I cluod hvae tlod you taht

jabberwockA friend, who was a neuroscience major, just shared a NYTimes piece with me. “Look!” she said, “It’s your thesis plus my thesis!”

The article, by Benedict Carey, discusses a new study published in Psychological Science, suggesting that nonsense may be, in fact, a way to jumpstart the brain into finding patterns. The researchers and writer seem to indicate that this is a shocking realization.

As Carey writes, “When […] patterns break down — as when a hiker stumbles across an easy chair sitting deep in the woods, as if dropped from the sky — the brain gropes for something, anything that makes sense. It may retreat to a familiar ritual, like checking equipment. But it may also turn its attention outward, the researchers argue, and notice, say, a pattern in animal tracks that was previously hidden. The urge to find a coherent pattern makes it more likely that the brain will find one.”

Chairs in the woods? Or maybe a lamp-post in the middle of the woods? Or a whiffling jabberwock in a tulgey wood?

Children’s literature could have told them that long long ago. And, hey look at that right there: another reason for literary criticism!

But, to Carey and the researcher’s credit, they don’t miss the opportunity. Carey winkingly acquiesces in his closing line: “Still, the new research supports what many experimental artists, habitual travelers and other novel seekers have always insisted: at least some of the time, disorientation begets creative thinking.”


October 5, 2009 at 9:18 pm Leave a comment

Fanciful Mr. Fox

One truth about children’s and YA literature is that it’s often enjoyed as much by adults as much as by young readers. Grown-ups love the whimsy, earnestness, and humor that kids love as well. But while we like the same stories, kids and adults often like different things, visually. Kids like bright color and shapes. Adults like subtlety and aesthetics. This creates an interesting dilemma for designers. How do you market a book that people will want to buy both for their children and for themselves? How do you design a book that will catch the eye of childless adults and preteens equally?

Often, this leads to really amazing, creative design.

Hugo Cabret

Sometimes, its leads to terrifying Frankendesigns.

Oh God! Mutant nerd! Don't let it near me!! Ahh!

Oh God! Mutant nerd! Don't let it near me!! Ahh!

The same dilemma happens with kid’s movie marketing, especially when it’s based on a book.

The many book-based movies coming out now are showcasing their varied successes and failures.

Spike Jonze’s “Where the Wild Things Are” has hit the bullseye with design. The posters are interesting, the trailer’s gorgeous, and even this pop-up shop/marketing scheme in Space 15 Twenty is dazzling. Check out the whole shop at KitsuneNoir.

wtwta store1

The new posters for “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, on the other hand… well, they seem to fall victim to that same problem of kidlit design: To design for kids or for adults?

Take a look (more are over at Gordon and the Whale)

Fantastic Mr Fox

But I haven’t lost hope. I love everything Wes Anderson’s done, and I’m sure this won’t be an exception. How do I know?

September 22, 2009 at 10:58 am Leave a comment


I’ve been recently added to the blogroll over at KidLitosphere!  I’m shocked and honored to be among incredible company (Fuse #8! Seve Imp! Collecting Children’s Books! Oz and Ends! Shelf Elf! Finding Wonderland! -woah, now I’m dizzy from the overwhelming awesomeness of all the people over there)

Clearly, my thank-you’s need some work.

September 21, 2009 at 10:56 pm Leave a comment

!kconk kconK



It’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s house! I wonder if Lester the pig is there to politely usher you in? Or if everything is labeled for Dick Thompson?

No, really it’s a German art exhibit. Courtesy of BoingBoing.net

September 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

Angels and Demons

My Google Reader list-o-fun-facts has gotten far too long, so its time to start sharing the wealth. And there are some gems in this mine.

For example did you know that “Bad-boy angels are the new hotties”? It’s true, according to Karen Springen at Publishers Weekly. In a hilariously worded article (featuring phrases like “But angels go way back”), Springen discusses whether the fall’s bumper crop of angel books signals the end of the vampire craze. She claims that the two otherworldly archetypes play off the same desires in young adult (female) readers — both angels and vampires are ‘gorgeous’ and powerful.

Clearly, publishers are hoping that’s true. Take a look at two of the covers for recent angel books: Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush (so very many objections to that title) coming out from Simon and Schuster in October and the same company’s reissue of Elizabeth Chandler’s Kissed by an Angel trilogy.

While I am more than ready for the vampire trend to be over and done with, I’m not sure angels are necessarily the best replacement. Why vampires? Because, as Heather Doss from Bookzine says in the article, they’re bad boys turned good. Why angels? Because they’re good boys turned bad.

Do we see a slight problem?

Oh! the things I could say about perpetuating the false division of good and evil! But here, that’s not what concerns me. I’m much more nervous about the idea the success and marketing of these books implies, namely, that what young female readers are getting in their books are not strong female characters (of neither the flawed nor the superheroine variety), but plot-, character-, and woman-dominating men, otherworldly or not. Anyone care to disagree?


On a much cheerier note, Happy 75th Birthday to Tomie dePaola! Author/Illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka has put together a fantastic birthday present for him: a blog! Three Kisses for Tomie is a tribute to the master, complete with videos and homages by an impressive list of illustrators. Head over there for some chocolate therapy after the dementor attack I perpetuated on you above. (via 7Imp and Fuse #8)


(Update: The Whedon-esque touches of the vampires v. angels debate just dawned (ha) on me, so you Joss fans have no need to scold, for now at least)

September 15, 2009 at 11:00 pm 2 comments

Hello again

Hmm, didn’t I use to have a blog here? I’m sure it’s around somewhere. I must have lost it in the craziness of the last few months. It could be in one of the boxes from my recent move to California. Or maybe I left it in a suitcase while traveling. Could be on a train in Serbia.  Maybe I lost it on the beach in Portugal. Sometimes I forget to check under the bed before I leave a place.

Well, now that things are settled once again, I’m going to start looking around. I’m not teaching kids anymore, so that part of the blog might be lost for good, but I bet I can find the children’s book part of it. So stay tuned.

August 24, 2009 at 7:55 am Leave a comment



From Brian Lane Winfield Moore’s take on WWIII Propaganda posters.

Yes, it’s random, but I like the concept.

June 25, 2009 at 1:49 am Leave a comment

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