Category Archives: classics

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From book to stage, and beyond

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned here before that in addition to books, I also love the theater (along with my colleague, Jim McCarthy, with whom I share stories of good and bad plays for sport). I think there’s something so magical about a good theatrical experience. I’m proud to say that I saw the original production of Rent off Broadway at The New York Theater Workshop in 1994. It was a profound experience that the few of us lucky enough to see the show with the original cast in that tiny space will never forget.

Rentpostera.jpg

It got me to thinking about books as plays. We often talk about books as films, but plays are so expensive to produce and so often don’t work that the number of shows from books is a lot more limited. What translates to the page doesn’t always translate to the stage. I’ve always loved Les Mis, although I’ve not yet seen the new production, and I recently saw and really enjoyed Matilda, both based on books.

Matilda

A lot of other Broadway shows I’m thinking of are based on films, like Rocky (couldn’t live up to the source material), Kinky Boots (loved the show, didn’t see the movie), and Billy Elliot (saw at a regional theater in Maine this summer). This is a lot more obvious a transition because it’s already a visual medium.

Image result for kinky boots

What books would you like to see adapted for the big stage? Would you turn your favorites into a musical or a dramatic adaptation? Gone Girl, the Musical! So many fun ideas to consider, I don’t even know where to begin!

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The Best Christmas Propaganda Ever

My book club – you remember them – is meeting for our holiday party tonight, and we always like to cut ourselves a bit of slack by picking a children’s book during this busy busy month. Last year we read each other’s favorite childhood titles, and this year we read a classic that several of us grew up reading year after year: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. If any of you read this one, or maybe saw the TV movie version from the eighties, you’ll remember it’s the story of the chaos that reigns when the worst kids in town decide they want to participate in the church Christmas pageant.

I remember finding this book absolutely enthralling and hilarious as a child, probably in part because of my membership in a family of 6+ children that, like the Herdmans, left a wake of havoc wherever we went. (I’d like to think I was a little better behaved than Imogen Herdman – I know I did a better job keeping my wild brothers in line than she did.)

As an avid re-reader of childhood faves, I’m often surprised to discover deeper meanings in stories that were lost on younger me, who raced through the pages gleefully as the Herdmanns rob the penny bank and say the H-word during rehearsal. Little did I realize that Ms. Robinson was sneaking in a lesson about compassion, about suspending judgment, about being grateful for our blessings and sharing them with those who are less fortunate. An important lesson to learn at the holidays…and to remember all year round!

Do you have any favorite books to read at the holidays? Ever re-read a book from your childhood and were surprised to learn what it’s really about?

 

 

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Books as gifts

I’m always trying to think of clever ways to give a book as a gift. Sometimes it might seem too impersonal or like it needs a little extra something to go with it, depending on the occasion or the person on the receiving end. I find this particularly true when giving books as gifts to kids. For birthday parties, I’ll often give a book along with something else – a little toy or craft, or a painting set with Christie Matheson’s Tap the Magic Tree, or a box of crayons with a copy of The Day the Crayons Quit. And sometimes when I’m inspired I’ll buy multiple copies and give them away until they run out.

I was pleased with my latest book gift inspiration when I decided to give copies of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to all the kids attending my daughter’s upcoming 9th birthday party. Since we’ll be watching the movie (not sure which version yet) and doing a candy/dessert-themed party, I figured giving a copy of the book with some sort of confection was a good idea for a favor. And so I ordered 19 copies of this adorable illustrated paperback edition. When the box arrived, we all grabbed the books like they were filled with golden tickets (which they were since there is one inside each copy)!

 

It has been such a pleasure seeing my older girls enjoy the book, and I dipped into it again myself and fondly remember reading it when I was young. All these years later, and the book still entertains and delights. It really is a timeless treasure. And speaking of books as gifts, I think I’ll order the Roald Dahl boxed set for my daughter’s birthday so all my girls can enjoy them, even the ones who are not yet reading!

I’d love to hear how you give books as gifts. Do you wait for specific holidays or birthdays? Do you buy books you love? New ones or classics? What categories? Do you pair them up with anything else? There’s no right answer here. Just a fun thing to think about – giving books as gifts. It really is the gift that keeps on giving as they can be savored for so many years to come.

 

 

 

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Ready for a little test of your literary instincts?

Don’t cheat and skip ahead to the pictures!

The following is the final paragraph of the galley letter for WHAT very popular book:

“I predict you’ll also face another quandary: whether to share this with a friend, or to keep it for yourself, knowing how much this Reader’s Edition of __________’s first book will be worth in years to come.”

Any guesses?

Here’s another clue. The galley letter is signed by Arthur Levine…

Written for a debut novel that his eponymous imprint at Scholastic purchased for $100,000…

And this galley mailing happened in the summer of 1998…

Being brilliant and super knowledgeable about publishing lore (as all regular readers of the DGLM blog are), I’m sure you’ve guessed that this mystery title is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

 

  I learned all this delightful trivia from The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, an exhibit at the New York Public Library’s historic Bryant Park branch (yes, the one with the lions out front). The Harry Potter area caught my eye, as I am currently in the middle of a delightful re-read of the series, which I only read for the first time a few years ago. (I know, I know, hush!)

Sound philosophy, even for muggles

Now it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for children’s books. And the exhibit area was full of artifacts from other children’s literature. You can stop by and see the original Winnie-the-Pooh plushies that inspired A.A. Milne or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s handwritten manuscript for The Secret Garden. One display discusses classic NYC-themed children’s lit (hooray for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!), and there’s even a Goodnight Moon reading nook with battered library copies of all your favorite picture books. Quite a few families were curled up on the rainy Sunday afternoon that I visited, and I was tempted to grab a Wild Thing and join them.

Not all attendees were as riveted as I was.

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Last-minute Halloween costume ideas

October 31st is two days away. That means some of you have two days to put together a costume—I know can’t be the only one who consistently improvises with his costume at the last second. (By the way, I was a pirate clown this past weekend. My character had a very intricate back-story, but maybe that’s a story for another time.)

Be a character from one of your favorite books. The written word has inspired many a Halloween costume, and this year is no different. I mean, it may even be trendy—in some circles. Check out this “How to Pick Your Literary Halloween Costume” guide if you need some help preparing for this Hallow’s Eve:

http://www.bookish.com/articles/the-best-halloween-costumes-from-books

 

If you’re in relationship and want to be obnoxious about it, here’s your cosume:

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

 

If you want to be spooky and don’t want to mess with the classics:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

 

For the rambunctious, wild child out there—who also happens to be into classic lit: