Allison Williams and Christopher Walken in Peter Pan Live


Counting down to December 2, and looking forward to Christopher Walken doing the tango.


For this Peter Pan, the cast of 46 includes Broadway veterans like Kelli O’Hara as Mrs. Darling, Taylor Louderman as Wendy, and Christian Borle as Smee. Mr. Walken accepted the role of Captain Hook with one condition: that he be able to dance a lot. In this version he does a tango, a tarantella, a choreographed duel and a new opening tap-dance number, says director Rob Ashford. “We exploited every moment in the script to include dancing.”

As reported by the WSJ:

Fairy-tale Alchemy, and Neil Gaiman mixes it up once again, creating pure magic


Honestly, does anyone say it better than Neil Gaiman, when it comes to fairy tales?

“I feel like some kind of alchemist,” Gaiman suggests. “I have to go to the cupboard and take one ounce of Snow White and two ounces of Sleeping Beauty, and heat the Sleeping Beauty and froth the Snow White and mix them together: it’s kind of like fusion cuisine. It tastes like both of them but it’s actually a new dish.”

And later:

“The Bloody Chamber is such an important book to me,” he says. “Angela Carter, for me, is still the one who said: ‘You see these fairy stories, these things that are sitting at the back of the nursery shelves? Actually, each one of them is a loaded gun. Each of them is a bomb. Watch: if you turn it right it will blow up.’ And we all went: ‘Oh my gosh, she’s right – you can blow things up with these!’”

When I ask Gaiman who his favourite fairy tale character is, he says he fell in love with Red Riding Hood when reading Carter. She was also Charles Dickens’s favourite, but in order to interpret Gaiman’s taste, you need to know that Carter’s take on the tale was “The Company of Wolves”, an ornately told story in which the heroine makes a relatively late appearance in a savage, sexual world, not a small child skipping along a path but a daring pubescent girl who strips naked, laughs in the face of danger and sleeps with the wolf – rendering him post–coitally “tender” – in her dead grandmother’s bed.

In fact, as Gaiman explains (becoming, in his own description, “fairy tale nerdy”) the bombs inherent in such stories have been defused more often than they have been detonated. For instance, the reason why Disney’s Sleeping Beauty doesn’t work, he says, is because “it’s not a story. It’s the opening to a story. The first versions we have of it make more sense but are less kind to human nature.

Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Children’s Literature at the National Book Awards

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 Woodson, who won for “Brown Girl Dreaming,” her memoir in verse of growing up African-American in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, said, “It’s so important that we talk to our old people before they become ancestors, and get their stories.” 

I have framed those words and placed them above my desk while I work on Annotated African American Folktales.

And here’s Ursula LeGuin…

I was a fan of Lemony Snicket until I watched this:…


The Grimms Straight Up

The Guardian reviews Jack Zipes’s translation of the first edition of the Grimms’ fairy tales and folktales.…

The original stories, according to the academic, are closer to the oral tradition, as well as being “more brusque, dynamic, and scintillating”. In his introduction to The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, in which Marina Warner says he has “redrawn the map we thought we knew”, and made the Grimms’ tales “wonderfully strange again”, Zipes writes that the originals “retain the pungent and naive flavour of the oral tradition”, and that they are “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious”, with the Grimms yet to add their “sentimental Christianity and puritanical ideology”.

But they are still, he believes, suitable bedtime stories. “It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the Grimms’ tales for children,” Zipes told the Guardian. The Grimms, he added, “believed that these tales emanated naturally from the people, and the tales can be enjoyed by both adults and children. If there is anything offensive, readers can decide what to read for themselves. We do not need puritanical censors to tell us what is good or bad for us.”


The Grolier Club Hosts 100




Powerful narrative, unforgettable characters, illustrations that stir the imagination, and insights that engage the mind and heart—literature for children is forged from the same enduring elements as literature for adults.  Children’s books with these qualities often shine for generations, with some achieving landmark fame.  A few such books ultimately go on to enter the canon of classics of children’s literature

The Grolier Club’s milestone public exhibition, One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature, showcases one hundred books of this caliber, printed from 1600 to 2000.  On view from December 10, 2014 through February 7, 2015, the show includes such beloved books as Robinson Crusoe, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, Peter Rabbit, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Winnie-the-Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, The Cat in the Hat, Where the Wild Things Are, and Harry Potter.  These classics and others—many famous today, some only in their time—will bring smiles of enjoyment to adults and children alike.

A Colloquium, “Journeys Through Bookland: Explorations in Children’s Literature,” takes place Tuesday, January 20, 2015 from 1-5 pm, with a cocktail reception to follow. This colloquium brings together six international children’s literary experts who will lead participants through highlights in the history, present, and future of the book for children. Please contact the Grolier Club to register for the colloquium.…



Childhood Treasures: The Role of Illustration in Children’s Literature

Sterling Hundley Treasure Island

                                                                   Here’s the announcement for the Boston Book Festival’s forum event!



Harvard professor and folklore expert Maria Tatar and Sterling Hundley, illustrator of The Folio Society’s new edition of Treasure Island, explore the role visual imagery plays in how we read children’s literature. How can illustrations help us navigate the pleasures and perils of literary worlds? What challenges do artists face in reinventing classic stories, and how do they animate other worlds, unsettling readers and surprising them? Johanna Geary, managing editor at The Folio Society, will moderate this discussion. Sponsored by The Folio Society.

Siri and Other Sidekicks


19JPSIRI-blog427Here’s Judith Newman on the friendship that has developed between Siri and her autistic son, Gus.

It’s not that Gus doesn’t understand Siri’s not human. He does — intellectually. But like many autistic people I know, Gus feels that inanimate objects, while maybe not possessing souls, are worthy of our consideration. I realized this when he was 8, and I got him an iPod for his birthday. He listened to it only at home, with one exception. It always came with us on our visits to the Apple Store. Finally, I asked why. “So it can visit its friends,” he said.…

The developers of intelligent assistants recognize their uses to those with speech and communication problems — and some are thinking of new ways the assistants can help. According to the folks at SRI International, the research and development company where Siri began before Apple bought the technology, the next generation of virtual assistants will not just retrieve information — they will also be able to carry on more complex conversations about a person’s area of interest. “Your son will be able to proactively get information about whatever he’s interested in without asking for it, because the assistant will anticipate what he likes,” said William Mark, vice president for information and computing sciences at SRI.