Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Horn Book Came!

The January/February issue of The Horn Book arrived so I have some interesting things to talk about for a couple of days.

The issue starts out with a really amusing (amusing, not gut-bustingly funny) editorial by Roger Sutton, The Horn Book's editor. Evidently, he was asked to appear on Bill O'Reilly's show to discuss Madonna's children's book The English Roses. Now, I refuse to pass judgement on Madonna's book because I haven't read it. Evidently that doesn't stop ol' Bill, who says, according to Sutton, that he's only "looked at it." Sutton's response? "...we're not talking about The English Patient here: Harvard grad O'Reilly should have been able to get through Madonna's book in ten minutes..." Actually, I think O'Reilly got his undergraduate degree from Marist College in Poughkeepsie. Maybe he has a graduate degree from Harvard.

Anyway, the editorial is amusing, has a point that any fool can understand, and is short. My three biggest requirements for a piece of magazine nonfiction!

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

A Brand New Day

Well, I killed part of the morning of my best work day finishing the trashy book I was obsessed with. Now I can start working on becoming a better, nobler person.

Here is what I think I'm going to do: Though I have never read anything by Stephen King, I love reading about him. He used to (and perhaps still does) work every day of the year except his birthday and Christmas. No, no. I'm not going to start doing that. Get real. But I've read he works on more then one project at a time.

I'm going to try to start working on more then one project at a time. I've been kicking around ideas for 3 different things, plus I should be starting another draft of Happy Kids! and I don't know what's going on with Prince Whiskers, which I may or may not have mentioned here before but it hardly matters since no one reads this, right?

Anyway, I waste a lot of time--thinking, waiting to start a new project, surfing the Net. Maybe if I could train myself to start actually working on pieces of stuff instead of thinking about them I could become more productive. And that's the point of life, right? To become more productive? It's what we all want?

I already started doing this sort of thing last fall when I started doing morning pages and more journal work. Which I may or may not have mentioned here before, but again, what does it matter?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I Am So Ashamed

You haven't heard from me because I've been plowing through a series of adult mystery/thrillers that are not very well written but have hooked me nonetheless. I'm taking the attitude that I might as well bite the bullet and read them as fast as I can, sort of the way I bite the bullet and eat unhealthy leftovers as fast as I can. The sooner this stuff is gone, the sooner I can start living a better, nobler life.

I did just find an interesting article about literary weblogs. The article is full of links to weblogs I want to check out. Which will probably be another time killer for me.

I'm guessing that a lot of those links aren't of interest to child readers or kid lit folks. Maybe I'll do an Internet search for weblogs by and about children's writers and see if I can get it published somewhere.

No doubt that will be another way for me to waste a whole lot of time I don't really have.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Keeping Company With the Captain

I was at Readerville quite some time ago, and one of the other posters was expressing some concern about The Captain Underpants series. She seemed to think there was a lot of damaging stuff in it.

Well, of course that was all I needed. I had already read the first book so I ran out to the library and got Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies From Outer Space. I liked it. I thought it was clever, I thought it was kid-centered, and I thought the humor was unpredictable. Which I think is a good thing.

On top of that, Dav Pilkey, the Captain's fearless author, doesn't talk down to kids. He uses pop culture references (something I like) and definitely doesn't limit himself to an approved kid vocabulary. By that I don't mean he uses vulgar, adult language (though you're going to see some toilet humor in this guy's work). I mean this book written for third graders is peppered with words like "improbabilities," "jubilant proclamations," "assault," and "triumphantly."

Of course, third grade may not be what it used to be, but I still think the vocabulary in this book is a little challenging. I also think that, like pop culture references and unpredictable humor, is a good thing. Will kids understand every word? Probably not. Will they figure out a lot of meaning from context? I think so. And they'll be figuring it out from a fun context, too.

Will kids learn to behave disrespectfully toward their principals because Captain Underpants is a nasty principal who occasionally turns into a lame superhero who runs around in his tightie whities? I don't think so. Humor comes from incongruity. What's funny about these books is the idea of the all-important school principal running around in his underwear and needing grade schoolers to keep him out of trouble. That's funny because in real life it doesn't happen. Hardly ever, anyway. I think kids get that.

And as far as making jokes about lunch ladies is concerned, come on! People have been doing that for a couple of generations now. That's not news.

Not too long ago I was ego surfing on a Saturday night (pathetic way to spend the evening, I know) when I came upon a library website that include a page called If You Liked Captain Underpants. It was a list of recommended books for readers who liked the Captain Underpants series. What do I see there but my own My Life Among the Aliens.

I am definitely happy to be keeping company with the Captain.