Lois Lowry's Blog
Motoko Rich realizes that bookclubs aren't for everyone (NYTimes, Sunday):
....There is a different class of reader, though. They feel that their relationship with a book, its characters and the author is too intimate to share. “The pursuit of reading,” Virginia Woolf wrote, “is carried on by private people.”
Ms. Stead remembers having had especially intense feelings about books when she was young. “For me, as a kid, a book was a very private world,” she said. “I didn’t like talking about books with other people very much because it almost felt like I didn’t want other people to be in that world with me.”
Particularly with the books we adore most, a certain reader wants to preserve the experience for reflection, or even claim the book as hers and hers alone. Lois Lowry, an author of books for children and a two-time winner of the Newbery for “Number the Stars” and “The Giver,” said she recently read that Katherine Paterson, also a two-time Newbery winner and now the national ambassador for young people’s literature, had named “The Yearling,” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, as the most influential book of her childhood. “I felt a twinge of ‘no fair, that’s mine!’ ” Ms. Lowry said. “I hastily backed off from that feeling because I know and love Katherine, and it’s O.K. that we share the same book.” ....
Katherine emailed me gracefully that she felt the same twinge when she saw that I had named "The Yearling" in Anita Silvey's recent book. No, mine! she thought briefly—which just goes to show that both Katherine and I can revert with no warning to the mentality of nine-years-olds: scrappy and self-absorbed. It serves us well, I think; but it is probably a good thing we didn't choose—let me think—psychiatry or the priesthood as a profession....
A friend is here with me in Maine---she's a Harvard professor, working on a paper due Feb 1st. Her dog came with her; and while the dogs play and hang out together, she works on her laptop in one room and I on my laptop in another. Then we get together for dinner. A good workable system.
Yesterday afternoon she took a break and went out on snowshoes. When she came back, she brought with her a chunk of top-layer snow that she had broken off behind my barn in order to show me the animal tracks on it.
Here's a photo:
Just for the record, French lentils are quite small. I had bought some last summer because I had a good recipe for a French lentil salad, actually. But there is a limit to the number of French lentil salads one can eat in a summer, and so I had a supply of French lentils in the pantry here in Maine.
Then they disappeared. Until yesterday when I put on...or TRIED to put on..these boots. The left one fit fine. The right one....
...well, it was full of French lentils....
This is from son Ben, a lawyer in Portland, Maine, who has just returned from a baseball tournament in Orlando
I played for the Boston Wolfpack, a juggernaut of a team that has won this event 5 out of the past 6 years. I have never been on such a dominant team, with players from the Pack being recruited from all over the United States. Needless to say, we won the event, with our closest challenge coming in the finals, which we won 3-0 to secure the crown. It was a great experience for me, playing alongside several ex-major leaguers who really know how to play the game the right way.
And I include it here because it takes my mind off the results of yesterday's senatorial election in Massachusetts, which is a terrible disappointment to many of us (clearly not all) and an insult to the memory of Ted Kennedy....
Here I am with Roger Sutton---he humming "Am I Blue?"...me humming "Deep Purple"...but at least we didn't CLASH and it was a nice half hour at the Horn Book booth. Timely, our colorfulness, coincident with the new and very colorful Horn Book!
I have just picked up Alfie from being bathed and groomed...not naming names, but the first groomer turned him down, saying "Too matted, I'd have to shave him"..and the second greeted him warmly, no comments about his Bad Hair, and did a great job cleaning him up:
I will say this, though: during this one day I have taken my dog for a pricey spa job; and I complained because the guy who is going to re-tile a bathroom floor called to postpone; and I took a steak out of the freezer for dinner; and I just said "Bye, thanks" to my cleaning lady; and I answered an email from my son who is in Florida for a few days ...and...and...and... fill in the blanks. I lead a very privileged, fortunate life. It is particularly apparent right now, as I see the contrast with Haiti and what the victims there are enduring. It makes a dog hair-do almost obscene.
I could add that I did go on line and sent a large donation to Paul Farmer's medical organization in Haiti. But it seems meaningless, almost. Drop in the bucket. But let us hope that there are many, many such drops and that all together we can be of some help.
I don't know anyone in Haiti. A few years ago, I did know someone who lost his son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, who were spending Christmas in Thailand, celebrating their engagement, when the tsunami struck. My friend went there in the aftermath but was never able to find their bodies. What he found—an image that has stayed with me—was HAPPY CHRISTMAS I LOVE YOU, written in shaving cream on the bathroom mirror of their hotel room....
Boston-based Partners in Health (PIH) is a very reliable organization working in Haiti. PIH was founded by Paul Farmer and has a reputation for getting needed medical supplies/doctors on the ground quickly and is reported to waste little on bureaucracy. They already have clinics functioning in the areas needed.
"A major earthquake centered just 10 miles from Port-au-Prince has devastated sections of the city and knocked out telephone communications throughout the country. Reached via email, Partners In Health staff at our facilities in the Central Plateau report that they experienced a strong shock but no major damage or injuries. "We are still attempting to establish contact with other PIH facilities and to locate several staff members who were traveling in and around Port-au-Prince. In an urgent email from Port-au-Prince, Louise Ivers, our clinical director in Haiti, appealed for assistance from her colleagues in the Central Plateau:
'Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS...
Temporary field hospital by us at UNDP needs
supplies, pain meds, bandages.
Please help us.'
DONATE HERE: https://donate.pih.org/page/contribute/haiti_earthquake
Ordinarily authors do not play much of a role at midwinter ALA conventions (as opposed to the huge summer convention where there are signing booths everywhere) but because this year's Midwinter is in Boston, I will be involved in a couple of things: at 2 PM on Saturday, an interview with Roger Sutton at the Horn Book booth (more details at Roger's blog)---he'll have a series of authors, one after another---and Sunday evening, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt dinner at which a number of authors will be briefly presenting/describing their spring 2010 books. Should be fun.
I came back from Baja with a tooth problem, a temporary crown that had broken and needed to be replaced---somehow looking for a dentist in Tecate did not feel like a great idea!--so that was done yesterday. And also Alfie went yesterday for hs bath-and-grooming appointment and was REJECTED! Turned away! The humiliation! They said he was too matted and would need to be shaved. No way are we having him shaved when the temperature outside is down in single digits. Tomorrow he goes to a different groomer who -- we hope -- will be willing to spend the time to tend his thick fur and clean him up. His hair gets matted very easily, unfortunately. But he is very patient if he is in the hands of a patient groomer.
Here is a photo from a very creative gift-giver, who gave a copy of my book CROW CALL to a friend, arranged in a basket with related things: homemade cherry pie, and a stuffed crow. What a nifty idea, which could be adapted to any number of gift books....
...though I wonder how one would deal with THE HUNGER GAMES!...
I am writing this from the small town of Tecate, in Baja, California, where I am spending a week with three women friends...away from snowy New England. Here's a photo of the view from the terrace of our little casita:
As you can see, the sky is very blue and the landscape quite rugged. Two mornings ago, looking out from this very spot, I watched a mountain lion move across the tall grass in the open space behind the small tree. When I mentioned it to the staff here, they said, "Must have been a stray dog." But I know a dog when I see one. This was a large CAT, moving in the sinuous way of cats...the size of a German Shepherd, tawny gold, and with muscles in its shoulders...completely different from a dog. Later they acknowledged that there have been occasional sightings...and in fact there are signs at the entrances to hiking trails alerting hikers to the presence of mountain lions...so I feel quite certain that's what I saw.
It made me want to go back and re-read Jean Stafford's book "The Mountain Lion" which I loved in the past, and I can envision exactly where it is, in a bookcase in my Maine house.
We began our trip here with a mishap, when one of my friends fell and gashed her forehead on the corner of a chair...so there was an unplanned several-hour visit to a hospital ER in San Diego, and now she has a Frankenstein-looking stitched-up wound, but is doing fine...no concussion, no fracture.
Linda Sue Park and I have been having an e-mail conversation geared around the Newbery Medal, with this year's selection coming up; it will be published on Amazon at the time of the ALA (I'll have to find out how to get to it)... already I would like to re-write my half of it. She was more eloquent than I. Bummer. Story of my life....
Here's a picture my friend Middy just sent me. Mid and I have been friends for a zillion years, and she is the one who does the illustrations for the Gooney Bird books.
and here we are some years ago (I am prowling my hard drive, cleaning things up a bit)
Top 10 Children's Books according to TIME:
1. Duck Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
2. Guess Again by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Adam Rex
3. Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth by Diane deGroat and Shelley Rotner
4. Crow Call by Lois Lowry; illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline...
It is a lovely time here at the farm, with snow on the ground and dogs and grandchildren and gifts and food. Toys and books and cookies and football. May 2010 bring good things to the world.
Here, I hope without violating her privacy, is my recent correspondence with a young girl. This is not at all the same as a simple "Your books suck" kind of letter that can be ignored. But I find myself wondering what my legitimate role is. I never want to get pulled into a political or religious discussion, though some readers seem to invite me to. I steer clear of that. And I don't want to intrude at all on family situations. In this case, I think I've said all I want to say. But I also think I would have been remiss not to grapple at all with the issues raised. I just hope this child is reasonably comfortable with my answers. And it would be great if she showed the emails to her mother. But I suppose that is asking too much.
On Sat, Dec 5, 2009 at 6:47 AM, XXXX wrote:
I do not think that this is a kids book I has stuff kids shoud not read about in it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks to all of you who sent comments to my post yesterday which quoted an email I had received from am 8th-grade boy. Let me just say once again that I get a huge amount of mail and 99% of it is intelligent, thoughtful and supportive.
And some is a little amusing, like the email I got recently from a young girl that said only: "i dont think kids should read this book it has bad stuff in it." I wrote back and explained that I had written 35 books and don't know which one she was referring to. (Actually, I assumed it was "The Giver' since that is the one that draws the most objection). But no. She replied that was 'anastasia has the answers, that is the one with bad stuff." I replied again, asking what she meant by "bad stuff," that I couldn't recall anything at all that might be offensive in that book; and she replied that "it talks about sex, you should read it again." Mystified, I did so, and found two references to "sex." One is when Anastasia suggests to her 8th-grade English teacher that he teach "Gone with the Wind" instead of "Johnny Tremain" and he replies that he thinks it inappropriate. She counters that it has no explicit sex in it, but he stands firm. Later in the book, an 8th-grade friend of hers paints her toenails and says that she thinks they look sexy.
So I replied once again to my correspondent that I had, on her advice, re-read the book. I told her the two places I had found where "sex" was mentioned, that I didn't think they fell into the category of "bad stuff" and that I would be happy to have my young grandchildren read the book. No response from her yet.
As for the boy who wrote yesterday's email, I just replied to him briefly that I was sorry he hadn't liked the book, that perhaps he was not mature enough yet to understand it well. (I said the same thing to another boy a few years ago, in an email, and he replied, "F___ you, lady, I'm very mature, I'm 17" His reply qualifies, in my opinion, as a good example of Quod Erat Demonstrandum)
Actually, I think the little girl was the more intriguing correspondent, because she felt strongly about something in the book, and tried hard to convince me. Perhaps that's why I replied to her at greater length. The boy? He was just annoyed that he'd been assigned a book to read, and he was being a smartass, and probably showed his friends, with some pride, the rude letter he'd written. It's an age a which disrespect is somehow a badge of honor, and the immediacy and anonymity of email makes it so easy....
Perhaps posting this is just masochism on my part---or misery seeking company---but this is an email I have just received from a kid. I get many, many others that are intelligent and respectful (whether they like or dislike a book) but it is hard to know how to reply to one like this. Of course it is tempting to send a reply that is as insulting and asinine as his email. But that's a lamebrain, unconstructive thing to do. I guess the best thing is to do nothing, maybe send a polite response, and hope he grows up eventually. And learns to spell, if nothing else.
my dear lois lowery,
Snow Spreads Across Region An enormous storm piled on New York and New England after crippling the nation’s capital and mid-Atlantic.
And it is true. Of course it happens every year, so we should be very blasé about it, but nonetheless the first storm is always kind of exciting, even though this one has screwed up my plans to drive to New Hampshire today to see my daughter. Later this afternoon I will make it to a neighborhood party, though---no driving involved.
This is the opening of a chapter in "The Silent Boy":
Snow! When I woke, I could feel the silence of it. There was frost on my window, and the room was cold. It had been cold when I went to bed, but now it was a different kind of cold, a quiet kind....
It is bitter, bitter cold in the Northeast, and my indomitable son just sent me a photo from his iPhone---he is skiing at Sunday River, where the temperature is in single digits, or even below zero. I emailed him back to PUT THOSE GLOVES ON! You never get over being a Mom.
Sunday River is 20 minutes from my house in Maine, where I hope the furnace is churning away. Nothing worse than frozen, burst pipes! We've been there, done that.
Pipes willing, weather willing, we will head up there for Christmas.
On January 10, 1919, it was 4 below zero in Maine, and there had been 10 inches of snow the day before. I only know this because of research for a book set there at that time. Imagine how much worse it was to be that cold, that snowy, in those days when heating was so much more iffy, and there were no snow blowers.
The NCTE convention was several weeks ago, and I know I have mentioned it before, but while I was later in Germany one of the teachers who had attended, and who had a book signed and a photo taken, emailed me the photograph. I intended to post it---and told her I would---but I was traveling, with my laptop, and when I got home and returned to my regular computer, the photograph remained with my traveling stuff. So, like sunglasses and folding umbrellas, it lay forgotten in some luggage until now.
And now here it is, me and Michelle Hudson from Louisiana. Nothing at all unusual about this photo, but it represents so well the many, many teachers who travel long distances (often, I think, at their own expense) and bring such enthusiasm with them --- for books --- that it is very heartening for authors. We love being reminded of what happens to the books when they leave our hands, and to talk to the teachers who use them in classrooms, who care so much about individual children,
Thank you, Michelle, and every other teacher like you, for all that you do.
I received an email announcing that The Junior Library Guild has chosen my upcoming book, The Birthday Ball, as one of their Spring 2010 selections. They asked me to write a short essay abut the origin of the book for inclusion in their catalogue. A tough task because the book is a light-hearted romp set in a palace and populated by various royal characters, plus chambermaids and kitchen staff, and preparations for the upcoming 16th birthday of the princess. No deep inner meanings, no meaningful theme, just pure fun---and nothing wrong with that but it is hard to write an essay about it.
Then I remembered my own granddaughter's 6th birthday, for which I gave her royal garb: a fake ermine cape, a fake diamond tiara, the whole princesssy outfit. I looked through old photos for that ten-years-ago event, and found this one, which I included in my essay (though I don't know if they'll have room to print it in their catalogue).
Instead of writing about the origins of the book, I simply wrote about how young girls---at least this young girl of my acquaintance---identify with princesses and their milieu. In the book, Princess Patricia Priscilla is bored with her luxurious life and longs to be a peasant. My little granddaughter, at six, would have traded her peasant life for a palace, I'm sure.
Of course she is now 16 (see previous post!), the age of the princess in the book, and her priorities have changed a bit!