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Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media
Department of English
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611

Phone: (352) 392-6650, ex. 285
Fax: (352)392-0860
email:
jcech@english.ufl.edu

Transcripts for June 2000

Programs 199-220

Program #199
June 1, 2000--John Cech: Muse Magazine

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

Muse magazine is one of the real treasures to be found for children at your local newstand, where it serenly waits for them in the midst of the blaring mass of magazines that are more interested in selling kids on theme park visits or t.v. shows and commercial tie-ins than in providing them with truly thoughtful, engaging content. This vibrant children's magazine is produced by the same group that has been giving our children Cricket and a half dozen other quality magazines for years. Their partner in this particular enterprise is Smithsonian Magazine--which will give you sense of the kinds of the articles that you likely to find in Muse.

For the uniqueness of Muse is that it is truly dedicated to the arts and sciences, to history and biography, to poetry and paleontology, to ecological issues and archeology, to extra-terrestrial math and extraordinary sculpture--in short, it's meant to stimulate the curiosity and imaginations of its young readers. A recent issue had, for example, a series of articles on that subject that never ceases to fascinate children--ancient Egypt--with one article by a well-known Egyptologist, explaining how he discovered what may well turn out to be the largest tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings and another on the ornate art of mummy decoration. And then, in the same issue, there's a long article about the African-American artist, Faith Ringgold; an analysis of what went wrong with the calculations of the lost Mars Orbiter satellite; and, at the end of the magazine a hilarious, surreal photograph of a crowd of green cats that have taken over a grey apartment, and a wonderful compilation of drawings by children of machines that they have invented to ease the burdens of their lives, including one to walk your dog and another, my favorite, to do homework.

Throughout the magazine there are small drawings of the nine cartoon muses of Muse, which include such figures as Chad from Mali, the techno muse; Kokopelli, the trickster from Arizona; and Urania, the muse of astronomy, from Greece. Muse's muses are a kind of quipping chorus, conducting their own running commentary on the texts of the articles, giving the whole a lively, lovely sense of humor and humanity. If you're going to subscribe your children to one magazine, this is it. And don't be surprised if you aren't drawn into Muse's spell along with them.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us, in the new year, with your comments--let us know how we are doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

©2000 John Cech

 

Program #200
June 2, 2000--John Cech: Aida

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

Before Aida became a Disney musical on Broadway this spring, it was, of course, an opera by Giuseppe Verdi; and before it becomes a Disney cartoon (which shouldn't be too far away), you might want to have your children hear the story and some highlights of its spectacular music on a new cd that features one of opera's most famous Aidas, the great African-American soprano Leontyne Price. The disc is the natural extension of the award-winning picture book for young people that Miss Price authored a number of years ago with the illustrations of Leo and Diane Dillon because the only thing missing from that project was Verdi's music.

Sound clip from the Aida.

Now, that music is here, in all its powerful glory, wound into Miss Price's narration of the story of Aida, the Ethiopian princess who is captured by Egyptian soldiers and given as a slave to Pharoah's daughter, Amneris. No one at court knows Aida's true identity, least of all Radames, the Egyptian army captain who immediately falls in love with her and she with him. But this is the easy part, because soon there will be no peace for Radames and Aida, as their lives get more and more tragically complicated, and Radames is sent by Pharaoh to lead the army that is meant to conquer her country, and Amneres discovers that Radames and Aida have fallen in love, and the Ethiopian army , with Aida's father, King Amonasro in command, attacks Egypt. And while this is happening...

Sound clip.

But enough of my summaries. You and your youngsters can hear for yourselves how this moving story plays out.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media. The shows this week were written by John Cech, Barry Stewart Mann, Shelley Fraser Mickle, and Koren Stembridge. Mary Showstark helped research these programs. The Executive Producer is Henri Pensis, and the Technical Director is Richard Drake. Funding for the national distribution of these programs is provided, in part, by the Alachua County Friends of the Library. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

©2000 John Cech

 

Program #201
June 5, 2000--John Cech: Dinosaur

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

School's almost over for the year, and when it is, it'll be impossible for you to put off a visit to the local multiplex with your children for Walt Disney's lastest animation extravaganza, Dinosaur, if they haven't already had you take them there the day the movie opened on May 19th.

Over half a decade in the making, at a cost of over $200 million dollars, if you count the new digital studio Disney built to house the cutting edge technology for the film, it represents a huge investment of resources--in many ways it involved risks parallel to Disney's breakthrough in Snow White, the first feature-length animated movie ever made. But with Dinosaur, the Disney people can't rely on catchy music and identifiable characters to sweep the audience into the movie. In fact, there isn't a song and dance number to be had in Dinosaur. No "Under the Sea" or "Hakuna Matata."

Instead, what the Disney folks have given us is a Cretaceous creation about an orphaned Iguanadon named Aladar, who is taken in as a little dinosaur hatchling by a family of very cute lemur monkeys--Plio, Yar, Suri, and the little boy monkey, Zini, who, of course becomes Aladar's best friend and side-kick. All's well on the lemur's island until a barrage of meteors devastates their habitat and forces the dinosaurs to go in search of a new nesting ground. The quest for this tranquil place is the thematic heart of the movie. The alpha Iguanadon, Kron, wants to do things his way, unilaterally; the upstart Aladar takes a democratic approach and sees that their best chance for surviving lies in building a solid community that can withstand the turmoil caused by the meteors as well as the onslaught of the evil Carnotaruses--a predatory, Tyranasaurus Rex-like creature that the Disney imagineers invented to give real teeth to the plot. It's a familiar theme--we can best survive change by pulling together--and a vital one. Children need to hear about positive, unified action.

This is a fascinating, compelling movie. It has some very strong scenes (no amiable purple dinosaurs here), thus the PG rating, so you should be careful about bringing your younger children, even if they are experts in all things cretaceous or jurassic. But the effects are breath-taking: the big budget is up on the screen, as they say, and it is amazing.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #202
June 6, 2000--John Cech: The Dalai Lama

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

Few cultures have depended so fervently and completely on the discovery of a miracle child as that of traditional Tibet, before the Chinese conquest. The fourteenth Dalai Lama, whose birthday it is today, is one of a long line of those remarkable children that stretches back to Prince Siddhartha, the historical Buddha, who was born in 563 B.C.E. in Zambudippa, the land of the roseapple tree. These children are so remarkable, in large part, because they are reincarnations of holy individuals. Because, in essence, they are Old Souls, who cary the awareness of their previous lives into this one.

There was an elaborate, painstaking quest that took place in Tibet after the death of a Dalai Lama in order to discover the next Dalai Lama, who was often the reincarnation of the previous spiritual leader. Such was the case following the death in 1933 of the 13th Dalai Lama. After consulting various state oracles, and after months of public prayer and ritual, and after the Lama Regent held his vigil over the sacred lake whose name means "The Godess' Soul," they were able to locate from the signs the Lama Regent received in his visions a house with a blue roof in Eastern Tibet, the home of the Taktsher family. A group of Lamas went there in disguise and were taken in by the family, the customary show of hospitality for travelling monks and pilgrims. Within the small house they met an amazing two-year old boy who seemed to know them already, knew where they had come from and, in fact, knew one of them by name. They secretly passed word of their astonishing findings to the capital in Lhasa, and then came the real test. The boy was given three pairs of objects--two strings of nondescript black prayer beads, two walking sticks, and two small drums. In each pair, one of the objects had been owned by the previous Dalai Lama, and the other was a replica. Without hesitation, the boy chose the beads, the stick, and the drum that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama--he wasn't taken in by the imitation drum that had a shiny gold band and a colorful tassel. He took possession of these objects like they had always been his, and he played his drum for the visitors with intense dignity, gazing deeply at each them with such profound sureness, that they knew immediately...he was...the one.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #203
June 7, 2000--Rita Smith: Summer Camp 100 Years Ago

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. Here's Rita Smith with this week's Rediscovery.

"The hurried steps of the father descending the stairs were heard through the closed door. The son turned away to hide the working of his face and examined the pictures on the wall through a film of tears."(1) This is the beginning of a summer camp story written by Allen French which appeared in the June 1900 issue of St. Nicholas, a popular 19th century American juvenile periodical. Chester Fiske's father has just left him in the care of one of the counselors, in hopes that this summer experience will teach him some humility. Chester's mother is dead and he has been raised by aunts, sisters and female cousins who spoiled him. Fifteen-year-old Chester is conceited and doesn't have any friends. The father hopes camp will change that; the counselor assures him it will.

Chester's arrogance gets him in trouble initially especially when he rashly brags that he is going to win the Junior Cup, an athletic competition held at the end of the summer, all by himself, with help from noone. He works diligently on his swimming and running skills because he knows the contest will be mainly a competition between himself and one other boy, Marshall Moore, a self-centered surly camper. A couple of weeks before the competition, Chester realizes that he is going to need some help if he is going to beat Marshall, who is a superb athlete, so he swallows his pride and asks some of the older boys to help him with his running and swimming technique. It is a trial for him, always being told by them that he is not doing things right; that he is not working hard enough. Chester resents this at first, but he doesn't give up. He sees that they really are helping him and a solid friendship forms between them.

The day of the Junior Cup competition arrives. There are seven events and after six of them Chester and Marshall are tied, each having won three. Whoever wins the final race, the quarter mile, will win the Junior Cup. Chester stands at the starting line. There are seven boys in the race and Chester and Marshall have drawn lanes one and two. The gun sounds and they are off - all except Chester who lies in a heap along side the track, having been given a visicous push by Marshall. Undaunted, he jumps up, "black anger surges in his breast."(2) The "caldron of his passion boils in his heart"(3) and its force gives unconquerable energy to his moving arms and legs. He wins the race and his father, unbeknownst to Chester, is there to witness the victory.

His father knows camp has accomplished what he had hoped when Chester proudly introduces his new friends: "These are my friends, father, without whom I could not have won the Cup, and whom I prize more than the Cup."(4) Good friends are the finest things a boy can have because, he admits, there is little anyone can accomplish alone.

(1)French, Allen. "The Junior Cup," in St. Nicholas Magazine, 1900, Part 2, p. 692.
(2)Ibid., p. 1083.
(3)Ibid., p. 1084.
(4)Ibid. Sources:

French, Allen. "The Junior Cup," serialized in St. NicholasMagazine, New York: The Century Company. June-October, 1900.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #204
June 8, 2000--Shelley Fraser Mickle: Ice Cream

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. Shelley Fraser Mickle has a remembering for us today about that most summery of inventions: ice cream.

This transcript is currently unavailable.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #205
June 9, 2000--Koren Stembridge on the Internet: Anne Frank

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. Here's Koren Stembridge on the Internet.

Ann Frank's diary was an assignment in my 8th grade English class. Each day we would discuss her writings I remember finding her so remarkable, brave, and other-worldly and at the same time, she was EXACTLY like me. Our class discussed the Holocaust, and the circumstances that forced Ann and her family into hiding. It was incomprehensible for us, at 13, to imagine that human beings had the potential for such evil.

My most vivid memory of this class was the day we completed the last entry. Our teacher was thoughtful enough to have us read it aloud in class - somehow she knew that we would need to be together as we lost Ann. The entire classroom was stunned. At our age, stories still ended in a sense of closure and completion. Ann Frank's diary stops, but it does not end. And the end of Ann's story, as provided by the editor, is so heartbreakingly sad.

Ever since that 8th grade class, I have revisited Ann and her diary each time I needed a lesson in transcending obstacles in my own life. Today, I invite you to log on to the Internet where you can take a virtual tour of the Secret Annex in memory of Ann Frank, who was born on this day in 1929.

At the Ann Frank House site, you ll find a picture tour of the Secret Annex that helps you visualize how Ann and her family lived for more than 2 years. But the most moving exhibit follows the creation and publication of Ann's diary now in print for more than 50 years and translated into over 60 languages, it is one of the most widely-read books in the world.

On Saturday, July 15th , 1944 Ann Frank writes one of the last entries to her diary. It is also the most famous. It reads: "It 's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us to, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the Meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out."

Ann Frank Sites
The official site of the Ann Frank House
http://www.annefrank.nl/

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. Thanks today to WBUR in Boston for their help producing this segment. The shows this week were written by John Cech, Shelley Fraser Mickle, Rita Smith and Koren Stembridge. The Executive Producer is Henri Pensis, and Richard Drake is the Technical Director. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu.

 

Program #206
June 12, 2000--John Cech: Maurice Sendak's Birthday

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

That's Angela Coin, belting out part of the familiar title song for the 1981 Broadway version of Maurice Sendak's "Really Rosie," set to Carole King's music.

In the character, Rosie, Sendak found not only the archetypal child diva, but the irrepressible spirit of childhood itself--bursting with inventive play and energy, vulnerable and yet surprisingly durable--capable of surviving the most boring or frustrating of days by building dreamscapes of fantasy to disappear into, if only for a few moments on a hot, summer afternoon.

Sendak's was born on June 10th, 1928, in Brooklyn--Rosie's home town, too. Sendak first saw a child like Rosie (and, in fact, a child named Rosie), playing on the street outside his parents' apartment building during the summer when he was a year out of high school and looking for a job and a way to do something with the art he had been practicing since he was a young child. So he filled notebooks full of sketches and fragments of dialogue between Rosie and her friends. And the dramas that she created on the curbs and stoops of Avenue P became the subject of one of Sendak's books from the 1950s, The Sign on Rosie's Door, and ultimately, the core plot all of Sendak's own stories: a child is caught in a difficult emotional situation, and she or he goes to fantasy not only for relief but also for a way to transcend the limitations (of size, of power, of action) that children feel so acutely. In telling these truths about the secret life of childhood, in the dozen books he has written himself and in the dozens and dozens he has illustrated for others, Sendak in his lifetime has completely redrawn the face of American picture books.

He has put the spotlight on subjects that were, at the time, hidden offstage in children's books--anger, intense sibling rivalry, strong, wonderful fantasies. Sendak gives these feelings a shape, a form, and place in the geography of our children's psyches; they're to be found "where the Wild Things are," dreamed "in the night kitchen," located "outside over there." It's the place where we bake, every night, like his character Mickey, that fragant, yeasty dough for the morning cake--what a delicious birthday present Sendak has created for all of us!

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #207
June 13, 2000--John Cech: Barbara Cooney

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

This past March we lost one of the remarkable, gentle voices in modern American children's books--the writer and artist Barbara Cooney, who died at the age of 83, after having published over a hundred books, many of them prize-winning works, all of them uniquely, beautifully and clearly her own.

She'd become an artist, as she tells it, because her mother was an artist and because she had "access to materials, a minimum of instruction, and a stubborn nature." That stubbornness kept her going during the early years of her career, after graduating from Smith College and studying art in New York City and dragging her portfolio around to publishers offices for months before landing her first book commission in 1940. And that determination has kept her art moving and evolving over the years--in fact, after the book she'd adapted from the Chaucer story of Chanticleer and the Fox, won the Caldecott Award in 1958 for its quick, energized drawings, she remarked, "Once you succeed, change."

Twenty years later, when she won the award again for the pictures for Donald Hall's The Ox-Cart Man, her style had dramatically altered for this story of a farmer's journey to market with a loaded wagon, and his return home with the few important things necessary to carry on his and his family's life for another year. Here Miss Cooney told her part of the tale in the earth tones and simple form of something like a shaker hutch, rubbed to a priceless patina.

But Miss Cooney's magnum Opus would be her own 1982 story, Miss Rumphius, about a strong, independent woman's journey through life, which was based in part on the adventures of her great aunt. As a little child, "when her name was still Alice, Miss Rumphius is told by her beloved grandfather that, along with her dreams of some day travelling to distant places and living by the sea, there was a third thing she had to do: "You must do something," he tells her, "to make the world more beautiful." And after a life spent climbing mountains and crossing deserts, and after settling into retirement by the sea, she makes good on her word, sowing seeds for flowers, lupines, up and down the rugged coast of Maine.

It's a fitting metaphor for Miss Cooney's career as well--because in the often rocky, often predictable ground of so much writing and illustrating for children, she planted luminous, tender books with sure, deep roots. You can see them today, still blooming--in your local library or bookstore.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #208
June 14, 2000--Shelley Fraser Mickle: Pop Goes the Weasel Day

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

The transcript for this program is currently unavailable.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we are doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #209
June 15, 2000--Koren Stembridge on the Internet: Outdoor Games

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. Here's Koren Stembridge on the Internet.

It's June, and one day very soon that school bell will ring for the last time, signaling the beginning of summer vacation! Over the past week, I've been asking my library patrons to tell me about their favorite summer memories and I've collected quite a list. There were stick-ball games, bubble blowing contests, memories of picnics with sack races, neighborhood jump-rope contests, mornings spent swimming, and afternoons wiled away in tree houses. I was a little sorry to hear that none of my patrons remembered curling up with a book over their summer vacations, but let's face it sunny days beg us to go outside and PLAY! This summer, help your children create wonderful summer memories by logging on to the Internet to explore sites offering great ideas for things to do OUTSIDE!

We'll start at the Fun Attic, with its lists of different kinds of games. There are ball games, tag games, circle games, and water games and most of the activities require nothing more than what you ve already got at home. Try soccer ball bowling, for example. Arrange 10 empty 2-liter bottles into a triangle, and let that ball roll.

At the Family Play Activity Center, you can search for outdoor activities by age or skill level. Try the various types of relay races, or if you want a quieter afternoon, there are instructions for making a birdbath, writing a nature journal, or taking tree bark rubbings.

At the Oxygen Network s Moms Online area you'll find a wealth of suggestions to inspire creative outdoor play. One family designed their own miniature golf course in their backyard. When everyone masters the course, they add new features and create a new one! Or if you like, dip a fly swatter into a pan of soapy water and spin around to encircle yourself in a cocoon of bubbles!

Finally, make sure you stop at The Games Kids Play where you will find the rules to games you'll remember from your childhood. When was the last time you played Capture the Flag, or Red light Green Light?

And after a day of running around you won t even feel guilty when you hear the lilting jingle of the ice cream truck! Happy summer to you all!

Links to these sites and others may be found at www.recess.ufl.edu

Fun Attic Games--list of water games
http://funattic.com

Family Play--Go to the site, then select "Outdoor Fun" for games and projects to do outside
http://www.familyplay.com/

Mom's Online--one of the Oxygen sites, has an extensive list of outdoor activities
http://momsonline.oxygen.com/hottips/tiplist.asp?key=M0456

Games Kids Play--This site offers the rules to hundreds of indoor and outdoor games
http://www.gameskidsplay.net

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we are doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #210
June 16, 2000--Princess Red Wing: Strawberry Thanksgiving

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. This past year we have been listening to a cycle Native American thanksgiving legends told by the Wampanoag storyteller Princess Red Wing. Here she is, in a recording made in Arcadia, Rhode Island, in 1981, telling the story of the Strawberry Thanksgiving.

The transcript for this program is currently unavailable.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. The shows this week were written by John Cech, Shelley Fraser Mickle, Rita Smith, and Koren Stembridge. Mary Showstark helped research these programs. The Executive Producer is Henri Pensis and the Technical Director is Richard Drake. For more information about these programs, visit our web site at: w w w . recess . ufl. edu

 

Program #211
June 19, 2000--Rita Smith: A Pretty Little Pocket Book

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. Here's Rita Smith with this week's Rediscovery.

On June 18, 1744, the following advertisement appeared in the London Penny Morning Post: [Published] According to [an] Act of Parliament÷a Little Pretty Pocket Book, intended for the instruction and amusement of little Master Tommy and pretty Miss Polly; with an agreeable letter to each from Jack the Giant Killer; a[nd] also a Ball and Pincushion, the use of which will infallibly make Tommy a good boy and Polly a good girl. To the whole is prefixed a letter on education, humbly addressed to all parents, guardians, governesses &c. wherin rules are laid down for makng their children strong, healthy, virtuous, wise, and happy÷.Printed for J. Newbery at the Bible and Crown, near Devereux Court,÷Price of the Book, 6d (pence); with a ball and pincushion, 8d (pence)(1)

This was John NewberyÌs first advertisement for Little Pretty Pocket Book, his first publication for children, and it was a very important little book. According to children's literature historian, J. F. Harvey Darton, the most "siginificant point of this book is that Newbery deliberately set out to provide amusement and was not afraid to say so."(2) Up to this time, "[t]here were plenty of schoolbooks and guides to conduct, but none which would openly allow a child to enjoy himself with no thought of duty nor fear of wrong."(3) Now, in the title, the word "instruction" does come before "amusement," and there are some preliminary remarks meant for parents, but the rest of the book consists of pictures of children playing games, such as Hide and Seek, Thread the Needle, Cricket, and Leap Frog.(4) Each picture is headed with an upper or lower case letter of the alphabet and followed with a little rhyme, but the letter, the picture and the rhyme have very little to do with each other; they are just together on one page as a congregation of elements, any one of which might amuse a child. The books also includes a letter from Jack the Giant Killer explaining how to use the ball and pincushion and some fables.(5)

John Newbery didn't have any particular theory of infant psychology and he didn't promote this or that school of educational thought, although he did admire John Locke. He was simply an excellent businessman, who was the first to see that in his line of business, book publishing, children's books deserved special attention and development, and he realized that there was a class of readers now ready to receive juvenile literature, fiction and nonfiction, for amusement as well as instruction. He prospered and his books proved by their success that they filled a need. Newbery has been called the "father of children's literature," and A Little Pretty Pocket Book was the beginning of something big. Although no one knew it at the time, it changed everything, and that is why Darton calls the year 1744, the 1066 of children's literature.

(1) Towsend, John Rowe, John Newbery and his books: Trade and Plumb-cake for ever, Huzza!, p. 103-4.
(2) Darton, F.J. Harvey, Children's Books in England, p. 2.
(3) Ibid., p. 1.
(4) Ibid., p. 2-3.
(5) Ibid., p. 4.

Sources: Darton, F. J. Harvey. Children's Books In England: Five Centuries of Social Life. 3rd ed. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press. 1982.
Townsend, John Rowe. John Newbery and his books: Trade and Plumb-cake for ever, Huzza! Metuchen, N. J.: Scarecrow Press. 1994.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #212
June 20, 2000--Shelley Fraser Mickle: Summer Vacation

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. Here's a Shelley Fraser Mickle Remembering of that yearly miracle--the last day of school!

The transcript for this program is currently unavailable.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #213
June 21, 2000--Koren Stembridge on the Internet: Girl Sites

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. Here's Koren Stembridge on the Internet with some sites that will be of interest to the girl surfers in your family.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #214
June 22, 2000--Rita Smith: The First Children's Book Editor

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. Here's Rita Smith with this week's Rediscovery.

On June 22, 1919, George Brett, president of Macmillan Publishing Company, called Louise Seaman Bechtel, an employee in the company's Education Department, into his office. He was concerned about his newly established department for juvenile books, the first such department in any American book publishing firm. Initially, Brett had hired a gentleman, but he proved unsuitable. "I suppose," Brett mused aloud to Bechtel, "that children's literature is a subject on which a woman might be supposed to know something?"

Swallowing her ire, she replied, "I suppose my teaching experience might have prepared me for it."

Brett offered her the job, noting that she would be a department head, but, at least for the present, this fact would be their secret, since only men were allowed to head departments. "You will be called an editor," he told her, "but you will do everything the other heads do. You will have the same responsibilities they do." He offered her a five-dollar raise - to $30 a week and she accepted.

In the beginning, her staff consisted of only her secretary; later, in the mid-twenties, she hired an assistant and another secretary. "Imagine," she wrote later, "four women who liked all that endless work, who shared the same thrill as each finished book appeared, sometimes fifty or sixty in one year. We even thought it FUN to look over the manuscripts that came by mail - at one time up to 50 a week, 800 in six months in the early 1930's.

Her department was a tremendous success. She inherited a list of 200 juvenile titles in 1919 and by 1930 the list contained 650. The catalog describing them grew from 30 to 80 pages. These catalogs, written and designed by Bechtel, were admirably reviewed, as if they themselves were books. Her department produced Newbery award winners three years in a row from 1929 to 1931.

In an 1928 article, Bertha Mahoney praises Brett for his progressive decision to create a separate department for children's literature, but gives Bechtel credit for raising the profile of the genre, describing her as an 'unusually able, talented, and vigorous person of verve and imagination. [Bechtel] set a pace, strong and high, to the tremendous gain of books for young people."(1)

Bechtel's goal was to wake children up through the medium of books to the possiblities of two worlds: the world of reality around them and the world of the imagination within them. She attained her goal, and she also woke up the adults--the teachers, parents, booksellers and other publishers--to the many rewards of taking children's literature seriously.

(1) Mahoney, Bertha, quoted by Smith, p. 165.

Source:
Smith, Rita. "Just Who Are These Women? Louise Seaman Bechtel and Ruth Marie Baldwin," in Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, Chicago: American Library Association. v. 11, no. 2; Winter 1998. p. 161-170.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. Thanks today to WBUR in Boston for their help producing this segment. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #215
June 23 , 2000--John Cech: The Storyteller

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

If you thought there was a familiar look to last month's television movie of the Arabian Nights, you'd be right. The dazzling special effects were the work of the Henson studios that were founded by the late Jim Henson and gave us not only the Muppets but one of the truly wonderful series of adaptations of folk tales and myths, "The Storyteller."

This was one of Jim Hensen's pet projects, though the network that initially backed the program pulled the plug after less than a dozen episodes because, in their view, each of these little gems was becoming too expensive to produce. The shows have been running off and on on HBO, and within the last year, eight of the programs have become available on video.

Each of the fairy tale episodes begins with John Hurt playing a particularly raggle-taggle but extraordinarily gifted storyteller who spins his yarns--about the time he tricked the king's cook, or the soldier who fools death, or the lucky young man who triumphs over the evil tsar, or the hedgehog boy who is really a prince--to the disbelieving ears of his faithful but sarcastic side-kick, a flea-bitten, talking dog, for whom Jim Henson's talented son Brian provided the voice.

The stories themselves are fusions of Grimms and other classic European fairy tales. Along with these four stories, there are four retellings of Greek myths--the stories of Perseus and the Gorgon, Daedalus and Icarus, Theseus and the Minotaur, and Orpheus and Eurydice. Here the storyteller is Michael Gambon, of "Singing Detective" fame. To judge by the nuances of detail, it's clear the stories have been carefully researched and cast with such world-class actors as Derek Jacobi. Nothing has been overlooked, and especially not the story lines, which are based on adaptations by Anthony Minghella who won an Oscar for "The English Pantient."

Henson doesn't play these stories for the broad, absurd laughs that some of the retellings of folk tales, like Shelley Duvall's, do--or to sarcastically fracture the tales for the fifth-grade, Mad-magazine devouring mind, like John Scieska's "Stinky Cheese Man" stories. Henson is respectful of the originals, but he is also well aware of the need for stories to entertain us, to weave us into their spell, to make us laugh, and to make us suspend our scepticism for a few minutes of completely transporting magic. If you're going to buy any videos this summer for your children, buy these, and you'll find you'll be happily and repeatedly watching them, too.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. The Executive Producer of the program is Henri Pensis and the Technical Director is Richard Drake. For more information about these programs, visit our web site at www.recess.ufl.edu Please email us with your comments, let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #216
June 26, 2000--John Cech: Edward Gorey

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

That music, from one of PBS's longest-running and most popular series, "Mystery," is accompanied by highly stylized drawings of fainting Edwardian dowagers and ingenues and their languid beaus, barely escaping the peculiar accidents occuring around them at their haunted garden party.

The drawings are by one of our most unique artists, Edward Gorey, who passed away late this April, at the age of 75. Gorey's often macabre, often surreal, often nonsensical fantasies have blurred the boundaries between adult and children's books for decades. It began in 1957 with his book called The Doubtful Guest, about a creature that looks a bit like a penguin in a fur coat, with a long striped scarf and high topped sneakers who arrives at one of Gorey's English country homes, all balustrades and dark urns, and simply stays. "It came seventeen years ago to this day," the narrator tells us, adding, "It has shown no intention of going away."

Like his doubtful guest, Gorey too was famous for his own whimsical behavior: dressed in his fur coat and sneakers, he went to every performace of the New York City Ballet while it was under the direction of George Ballanchine, and when Ballanchine died, Gorey so no cultural reason to remain in New York and so he removed himself to Cape Cod, where he resided in a two hundred year old house, over-run with poison ivy and populated by a half dozen cats, and where he was soon claimed as a permanent, indeed a hallowed character of the Cape. He continued to produce those small masterpieces of absurdist sensibility, like The Unknown Vegetable, The Fraught Settee, and The Helpless Doorknob. He provided illustrations for the works of Virginia Wolf and Samuel Becket. He designed productions for Broadway (like the hit, Dracula), and he wrote and directed plays and puppet shows for small theaters on the Cape from Woods Hole to Provincetown, leaving a trail of strange stuffed animals (like his striped fig bashes), and enthusiastic though sometimes bewildered fans in his wake.

"I'm not entirely enamored of the idea of living forever," he had joked about his precarious health. But one can't help but wish an original voice like his had had.... just a little longer.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #217
June 27, 2000--Rita Smith: The First Newbery Award

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. Here's Rita Smith with a Rediscovery.

On June 27, 1922, at the annual American Library Association meetings in Detroit, Michigan, in a room filled to overflowing, the first Newbery Medal, for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published the preceeding year, was awarded to Hendrick Van Loon for The Story of Mankind. The idea for the medal was suggested at the previous year's meeting by Frederic G. Melcher, an editor at Publishers' Weekly. A medal for a children's book was a novel idea as juvenile literature was generally ignored by literary prizes, including the Pulitzer. Melcher's idea was enthusiastically received by the children's librarians. He took it as his responsibility to find a designer for the medal and to have it struck and engraved with the winner's name each year at his expense. It was left to the Children's Literature Section of the Association to select the winner.

The Section officers struggled with two questions that first year: Who is entitled to cast ballots for the competing books, and who will make the final decision? The vice chair of the Section wrote, "It is most important that the final judges of the award be a few 'people of recognized high standards and experience'If a majority vote of all so-called children's librarians determines the award it is entirely possible for a mediocre book to get the medal. [However,] to give everybody a chance to make nominations will create interest and induce good feeling.(1) It was decided to conduct a popular vote and in the case of a close verdict, the final choice of the winning book would be left to a jury of officers of the Section and four other leading children's librarians. Nominations were due on March 1, and all librarians, not only children's librarians, were invited to take part."(2)

Two hundred and twelve nominations were sent in by librarians from all over the United States. The Award Jury did not have to convene because the verdict was unmistakable: Van Loon's The Story of Mankind had received 163 of the 212 nominations. Because Mr. Melcher was Ïso anxious to have the name of the winning author absolutely not known until the day of the award,"3 Clara Hunt, chair of the Section, tabulated the votes and was the only one, other than Melcher, who knew who that first winner was. The two of them kept the big secret for over three months.

Although the procedure for selecting the winner has changed, (it is now chosen by a committee) the winner has always represented the very best in children's books. The Newbery has become an award, as Melcher hoped it would, in recognition of "genius giving of its best to the child."4

(1) Smith, Irene. A History of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals. New York: The Viking Press, 1957, p. 40.
(2) Ibid., p. 41.
(3) Ibid., p. 42.
(4) Quoted by Smith, p. 41.

Source:
Smith, Irene. A History of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals. New York: The Viking Press, 1957.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #218
June 28, 2000--Books that Mattered: Mary Ann Eaverly on Freckles

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture. In our on-going series about children's books that have mattered to people throughout their lives, we asked the noted archeologist Mary Ann Eaverly, who has been on digs in Greece, Italy , Cypres, Spain, and Israel, and whose specialty is archaic Greek sculpture about her favorite children's book--Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles.

The transcript for this program is currently unavailable.

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us, in the new year, with your comments--let us know how we are doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #219
June 29, 2000--John Cech: Waiting for Potter

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

There are such things as Harmonic Convergences in the book world--when the forces--a fine book, an excited publisher, a receptive audience, and a favorable Zeitgeist--all vibrate together. Who would have guessd that Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt's account of his bleak Irish childhood would be installed on the best seller lists for years. Or that the saga of a young, orphaned wizard-to-be, Harry Potter, would get all the planets to line up together and, "presto!"--have kids figgeting in frenzied anticipation for the next installment, the fourth volume, Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament, to appear in a little more than a week.

The fact that children--especially boys--are paying attention to books, in ways that are usually reserved for the latest Star Wars movie or the release of the next generation of a video game, is nothing short of a magic.

And parents, teachers, and librarians are certainly right in wanting to pull other books through this window of opportunity. But what to pull through? Magazines and newspapers have been running lists of possibilities; public and school librarians have come into their own because now they can do exactly what they are professionally trained (and love) to do: provide specific advice about books.

But who knows for sure what that magic formula may be to charm the Harry Potter fans? It's such a large audience that it represents the widest spectrum of tastes. Kids will read the same books because their peers are reading them, or because they're assigned for class. But otherwise, they're just like adults, they want to choose their own adventures. That, after all, is a good part of the joy of reading--making those uniquely personal discoveries.

For months I've been recommending works of fantasy by that splendid British writer, Philip Pullman, whose "Golden Compass" trilogy is superb. But who knows how many kids, besides the true fantasy fans, will actually want to steep themselves in these rich, complex novels. Harry Potter is fast, like "The Goonies," not slow, like "Empire of the Sun"--both Spielberg movies are about childhood, but one is a quick entertainment, the other...a masterpiece. And both have a place in the development of our imaginations, where things such as books are not predictable commodities.

So my advice is: make sure your kids have library cards, and go with them there every couple of weeks so they can make friends with their children's librarians, or stop at your local the bookstore and, if the budget allows, let them buy a book of their own--in time, they'll find something just as magical and absorbing for them as Harry Potter.

Recess is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu. Please email us with your comments--let us know how we're doing, what you'd like to hear more of, and the call letters of your local station.

 

Program #220
June 30, 2000--John Cech: Amelia's Journal

This is "Recess!" and this is John Cech. We're talking about some of the things that are happening in the world of children's culture.

There's a wonderful series of books for girls ages 8 and up by Marissa Moss, about a kid named Amelia who keeps one of those black and white marbled notebooks. She records all the stuff that makes up a young person's life--those hundreds of little comments and musings about the ordinary and the unusual things that preoccupy older children in those few grace years before the upheavals of adolescence. It's that time when they are still full of open curiosity and exuberance, a time when they still have their own voices and haven't become, to use Mary Pipher's term, Ophelias--girls who pretend not to be bright, not to be aware, not to have aspirations, so as not to draw the ire of the boys they want to impress--girls who have, in essence, become silent.

Amelia could hardly be accused of that. Thank goodness. There are now 9 books in the series, beginning with Amelia's Notebook from 1995 and coming up to the latest, Amelia's Family Ties, which just appeared this February. And each of these journals proclaims the presence of their author with sureness and imagination. In fact, there's a page in 1999's The All-New Amelia in which Amelia describes the voices of some of the key people in her life--her friends, her teacher, her mom (who has a voice, she writes, "like dark chocolate") and Cleo, her jelly-roll-nosed older sister (whose voice is "like a sponge scrubbing a pot")--and she accompanies her descriptions with her kid-like drawings of these people, and of their mouths and how they form sounds. This digression all began with her and her friend Carly's debate about how Amelia pronounced certain words, and it led to Amelia's realization that she "need[s] a good voice."

Amelia's life doesn't stand still, and there are always layers and layers of things that get uncovered as each of the notebooks unfolds. Amelia Hits the Road, her account of her family's vacation, is also about a lot more--her tensions with her sister, her friendship with Nadia, the natural world that she discovers in the Southwest--all of which are revealed through the collages of writing, drawings, postcards, stickers that Miss Moss uses to illustrate the book and to give Amelia her own vibrant voice on its pages. These books are intelligent, spirited, complex, funny; they're sure to start the Amelias in your family on their own journals and they''ll probably even nudge you to get back to yours!

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's WUFT-FM and the Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media, with major support from the University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Journalism and Communications. The shows this week were written by John Cech and Rita Smith. Mary Showstark helped research these programs. The Executive Producer of the program is Henri Pensis, and the Technical Director is Richard Drake. For more information about these programs, visit our web-site at www.recess.ufl.edu.