique idea when he decided to launch a business magazine in 1929: he wanted it to be beautiful. Perhaps the timing of Fortune magazine's launch was a tad off, with the stock market crashing a few months later, but its beauty prevailed. Five years after its inauguration, circulation tripled; no small feat, considering Fortune's price and the fact that the country was experiencing crippling financial woe. Now, Fortune's beauty has extended into Fortune: The Art of Covering Business, a gorgeous volume of history and art. In addition to the cover artwork, the book includes snippets of historical data from selected issues. Celebrate 70 years of good Fortune!

Mother's birthday? Nephew's graduation? Second cousin twice removed's wedding? If you need help selecting a gift for any occasion, you've come to the right place. What gift is always the right color, the right size, and the right price? Why, books, of course! Shake off the snowy-blowies of winter and turn your thoughts to spring. […]
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You survived the beach vacation with Aunt Agnes and the rest of the family, only to return home just in time for school to begin. It seems to never end, this hustle and bustle that permeates your life. But fear not, my friend, we’re here to help you and the kids start back to school on the right track.

What gift doesn’t require registration, late bells, and forms in triplicate? Why books, of course! 
The Brain Quest series has been around since 1992. Its curriculum-based, question-and-answer game formats help children learn facts, but the friendly presentation encourages deeper understanding. Recently Workman gave Brain Quest a facelift, with newer (and more) questions and new packaging. With questions for children from toddler age to teenage, there’s an edition of Brain Quest that’s just right for your child.
 
For example, Preschool Brain Quest (0761115145) covers first numbers, rhyming words, animal riddles and a Panda named Amanda; 4th grade Brain Quest (0761110240) covers syllables, suffixes, the solar system, Maya Angelou and the numerator; 5th grade Brain Quest (0761110259) covers polygons, homophones, the Aztecs, Shakespeare, and the 15th amendment; 6th grade Brain Quest (0761110267) covers equations, archipelagos, metaphors, Mother Teresa and the Magna Carta. There’s even Brain Quest Extra: For the Car (0761115382) to keep children sharp during lazy summer months or holiday breaks. At $10.95 each, they’re quite a bargain, and the wealth of knowledge received is immeasurable.
Cut down on homework stresses with Scholastic’s Kid’s Almanac for the 21st Century ($18.95, 0590307231, ages 8+). Chock full of lists, facts, profiles and timelines, this book is an easy reference tool for all those science and history reports. Its colorful, fluid design and stylish layout will appeal to young researchers, and its up-to-date entries mean this book will not be dated anytime soon.

What goes up and never comes down? College costs! Get a head start on college planning with The Scholarship Book 2000: The Complete Guide to Private-Sector Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants, and Loans for the Undergraduate (Prentice Hall Publishers, $25, 0735200793). Author Daniel J. Cassidy has assembled thousands of scholarship sources and pertinent details regarding each award. Some of these details include amounts, deadlines and contact information. Good news: You do not have to earn straight A’s and thousands of extra-curriculars and honors for most of these. Cassidy provides easy cross-referencing, enabling readers to look up information alphabetically or categorically. The entries are carefully explained and indexed. The Scholarship Book 2000 will put you way ahead of the financial aid race.

And while many scholarships do not require stellar grades, test scores and the like, it’s no crime to succeed in these areas, either. How can busy college-bounders prepare for those standardized tests? The Princeton Review has an answer their Word Smart audiobook series features Word Smart SAT Hit Parade (Living Language, $25, 0609604406) and Word Smart + Grammar Smart (Living Language, $39.95, 0609603515) among others. SAT Hit Parade contains four 60-minute audiocassettes that cover 250 words commonly found on the exam, including spellings and definitions of each word. This list is taught in The Princeton Review’s SAT prep courses and books, and includes interactive quizzes. Grammar Smart’s CD edition contains six hours of more than 200 essential words, parts of speech and common grammar goofs. Both are perfect for students on the go, audio learners and anyone who wishes to communicate more effectively.

When your favorite scholar is packing for the fall, one item that cannot be left behind is Chicken Soup for the College Soul: Inspiring and Humorous Stories About College (Health Communications, Inc., $12.95, 1558747028). Amid pressures to achieve academically and socially, very often the college soul can be neglected. These essays, varied in voice and perspective, offer insights into leaving home, college classrooms, dating, and the looming future. Parents may want to purchase a second copy for themselves as a memory refresher.

Determining a major course of study is often scarier than the major itself. Too often students are afraid of making an error that is irreversible or, worse yet, discovering their preferences long after their college years have passed. The College Majors Handbook: The Actual Jobs, Earnings, and Trends for Graduates of 60 College Majors (Jist, $24.95, 1563705184) seeks to narrow that gap, helping students determine their strengths and weaknesses, interests and values as they choose their course of study. Authors Neeta P. Fogg, Paul E. Harrington and Thomas F. Harrington provide information about the majors themselves, types of courses and training involved, actual jobs obtained with a given major, salary and employment outlooks and much, much more. And while students need to be reassured that there are no specific formulas or guaranteed results to life’s decisions, books like The College Majors Handbook certainly help inform them of their options.

 

You survived the beach vacation with Aunt Agnes and the rest of the family, only to return home just in time for school to begin. It seems to never end, this hustle and bustle that permeates your life. But fear not, my friend, we’re here to help you and the kids start back to school […]
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An invitation flutters out of the usual coupons, bills, and sweepstakes notices. Cousin Curtis's daughter, Sally the Scholar, is graduating this month; you can't remember if she's finishing grammar school, officer training, or clown college, but the invitation definitely reads commencement. What gift doesn't require bake sales, passing grades, or student loans? Why, books, of course!

A physics book? As a gift? If Sally or anyone else you know has a penchant for subatomic particles and chaos (theory, that is), then Physics in the 20th Century is the gift of choice. Author Curt Suplee, science writer for the Washington Post, explores the past, present, and future of physics, and readers will realize that matter . . . well, matters! Suplee's text includes practical, everyday applications, making physics accessible to all types of thinkers. Gorgeous photographs and digital illustrations, many presented as center spreads, make this a lovely display book as well. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill, ho-hum, college physics textbook.

Noel Coward was living proof that one needn't have only one profession. The sometimes-playwright, sometimes-painter, sometimes-composer was the definitive artiste of his time, and perhaps of this century. To celebrate what would have been Coward's 100th birthday, The Overlook Press has published Noel Coward: The Complete Lyrics. Editor Barry Day, who has authored several books on Coward, has compiled and annotated 500 songs, including many that remain unpublished and unknown. Plenty of photographs and illustrations, as well as background information from both Coward and Day, make this book an elegant gift for the well-rounded, sophisticated person in your life.

If your favorite graduate has chosen a less-than-traditional career path, The Virtuoso: Face to Face with 40 Extraordinary Talents will provide inspiration. Author Ken Carbone interviews folks like Henri Vaillancourt, canoe maker; Sylvia Earle, explorer; and Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci, to name a few. Peppered with essays on the elements of virtuosity, The Virtuoso includes stunning photographs by Howard Schatz, who captures each virtuoso in perspectives that illustrate the marriage of occupation and soul. A gorgeous gift for those who dare to take the road less traveled.

Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day are both recognized this month, and Scholastic's Encyclopedia of the United States at War follows our country from the Revolution to the Gulf War. Tragedy and triumph are brought to life with photographs, illustrations, maps, eyewitness accounts, and other historical details of each war. Why did Anna Marie Lane receive a soldier's pension following the Revolution? And just how old was Johnny Shiloh when he fought in the Civil War? Famous battles are chronicled, and authors June English and Thomas Jones follow each war from start to finish. A wonderful gift for history buffs, military buffs, and students both young and old.

As the turn of another century draws nigh, William Morrow Books asked 25 women to recall their memories of the last turn of the century. The result is We Remember: Women Born at the Turn of the Century Tell the Stories of Their Lives. Brooke Astor, active as ever, recounts her heartaches and triumphs (between phone calls with her veterinarian); Martha Jane Faulkner, age 104 and the daughter of a slave, talks about moving north to the Promised Land of New York City, only to find it not-so-promising; Dr. Leila Denmark discusses her 70+ years of practicing medicine; and many other remarkable women reflect on what a difference a century makes. Includes a foreword by Hillary Rodham Clinton and timeline endpapers.

Is Sally someone who is destined to ask, What's behind Curtain #3? while wearing a tuxedo and/or evening gown midday? The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows is the perfect solution. With a foreword by Merv Griffin, this reference book contains over 250 pages of entries, and dozens of appendices and photographs. It's fairly inclusive; you'll find information ranging from gameshow dynasties like The Price Is Right to gameshows that were merely blips on the screen (does anyone remember The Better Sex from the 1970s?). And did you know that Walter Cronkite, Hugh Downs, and Mike Wallace all served as gameshow hosts? A fun conversation piece, The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows makes an ideal prize for departing graduates, departing contestants, and otherwise.

An invitation flutters out of the usual coupons, bills, and sweepstakes notices. Cousin Curtis's daughter, Sally the Scholar, is graduating this month; you can't remember if she's finishing grammar school, officer training, or clown college, but the invitation definitely reads commencement. What gift doesn't require bake sales, passing grades, or student loans? Why, books, of […]
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On the brink of a new millennium, teenagers everywhere have opinions about the world that they are inheriting. From Johannesburg to Kiev, Belfast to San Francisco, teens worldwide offer an honest portrayal of the state of things in Hear These Voices: Youth at the Edge of the Millennium. Author Anthony Allison is a photographer and youth counselor who has traveled to various points on the map, talking to at risk children about their experiences and their hopes for the future. Complete with striking black-and-white photographs, Hear These Voices presents gripping stories in a forthright and respectable manner. Perfect for educators, counselors, or anyone else who is concerned about today’s youth.

On the brink of a new millennium, teenagers everywhere have opinions about the world that they are inheriting. From Johannesburg to Kiev, Belfast to San Francisco, teens worldwide offer an honest portrayal of the state of things in Hear These Voices: Youth at the Edge of the Millennium. Author Anthony Allison is a photographer and […]
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We haven't read any new Ramona Quimby adventures in about 15 years, but she is back, and she is more fun than ever. Ramona's World finds Ramona entering the fourth grade, longing for a best girlfriend, and still being happily disgusted by Yard Ape. BookPage had the delightful opportunity to talk to Newbery Medalist Beverly Cleary about her writing, her life and her beloved Ramona Geraldine Quimby.

Cleary became interested in writing for children because reading meant so much to her as a child. "I was a great reader of fairy tales. I tried to read the entire fairy tale section of the library: Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book, Red Fairy Book, and so on, probably down to the Puce or Chartreuse fairy tales," she laughs. These days, Cleary reads biographies and some fiction by English women writers.

Ramona was first introduced to readers in the 1950s as a peripheral character (Cleary interjects, "a nuisance") in the Henry Huggins books. Had she visualized developing Ramona's character, or did Ramona take on a life of her own?

"Well, I didn't visualize anything more about Ramona. In fact, she was an accidental character. It occurred to me that as I wrote, all of these children appeared to be only children, so I tossed in a little sister, and at that time, we had a neighbor named Ramona. I heard somebody call out, 'Ramona!' so I just named her Ramona."

There are many similarities between Ramona and Cleary as she describes herself in her autobiography, A Girl from Yamhill. For example, both struggled with reading and were puzzled about the "dawnzer" song (also known as our national anthem). However, "People are inclined to say that I am Ramona," Cleary laughs. "I'm not sure that's true, but I did share some experiences with her. I was an only child; I didn't have a sister, or sisters, like in Ramona's World. Oh, there are many differences. Writers are good at plucking out what they need here and there."
 
Cleary indeed "plucked" here and there, but were any of her Klickitat Street characters specifically molded after anyone? "Well, probably Otis Spofford. Otis was inspired by a boy who sat across the aisle from me in sixth grade who was a," she pauses, "lively person. My best friend appears in assorted books in various disguises. She was Austine in Ellen Tebbits. And in my new book, Ramona's World, she appears as the woman who is concerned about children waiting for the school bus in front of her house. She lives in Portland, and we talk about once a week." 
 
Cleary took a departure from Klickitat Street to write four books for teenagers, "but girls read them younger now." Books such as Fifteen and Jean and Johnny were inspired by a group of junior high students who "said to me, 'Why don't you write like you write, only about our age?' So I wrote, like I write, about high school. I re-read Fifteen not long ago. I usually don't read my books, but I picked that up, and it's absolutely true to the period. Some people have said that those books are dated, but they're not. They're true to the period. If I were writing Fifteen today, I would write it exactly the same way, except I wouldn't have Jane's father smoke a pipe, and I wouldn't have Jane quite so pleased that Stan was tall. Of course," she laughs, "she would be pleased, but I wouldn't say that in the book. Jean and Johnny takes place in my own high school. I guess Jean's best friend was my best friend." Cleary's best friend seems to fill a lot of characters' shoes. "She's a very warm and friendly person; the sort of person everybody likes. I've known her since we were in the first grade. I don't think we've ever exchanged a cross word."
 
Ramona has been around since the 1950s, and this is the first Ramona book in 15 years. What challenges did Cleary face in keeping the story consistent, yet contemporary? "I'm writing about growing up. What interests me is what children go through while growing up. Some people think the books are more serious, but I think children, as they grow up, are more aware of life's problems than they were when they were in kindergarten. Quite often somebody will say, 'What year do your books take place?' and the only answer I can give is, 'In childhood.' They take place in a very specific neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, where I grew up. It must be the most stable neighborhood in the United States. In many ways, it's changed very little since I lived there."

The Quimbys' third child, Roberta, is now a toddler in Ramona's World. Generations of readers have watched Ramona grow up book by book. Will we be following Roberta's life in the same way? "Oh, I rather doubt it. I guess I was influenced by readers who asked that Ramona have a baby sister. It just started me thinking of how she would react." Ramona is a caring older sister because "she's old enough not to be consumed with sibling rivalry. She's more charmed with Roberta's tiny hands, etc. I think if they'd been closer in age, there would have been a problem." Cleary agrees that Ramona's relationship with Roberta is much different than that of Ramona and Beezus.

Henry Huggins, who was once a staple in Cleary's books, has faded into the background. What ever happened to Henry and Scooter McCarthy? "Well, they're floating around, but Ramona isn't particularly interested [in them]." Ramona is quite interested, however, in Jeremy, the older brother of her new best friend. "Oh yes," Cleary agrees, and adds that Beezus is very interested in Jeremy as well, but continues, "I don't know, I just became interested in Ramona. I once had a letter from a child that said 'Don't ever put Henry in anything else'."

No reason was given for the reader's anti-Henry stance, but Cleary does add that, in a previous book, Mr. and Mrs. Huggins make an appearance at a neighborhood brunch.

When asked for her concerns about the future of children's literature, Mrs. Cleary responds, "I feel sometimes that [in children's books] there are more and more grim problems, but I don't know that I want to burden third- and fourth-graders with them. I feel it's important to get [children] to enjoy reading."
 
Cleary credits her mother for encouraging her love of reading. "She read to me a lot and of course, we didn't have television in those days, and many people didn't even have radios. My mother would read aloud to my father and me in the evening. She read mainly travel books. [Parents need to] read aloud to your children and let them see you enjoying books. Children want to do what the grownups do. Children should learn that reading is pleasure, not just something that teachers make you do in school."
Ramona's World finds Ramona entering the fourth grade, longing for a best girlfriend, and still being happily disgusted by Yard Ape. BookPage had the delightful opportunity to talk to Newbery Medalist Beverly Cleary about her writing, her life and her beloved Ramona Geraldine Quimby.
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C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia series has entertained and educated readers for over 45 years. HarperCollins recently issued The Complete Chronicles of Narnia, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Lewis' birth. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia binds all seven books into a singular, gorgeous volume.

BookPage spoke with Douglas Gresham, Lewis' stepson, about the new edition, the world of Narnia and the Irish author himself, whom Gresham and others affectionately called "Jack."

Gresham was introduced to Lewis in late 1953. "As an 8-year-old boy from upstate New York, I was expecting a man who was on speaking terms with Peter, High King of Narnia, perhaps dressed in silver armor and carrying a sword . . . and of course, he was nothing like that at all. He was a stooped, balding, professional gentleman in very shabby clothes. But of course, the vibrancy in his personality very soon expunged any visible discrepancies in his appearance. I grew to like him very much, very quickly."

Lewis was a member of the Inklings, a group of writers who met regularly to read and critique one another's work. Gresham attended a couple of Inklings meetings as a child, listening in a quiet corner while they had these great, raucous debates, and he emphasizes that these now-legendary meetings also included a great deal of laughter. "These men were full of fun . . . one of the saddest things that has happened in the academic world over the past 30 years is the belief that if someone disagrees with you, you have to dislike them. In true academic studies, this was never the case. . . . If everyone agreed with you, that was utterly boring. People in today's academic world seem to resent being disagreed with, and that's a terrible shame. It will be the stultification of learning."

Lewis reportedly once said that since people didn't write the kinds of books he wanted, he had to do it himself. According to Gresham, "I think he was addressing children's books with that remark. One of the saddest things in children's literature today is books for children which deal with 'issues.' They write books about . . . all the usual horrors of a bad childhood. But they never seem to put a happy ending on the end of this, the result being that nothing is achieved, nothing is affirmed, there is no hope presented to the children who read these books. I think Jack looked at the children's literature from his day and found that there were quite reasonable forms of it, but none of them taught anything. The writers of today's 'issues' stories are trying to teach what children need to know, but unfortunately, they have taken too grim an outlook."

The Christian influence on The Chronicles is rather obvious, but Lewis also drew from mythology, medieval literature, and folklore. Was Lewis's specific message, then, one of hope? "I wouldn't go as far as to use the term 'specific,' but yes, certainly one of the messages was that there is always hope," Gresham replies.

He describes a recent article that posits that Lewis's Narnian chronicles presented a situation where death was better than life. "The writer totally misunderstood everything Jack said," Gresham muses, "for Jack is pointing out that death is rather irrelevant to life. It is a glorious thing to go on, no matter how bad things get there is a glorious result waiting at the end of it. There is a definite message of hope, but also a message of responsibility."

Why, then, do The Chronicles endure? Several reasons, Gresham replies. "One is simply the genre of literature has a very wide appeal. We all have to be kids at some stage of our lives, whether we like it or not. Also, it's important to realize that the Narnian chronicles are books of great hope. They leave you with a delightful sense of looking forward to what's coming. There is also the eternal truth about battles between good and evil, between God and the enemy. "

When asked about parallels between The Chronicles and life at Lewis' home, The Kilns, Gresham chuckles and says, "Many of the characters were drawn from people living in and around The Kilns. The classic example of this is Puddleglum the Marshwiggle, a direct modeling of our gardener, Fred Paxford."

Where did he find these unusual names for characters and faraway lands? You have to remember that Jack himself started out as Clive Staples Lewis, "which he didn't like," Gresham says, reciting the opening line in Voyage of the Dawn Treader: "There was once a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it." Gresham maintains that the names are "more often descriptive of the characters themselves." But what about Narnia? "There are various theories about Narnia. There is a town in northern Italy, the name of which was Narni. Whether Jack adapted this name, I have no idea. I think probably Jack operated on the 'Cellar Door Principle,' where you alter an English phrase, change its spelling, change its value, to mean something totally different."

We return to the actual book itself, particularly the original illustrations of Pauline Baynes, with whom, surprisingly enough, Lewis had very little contact. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia offers Baynes's illustrations in color for the first time, and although Lewis had little interaction with Baynes, she always felt that Jack disliked her drawings. "Actually, Jack loved her work very much."

Lewis dedicated six of the seven Chronicles to specific children. When asked if each book's contents were intended as specific messages to each respective child, Gresham agrees that there was a definite message, but not to the children to whom they were addressed. According to Gresham, Lewis simply selected various children with whom he interacted. The Last Battle, the final installment and Lewis' interpretation of the world's final days (and Narnia's) wasn't dedicated to anyone. Why?

"Good question," Gresham replies. "But if you think about it, would you want to have The Last Battle dedicated?"

The issue of reading order has been debated for decades, as the chronology of Narnia is inconsistent with the order in which the books were written. Gresham had actually posed this question to Lewis himself. "He personally preferred that they be read in the order in which he designed them . . . not necessarily the order in which he wrote them or published them. Which is why, as a consultant, I suggested that they number the books in the order in which Jack wanted them read, Narnian chronology. That has created an enormous furor, lots of arguments and discussions . . . which I think is utterly pathetic," he laughs.

As my time with Gresham draws to a close, I have to ask the question: Where is the wardrobe? Gresham pauses, almost teasingly, as if about to reveal a secret. Lowering his voice, he whispers: "There isn't one."  WHAT?!

Once his laughter subsides, Gresham mentions several claimants who insist they possess the actual wardrobe, "but the fact of the matter is that [none of these] stimulated the book; it was merely a convenient ploy to transport Lucy into Narnia. The house was full of wardrobes—every bedroom in The Kilns had a wardrobe." In case I didn't get it the first time around, Gresham confirms, there isn't a wardrobe, or the wardrobe. Remember, folks, you read it here first.

C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia series has entertained and educated readers for over 45 years. HarperCollins recently issued The Complete Chronicles of Narnia, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Lewis' birth. The Complete Chronicles of Narnia binds all seven books into a singular, gorgeous volume. BookPage spoke with Douglas Gresham, Lewis' stepson, about the new edition, […]
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David Shannon has been illustrating books since 1989. Last year his No, David! won a Caldecott Honor, and this month David Goes to School arrives in bookstores and libraries. BookPage had the opportunity to talk and laugh with the real David about the latest installment of the fictional David's mishaps.

BookPage: No, David! was written to celebrate familiar phrases that most children hear. What prompted you to write David Goes to School?
David Shannon: Well, I'd had so much fun with No, David!, and while I was working on that, the idea to take it to the next level of authority started germinating; I wanted to keep going with this character. In David Goes to School, there's that same dynamic of things that kids do at school, and the no phrases that teachers use — just like the no phrases that Mom uses — seem to be timeless and universal.

BP: No, David! was originally written when you were 5 years old, based on personal experience. Any personal experiences in David Goes to School that serve as reference points?
DS: A few. I will not elaborate.

BP: What's David's next adventure?
DS: He's going to be stuck in school for a while. I have other projects in the works, and I don't want to overdo David. I don't want him to become a formula. With David Goes to School, I didn't want to simply re-write the same book. I wanted a separate book that built on the first one, but was a different type of book that did different things. For instance, collaging the text on [tablet] paper, I think, sets it apart.

BP: The look on David's face often seems to indicate that he does not misbehave intentionally. For example, he is caught writing on his desk, but the look on his face is one of surprise, not guilt.
DS: He wasn't really thinking it was wrong. He's sort of an accidental anarchist, and that's a big part of his personality; he's not a mean-spirited kid, he just doesn't think. Or he goes too far. A lot of kids go through that.

BP: Is there any situation that would prompt him to behave?
DS: Hmmm . . . I'd have to think about that. Generally he is trying to behave all the time. The problem is that every situation presents the potential to misbehave.

BP: David doesn't appear to be very popular with his peers. There's no text to support that, but they seem annoyed at times.
DS: Well, I tried to kind of mix that. One of the differences betweeen this book and No, David! is that this book involves other people besides [David and] the authority figure. Now that he's in school, his actions affect other people. And he has to learn about that responsibility. In the library, when he's making a lot of noise, one girl is clearly annoyed. But if you look in the corner, another kid thinks David is funny. And then on the last page, those same two kids are waiting on him after school. David actually has a crush on the girl [Cindy]. If you read between the lines, you'll see that David is trying to get her attention and impress her by pulling her hair and stuff. That's what kids do—if you like somebody, you poke them and whack them. When he's drawing on the desk, he's drawn Cindy as a pig; you recognize this because of the hair. This is what kids do when they like somebody — sort of the opposite of what you'd expect.

BP: Does Cindy reciprocate?
DS: I think Cindy puts up with David, but girls demonstrate things a little differently than boys. And by the end of the book, she is waiting for him. I wanted to show David interacting with other kids not only to show how his actions affect others, but also to show how kids behave when they like each other, or when they don't like each other. For example, he gets in a fight, a food fight, because he cuts in line. I drew it as a food fight, but probably in reality it would have involved a few fists.

BP: What about the rest of the graffiti on the desk?
DS: There's my dog, Fergus; he's a West Highland terrier. He's in all my books. And there's a little self-portrait. There's a self-portrait in No, David!, too, that was drawn on his floor.

BP: There is a lot of detail reminiscent of school—a sprout experiment, mysterious cafeteria food, food group and choking charts. Why include so much detail in a picture book?
DS: I wanted to put a lot of detail in the illustrations because the text is so simple. Otherwise, you could flip through this book in a minute. The illustrations tell more of the story than the text.

BP: What does David think of his teacher?
DS: I think he likes his teacher.

BP: Even though he gets into trouble?
DS: Yes. By the end of the day, they have formed a special relationship.

BP: What advice would David give his fellow troublemakers?
DS: David would tell them to have fun. I don't picture David as the type of kid who really gives advice; he pretty much leads by example.

BP: What about David Shannon?
DS: My advice would be that getting into trouble isn't the end of the world.

BP: What's next for David Shannon?
DS: My next book is about a rainy day and how it affects people's moods. It's more characteristic of my other work, but some of the little things from the David books—like line work, drawing, and composition—manage to creep in. Each book is fun, because I learn something new.

David Shannon has been illustrating books since 1989. Last year his No, David! won a Caldecott Honor, and this month David Goes to School arrives in bookstores and libraries. BookPage had the opportunity to talk and laugh with the real David about the latest installment of the fictional David's mishaps. BookPage: No, David! was written […]
Interview by

Madeline: Deep in the heart of Texas Madeline turns 60 this year, and doesn’t look a day over six. Ludwig Bemelmans’s grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, took time to answer a few questions about completing one of his grandfather’s manuscripts, debuting this month as Madeline in America.

BookPage: Why this book? Why now? John Bemelmans Marciano: More than anything, I want to reintroduce my grandfather’s non-Madeline books to his fans, the majority of whom weren’t alive when those books were in print. BP: How did Madeline’s Christmas in Texas, a Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog, evolve into Madeline in America, a children’s book? JBM: Madeline’s Christmas in Texas originally appeared as a 1955 promotion for Neiman-Marcus. Every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas, a different line of verse appeared in the Dallas and Houston papers in the form of an ad, usually accompanied by a small ink drawing. The verse and 15 drawings were made into a booklet, which Neiman-Marcus gave away. The store windows were done in a Madeline theme, and my grandfather did the cover for their catalog.

My grandfather had decided to turn the story into a full-length book, to be called Madeline’s Christmas. However, he began work on a different idea with the same title, and never finished either. A version of the second idea was published as Madeline’s Christmas long after his death, so to avoid confusion, the title of this one was changed.

BP: Why did you decide to include other tales with the book instead of publishing them separately? JBM: To me, the other stories are the most important part of the collection. Originally, we had planned on publishing the short Neiman-Marcus version, which would have never stood on its own, but then I came across two dummy books that my grandfather had put together, and we suddenly had a book-length story.

BP: For the first time ever, Madeline’s last name is revealed in this book. Was this worked out during editing, or was it part of the original text? JBM: The lines Including Mlle. Madeline Fogg and Genevieve her dog appeared in the original gift book, and I assume my grandfather came up with the name for the sake of the rhyme.

The text of the dummy books was used wherever possible. Certain things had to be cut a scene involving store detectives and a gun, for instance. Other things had to be tightened up; my grandfather would go in a dozen different directions in the early drafts of his stories, and then focus on the essentials in later stages.

Where the verse from the dummy didn’t work, I went back to one of the earlier versions or his notes to try to find an alternative. In a couple of cases, we made stuff up.

As for the pictures, most of what I had to work with were rough pencil sketches depicting action and gestures. Fortunately, the gesture is the inspiration, so the hard work was done. As for turning gestures into paintings, I pored over the original books, trying to understand my grandfather’s visual language. I never copied details my biggest fear was of turning the book into a pastiche. BP: Why did you decide to pick up where your grandfather left off? JBM: When I was two, I covered my walls with crayon swirls, and one of my first memories is getting into trouble for it. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and an artist and have worked most of my life at it. As for the rest of the family, my mother was an only child, and I have two brothers, one of whom is an Internet entrepreneur and the other a psychology professor.

In general, I think my family is happier with the finished product than I am. My mother occasionally gets confused as to which paintings are mine and which are her father’s.

BP: Is it true that one of the other stories in the book, Sunshine, was originally intended to be a musical starring Frank Sinatra? JBM: My grandfather took an eight-year break from children’s books after Rosebud was published in 1942. He focused on his novels and writing screenplays he was with MGM for a time. He met Frank Sinatra somewhere during this period and was taken with him. He had an idea for a musical that would star Sinatra and take place in my grandfather’s New York neighborhood, Gramercy Park. My guess is that my grandfather realized the story was better suited for a children’s book than Sinatra, and I’m sure he saw the opportunity to do for New York what he had done for Paris in Madeline.

BP: What sources/resources did your grandfather use to create his characters and their adventures? Do you find yourself using the same, or different methods? JBM: My grandfather drew on his life for his characters, and on his travels for his stories. One of the reasons he did Madeline in London is because he wanted the opportunity to live there and paint the city; the same with Madeline and the Gypsies and the south of France. He followed gypsy circuses on and off for two years researching the book. It’s my guess that one of the reasons he abandoned the Texas story is that he didn’t want to spend all that time there. He suffered terribly from the heat.

I went down and retraced my grandfather’s footsteps from Dallas to San Antonio through the Hill Country and down to King Ranch. I sketched and painted, took roll after roll of film, and bought postcards and knick-knacks and books generally, anything I could do to get the details right. My grandfather had given little indication of what the backgrounds were to be, so I painted the monuments and landscapes of the state that most interested me. In the spirit of the Madeline books and of Sunshine, the locations are listed by page number.

BP: What does the future hold for Madeline, as well as yourself? JBM: Unless I find another one of my grandfather’s manuscripts, there won’t be any more full-length books in Madeline’s future. There are, thankfully, other stories my grandfather wrote but only sketched, three or four of which I hope to illustrate, including Silly Willy. My grandfather based the story on a comic strip he did in the ’30s, and he was working on it when he came up with the inspiration for Madeline. I love it and have been working on the paintings for two years. In addition, I’m in the middle of illustrating a children’s book I’ve written, and I’m trying to finish a novel.

Madeline: Deep in the heart of Texas Madeline turns 60 this year, and doesn’t look a day over six. Ludwig Bemelmans’s grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, took time to answer a few questions about completing one of his grandfather’s manuscripts, debuting this month as Madeline in America. BookPage: Why this book? Why now? John Bemelmans Marciano: […]
Interview by

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and four years ago, author Elise Primavera was in need of a Christmas book for a very young friend. I wanted something that dealt with the Santa Claus/North Pole aspect that makes the actual theme of the holiday more real. A lot of Christmas books almost try not to be terribly, terribly Christmasy. Primavera is a huge fan of the holiday and decided, after her fruitless search, maybe she should write a Christmas book, something that takes the magical, fun aspect of the holiday and presents it in a way that’s not cliche. Something that you could sit down with a child a couple of weeks before Christmas and the story gets them really excited about the holiday. Something that elaborates on Santa Claus, the elves, the North Pole, and what goes on up there. I went home and decided I would try to do this. The result is Auntie Claus, a book that reveals some of the mysteries behind the daily operations of Santa’s shop. By answering some of those questions, however, a central theme emerges: it is far better to give than receive. This Christmas, Saks will feature Auntie Claus-themed windows; next Christmas, a live-action film adaptation starring Rosie O’Donnell will premiere.

Primavera notes that later that same day, she took a shower. I’m not kidding. I get great ideas in the shower, and I was thinking about what makes a really good Christmas book. A lot of it is found in the title. A play on words, a play on a song, or an expression, so I started fooling around with titles and words and I’m taking a shower, right? Then I thought about Santa Claus. And I played with words that rhymed: Aunta Claus, Santy Claus, Auntie Claus. And as soon as I said it, the whole character came to mind: an eccentric woman who keeps her Christmas lights on all year long. She says that at this point, she jumped out of the shower to write all her ideas down so that she didn’t forget any of it. The whole idea was, Is she real or is she not real? And that’s all I had at that point. Then I thought, maybe she’s the force behind Christmas, the helper or the mastermind. From there I built on that and came to Sophie and the rest of the family. That came a lot slower, but the initial, immediate thunderbolt was definitely the character Auntie Claus. As demonstrated in her shopping and showering experiences, Primavera’s writing process is not necessarily deliberate. Sentences come to me. And never when I want them to. For example, I’ll get the idea and keep it in my head for a while, and sometimes when I’m trying to go to sleep, a paragraph will come to me and I will write it down. Primavera also illustrated Auntie Claus. Using a technique that she learned and developed as an art student, Primavera covers a piece of illustration board with a specific gesso/pumice stone mixture. She lets it dry, then sketches her illustrations in charcoal and quickly blocks in her shapes with gouache. Pastels are light, so it’s hard to get dark, rich colors. Sometimes, Primavera goes back and re-draws, and then layers with chalk and pastels.

Auntie Claus contains several odd elements diamond keys, canine butlers, bratty children, an overbearing elf. Are these setting the stage for future Kringle family adventures? There’s going to be a sequel, which I’m working on now. I think what’s interesting is that you have this family who, even though they’re not living in the North Pole with Santa Claus, all have Christmas-related jobs. Well, are there any other famous relatives in the Kringle family? You’ll have to wait and see. That’s for me to know and you to find out, she smiles.

Clearly, Auntie Claus and Primavera are keeping a few secrets to themselves.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and four years ago, author Elise Primavera was in need of a Christmas book for a very young friend. I wanted something that dealt with the Santa Claus/North Pole aspect that makes the actual theme of the holiday more real. A lot of Christmas books almost […]

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