Bees http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz Books for Children Wed, 16 Apr 2014 01:49:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Write like E. B. White http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/e-b-white-how-to-write/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/e-b-white-how-to-write/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 21:00:51 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=5079 E.B. White wrote only three children’s books and two are America’s top books (Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little). What was his secret? Imagination and style, yes, but he also took his time and revised a lot. (Impatience has been my biggest weakness as a writer). Charlotte is short but it took two years to write the first draft, then another year to rewrite it. It has the best opening line of any children’s book  – “Where’s Papa going with that axe?”; and perhaps the finest ending (certainly the most heart-rending). And love those rustic Garth Williams illustrations.

The ending is as beautiful, bold and full of integrity as Charlotte herself.– Guardian

In a Paris Review interview, White puts a witty spin on the need to wait a little:

Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer—he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along. I am apt to let something simmer for a while in my mind before trying to put it into words. I walk around, straightening pictures on the wall, rugs on the floor—as though not until everything in the world was lined up and perfectly true could anybody reasonably expect me to set a word down on paper.

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Love Bees http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/love-bees-2/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/love-bees-2/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 21:03:37 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=7845

Pollination: ‘a love story that feeds the Earth.’ – Louie Schwartzberg

We can’t survive without bees and bees won’t survive unless we love them. It’s the most unique partnership between ‘wild’ creatures and humans. Honey bee pollination gives us fruit, vegetables, and pastures – let’s respect them by providing a variety of flowering plants and clean habitats (avoid pesticides, especially neonicotinoids).

Human beings have fabricated the illusion that they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature. Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature’s services. – Achim Steiner

 Watch a sweet little film, Dance of the Honey Bee’ (Vimeo).

honeybee

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Opening Sentence Quiz http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/best-opening-sentence-quiz/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/best-opening-sentence-quiz/#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2014 22:10:23 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=5076

Never open a book with weather.– Elmore Leonard

…such as the famous, “It was a dark and stormy night” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The best opening sentences in children’s novels take the reader captive immediately. They introduce character, setting and problem; they fire the imagination; and are clear about what is happening:

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on … that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.– Kurt Vonnegut

(Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions begins, “This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.”)

My favourite children’s opening is from Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, deftly introducing the 3Ps (person, place and problem) all in a single sentence:

“Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

Test Yourself

Match these classic openings from children’s novels to the titles below.

1. All children, except one, grow up.

2. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

3.The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff.

4. Here I am, Ralph William Mountfield, banished to my bedroom on Christmas Day.

5. Keith the boy in the rumpled shorts and shirt, did not know he was being watched as he entered Room 215 of the Mountain View Inn.

6. My father is put in the stocks again! Oh! the injustice of it!

7. When Old Tip lost his bark, Uncle Trev had to teach his horse to bark and chase the cows up to the shed for milking.

8. It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

9. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.

Titles: The Iron Man, I Capture The Castle, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Devil-in-the-Fog, Matilda, The More the Merrier, Uncle Trev, Peter Pan

Jacob Appel gives some more in-depth advice for crafting an effective opening.

 charlotte's web

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Inside a Beehive http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/inside-a-beehive/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/inside-a-beehive/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 05:24:04 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=7732 A wax beehive is made and shaped by bees into perfectly hexagonal honeycomb. The comb is not only a pantry for storing honey, it’s also the bee’s kitchen, nursery, bedroom and dance floor. This photo shows cells in the comb used to store honey – the bees put a layer of white wax ‘capping’ over the honey to preserve it.

capping2

This next photo shows cells used to raise baby bees (the white larvae are visible in some cells). These larval cells are then capped so the bee can develop into an adult. Lovely photos by artist Claire Beynon (click to enlarge).

brood2

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The Curioseum – Review http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/the-curioseum-review/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/the-curioseum-review/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 20:00:26 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=7717

This is a wonderful collection for children aged 8-12… Museums are hives of story, both real and imagined. These 22 authors have created new stories surrounding some intriguing objects from Te Papa Museum… Raymond Huber writes one of the most memorable stories in the collection, of a unique breed of humans who mature into insects (a highly original allegory). – Sarah Forster

Photos of the curious objects which inspired the stories

Listen to the stories and explore The Curioseum.The_Curioseum_cover_large

 

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Reading is Empathy http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/fiction-is-real/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/fiction-is-real/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 21:00:56 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=4815

Research shows that far being being a means to escape the social world, reading stories can actually improve your social skills by helping you better understand other human beings. – Keith Oatley (The Psychology of Fiction)

Likewise, Tolkien believed that fantasy “offers not an escape away from reality, but an escape to a heightened reality”. When we read fiction we enter an imagined world, perhaps far from reality, but it’s the characters that we attach to. It’s this emotional connection with characters that provides an understanding of real life interactions. Children begin to develop true empathy for others from four years old and onwards – hearing and reading fiction enables them to walk in another’s shoes. An example for older children is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor which shows the young reader something of what it was like to be a black child growing up in the 1930s; an incredibly moving story of hope despite hardship.

While reading, we can leave our own consciousness, and pass over into the consciousness of another person, another age, another culture. – Maryanne Wolf

 

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Shrinking Man http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/radioactive-classic/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/radioactive-classic/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 08:35:11 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=4788 The classic sci-fi movie, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1958), was about the atomic angst of the 1950s and it’s themes have not dated. The hero is exposed to a radioactive cloud and begins to shrink. Trapped in his home, he battles his cat, a spider, and a leaking tap (always a threat to the male ego). Finally, he’s reduced to his essential self and ponders his place in the universe. Watch the end of the movie here. This extract is from the closing monologue (script by Richard Matheson):

So close – the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet—like the closing of a gigantic circle…

 

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Outside Over There http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/maurice-sendak-outside-over-there/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/maurice-sendak-outside-over-there/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 20:25:25 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=4703

That touch of reality in a child’s life is a child’s comfort. The child gets the sense that this person who wrote this book knows about me and knows the world can be a troubling, incomprehensible place. Maurice Sendak

Outside Over There is my favourite Maurice Sendak picture book (and his) – haunting, comforting, uncompromising –  nobody else combined the real and the unreal so brilliantly. In his last interview, Maurice Sendak talked about how his stories reflected his childhood (but what a curmudgeon he’d become).  Outside Over There is a  tale of separation and siblings that features a creepy ice baby (pictured).

Sendak’s books can also be exuberant (In the Night Kitchen), spiritual (Dear Mili), and funny (Pierre, a cautionary tale). I like his vision of atoms dancing to form molecules from the first book he illustrated (when 19 years old), Atomics for the Millions:

sendak-atoms

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Reading and the Brain http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/reading-and-the-brain/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/reading-and-the-brain/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 02:24:36 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=3982

Reading a book leaves us with new neural pathways… Books can open up emotional, imaginative and historical landscapes. Gail Rebuck (Humans Have the Need To Read)

The reading brain is part of highly successful two-way dynamics. Reading can be learned only because of the brain’s plastic design, and when reading takes place, that individual brain is forever changed. Maryanne Wolf

Readers mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a narrative… using brain regions that closely mirror those involved when people perform, imagine, or observe similar real-world activities. Washington University

We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically. – Gregory Berns (Emory University)

spencer5mths

Photo: My grandson, Spencer, 5 months old

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Classic Comics 3. The Beast Is Dead! http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/classic-comics-3-the-beast-is-dead/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/classic-comics-3-the-beast-is-dead/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 02:05:20 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=4713 Comics were banned in WW2 occupied France but Edmond-François Calvo secretly produced a powerful satirical comic that became a French icon after the Germans retretaed in 1944. La Bete Est Morte! is the story of the bloody European war told with Disney-style animal characters: with the French as rabbits; British bulldogs; and German wolves (Goebbels is a weasel, Himmler a skunk). La Bete Est Morte! is a forerunner of the brilliant graphic novel, Maus, with its Nazi cats and Jewish mice. Here’s an extract:
My dear little children, never forget this: these Wolves who perpetrated these horrors were ordinary Wolves … They were not in the heat of battle excited by the smell of powder. They were not tormented by hunger. They did not have to defend themselves, nor to take vengeance for a victim of their own. They had simply received the order to kill.

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