STAGE SEEDFOLKS AT SCHOOL
My school-friendly adaptation of Seedfolks has just been published by Playscripts. See below for details.
STAGE WHIRLIGIG AT SCHOOL
John Newman's just-released adaptation of the novel runs 65-75 minutes and can be performed by 5-30 actors. Go to Youth Plays for everything you'll need.
Another president is missing--this one lost in a campaign-trail satire
HE WALKED AMONG US
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, he has no choice but to follow his handlers' advice: cross the country incognito, living 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 a president steps far off the red carpet--washing dishes, picking fruit, dumpster-diving, panhandling--and discovers the nation he nominally governs.
Didn't know Paul Fleischman writes for adults? Read "Swat Radio," published in The New Yorker.
Edited by Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Assassinations, student protests, the Red Guards in China and Russian tanks in Prague, a momentous election in the United States...1968 seems stuffed with a decade's worth of headlines. Young people played major roles in them, from anti-war marches and the strikes in Paris to the blossoming environmental movement and the fight for civil rights.
On the 50th anniversary of this riveting year, 1968 brings its spirit and events to life through genres ranging from memoir to poetry. My contribution describes the long-distance bike ride I took that year at age 16, emblematic of the counter-culture's embrace of nature and personal exploration.
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 reviews in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal
IRA Teacher's Choices reading 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"
"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.
H i s t o r y i s h a p p e n i n g n o w
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 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, history and politics and psychology are featured as prominently as science. Because information sources vary in reliability, readers learn to look critically at the media and how to test for trustworthiness. Using my own small town as an example, the book demonstrates how to see the global in the near-at-hand, looking behind and beyond local headlines. Read the first chapter.
"For high schools that assign one book for all students
to read and discuss: This is the one."
• Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
• Winner of the Green Earth Book Award
• Winner of the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award
• Booklist Editors' Choice
• Junior Library Guild selection
• Louis J. Battan Award nominee (American Meteorological Association)
• Outstanding Science Trade Books (National Science Teachers Association)
• Science Book and Film Prize nominee (American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science / Subaru)
• Association of Children's Librarians of Northern California Distinguished Books
• Nerdy Award (Nerdy Book Club)
• Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus
Available from Candlewick Press in hardcover, paper, audio, and e-book
Schools can now perform Seedfolks as well as read it. My school-friendly adaptation is large-cast (11 males, 12 females minimum), single-set, and well-supplied with female and nonspeaking roles. It's one-act, technically simple, and at 40 minutes fits into a single class period. The play is 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?"
The acting edition has just been published by Playscripts, which will handle licensing as well. Click here for a Playscripts interview about the story's inspiration. If you stage the play, let me know how it went at firstname.lastname@example.org. Break a stalk!
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 .