Lois Lowry's Blog
This is the Italian translation of THE GIVER, about to be released in Italy...somewhat surprising, after these many years in which it has been translated into more than 25 other languages already. But...to indulge in a cliché....better late than never. This coming week I am to be interviewed by a journalist from La Repubblica, described as an important periodical in that country; and I've been invited to a book festival in Tuscany on the fall (not sure that I'll get there, but it would be nice).
IN the meantime, in this country, I now have four books off my desk and in the hands of publishers, so though I have interesting projects coming up, at the moment the only thing pressing, and with a deadline, is, ugh taxes.
Those four? The Birthday Ball, coming out in April. Here's an upcoming review from ALA Booklist:
Just for the record, I have never thought of myself as an addictive personality. Okay, yeah, there was the cigarette thing, for which I blame my college (in those days, the 50’s, they let cigarette companies give out freebies in the dorms. We all became addicted to Marlboros, along with playing bridge and knitting argyle socks for our boyfriends. Later we wised up and quit it all, even in most cases the boyfriends.)
Booze? Nah, never caught on
with me. I still buy wine by the label rather than the vineyard or the year. A
gold-embossed castle carries a lot of weight for me in terms of wine selection.
Or I go for the whimsical name: Fat Bastard has an appeal, as does Roo’s Leap.
And still, castle, bastard, or roo: I often leave half a glass to be tossed out
by the waiter.
Gambling? Porn? Yawn: don’t think so.
But this week (and presumably
next, as well) I am addicted to the Olympics. And I don’t know why.
I am not an athlete, never
have been. I gave birth to two athletes: (one son: captain of his college baseball
team, the other son: tennis team) but the giving-birth part (and the driving to
lessons and games when they were young) was my only physical involvement. Now I
drag myself to my gym reluctantly twice a week but this morning let a mild
snowstorm cause me to cancel.
Nothing, however, seduces me into canceling my evening in Vancouver. Last night was the Westminster Dog Show---and everyone knows I’m a dog nut---but I flipped the channel over briefly just to watch the Tibetan Terrier and then was right back to Snowboard Cross and Men’s Moguls.
At other, more normal, times
of year, I think a double axel is a car part and a toe pick is a tool for a pedicurist
But now I am obsessively
interested in people with names like Bode and Shani and Pang Qing.
I have sometimes been asked by kids whether I get book ideas in dreams. And the answer has always been no.
But the other night I dreamed a book plot. I think actually, within the dream, I realized it was the plot of a novel, and was excited by what a great idea it was, with such amazing and original possiblities.
Essentially it was this: the main character, the protganist, was a woman in her seventies who though elderly was smart and energetic and interesting. In the dream she reminded me of the actress who used to play Miss Marple on the BBC.
Somehow, though, she had lost all of her money (plot detail to be worked out---how had this happened? She invested with Madoff?) and so was homeless. But she was a church-goer, and the clergyman at her (maybe Episcopal? Anglican?) church had an empty room available at the church and allowed her to move in there....
Well, I finally got around to reading this year's Newbery winner, WHEN YOU REACH ME, and though I enjoyed it, something nagged at me as a possible anachronism. The book is set in 1979, and there are kids using skateboards in it. My own children were teenagers in the 1970s, and I do not remember a single skateboard in our house or garage. There were bikes and skis and all sorts of things that I tripped over, but no skateboard. I do remember a grandson having a skateboard in the early 1990's.
This is hardly an earth-shaking issue but it continued to nag at me now and then. Finally, this morning, looking for yet one more way to procrastinate because I have to do some stuff I don't want to do...I googled the history of skateboarding. And yes indeed...it was around in the 1970's.
My kids grew up in Maine, living on a road with no sidewalks, and I suspect that is why we had no skateboards. They had horses; and maybe it is a truism that people who ride bikes and horses do not also skateboard. I don't know. But I do know that Google makes my life much easier much of the time.
The other night, watching "The Who" at halftime during the Superbowl, the question came up: how old is Paul McCartney? (I know, I know; he wasn't performing. It was just that the conversation meandered into Beatle-land) We all took a guess. Then I googled it on my iPhone. Answer: 68. (I lost. I said 72.)
Yesterday I had an email from a man in Denmark who told me that he had been rescued in 1943, taken to Sweden in a fishing boat, like Ellen Rosen in NUMBER THE STARS. He wanted to know where I found the information about the mixture of rabbit blood and cocaine, because, he said, no one in Denmark, including scientists, knew anything about that.
I gulped, because I wrote the book over 20 years ago. No computer then, and I've moved twice since. So I no longer have the research notes. I became fearful that perhaps I had simply heard the story and accepted it as true, thereby doing what so many other people have done in repeating the myth that the king of Denmark wore a yellow star in sympathy with the Jews. That never happened, and I cringe whenever I hear the false story repeated.
But I started looking, and--whew. Amazingly, I found an obituary for Dr. Ernst Trier Morch, one of the people who concocted the mixture that saved Jewish lives. Then I kept looking and found more details:
Fishing boat captains were paid (sometimes with stolen
Fishing boat captains were paid (sometimes with stolen...
I found myself particularly interested in the work of Maureen Taylor, who has been called "The Photo Detective" because of her investigator —and frequently mystery-solving—work with old photographs. Some years ago I used old photographs as the starting point of my book The Silent Boy...making up the plot because I didn't know any of the "real" story.
This is the 1911 photograph that became the cover of the book, and the boy who became the title character. My grandmother's sister, who took the photograph, died years ago and so I had no way of finding out this boy's story, though his picture had haunted me for years.
Anyway: it was fun being with Anita and the other panelists, and a warm, responsive audience on a very cold night.
I drove down from Maine first thing yesterday morning, after the previous day's storm had ended. About twenty miles into the drive, I thought: I didn't close the garage door. Or did I?
Once you start thinking along those lines (which include Did I turn the iron off? Or Did I leave the coffee pot on?) then you are doomed. But this is where cell phones earn their keep. I called a friend and asked him to go and look. And of course the door was closed. But if I hadn't called....
Snow showers turned to sunshine as I entered Masaschusetts and I got home to find all of our snow cover gone, rained away. So it is briefly mud season here but of course it will snow again...and again...before winter ends.
There is a ton of mail to answer and scheduling to arrange. I have been invited to receive an honorary degree from a college (St. Mary's), in South Bend, Indiana; but I have to get to South Bend the day after a speaking engagement in Wallingford, Connecticut. This is do-able, but requires lots of logistics.
This will be my fourth honorary degree, incidentally, so people will have to call me Doctor Doctor Doctor Doctor Lowry. And I will tell them to take two aspirin and call me in the morning, hah....
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...