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Country life at last

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on Sunday, 07 June 2009
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Today Alfie and I drove to Maine, where we will be for the summer except for a few (blessedly few) interruptions.

He is ecstatic to be here---has been racing around and around, checking out all of his favorite haunts, and a little nonplussed to discover that I had hired my much-loved handyman to close off any access to the enticing under-the-barn. Enticing to Alfie because of what LIVES under there: critters of all sorts.  Woodchucks, I know, because I've seen them. Porcupines, I know, because Alfie tangled with one and was the worse for it.  Probably many other critters, likely including skunks.  So I don't want him under there. He wants to go under there. I win.  So there.  Hah.

Peonies are in bloom, and some lilies, though I have many varieties of dayilies and they will bloom all summer.



Peonies 6:7

Lupine. Think of Miss Rumphius in the Barbara Cooney book.

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general grossness

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on Friday, 05 June 2009
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Now that I've heard from people completely grossed out by my description of a leaky hotel-room toilet, I thought I'd change the subject by adding one more photo from Africa.  This is a close-up from a menu at a cafe in Johannesburg.

Monkey gland

No, I can't tell you how the monkey gland burger tasted.

I can tell you, though, that wart hog isn't bad.  A wart hog is of the pig family, of course. We were served sweet-and-sour warthog and it was fairly tasty.

As for impala?  I asked the guy at the buffet, as he was slicing the roast, "What does impala taste like?"  He gave that some thought and replied: "A little like springbok."

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Tsunami

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on Thursday, 04 June 2009
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I am in a hotel room in Lancaster, California, and I am up at 6 AM---in fact have been up since 5:30 AM---partly because my brain is on Massachusetts time, and it is three hours later there.  But also because I was awakened by the sound of water.  Not gush, gush, but trickle,  trickle.  Not drip, but trickle...meaning it is flowing, though not very fast.

I got up to investigate and discovered that the toilet is leaking.  The floor around it was quite awash, though now I have mopped it up and the base of the toilet is swathed in towels. It continues to flow, and I will have to add new towels soon.  Here is a photo (and some of you loyal readers will cringe at the awareness that I published another hotel-toilet photo not terribly long ago. There is a trend here. Sorry).

CA TOILET


This would not be a terribly serious problem were it not for the OTHER photo which I will now add, the photo of the cartons and cartons of books delivered here on a dolly by Barnes and Noble last night.  You can't appreciate the geography from these two photos.  But the flood is inching toward the cartons.

B%N books

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Or, for that matter, an elephant....

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 02 June 2009
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Elephants 6  


No, I will not further bombard you with Africa photos, except for these. It was fascinating to me to see the protectiveness that this elephant herd showed toward their littlest one.  You can see the baby on the left --- he (or she?  Dunno) was at all time surrounded by the others, and when we--in our vehicle---got a little too close for their comfort, the one nearest to the baby always let us know it.  Here (above) you can see the mildly confrontational stance, the ears extended...  And then here (below)...

Elephants 7

.....when we didn't sufficiently back off, the guardian of the baby became a little more clearly annoyed.  When she was finally satisfied that we were not a threat, she tore off a tree branch and fed the baby some leaves. Then, gradually, they all moved off into the underbrush and went on their stately, lumbering way...as did we (less stately).  We could watch the movement of the trees as they continued on their way. For us, it was an awe-inspiring encounter. For them? Ho hum.

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why does a rhino cross the road?

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 26 May 2009
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Rhino in road

I don't know the answer to WHY but I can testify that they DO and that one certainly gives them the right of way.  I am writing this from  northwest South Africa, where yesterday I visited a second grade class in a primary school in a small Zulu village.  About 45 children with just one teacher, and as I neared the classroom I could hear them singing the traditional "A B C D E F G" song---they start learning English very young--- enthusiastically.

They were lovely kids, all grins and giggles, and it is easy to see how one could fall into the Madonna/Angelina syndrome and want to take a few home.

SA schoolchildren

I am in the town of Hluhluwe, which I can in no way pronounce. The landscape is vast and breathtaking, the people warm and welcoming, the poverty and unemployment heartbreaking. The night sky is incredible and makes me remember the Kurt Weill song "Lost in the Stars" from Alan Paton's book "Cry the Beloved Country" which deals with the days of Apartheid here.

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packing

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 19 May 2009
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Fire__1242630394_9846

On Saturday the Mormon Church just down the street from us caught fire and burned.  My friend who lives next door---VERY close---was  in her kitchen at the time, and was ordered out by the fire chief, who said that her house was likely going to go.  It was the classic what-to-save situation. She said she looked around and realized that it was all "just stuff."  She took her laptop and her cell phone.

And she was lucky because her house is unscathed.  Eventually some salvaged valuables from the church were stored briefly in her house---but she said, "Lots of paintings of Jesus. I wonder if he felt comfortable in our Jewish household."  After a while Jesus was moved to the Friends Meeting House nearby and presumably will stay there---among friends--- for a while.

I have just come back from Dubuque, Iowa, a quick trip---a flight out there, a speech in the evening, and a flight home the next day.  But it was a nice time. A good crowd, interesting poeple and a lovely city.

Then, last night, here in Cambridge, a wonderful fund-raising event headed by writer Alice Hoffman, She does this almost every year, to raise money for the Hoffman Breast Center at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. Alice was treated there for breast cancer some years ago, and now, in part because of her incredible fund-raising,  it is a world-class facility and has been a source of healing and hope for many, mnay women.

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more than the Riot Act

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on Tuesday, 12 May 2009
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Riot act


This is the front of a Mothers Day card from my son Ben.  The inside says: "Thanks for reading us more than the riot act"---and it's amazing that he found such an apt card (four children two girls and two boys)--okay, so we never had the ugly lamp or the ugly wallpaper or the ugly drapes...but we certainly had the nightly story-reading and the giggles pictured here.

But I am thinking of another child, a little boy named Anthony, who spent three summers with our family. On  the anniversary of Brown.v. Board of Education, a book called LINDA BROWN, YOU ARE NOT ALONE anthologized stories related to that momentous decision. I wrote about Anthony for that book, now out of print; and I'll copy my contribution here.




ANTHONY


“He’s crying. We were playing keepaway and he just started to cry.” My children, all four of them, came thundering  through the back door into the kitchen, where I was stirring spaghetti sauce. “What should we do?”

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Ring! Riiinnngg!

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 08 May 2009
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I drove up to Maine yesterday and when I got here and set up my laptop realized that I didn't have the power cord.  I'd planned to work on several things but realized that I wouldn't be able to, once the battery was depleted,  so had decided to go home two days early----then, luckily, I found the cord in an obscure pocket of my bag.  So all is well, except that I am appalled at how dependent I am upon the computer.

It is 7:30 AM and I have been up for two hours. Martin is still asleep, and so is Andy, my stepson who came with us for the weekend (and with whom I am going to see "Star Trek" this afternoon).  But Alfie wanted to go out at 5:30, and I went with him; I didn't want to let him run loose at that hour because he might bark and annoy the neighbors.  So I wandered around at the end of the leash while he peed and sniffed, and munched some grass and then barfed, in the mysterious way of dogs. Now he is sound asleep on the couch in the studio where I work, and I am wide awake.

At 6:20 AM I heard what sounded a gunshot in the distance.  I looked at my watch when I heard it because I envisioned being questioned by the police. If the local once-a-week paper says "Local resident killed by gun sometime Saturday morning" I will step forward and testify.

I was in Philadelphia earlier this week in order to meet with the theater director who will be directing "Gossamer" at the People's Light and Theater during their 2009-2010 season, and to speak to their subscribers at an event Tuesday night. Flew home in time to introduce M.T. Anderson when he was awarded the St. Botolph Foundation Distinguished Artist Award Thursday night and to hear him make a brilliant speech. At dinner, afterward, conversation turned to old movies, especially old "noir" films, and I mentioned having recently rented and watched "The Postman Always Rings Twice"---the old version, with Lana Turner and John Garfield---and Susan Cooper, sitting across the table from me, said, "Oh, I think my husband was in that!" (Susan was married to the late Hume Cronym) ---and it is true; he was; he appears late in the film, after the murder; he plays a lawyer.  But isn't that an odd coincidence, that I would have rented and watched a 1946 movie and then mentioned it while sitting across from the wife of...well.  Coincidence is what makes life interesting.

"Their Love was a Flame that Destroyed!" says the poster advertising the film. They just don't make them like this any more.

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Teach Me

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 02 May 2009
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I read this  in this morning's NY Times Magazine and was so moved by it that I thought at first I would direct everyone how to find it online.  Then I decided to simply copy it here. This may, of course, violate copyright law.   But not to make it accessible seems to violate some other law of the heart.


The New York Times

May 3, 2009

Without a Prayer

By MAGGIE ROBBINS

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A few words about a few words

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Friday, 01 May 2009
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I am in the middle of some finishing-up, some final work on a manuscript that I will give to my editor when we meet for lunch on Monday.

But no one can work on one thing non-stop and so I take breaks from time to time.  Today, over lunch, I picked up and read a few pages of a book I recently bought after reading a review.  The book is called THE HOUSEKEEPER AND THE PROFESSOR, by Yoko Ogawa. 

Ogawa book



I have not read very far, but already I love this book, and the spare quality of its prose---a little like a Japanese garden or house: everything placed exactly right, no excess at all.

Here (to my mind) are three perfect sentences:

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Saint (l); Sinner (r)

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on Wednesday, 29 April 2009
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Yesterday afternoon two things happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I live.

One, the Dalai Lama made a speech.  Two, a branch of Bank of America was robbed at gunpoint.

DL copy

Globe copy





Guess which event I was at.  The wrong one.

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Penguins Lead the List

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on Sunday, 26 April 2009
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Once again "And Tango Makes Three" has led the ALA list of "Most Challenged Books" this year.  For those of you  who been locked in  a  soundproof room for the last decade, this book is the true story of two male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo who, after they had been best pals for several years, were seen trying to hatch a rock that vaguely resembled an egg. Zookeepers gave them the second egg from another couple, and the two males hatched and raised the baby, thereby becoming the kind of caring family we wish every child in the world could have. 

200px-Tangopenguin

(None of my books is on the current top ten list, though at the moment "The Giver" is under fire in Nashua, New Hampshire).

The SLJ Battle of the Books is entering its final two weeks, with judges Linda Sue Park and Chris Crutcher selecting the two from which I have to choose the winner.  I was insane to agree to playing that role, which guarantees that I will be hated and reviled by half the people following the battle.  My own personal favorite got dumped early on, waahhh.  But the truth is, every book in the running is a winner.

And even though it is not a contender in this particular contest, I hereby declare "And Tango makes Three" a champion.

 
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interviews, contests, etc

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 21 April 2009
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Here is one Q and A from an interview with me that can be found at the Abbeville Press website (actually, at their blog, called Abbeville Manual of Style). 

AMoS: You are the Final Judge for this year’s “Battle of the (Kids’) Books” tournament held by School Library Journal. Do you find it fun or difficult (or both) to judge your fellow authors’ work?

LL: I find it impossible. I once was a judge for the National Book Awards and it just about did me in. However, this “Battle of the Books” thing is an entertainment, more than anything else, and I am treating it as such. All the contending books are brilliant books—none is “better” than another. It’s a circus act, and it’s fun, and at the end I’ll say whether I applauded more at the dancing elephant or the juggling seal. That’s all.


As for the ongoing Battle of the Books, it is narrowing down day by day....you can get to it by going to the School Library Journal and from there to their blog.  (For some reason I can't seem to master the art of inserting a url into a blog post. Sorry.)

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Scott and Me

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on Sunday, 19 April 2009
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 Recently I received an invitation to speak in Regina, Saskatchewan.  Of course I said yes.  It is someplace I would never see, otherwise!  But here's the astonishing thing: the invitation was for the spring of 2012.

I am 72 years old.  In the spring of 2012 I'll be 75. Assuming I am still alive. And functional.  This morning's NY Times has an article about Margaret Drabble, who has called it quits, writing-wise, because she is 69 and feels she has nothing left to say.

Scott O'Dell died at 91 and was working on a  new book, I was told by his editor, when he died.  So I am thinking of Scott O'Dell and hoping to emulate him, instead of Margaret Drabble.

And here is a funny Scott O'Dell story,  Two, actually.

In 1979 I was in New York for whatever convention was being held there---probably ALA---and I was invited to a cocktail party honoring Scott O'Dell.  I was in my hotel room, alone, getting dressed to go that party, when I realized that I couldn't reach the middle button on the back of my dress.  It was just at that one place that was unreachable though I contorted myself trying before I gave up.  Finally I decided the heck with it, and I left my room with the button unbuttoned.

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Glamorous Traveling Life

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on Friday, 17 April 2009
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Wednesday I drove to Augusta, Maine, in order to speak at the 20th annual Reading Round Up of Childrens' and YA Literature on Thursday morning.  I checked into the Holiday Inn beside the Convention Center, got out my laptop, realized it had a low battery, so looked for an outlet in order to plug it in. Nada.  The room's only electrical outlets were one behind the heavy king-sized bed headboard, or the other behind the massive piece of furniture that housed the TV.

SO:  Here is where I spent my evening:

Photo

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And this is one way in which I waste time...

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on Sunday, 12 April 2009
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This morning I found myself mentally switching lead sentences in the NY Times  so that the wrong photos appeared. For example:

12filkins.1901

WASHINGTON — And now there are four. In the space of a week, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has doubled, with Iowa and then Vermont joining Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Okay, we all know (don't we? don't we?) that that photo is of Richard Holbrooke, envoy to the Mideast, talking to the foreign minister of Pakistan---it is not Travis and Geoff exchanging vows on Fire Island.

It is a mindless way to waste some Sunday morning time while a hundred miles away my grandsons are hunting for Easter eggs and riding their bikes.

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Bulking Up

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on Friday, 10 April 2009
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Okay, this is just an example of how my mind works---fluttering hither and yon.

I was sitting here at my desk typing away on a book manuscript.  I needed to mention a residential neighborhood in Tokyo, and I wanted to be sure to get it right, so I went (courtesy of Google) to a map of Tokyo.

I once lived in Tokyo, so I was not starting from scratch, but as I looked around that map, I found not only the neighborhood I wanted (so should have stopped right there, confirmed the spelling, closed down the Tokyo map, and gone back to work) , but---there was mention of Ryogoku, the section of Tokyo where the Sumo wrestlers live and train, and that brought back some memories.

In 1995 Martin and I traveled around Japan for a couple of weeks---just tourists.  During our time in Tokyo we had a chance (promising to sit very quietly, the same promise we had to make once when we attended a murder trial at Old Bailey in London) to watch young Sumo wrestlers training.  Following that, we wwent to a restaurant run by a retired Sumo wrestler (well, what else would a retired super-fat guy do?) where we were served a very hearty—and delicious—stew called Chonko-nabe.

Several days later we were in another part of Japan, very rural and mountainous. And while we were walking through a particularly scenic area, suddently there were throngs of uniformed schoolchildren, middle school age, apparently on a field trip.

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E.B. White Award

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on Wednesday, 08 April 2009
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EB White AWard copy

The E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, established in 2004, honor books that reflect the universal read aloud standards that were created by the work of the author E.B. White in his classic books for children: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan.

In the first two years of the award, a single book was selected.

In 2006, in recognition of the fact that reading aloud is a pleasure at any age, the award was expanded into two categories: Picture Books, and Older Readers.

Books are nominated for their universal appeal as a “terrific” book to read aloud.

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Journey for Margaret

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on Tuesday, 07 April 2009
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My friend Margaret from Minnesota has just left after a lovely 5-day visit in which I made her eat too much and watch too many movies and become addicted to "In Treatment." (And now she will have to undergo withdrawal because she doesn't have HBO back home).

Margaret and I are the same age and at one point we became the founding (and only) members of the Margaret O'Brien Fan Club. There is practically no one left who can recite the titles of M O'B movies; when Margaret and I die, this bit of 1940's trivia will be lost..

Here is what she brought me as a gift:

Polly


Margaret journeyed here from St. Paul but that is not what the title of this post refers to. No, it is Margaret O'Brien's first movie, made when she was four years old, a true tear-jerker. There are few people living who remember it.

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Battle of the Books

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 31 March 2009
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  • SLJ Kicks Off Its First Annual Battle of the Books
    School Library Journal is about to launch its first annual Battle of the (Kids’) Books contest. What is it, you ask? Call it a book war. Lois Lowry, Jon Scieszka, Linda Sue Park, and John Green are just some of your favorite authors who’ll be judging the contest, which pits 16 of last year’s best books for young people against each other.

This will be a bit like March Madness (did you see that last-5-seconds win of Villanova over Pitt Saturday night?!) with 16 books starting out, and books being dropped on each round...and I get to judge the final round!  So people will either hate or love me when it's over.  But it is all in fun, and the books have all been chosen because they were the best of 2008, so there won't really be any losers here.

The battle begins on April 13th and will conclude with the selection of the winner on May 5th.


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