Monday, October 22, 2007

Indians and October

Indians have been on my mind this month, being a Red Sox fan and all. But it was only today that I realized Jacoby Ellsbury, the fabulous rookie center fielder called up from the farm team earlier in the season, is Native American himself--the first Navajo to play in the majors. Where have I been all season? Not paying attention, apparently.

The other Indians-and-October connection is Little Runner of the Longhouse , an older Harper/Trophy "I Can Read" book from 1962, by Betty Baker with pictures by Arnold Lobel (whose talent definitely ran to toads and frogs, rather than children--these illustrations aren't without charm, but I would never have connected them with the enchanting and droll images of the Frog and Toad books). We read it last night, and it's the story of a young boy, Little Runner, and an Iroquois custom of older boys putting on masks and old clothes, and going from longhouse to longhouse demanding maple sugar--or else. Sound familiar? I was kind of blown away by the similarity to trick-or-treating. I haven't yet been able to find the name for this Iroquois custom, or determine whether these masks worn by boys were considered false faces (carved from living trees) or were some other kind of mask.

We drive through Iroquois country on the way to and from my in-laws in upstate New York, and now I'll look at the snowscape and the trees a little differently. Next time we pass that way we may stop at the Iroquois Indian Museum near Howe Cave, NY, where, on April 1, 2008, they will open an exhibit titled "Baseball's League of Nations: A Tribute to Native American Baseball Players." (Take that, Chief Wahoo.)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Miyazaki does Earthsea, sort of

I am looking forward to the Miyazakiazation of Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea, the book that is most directly responsible for inspiring my first novel. I adore the whole Miyazaki oevre, so am over the moon that Studio Ghibli is doing this. The catch is that it's Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro who is at the helm of this adaptation, titled in Japanese Gedo Senki. You can read LeGuin's own review of the movie here. We'll have to wait a little while longer for the English dubbed version, in which Shakespearean actor and former 007 Timothy Dalton is voicing Ged. I reserve judgment.

I have to say, Goro sounds like a name LeGuin would have come up with, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, it's going to be a long wait. The SciFi channel's rights from their dreary TV adaptation don't expire until 2009, so it won't be coming to a theater near me any time soon.

My son reading aloud to me

The other night the Budza read Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese's The Story about Ping out loud to me. It was so weird to hear the familiar words I'd read, and read to him, so many times, in his voice. When he was much younger, he memorized the text to his then favorite book, Michael O'Tunnell's Halloween Pie , but it was a rote recital, not reading. I think Ping, with a lot of other books from my 1960s childhood, doesn't pass muster by today's p.c. standards, but the words and images are engraved on my brain, the striped shadows Ping sees from under the basket, the metal rings on the necks of the fishing cormorants, the eyes painted on the boats. I always wondered why the Yangtze River was yellow, if the artist painted it blue.

His second grade teacher, Ms. F., is reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aloud to the class during snack time. They are as far as Agustus Gloop's unceremonious ascent into the chocolate pipe. As I poured Budza some blueberry smoothie the other day I thought of the pleasures that awaited him once he got to the fate of gum-chewing Violet. He's seen the more recent movie, but seems to have developed some amnesia about it, and is enjoying the book.

His assignment for Ms. F. is to read a mystery, and to write a report and make a shoebox diorama. He's chosen an A-Z mystery by Ron Roy, The Missing Mummy and I think I'm possibly more excited about this than he is.