The Looking Glass : New Perspectives on Children's Literature, Vol 6, No 1 (2002)

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Spyglass


ThE MaD hAtTeR


BUTTON, BUTTON, WHO HAS THE BUTTON?

ThE hAtTeR was quite delighted to hear that Philip Pullman won the Whitbread Book Prize for The Amber Spyglass, especially as Pullman is the first children's author to do so. And he was quite chucked to find that New Line Entertainment had at last landed rights to co-produce Philip Pullman's delicious fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials. Now ThE hAtTeR was quite nonplussed by the furor over Harry Potter the Major Motion Picture and still hasn't brought himself to make the dark journey into the filmic world of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Part One but this news certainly piqued his curiosity! ThE hAtTeR learned that over the last six years, Pullman's U.K. publisher, Scholastic, who hold the film rights, haven't responded to the likes of Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella's Mirage Enterprises, but that the shimmering image of the $700 million international gross of New Line's Lord of the Rings clearly caught their eye. According to a news story that ThE hAtTeR found in his "In Box", Scholastic exec VP Deborah Forte, who runs the company's film and TV division, feels totally assured that New Line is up to the task. "It does require some courage. It's complex material. It's very rich with adventure and detail." But what most intrigued ThE hAtTeR was that it is not just a film that is being considered here. "The project could be another hugely lucrative kids franchise for AOL and Scholastic, as they continue to bask in the synergistic spoils of Harry Potter. Though Scholastic doesn't control U.S. publishing rights, the company is well positioned to increase awareness of the series on this side of the pond through its extensive book clubs, magazines and reading groups." Will there be Iorek Byrnison plush toys? Reproductions of the Subtle Knife in all shapes and sizes? And what about a snazzy Microsoft alethiometer? What will be next, ThE hAtTeR wonders?

IT'S AS EASY AS PIE

ThE hAtTeR has long been contemplating writing a memoir of his long and illustrious career in haberdashery -- only touched at in the Alice books -- but this current flurry of fabulously successful children's fantasies has piqued his interest. Look at young Lady Georgia Byng who stands to make one million pounds from her first children's novel, the soon-to-be-published Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism. And bless London's the Independent newspaper for providing us all with a handy step-by-step guide! Writer D.J. Taylor assures us aspirants that we can all be as rich as J.K. Rowling herself if we just make sure that we embark on projects that include themes either hugely escapist or horribly relevant, set anywhere from a fairy palace, boarding school or a rambling old house in the country with its various priest-holes/portals to alternative worlds, though he admits that an orphanage would do in a pinch. Allegory is a must, but Tolkien's done World War II, Lewis has covered off Evangelical Christianity, Carroll did British politics of the 1860s and Pullman has the ground covered on Milton's Paradise Lost. And don't forget that this fabulous fantasy needs a soupçon of lavatorial humour if it's really to be successful.

In choosing a young hero/heroine, it's important that names be very carefully chosen and Taylor notes, "No child in a contemporary children's book is ever called anything like Clive, Nigel or Jeremy." Ordinary children need not be considered as suitable material for the successful fantasy and by way of looking at the works of C.S. Lewis, Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling, it's clear that parents that are mysteriously absent are certainly the best kind for these books. The child hero/heroes need some tool of invincibility, though keep in mind that invisibility cloaks, alethiometers and wardrobes have all been used before, and do try to keep up with trends — as Taylor says, stray references to skateboards, text messaging and the Spice Girls are not enough. All heroes and heroines, regardless of social class, say "cool", "wicked" and "brill". ThE hAtTeR has just finished filling his inkwell and is ready with his quill in hand — watch for Mad Hatter: The True Story coming to an independent bookseller near you before the end of 2002!

AND SPEAKING OF SUCCESS!

ThE hAtTeR was delighted to read in the London society pages that Harry Potter has brought J.K. Rowling love at last. It's true -- J.K. Rowling and her partner, Dr. Neil Murray, were married before close family members in their palatial new Perthshire home, the secluded 19th century Scottish mansion, Killiechassie House.

Rowling wore a cream outfit, according to ThE hAtTeR's favourite tabloid, News of the World, especially designed for her; and her eight-year-old daughter, Jessica, was one of three bridesmaids. The others were said to be Ms. Rowling's sister Dianne, 33, and Dr. Murray's sister, Lorna. Only fifteen guests attended the wedding which the couple had reportedly been anxious to keep secret. It's a shame that ThE hAtTeR was so busy over Christmas that he wasn't able to finish the Hogwarts Special that Dr. Murray had specially commissioned for the celebration of the nuptials but ThE hAtTeR assures his readers that the top hat he provided looked splendid in the News of the World photos!

AND SPEAKING OF HARRY...

While perusing the New York Times, ThE hAtTeR found this tidbit that pleased him no end. It appears that the Rev. Gabriele Amorth, one of the Roman Catholic Church's best-known exorcists, caused quite the stir before Christmas when he told the Italian news agency ANSA that the Devil was behind Harry, luring children into supernatural adventures. An interview with the Times, however, found Father Amorth's opinion to be a little less heavy-handed. "'If children can see the movie with their parents, it's not all bad,' Father Amorth said in an interview, so mildly that it was impossible not to wonder whether he was not a little bit grateful to Harry." The Times continued, "Certainly [Amorth] is eager to get out the message that the evil Lord Voldemort of the Potter stories is a softie compared with the real You-Know-Who. 'Wars are mostly caused by the Devil; certainly Hitler was consecrated to Satan, and Stalin,' he said. 'I prefer not to mention living persons.'" Now isn't that just what ThE hAtTeR has been saying all along?

AND SPEAKING OF HARRY SOME MORE...

ThE hAtTeR was amazed to see just how incendiary the anti-Harry Potter movement had become when members of Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico burned the Harry Potter books among satanic objects in a bonfire in the church parking lot. The burning was coupled with a spiritual purification ritual in which churchgoers tossed written petitions, asking Jesus to set them free from addictions or "hindrance(s) in my life," into the fire as part of an end-of-the-year soul-searching. Minister Jack Brock, pastor of Christ Community Church, said, "Harry Potter is a masterpiece of satanic deception . . . Don't call it fantasy. Witchcraft is not fantasy. Witchcraft is real," Brock said. "These people have plugged into the powers of darkness . . . and Satan works in their lives."

Mary Moore, Alamogordo school board president and a retired teacher, told reporters, "Our kids are not stupid, and I really think they know the difference between fiction and fact. It's their business if they want to burn books, but I don't think those books will hurt anybody's mind. And believe me, I believe in God, but I don't believe those books are warping kids' minds." And Alamogordo resident Rick Landry said he had read his two sons the Harry Potter books. "Amazingly, they didn't change at all," Landry said. "I just think it's an interesting story," his 11-year-old son Ryan Landry said. "I just think it's all made up." ThE hAtTeR has discovered that in the United States last year, there were more than 31 challenges and in Canada, Harry Potter has come under fire in Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Ontario. He's No. 1 -- at the movies, on the bestsellers list and now as the Most Challenged Children's Book of the Year!

AND FINALLY....

ThE hAtTeR is making room on his bookshelves for a soon-to-be-translated treasure -- along with the Latin and Yiddish versions of Winnie-the-Pooh which he does so adore, now ThE hAtTeR is looking forward to J.K. Rowling publishing her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S.) in Latin and ancient Greek, "in an attempt," says the venerable New York Times, "to inspire children to study those two languages, just as she inspired millions of kids to read."

The London Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, reported that Ms. Rowling's British publisher, Bloomsbury, has hired Peter Needham, who taught Latin and Greek at Eton for 30 years, to translate the Latin edition. "For the time being I'm calling Harry 'Harrius Potter,'" Mr. Needham told the Telegraph. "Arrius is a Latin name -- there's an Arrius in a Catullus poem -- and it declines perfectly well so that, for example, we have Harrium Potterum. The literal translation of Potter would be Figulus, but I very much hope that Potter will survive." The Times noted that Latin and Greek have been getting very fashionable lately. And, according to the American Philological Society, there's been a dramatic increase in the study of classics in high schools and a surge at colleges, as well as interest on Broadway where a stage version of Ovid's Metamorphoses is opening shortly. And ThE hAtTeR can only agree with the person who posted the news on Child_Lit -- Veni, Vidi, Voldemort!

 


Volume 6, Issue 1, The Looking Glass, 2002

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680