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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Full Circle and Then Some

I found an entry on my pre-blog reading notes, on the day of finishing reading The Golden Compass for the first time, eleven years ago. The date was 9/11/96...

I wrote,

"I was Devastated.

How could the book end such way? I was all hoping for a completion, a happy reunion, a resolutioin.. and was thrown the cliff-hanger for BOOK II -- which is NOT available yet. Oh.. what agony.

/complaint mode off!

What a treat. What a complicated and yet simple, deep and yet playful, violent and yet gentle, and moving and yet chilling book!

One thing that is so charming and yet so unsettling about Lyra is that, even though she has a truth-reader, and she is a truth-teller -- she also masters the art of lying. She knows the truth about the people (or creatures) that she confronts, and then uses that knowledge to manipulate them and gain upperhand. Even though, since she is pure at heart and means only well, she does not apply that skill to harm people (just to kill the bad ones!) She is indeed the same as her mother, who is also a master in the art of deceit.

Pullman's portrayal of a parrallel world to 19th century earth (Oxford, London, The Arctic, etc.) is almost hypnotic. The fascinating description of Daemons (substantial representations of humans' souls that live and die with their humans and share all pain and joy with them) and the strong BOND between them and the humans is what draws me to the book in the first place and still is what works for me all the way til the end.

This is the 1996 Andersen award winner and rightly so."

I couldn't find an even earlier note about how by that time, I was losing heart at the state of Fantasy fiction for children and how I seemed to have lost my appreciation of this genre but The Golden Compass saved me and rekindled my love and faith in this genre.

Then... 11 years and 1 month and 20 days later -- I sat in a friend's apartment, at a small gathering of children's lit. lovers, eating pizza and sharing stories and toasting the upcoming movies, the online community of child_lit listserv, and the friendship we forged through discussing children's books -- with Philip Pullman! I told him in person how I felt when the first book ended. He asked my opinions over which Harry Potter to read (The Third, of course) and also whether I liked Jonathan Stroud's work and Megan Whalen Turner's books and genuinely valued what I had to say about them. We talked about the bench and he related the tender story of discovering a wooden heart left on THE BENCH, with the carving dedicating it to Lyra and Will.

I still couldn't quite believe that this night had happened, but I do have this to prove to myself:

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Escape Pod, my new found love

So. Here's a plug for something I have found and enjoyed in the past month -- a weekly Podcast site of Science Fiction short stories. Here's a sample tale that many might enjoy: Save Me, Plz (EP124) by David Barr Kirtley. I listen to a story every night when I do the dishes on my iPod. Just the right length and the right kind of surreality to turn this time of the mundane into highly enjoyable and weird moments.

Monday, October 08, 2007

What I Have Been Learning

With the help of my Notable Books for Children Committee friends who have read and nominated for many nonfiction titles, I have had the chance to learn so many things: from facts about microraptors (pigeon-sized, feathered dinosaurs) to the history of U.S. Investigative Journalism, to how nuclear fusion actually works, among many other topics. I can't wait to read about the history of Underwear!


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More Getty Images Covers

It just so happened that out of the three books I read in the past two days, two of them are with very strikingly designed covers using Getty Images. I have yet to make up my mind as to whether Leap of Faith conveys all the turmoil Abby experiences in her 6th grade year and whether the wire-art skeleton is not a poor substitute of Fats (the carefully and elaborately - and probably messily labeled - skeleton). As cover goes, both are eye-catching, for sure. Did anyone read these and can comment on whether they effectively and artistically reflect the tone/content of each title? (And don't we have enough headless torsos in teen novel covers by now?)


Monday, October 01, 2007

Getty Images / Book Covers

So, I've noticed that more and more children's/YA book covers use photographs from the online image collection Getty Images. Although it is not "wrong" and I should not feel judgmental about it -- I feel "cheated" whenever I see that copyright note at the back jacket flap, stating that the image is not created specifically for or inspired especially by the text of the book.

I DO judge books by their covers, since I am a physical/materialistic book lover and care deeply about every creative aspect of the book, as an object of art. And I must admit that even though so many of these covers look quite pretty and pristine and attractive, they lack a depth, or "soul," that speaks to me as a reader -- especially AFTER reading the stories contained within. One recent example is the cover for Miss Spitfire: a blurry child's hand holding a green apple... WHY an Apple? I guess Apple is a "teachery" symbol -- but apple has little connection to Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan's emotional journey... the DOLL (Helen's first word) or the PUMP/WATER (Helen's final breakthrough objects) would have served so much better, or a powerful scene with the two main characters having one of their many conflicts -- and artwork INSPIRED by the story would have been so much more affective than Found Photos.

What gives? Pricing alone? Lack of hired talent? Anyone can shed some light on this?