Hamlet: Super Abridged Version

a selection from the text
We watched Shakespeare Uncovered the other night and Euan got very interested in the story of Hamlet and decided to do his own abridged version.  I suggested he might want to watch or read the play first but he pooh-poohed that idea.  And when I read his abridged version (complete with a period authentic variant spelling of the author's name), I had to agree that he basically "got" it.

We've since  ordered a Manga Hamlet that was mentioned in the programme and watched the David Tennant Hamlet.

Euan was pleased to note that the staging of the final scene was quite close to his illustration.  He's now taken with the idea of "doing" Hamlet and while I've often felt many actors who've done the play are too old for the role, even I think twelve may be too young.


Nocturne: Dream Recipes

This is one of the stranger children's books I've seen but also one of the most interesting. It is called  Nocturne: Dream Recipes (Groundwood Books) and it is by the Argentinian artist Isol who has been both a nomineĆ© for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award* and a finalist for the Hans Christian Andersen Prize.

The book suggests that you choose a dream recipe, leave the book under the light and then prop it up beside your bed.  And the wonder of wonders is that once the light goes out the dream appears!  It really is pretty magical!  

*UPDATE: Isol won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2013. Reading guides for her books, including Nocturne, are available here.


Giveaway Winner

We have a winner!  There is  a copy of Arthur Slade's new book Island of Doom waiting for Annette who just needs to send me some details and she will receive the fourth volume in the Slade's Hunchback series.
Watch this space for future giveaways.


Yes, We Do Like Your Jumpers!

This is nice.  Oliver Jeffers (a longtime favourite around these parts) made a mural promoting his latest book, got a lot of famous folk visiting the Hay Festival to contribute and now he has donated it to be auctioned for charity.    

Here's what he has to say:

The Hueys mural I did @The Hay Festival is up for grabs in aid ofVolunteer Reading Help (VRH) - Children's Literacy Charity, head on over to ebay to put in a bid. 
Guest painters include Salman Rushdie, Tony Robinson, Alexis Deacon, Peter Lord, Ian McEwan Website, Marcus Sedgwick, Tim Minchin, Simon Mayo Drivetime, Francesca Simon, Polly Dunbar, Peter Florence, Sarah McIntyre, Serge Seidlitz Alan Yentob and many more.
You find the listing here.   And if (like us) you can't find enough change down the back of the sofa to match the current bid you can download and colour your own Huey here.


Children's Writer of the Week: Arthur Slade

So it's a big week for Hunchback fans.  The fourth book in Arthur Slade's Hunchback Assignments series comes out on July 17th here in Canada.   And it also happens to be Slade's birthday this week.  And if you leave a birthday wish in the comments here you will be entered to win a copy of the new book (for Canadian mailing addresses only).  Learn more about the book here or check out the special features on the Hunchback Assignments website.

Here's a little Q & A which Arthur Slade was kind enough to complete.  Also a picture of him as a nattily dressed youngster.

1) What surprised you most about your most recently published book?
Hmm. Island of Doom is the last book of a 4 book series. So I think I was surprised at how sad I was to see the characters go. I didn't think I'd be that sad...after all they'd been making me work hard the last four years...but now that their story is done, I miss them nattering at me! At least, I think their story is done.

2) What was the hardest thing about writing it?
Tying up the loose ends properly. And deciding which loose ends needed to stay loose.

A very young Arthur Slade
3) What are you working on now?
A dark, fantastical novel set in Hollywood during the 1920's. It's partly about the transition from silent to sound in films, and partly about childhood and partly about...scaring the pants off people. Or at least their socks.

4) How do you feel about being called a children’s writer?
I love it. I feel absolutely at home in this industry. Am not looking forward to growing up.

5) Is there a book you most wish you'd written yourself?
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

6) When (or where) do you write?
I'm an odd duck. I do all my writing in my basement office on a treadmill desk. Yep, I write and walk at the same time. I highly recommend it.

7) Who do you write for?
The thirteen year old reader inside of me.

8) Did you want to be a writer when you were a child? I knew I wanted to do something creative. I was aiming at being a movie director or a comic book artist. It wasn't until I was 16 that it became clear that being a writer is what I was meant to do.

9) If you could live in a book, which book would it be?
The Lord of the Rings. But just at the end after all the fighting is done and they go sailing away...

10) What is the question you would most like to be asked?
Is it okay if I give you a $1,000,000 for your idea? The answer is yes.

And here's a video of Art attempting to convert more of us to the use of the treadmill desk.  I'm almost convinced.


Pirates! The Lego Edition

Dear Mr. Defoe,  
Euan made this for you.  

Front Row (left to right): Pirate Captain, Pirate with a scarf.
Middle Row (left to right): Charles Darwin, Ahab, Karl Marx, Napoleon Bonaparte, Pirate with an accordion,  New pirate with an accordion.
Back Row: (left to right): Pirate in red, Pirate who was now blind, Pirate with gout, Pirate with a hook where his hand should have been, Albino pirate, Pirate in green, Pirate from the Bronx, Jennifer.


Books into Film: Pirates! Band of Misfits

Today's guest blogger is Euan who is twelve and fascinated with film-making and the process of adaptation.

Over the past two months or so I have been enjoying the Gideon Defoe books The Pirates! In an adventure with Scientists,  The Pirates! In an adventure with Whaling/Moby Dick/Ahab (depending on which copy you have), The Pirates! In an adventure with Communists and The Pirates! In an adventure with Napoleon.

In the books I enjoyed how each pirate is referred to as their characteristic rather than their names. For instance, the pirate with gout, the pirate with a scarf, the albino pirate, the pirate in red, the pirate in green, the pirate with long legs, and my personal favourite, the pirate who was now blind (after a bit in Napoleon where the Pirate Captain told the pirates to look up and tell him what they saw, hoping they’d see the flag. Instead the pirate who was now blind cried out “The sun!”).
I like how the beginning of each book starts with an argument amongst the pirates (for example, what the best bit about being a pirate is), which turns into a brawl until the Pirate Captain comes in written as “all teeth and curls, but with a pleasant open face.”  At the beginning of each book he is compared to certain things, for example it is said that if he was a font, he would be either impact or Rockwell Extra Bold. After that he would settle the argument with a brilliant yet obvious-in-hindsight answer.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the recent movie Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Produced by Aardman and Sony and directed by Peter Lord.  In the movie I liked how Aardman made a movie out of my favourite book with my favourite band in it (Flight of the Conchords) and one of my favourite actors David Tennant playing Charles Darwin. I also liked the addition of Polly, the dodo/parrot, into the story, as Gary the parrot didn’t make many appearances in the books.  Most of all I enjoyed the extremely funny jokes made along the way.

I enjoyed how the movie was centered around the first book, but involved bits from all four such as the “attacking boats” scene and Cutlass Liz (from Whaling), the fans and “speech about why a shark would beat a Dracula in a fight” scene (from Communists) and “the pirate of the year award” scene, Pirate King and the “baby clothes scene” (from Napoleon, although it was Scurvy Jake who went into baby clothes rather than the Pirate Captain).

      If Aardman is considering making a second movie, I have a few suggestions.

1: it should be centered around the Whaling/ Moby Dick adventure because it had an exciting plot
2:  it should involve the “Black Bellamy might not be so bad anymore” scene (from Scientists, but rather than suggesting the HMS Beagle, suggesting another, equally empty in gold terms, ship)
3: it should involve the “sponsorship” scene (from Communists)
4: it should involve the “beekeepers” scene (from Napoleon, although not the whole scene as it took up a great deal of the book. Perhaps that’s what the for mentioned “Black Bellamy might not be so bad anymore” scene could lead to)
5: it should involve the character Jennifer, as she seems to be the only other sensible pirate on the boat in the books and if the pirate with a scarf was the only sensible character, it could drive him utterly and completely bonkers.
6: Ahab should be played by Tom Baker. If you’ve seen the Blackadder Season 2 episode “Potato” you will see he makes a brilliant (slightly insane) captain.

I hope you enjoyed this review and are looking forward to the Pirates! In an adventure with Romantics (published August 30, two days after the DVD release of the movie) as much as I am.

Ed. note:  there is an excellent interview with director Peter Lord here loaded with lots of bonus material.  It's also well worth spending some time dallying on Gideon Defoe's website here.  I'm now off to check out the Pirates! Band of Misfits app for the iPad to see if it can help fill the gap between now and August.


Who Says Mermaids Aren't Real?

Adding to my to-read list:  Stormswept: The Chronicles of Ingo by Helen Dunmore.  This is billed as a companion novel to the Ingo quartet which I loved.  Mermaids!  Cornwall! Lush prose paired with compelling plots! What's not to love?

I do admire the range in Dunmore's work and have enjoyed several of her novels for adults as well.  Looking at her website I can see I have some catching up to do.  Will be going to look for The Greatcoat today as I do love a good ghost story.

You can take a peak at Stormswept here.


The Curse of Cursive

My son recently brought home his yearbook and in the section where he had collected autographs most of his classmates had elected to print their names.  These are kids in grade six and seven.

This is hardly surprising now that schools are not teaching cursive but it does seem likely to have strange ramifications.  For one thing if you are not taught to write in cursive then it's unlikely you will be able to read it either.  

I am thinking of writing a middle grade detective story called The Curse of Cursive.  All clues will be given in a handwritten font.

In the meantime, I am searching for a good iPad app to teach cursive writing - one for older children that moves beyond single letters that may or may not turn into cute baby animals.  Any suggestions?