jeudi 26 février 2009

Stage 2009

C'est officiel, je vais passer cinq mois chez Tralalere à Paris pour un stage qui s'annonce riche en découvertes ! Vivement le mois d'avril.

mercredi 11 février 2009

La nuit des cages

Simon Hureau et Rascal signent avec La nuit des cages un superbe album en ombre chinoise pour conter la fuite du fils de l’ogre !

Le fils de l’ogre Morillon, un homme est en effet condamné à mourir. Il s’enfuit en pleine nuit, les soldats à ses trousses. Sur sa route, il croise un étrange pèlerinage affairé à conduire au bûcher une jeune fille, Mélusine. Elle aussi porte le poids de la descendance. Fille de sorcière, elle doit périr comme sa mère. Profitant d’un chaos provoqué par la rencontre des deux bandes, le jeune homme délivre sa belle. Comme par magie, ils se sentent pousser des ailes et les voilà hors d’atteinte, en route pour un avenir sans préjugés…

Le texte en rimes de Rascal épouse parfaitement les images de Simon Hureau à l'ambiance mystérieuse. Aux pages vertes et noires qui présentent le texte dans des cartouches élégants, à la manière des films muets d’antan, succèdent des pages noires et blanches d’illustrations seules où l’œil vagabonde, à la recherche du fugitif, guettant les rebondissements et savourant la délicatesse des images. Un album qui réveille aussi les sens tant il invite à respirer le parfum des fougères, des pins, des séquoias au son de la crécelle et du basson…

un petit bijou !

dimanche 8 février 2009

Librairie Chantelivre (Paris)

Ce week-end, profitant d'un rendez-vous sur Paris, je me suis rendu dans cette librairie jeunesse dont on m'avait beaucoup parlé. On y trouve effectivement de tout ! Elle est immense et le choix en matière de livres pour nos marmots est incroyable. Et derrière ses faux airs de galeries Lafayette on y trouve une poignée de vendeurs serviables et compétents. Vraiment pas déçu de ma visite.

Librairie Chantelivre 13 rue de Sèvres, 75006 Paris.

mardi 3 février 2009

Abstract à réaliser sur un article du Times

From The Times
April 30, 2004

What exactly is a children's book?
The shortlist for the Carnegie Children's Book Prize is published today - containing five "crossover" novels that could also be enjoyed by adults. This writer says encouraging children to try books beyond their age range is not helpful
By Nicolette Jones

IS THERE AN IDEAL age at which to read any book? When I studied Middlemarch for A level I had an English teacher who believed that no one should read it before the age of 40, because only then could they appreciate its theme of disappointed lives. At 17 I read and dissected the novel repeatedly, and minded, with a passion, that Dorothea’s magnanimous heart never found its great good work, even more so that Rosamond Vincy’s pernicious selfishness thwarted and stifled her husband Lydgate’s potential.

But I tested out Mrs Ashford’s theory when I reached her watershed, found things in the novel I’d never noticed before (as any re-reader of George Eliot would) and loved it again — partly because I revisited the pleasure I had felt at 17. Reading great books young has an intensity that is hard to find when you are older. Mrs A was not entirely mistaken, though. Forty was a good age to go back. It proved that the best books are worth re-reading.

But the timing of the first encounter does matter. Get it wrong and the book is wasted. So does every book have its moment? Should we catch The Catcher in the Rye when we are going on 19, in order to identify with Holden Caulfield? Should we experiment with John Updike’s Couples in our twenties and save his Rabbit at Rest until retirement? Is 13 too young for Anita Brookner’s Latecomers and 65 too old for Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting? Whether we can be too old for certain books is an issue of the moment, as the perceived rise of the “crossover” children’s book has triggered some alarm at the “infantilising” of our culture. There are those who fret that adults reading Harry Potter are a symptom of society’s unwillingness or inability to grow up. This worry implies that youth is a different country and that there is something corrupting in its customs.

W. H. Auden (writing about Lewis Carroll) put the case for the crossover when he said: “There are good books only for adults, which presuppose adult experience, but there are no good books only for children.” He was right that the important distinction is between good and bad writing, not between adults’ books and children’s books. It is more detrimental to our sensitivity to language and our understanding of the world to read bad adult books than to read good children’s books. And you are never too old for a well-turned sentence.

As Auden’s insight reminds us, the notion of the crossover book is hardly new, though current marketing puts it in the spotlight. It is not only that we have had landmark crossover books for decades, with fans of all ages; Watership Down, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole spring to mind, all of which might be launched in adult and children’s editions if they were first marketed now. It is also that children’ s books we now think of as classics have lasted because readers of all ages continue to respond to the skill and sensibility of the adults who wrote them. Good children’s writers, then and now, entertain themselves as they write. It follows that other adults will be entertained too.

The world is full of people who re-read The Wind in the Willows — with its big themes of friendship and duty, wanderlust and the love of home — for pleasure and comfort throughout their lives. Peter Pan, before it was Disneyfied, had a dual audience, and a theme of sexual competition, with the rivalry for Peter’s affections among Wendy, Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily and the mermaids. Peter is the boy who never grew up because he just can’t respond to any of them — not even to Tinkerbell’s small but perfectly formed “embonpoint”, over which Barrie lingers excitedly.

Even Winnie-the-Pooh, for all its cutesiness, satirises the behaviour of adults in a way that it takes older readers to appreciate: it is hard to recognise the officiousness of Rabbit, for instance, until you are old enough to have sat on a committee, or the gloominess of Eeyore before you’ve heard colleagues complain about commuting, hence Pooh’s popularity in spin-off business books. These classics are clearly books to read more than once in a lifetime. Six might be a good age to start, as long as you come back to them later. And bringing your adult intelligence to bear on them won’t suck it out of you.

Good examples of contemporary children’s books that won’t rot adult brains appear on this year’s shortlist for the Carnegie Medal, announced today. One of the books, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, was already published in two editions, for adults and children, and won several children’s book prizes, the novel category of the Whitbread Prize, the overall Whitbread Book of the Year award and both the literary novel and the children’s novel awards at the British Book Awards. The consensus is that adults can enjoy it too.

Jennifer Donnelly’s A Gathering Light, one of the year’s finest children’s novels, is also about to be issued in an adult edition. Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo has suggested that his publisher, HarperCollins, produce an adult edition of Private Peaceful. David Almond already has a following of adult fans: when Skellig won the Whitbread children’s novel prize the chair of the judges, Raymond Seitz, said he would happily have seen it in the novel category, and The Fire-Eaters has strong adult appeal, especially for anyone old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis. Elizabeth Laird’s The Garbage King is perhaps the book most accessible to children as young as nine, though in both understanding and style it qualifies for Auden’s inclusiveness.

It is the book with the subjects that look adult on paper — homosexuality, senility, the Israel-Palestine conflict, neo-Nazi groups, teenage sex and the Holocaust — that has least to offer the grown-up. Linda Newbery’s Sisterland won’t tell adults anything they don’t know.

So five of these six books break age barriers. The people who market crossover books depend on the idea that there is no one moment to read a book but many, that a book can be enjoyed at 6 or 16 or 60. Some children’s authors would go along with that. Philip Pullman, for example, has put forward as his model for the relationship between writer and reader a storyteller sitting in a village square, with a mixed audience of people who get different things from the story.

The former Children’s Laureate Anne Fine takes the opposite view: she writes for readers from toddlers to adults, and targets her writing exactly: “I always know whether my reader is 4 or 40,” she has said. For her books, at least, we can safely say there is an optimum moment, and it is possible to get it wrong, as did the school that set nine-year-old readers in Year 4 her Flour Babies, a rite-of-passage story of a teenage boy discovering through a school project what parental responsibility might be.

If we are never too old for any good book, we can be too young, and this is where people make mistakes: competitive parents and teachers in particular, who want children to read above their age. But books are age-banded by publishers and reviewers not so much on the basis of stylistic difficulty but on emotional content. Few people consider the distinction. Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls In Love/In Trouble/Out Late/Under Pressure series, for instance, is aimed at teenagers with a not very advanced reading age; but the books are read ubiquitously by bright eight-year-olds perfectly able to cope with the language, even if the dating issues do not reflect their experience.

Malorie Blackman’s vastly popular Noughts and Crosses and its sequel Knife Edge, which imagine a divided society in which the black people (the Crosses) are the privileged class and the white people (the Noughts) the underclass, have a demotic accessibility — but their executions and consummations are strong meat for the many 10-year-olds who read them. This is not to disapprove of children having access to sophisticated content: it is merely that the books may have things to offer that are lost on readers who have not lived enough. The book is short changed. Blackman’s subversive treatment of race, for instance, is more resonant to those old enough to grasp what racism is.

The pushy parent who proudly encourages a 10-year-old to read a book targeted for 13-plus is not necessarily stretching literary skills. To increase a child’s capacity with language it is often wiser not to go to books of a higher reading age, but to go back to literature from the past that was intended for young consumers. A bright 10-year-old who reads The Railway Children, The Hobbit, or The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is closer to understanding Dickens and Shakespeare than one who reads gossipy narratives in teenage slang. Parents should dare to wait, too, for the sophisticated literature. Offering books that are beyond a child is a disservice to the child and to the books.

The big advantage of books is that they offer experiences we don’t have in real life. But there is no doubt that having more life experience — and more reading experience — can make all the difference to what we get out of a book. This is my advice: don’t rush children into books that are worth waiting for, don’t be squeamish about reading something a child might like too (try the Carnegie shortlist) and go back to books you loved when you were young. You will find you love them even more now.