In Memory of author Maurice Sendak

As always, before the movie, there was an inspiringly creative story. A story that may be quite short or long, illustrated or not, meant for children or adults, could reflect any genre, but above all else: it speaks to its readers. It challenges or changes their thoughts; it creates conversation; it puts a smile on their face or a tear in their eye; it questions right and wrong; it reveals unspoken truths; it is noticed!

I began by introducing the notion of book-to-film only because Maurice Sendak’s work has been most recently celebrated in the more public eye in the film “Where the Wild Things Are” titled after one of his many literary works.

Maurice Sendak, a beloved children’s author and illustrator had the creative ability to weave stories which, although geared towards children, created much controversy in their content, yet was devoured by many. He had published many a tale and poem dating back to the 1960’s. Sadly, with his passing, on May 8th 2012 at the age of 83, he takes with him his imaginative gift that has opened up different worlds of fictitious scenes and characters to so many.

His risky style had taken themes and stories far away from the stereotypic ideals of what a children’s story should entail, creating in their place ones that explored themes set in dark  eery lands where children could delve into several of life’s questions with ease and pleasure.

In celebration of his many achievements and gifts that he has offered to his readers here is a recording of Maurice himself reading “Where the Wild Things Are”:

The literary world has not only lost one of its most celebrated authors but one who takes with him a creative style that is unmatched.

Maurice, although you will be missed, your stories will continue to be read by many young and old for years to come.

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The Little Prince – Priorities and Being Happy

I’ve read this book a few times. It’s one of those books that make more and more sense after every read. To a child it is full of absurd characters with bizarre ideas and obsessions. As an adult, I see myself reading between the lines and taking away many life lessons from the story of a wandering prince from a planet holding 3 volcanoes and a rose.

I really believe that we create our own experiences and tailor them to our own liking. Whether we are aware of it or not, we make life what it is and I think that Antoine de Saint Exupéry is conveying this message through his story.

The “quirky” characters in this story shed a lot of light about how we choose to live our lives. Be it the accountant counting the starts or the tippler drinking his way through his guilt of being a drunk, the way in which either of these characters choose to live their lives is of vital importance and meaning to them. The Little Prince is unable to see the logic behind the behaviour of any of the adults that he meets on his way to the planet Earth. These adults live in such a way that keeps their stress levels high and their whole existence revolves around one particular obsession. The way the Little Prince sees it, they are unable to appreciate what life has to offer them because they are so one sided in their judgment and have a stubborn refusal to change, that they miss out on so much and/or misjudge what is staring at them in the face. At the same time though, the Little Prince emphasizes so much on the importance of his rose that he himself cannot think of anything but his rose. His rose is his obsession, but the reasons behind his obsession are all selfless as opposed to the adults whose reasons are quite selfish. The Little Prince does see the beauty and simplicity of life while the adults around him are too wrapped up in their own selfish agendas.

Now, I could say that the Little Prince has got all his priorities wrong and that the obsession of his rose and its beauty is what is clouding his judgment on what life has to offer. It’s all a matter of perspective.

All the adults who the Little Prince met had obsessions but none of them were happy, the Little Prince was more than happy to tame his rose and make her his priority. So, he was content.

I quote again: “It is the time you have wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important.”

If you were to think about what really mattered in your own life what would it be and why? Do you think you are “wasting” your life on the things you spend most of your time on? Is it your choice to stop and smell the roses or not? Either way, own those choices.

It’s much easier said than done but I think if you keep asking yourself these questions as a reminder and answer them honestly, then it would be easier to focus on what really matters to you whatever that may be.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (Duh! :@P)

An abridged edition by Penguin Readers
Reading this with my 8th graders
Will be watching the film (I’m trying to get a copy of the musical version). Will also watch the Disney cartoon Oliver and Company to study similarities and differences between the films and the text. Lots of activities will follow.
A chance to show students one of the ways in which classic stories work their way into pop culture with examples of other classics and films.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

I read this partly out of curiousity and partly because my students were about to begin working with it in their regular English class (but that all changed and I read it anyway).
As much as I enjoy children’s books (and I am certianly a Harry Potter fan) this book just didn’t really grab my attention too much.
It was about a girl named Lyra (a very adventuroud tom-boy) who was adopted by her ‘uncle’ and lived in Oxford University in London (in a different world parallel to ours). She lived among scholars and researchers. In her world every human has a ‘daemon’ which changes forms into all sorts of animals during childhood and eventually settles into one form in adulthood. These ‘daemons’ are essentially one’s essence or soul and are inseperable from their humans. The scholars who she lives with are in the middle of conducting important research which involves the kidnapping of children for experiments which essentially involve separation from their ‘daemons’ (in other words torture which may lead to death of the child). So, Lyra, horrified by the kidnapping of her best friend, eventually gets involved in the search and rescue of these children. This involves a journey to the North Pole. A journey of self-discovery in an adult world. She is guided by a rare instrument called the Golden Compass.

I wasn’t very fond of the way it was written which was not very captivating. The story is quite interesting but the way in which it was written just didn’t work for me which is very unfortuante because the concept is quite different and interesting and a lot can be read into the story as a whole or in parts. Kids can learn a lot from such a story but I’m not sure it was presented all that well even for pre-teens. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’ll let you know how that goes if and when I do.