The Christopher Awards, celebrating works for the page and the screen that "affirm the highest values of the human spirit," has named The Matchbox Diary one of its 2014 winners. Five books for young readers and five for adults were chosen.
The Horace Mann Upstander Book Award committee, associated with Antioch University, has bestowed on me its Lifetime Upstander Award. Mann--a renowned educator, social reformer, and abolitionist--founded Antioch College in 1853. The Dunderheads received the Upstander Book Award in 2010.
C O M I N G S O O N
EYES WIDE OPEN:
the Environmental Headlines
THE GOAL: Giving readers 14 and up the briefing they need to comprehend their moment in history.
And a riveting moment it is. We've grasped the dangers of civilization-as-usual and are laboring to alter our course, veering away from fossil fuels and switching our thinking from short-term to long.
Entrenched interests are resisting. It's a time of bold advances and shameful retreats, apathy and stunning innovation. Adolescence is dramatic and untidy; so are periods when societies change.
THE MEANS: Searching out the principles that decode a thousand headlines at a swoop--vested interests, the lifestyle ladder, defense mechanisms, big-country syndrome . . .
Because power and money are as important as molecules in this story, I've featured history, politics, and psychology as prominently as science. Because information sources vary in reliability, readers are shown how to look critically at the media and their own opinions and how to test for trustworthiness. Using my own town as an example, I've tried to show them how to see the global in the near-at-hand, looking behind and beyond their own local headlines. Read the first chapter.
"For high schools that assign one book for all students to read and discuss:
This is the one."
Candlewick Press will publish Eyes Wide Open on September 23, 2014 in hardcover, paper, e-book, and audio. The book's website, EyesWideOpenUpdates.com, will go live the same day. Along with continuing coverage of this breaking story and an updated list of resources, it'll offer my own evolving thoughts and field reports from teens documenting how the big picture is playing out on their blocks. They're present at one of history's great turning points. What better time to have one's eyes wide open?
Read the Publishers Weekly interview about the book
SEEDFOLKS now available for the stage
Middle schools, high schools, and community theaters can now perform Seedfolks as well as read it. My one-act adaptation is large-cast (11M, 12F minimum), single-set, and well-supplied with nonspeaking roles. It runs 75 minutes but can easily be shortened since the story is told through a series of stand-alone scenes. It's a spoken musical of sorts--for a taste of one of the "songs" see the opening scene. There's lots of dialogue, action, and new material, including the answer to the question "What happened with Curtis and Lateesha?"
For licensing info and to receive a script, contact Erin Salvi (email@example.com). Playscripts will handle licensing and the publication of an acting edition later in 2014. Until then, I'll try to attend productions so as to polish the script. If you're planning to stage it, do let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
R e c e n t l y P u b l i s h e d
THE MATCHBOX DIARY
The Matchbox Diary is an Italian immigrant's account, a hymn to literacy, an enticement to collectors, and a celebration of the box. It came from many points in my past, all of them converging at an unexpected meeting.
It was two decades ago that my friend and inspiration Kathy Chilton introduced me to her fellow artist Gary Hamel, who proceeded to lift the lid off one of his matchbox journals. My eyes expanded. The cigar box contained several dozen matchboxes brought on one of his trips, each dated and holding a few objects found on that day. Though we'd never met before, I was bold enough to ask if he might let me play with the idea. He agreed. My mind began whirring.
A writer's toughest task isn't finding an idea, but figuring out what to do with it. This germ overflowed with personal connections and possibilities. My mother had long ago given me a tiny sliding cardboard box she'd made and covered with paper she'd marbled, a work whose craftsmanship I aspire to whenever I write. I'm a lover of boxes and made a series of matchbox theaters some years back (see below). The smallness of matchboxes might be tied to the smallness of children and their knack for spotting little objects; I'd been the smallest kid in my class year after year. The urge to record where we've been was a possible focus. Or the way we live on through our objects--the reason my father kept his tailor-father's heavy shears close by his desk. Or a diary-in-objects might be kept by a character longing to communicate, a thread that's run through my work and my life, leading me to study instruments and languages and tutor new immigrants in English.
With so many choices, it should have been easy, but every use comes with problems. It took fifteen years of periodic attempts before I found one whose problems I could solve, weaving several of the above themes around a story of immigration in my grandfather's era, letting the similarities to my immigrant students' lives hover in the air. What a pleasure it was this summer to visit Gary Hamel in his home town of Orange, NH, to have him give his blessing on the book his idea spawned, then to have him bestow upon me one of his matchbox journals. My eyes jumped again. I love this job...
2014 Christopher Award
Finalist, Children's Choice Book Award
Starred review, Publishers Weekly
Starred review, Booklist
Starred review, Kirkus
Starred review, School Library Journal
IRA Teacher's Choices reading list
Keystone To Reading Elementary Book Award list
A Junior Library Guild selection
Best Childrens Books of 2013, Kirkus
Best Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
New York Public Library's "100 Titles for Reading and Sharing"
Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
"If you can't read or write, how do you remember the important moments of your life?...A powerful introduction to the American immigrant story." --Publishers Weekly
"The illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline can create images so exquisitely realistic that they could be mistaken for photographs." --The Wall Street Journal
A Spanish edition with the same stunning artwork is available from Lectorum.
Photo by Rob Levine
C o m i n g F a l l 2 0 1 4
at Children's Theatre Co.
Actress Sonja Parks will bring Seedfolks to life in a solo stage version this fall at Children's Theatre Company's handsome home in downtown Minneapolis. Previews begin September 30, 2014, with the show opening October 3 and running through November 9. For more information, see Children's Theatre Company.
R e c e n t l y P u b l i s h e d
HE WALKED AMONG US
Paul Fleischman's comic campaign-trail novel for adults
A president walks into a country....But it's no joke for the rich and removed American leader fighting for reelection during the second coming of the Great Depression. Far behind in the polls, with the radio ringing with Bruce Springsteen's "Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime," the president has no choice but to follow his handlers' advice: cross the country incognito, living and working among his people for two weeks in a desperate bid to seem attuned to their plight. Hadn't Peter the Great done something vaguely similar? What's the worst that could happen?
Find out, as the presidential entourage hits the road with hidden cameras and bickering speechwriters composing his diary--He Walked Among Us--to be served hot at the convention. From hobo jungles filled with middle management to the bank-robbing exploits of Pretty Boy Nussbaum, truth and truthiness collide as a president steps far off the red carpet and into the nation he nominally governs. You gorged on politics through all of 2012. Now for the literary Alka Seltzer.
The U.S. Board on Books for Young People named Paul Fleischman the United States' author nominee for the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award, an international award given every other year to an author and illustrator for a body of work judged to have made lasting contributions to children's literature. Twenty-seven countries submitted nominations, reduced to a short list of five that included Paul Fleischman. The winner was Marķa Teresa Andruetto of Argentina.
Sid Fleischman was the U.S. author nominee in 1994. Peter Sis, the illustrator of The Whipping Boy and many other Sid Fleischman titles, was the 2012 winning illustrator. You can see information about the nominees and the list of past winners at ibby.org.
WESLANDIA -- the musical
Composer Frumi Cohen has brought Weslandia to the stage! The tale of a grammar school outcast who founds an alternate civilization in his backyard has now been infused with her toe-tapping, lyrical, irresistible music. The one-hour musical is available both as a large-cast student production and as a touring play for 6 actors. Click here for more information.
L O G O M A N I A C S
play for adults
receives its premiere
Ladies and gentlemen--step inside and prepare to behold a freak show like no other!
A parade of 26 word obsessives, one surname for each letter of the alphabet...Men who don't simply use language to communicate, but who lose themselves for years among its labyrinths--playing like children, collecting, dissecting, seeing mathematics and music where you and I see simply letters...Builders of verbal wonders as colossal and rarely glimpsed as the overgrown pyramids of the Mayas...Each man's tale more astounding than the last...Every one of them true!
SEE Daniel Nussbaum's retelling of Genesis via vanity license plates!
MARVEL at George Perec's novel written without the letter e!
GAWK at Flann O'Brien's exhaustive, acid-tongued Catechism of Cliche!
WEEP at Ludwig Zamenhof's poignant attempt to end war through his invented language!
A hymn to our instincts for play and creativity, performed in the style of a carnival sideshow with music composed by Annette LeSiege, Actors Shakespeare Company presented Logomaniacs at New Jersey City University in Jersey City. Read a review here.
For rights and a script, contact Buddy Thomas at email@example.com.
C O M P O S E R S
L I V E !
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices may be the only Newbery book never to be translated into another language--but composers rushed in where translators feared to tread. Quite a few have set selections from the book to music over the years, captivating works I can now share with you. Did you think all composers are dead or that questions have only one right answer? Listen to these very different treatments of the same poem.
The first is the work of Shirley Hoffman Warren, one of five Joyful Noise poems she set to music, all performed at SUNY in New Paltz, NY, where she lives. "I often strive for a slightly off-balance feel," she says--wonderfully evident here. To hear more of her work, visit her website at www.washalee.com .