Summer is winding down, and with it the longer days and extra time in which to squeeze extra chapters of whatever book I’m reading with the boys (The Wind in the Willows this week with Rowan). Griffin and I were reading A Wrinkle in Time over the holidays, but our pace and interest have slackened. (He has been away all week at camp, and I’m not sure that book will survive the gap…. And that’s fine. It is one of Daniel Pennac’s rights of the reader to abandon a book. Life is short. Read only great books, books that are great to you.)
I picked up The Phantom Tollbooth the other day–another attempt at a children’s fantasy classic– so I was thrilled to see this video at Educating Alice about the author, Norton Juster, visiting a camp for child authors in New York. The young man with writer’s block quite stole my heart.
And here is an excerpt from the entry on The Phantom Tollbooth from Anita Silvey’s 100 Best Books for Children, about which I wrote here. If you are looking for some suggestions for books to round out the summer reading with your kids, I cannot recommend her book highly enough, and the kind of information in this entry on Juster demonstrates why.
An architect who wrote for relaxation from arduous planning projects, Norton Juster had received a grant from the Ford Foundation to create a book for children about how people experience cities. In 1959, to avoid writing this book, he began working on a short story–one that took on a life of its own. Juster viewed The Phantom Tollbooth as a way to procrastinate from his real responsibilities. He wrote without an outline and in no particular sequence, although he revised the book again and again to achieve the right pacing and word choice.
Juster and Jules Feiffer, the cartoonist, had been friends since the mid-1950s, when they lived in the same apartment building in Brooklyn Heights, New York. Although not intending to illustrate a children’s book, Feiffer started to read what Juster had written and made drawings. As they worked together, Juster took great delight in describing things Feiffer might have difficulty drawing. The project continued with this lighthearted banter, and Feiffer modeled the Whether Man, on page 18, after Juster. (100)
And if you are a fan of Oliver Jeffers and would like to treat yourself to your own book camp, click on the link below and watch his presentation about his career as an artist and children’s book writer and illustrator. I was in awe, but then I think that education is wasted on the young and would happily spend the rest of my days in lecture halls. (It is 45 minutes long; plan accordingly.) Thanks to 123 o’leary for the link.