Saturday, December 17, 2005

Saturday Links

Temple Grandin reviews Elephants Can Paint Too! by Katya Arnold for the New York Times. Arnold is a writer, artist, and teacher who began an elephant painting school to help support "3,000 domesticated elephants were no longer needed for hauling felled trees" in Thailand. Grandin notes, "Judging by the work in Elephants Can Paint Too!, each elephant has a definite painting style. Some use long strokes and others dab the paint on in spots. Many are hesitant at first, but they gradually develop a technique. (Of course, a few elephants are not interested in painting at all and may eat the brush.)"
Hooray! The New York Review Children's Collection has reissued Norse Gods and Giants and retitled the book D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths. James Hynes reviews the volume for the New York Times. Hynes writes the book earns a PG rating, but,
  • But not to worry: there's still a lot of drinking, fighting and bad behavior, particularly on the part of fiery Thor, who is forever whacking frost giants on the head with his hammer, and the highly entertaining Loki, who is one of the most complicated and devious characters in anybody's mythology, anywhere.

The web version of this review has links to illustrations to D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths as well as an excerpt from Michael Chabon's introduction to the volume.


Lenora Todaro reviews John M. Neale's Good King Wenceslas (illustrated by Tim Ladwig) and Werner Thuswaldner's Silent Night, Holy Night: A Song for the World (illustrated by Robert Ingpen and translated by Patricia Crampton) for the New York Times. Todaro finds both picture books to offer something different to children this season. Of Good King Wenceslas Todaro writes,

  • The book's imagery is overly suggestive of picture-postcard, dewy-eyed innocence. But one hopes the carol's lyrics, pleasingly antiquated ("In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted") and rousingly celebratory about the act of giving, offer a challenge to the consumer frenzy that beckons every boy and girl, naughty or nice, each December.

Times of old also feature prominently in Silent Night, Holy Night: "In this account, the words to "Silent Night" sprang from the mind of Joseph Mohr, a pipe-smoking priest in 19th-century Austria who wanted to give his poor parishioners relief from the ravages of war, a hard winter and unemployment." Sounds a bit dreary for a children's tale, but, as Todaro notes, "surely the beauty of "Silent Night" lies in the variety of experiences it can offer -respite from poverty and war, yes, but perhaps also just from weariness or even complex spiritual beliefs round yon virgin mother and child."


This week's "Bookshelf" in the New York Times is also devoted to children's literature. Some familiar titles on the list--The Penderwicks, A Little History of the World, A Room with a Zoo--and some newer books, including Once Upon a Time, The End: Asleep in 60 Seconds (By Geoffrey Kloske, illustrated by Barry Blitt)


Maya Jagi talks to Ursula Le Guin for the Guardian.

Le Guin discusses J.K. Rowling during the interview. Jagi reports, "Her credit to JK Rowling for giving the 'whole fantasy field a boost' is tinged with regret. 'I didn't feel she ripped me off, as some people did,' she says quietly, 'though she could have been more gracious about her predecessors. My incredulity was at the critics who found the first book wonderfully original. She has many virtues, but originality isn't one of them. That hurt.'"

There's a nice paragraph at the end of the article. Jagi writes:

  • Le Guin, whose fantasies are partly about the artist as magician, learning to temper power with responsibility and talent with humility, says she wrestles with the temptation to moralise. 'Sometimes one's very angry and preaches, but I know that to clinch a point is to close it,' she says. 'To leave the reader free to decide what your work means, that's the real art; it makes the work inexhaustible.'