Category: Blogging
And Another Thing!


Mark Twain has a story about his bruising encounter with newsman Horace Greely that ends with: “I could have made a very neat retort but didn’t, for I was flurried and didn’t think of it till I was downstairs.” I often feel that way about The Scop — no sooner do I hit “publish” then I discover something that should have been added to the piece.  Well, today’s post is an attempt to fix that problem.  I’m revisiting a few subjects that deserve followup:

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

In response to my post discussing the “betrayal” of discovering Christian imagery in the Narnia books, blogger KBryna pointed out how Lewis perpetrates an even greater deception:  tricking readers into thinking Turkish Delight is delicious.  This is perceptive and true.  I remember when my friend Laurel took a trip to Scotland and purchased a very expensive box of handmade Turkish Delight.  When I learned of this, I made her promise not to try a piece until she got home.  Why?  Because I’m a sadist and I wanted to watch her suffer.  Here’s how it went down:


E-Books Round One: Why I’m Not Worried

Shortly after posting this piece, Phil Nel sent out a link to an article titled “E-Readers and the Future of Picture Books” by Jerry Griswold1.  Reading the article was reassuring:  if Jerry Griswold isn’t worried about electronic picture books, then neither am I!

 

E-Books Round Two: Run For Your Lives!

Earlier in the week, I googled “e-book piracy.”  The first image was this Kindle Pirate I drew for my post.  That’s because it had been used in a C-Net article titled “Kindle E-book Piracy Accelerates.”  The article is great, and it goes a long way toward answering some of the questions I brought up.  My new dilemma:  this doodle, which took me about two minutes to draw, will probably reach a wider audience than anything else I create for the rest of my life.  (Sigh.)

MFA Writing Programs: Lego vs. Construx

This post was inspired by a Cathy Day article discussing a critical flaw in writing MFA programs.  Since publishing her article, Day has found herself caught up in a lot of controversy.  Also, my 7 year-old cousin Asher took exception to my dismissal of Lego and sent along this thoughtful response:

Nice try, kid — but drawing a cool picture doesn’t make you any less WRONG about the superiority of Construx.

Huckleberry Finn and Literary Alteration

You should be sitting down for this last one.  At lunch the other day, my friend Chandra gave me the academic term for what Alan Gribben did to Huck Finn: “dynamic equivalence intralingual translation.”2  I defy you not to drop that sucker into your next dinner party conversation.


While I’m meta-blogging, I also want to give a special thanks to sites that have shined a light on The Scop: A Fuse #8 Production, Cockeyed Caravan, 100 Scope Notes, Fierce & Nerdy, Mr. Schu Reads, and the SDSU Children’s Literature Blog to name a few.  These are all fantastic blogs that you should drop everything and visit right now!


  1. 1. Jerry and Phil are both people I admire for their ability to make children’s literature scholarship relevant to the layman reader
  2. 2. I found an article online that breaks the term down: “Dynamic equivalence is based on the principle of equivalent effect, i.e. that the relationship between receiver and message should aim at being the same as that between the original receivers and the SL message” … “intralingual translation” is simply defined as “rewording.”
Last Call for THE CORAL ISLAND …

Just a short post reminding readers that I’ll be discussing R. M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island on Monday1. If you were hoping to read along, now’s your chance. All this week, I’ll be posting quotes from the book in the Marginalia Box (in the right column). Also, I’ve included an excerpt from the preface to whet your appetite:

If there is any boy or man who loves to be melancholy and morose, and who cannot enter with kindly sympathy into the regions of fun, let me seriously advise him to shut my book and put it away.  It is not meant for him.”

Did I mention the book has pirates? And a shark? You can read it for free here.

  1. 1. I’ll be trying my best to connect it to Harry Potter and D. M. Cornish’s Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy … we’ll see how it goes.
E-Books: A Few Extra Thoughts …

I wanted to write a short followup on last week’s pro and con posts on the coming e-book apocalypse. Three things:

1) Betsy Bird just posted a link to a School Library Journal article giving a rundown on the various conversations at the Digital Book World summit. It’s worth checking out.

2) A reader, Lisa, asked  me how I thought Google Books fit into the piracy equation. I thought I’d take a crack at it here: Presently Google Books does not frighten me. Though their scan-first-get-sued-later approach is worrisome, they seem to be pretty careful about not sharing full documents from the private domain — only showing what is allowed under fair use laws. (Of course, for older open-domain books you can find the whole texts, which is a boon to scholars and society alike1.) Even if Google Books went evil, I still wouldn’t worry too much about them; the second they start giving away copyrighted material, every publisher in the world will start suing. Rather, my fears of piracy are all connected to the file “sharing” model in which individuals are the perpetrators. When file sharing becomes normal for books, there will simply be too many complicit in the crime for publishers or authors to protect themselves.

3) Speaking of file sharing, a good friend of mine, Kirby Fields, recently wrote an amazing article for Pop Matters magazine that chronicles his own life as a file sharer. It’s more of a memoir than an opinion piece … he takes us from his childhood recording jingles off the TV to his adult days swapping Mp3’s. It’s an engaging, slightly nostalgic look at piracy. Go read the piece — then give Kirby a book deal.

UPDATE: Author and friend Ernessa T. Carter left a really great rebuttal to my “books aren’t CDs” argument in the comments section … check it out here.

  1. 1. I firmly believe that after an appropriate amount of time, those texts are the property of society and should be freely available to anyone (I’m talking to you, Disney)
Hop Aboard the Cockeyed Caravan!

Hey readers! Today I wrote a guest post over at Matt Bird’s screenwriting blog, the Cockeyed Caravan. I’ve been a huge fan of Matt’s writing for a while now. He is wise, thoughtful, and occasionally very funny. His site has two main features. First, he writes reviews of overlooked movies (my post is a collection of four underrated favorites). His second feature — and this is the stuff I love — is a series of columns about writing called the “Storyteller’s Rulebook.” I’m not generally a fan of writing advice, but Matt knows how to do it right. He assumes you have figured out the basics and dives into the hard stuff. Some of my favorite posts are his take on the old cliche “show, don’t tell” and his Paul Harvey-style piece about Freud and Jung and Tony and Don.

But before you go check out my list of overlooked movies, I thought I’d make things fun and let you guess as to what they might be. So I made my very own set of MOVIE INVISIBLES! “Invisibles” were a bunch of quizzes that Film Wise1 published to great success back in the old web 1.0 days. Basically, they show you a still from a movie with all the actors’ faces scrubbed out, and you have to guess what it’s from. Piece of cake, right? Without further ado:

If you want to learn the answers, you’ll have to mosey on over to the Cockeyed Caravan.  Let me know how many you got right in the comments!

Speaking of comments — If you’re still looking for something to read, you should check out some of the brilliant observations readers left on Monday’s post about the whole Huck Finn debacle — one of the perks of having  children’s lit scholar friends is that they occasionally post on your blog to tell you why you’re WRONG.

  1. 1. I should point out that official Movie Invisibles look a lot more convincing than what I can do
ALA Midwinter: Awesome Jokes and Free Books

As some of you know, I attended my first ever American Library Association (ALA) conference this weekend in San Diego. I’d been warned that the Midwinter conference  is more about closed-door awards deliberations than hobnobbing. Still, there was some hobnobbing.

Abrams brought out a few authors with forthcoming books1 and were kind enough to let me join the fun. We ate a bunch of food at a bunch of restaurants with a bunch of librarians and booksellers — all of whom were  delightful people. Even better, I learned a brand new joke from blogging librarian Stacy Dillon:

Another highlight included getting drinks with Travis Jonker and John Schu, both of whom were kind enough to meet with a total stranger and give sage advice about how to run a book blog. The other thing they did was talk about all the exciting free books they had gotten while wandering around the floor. This led to me spending several hours, shuffling between booths, trying to figure out the difference between a free book (called an “ARC”) and a not free book (called a “Stop, thief!”).

At the end of the day I had collected exactly zero ARCs. Why? Because I am a big chicken. During an event titled “A Special Afternoon with Neil Gaiman and Nancy Pearl,” Mr. Gaiman spoke of the English as having “a pathological fear of public embarrassment.”2 I’m pretty sure that characterization extends to Canadians as well. At least it applies to me, which explains how I spent five hours in the Land of Free Books without getting so much as a brochure.

On the following day, I forced Mary to join me so she could gather ARCs on my behalf. Not my proudest hour as a husband. But hey! Free books!

The last big event of ALA Midwinter was the Youth Media Awards ceremony, which began very early Monday morning. Sadly, I was unable to attend. I’m told it was a rollicking good time. For a list of winners and honorees, you can check the ALA’s twitter feed, or better yet Betsy Bird’s lively rundown.

Now go away. I’ve got reading to do.

  1. 1. David Ward and Lauren Myracle were especially great about making me feel welcome. Thanks, guys!
  2. 2. In this same conversation Mr. Gaiman said a number of interesting things about his novel The Graveyard Book, which I plan to address in a future post
No Blogging. Ever.

When we got married, my wife Mary and I set down some ground rules. Just five simple guidelines to assure our unending happiness. They are as follows:

5)  At no time may Jonathan leave the house wearing tighter pants than Mary

4)  No doing things that might result in appearing on the local news; this includes witnessing crimes, winning the lottery, and living next door to serial-killers 1

3)  Should one of us die early, the other is only allowed to remarry on the condition that their new spouse is uglier

2)  Mary is allowed to have as many children as she wants on the condition that Jonathan may raise them like Mr. Von Trapp—whistle and all

1)  No blogging. Ever

As you can see, these rules are listed in order of importance. Tight pants can be changed out of, but once a guy starts blogging . . .

My reason for creating this page is twofold. First of all, I have a children’s book coming out this year and I wanted to create a place where I could post updates and event information. Second, and more importantly, I wanted to get my hands dirty! There are so many amazing children’s book blogs in the world, and I wanted to involve myself beyond the occasional anonymous comment . . .

This site will contain a lot of drawings–because I draw a lot of what I see. It will also have opinions. My wife has told me I have a unique love for developing “theories” about books, movies, art, and the world. Now, at last, I will have a place to put those theories. One that doesn’t interrupt my wife while she’s trying to write her dissertation. 2

So now it’s just you and me, dear reader. And before we get started, I thought it would be smart to lay down a few blogging ground rules. Just five simple guidelines to ensure our unending happiness. They are as follows:

5)  Jonathan will post relevant material at least four times a week, and the reader will excitedly eat up every blessed word

4)  Jonathan will never post pictures of adorable pets

3)  Jonathan will not post “content” pertaining to what he ate for lunch

2)  Jonathan will proofread his posts before hitting “upload,” and the reader will forgive him if a few typos slip through

1)  No all caps. EVER.

  1. credit for this rule goes to superlibrarian and Meredith Sommers
  2. which is on Victorian children’s literature. Hot.
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