Another beloved children’s book is getting the stage treatment.
Natalie Babbitt’s book “Tuck Everlasting,” first published in 1975, is being adapted into a stage musical that will premiere in Boston at the Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre in July. The show, which is taking place with Babbitt’s approval, was adapted by writer Claudia Shearer and is being directed by Casey Nicholaw, who snagged a Tony for Best Direction of a Musical for his work on the enormously successful show “The Book of Mormon.” Music is by Chris Miller and lyrics are by Nathan Tysen.
“Tuck Everlasting” was planned to premiere in May, but production delays have pushed that date back to July.
The novel follows Winnie Foster, a young girl who meets a family, the Tucks, who drank from an enchanted spring and can now live forever. Winnie must choose whether to drink from the spring as well and stay with them or pursue a normal life.
In discussing the show, Babbitt says that she often got concerned questions from parents who couldn’t believe her novel, with its serious themes, was aimed at children.
“Adults say to me, ‘What, you’re writing a book for children about death?’ ” the author said. “ 'They don’t know anything about death.’ Of course they do.” She mentioned circumstances such as a pet or grandparent dying in which children would have come face-to-face with it.
She said she was very happy with the musical.
“It all is magic to me,” Babbitt said. “[The creative team is] doing a beautiful job.”
The role of Winnie will be played by actress Sadie Sink, while the Tuck son she befriends, Jesse, will be portrayed by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and his mother, Mae, will be played by actress Carolee Carmello.
The show will premiere July 28. "Tuck" was previously adapted into a film which was released in 2002 and starred "Gilmore Girls" actress Alexis Bledel as Winnie; William Hurt as the Tuck patriarch, Angus; and Sissy Spacek as Mae.
“Game of Thrones” fans got another sneak peek at the third season of the show with the newest behind-the-scenes video, which featured segments of scenes being shot and commentary on the season from the actors. The HBO series has been adapted from the "Song of Ice and Fire" novels by George R.R. Martin.
“Game of Thrones” executive producer, writer and director David Benioff said this current cycle had been the most anticipated by the creative team.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to have made it this far and to be able to get to the season that we’ve been looking forward to so passionately since day one,” Benioff said during the video.
Glimpses of scenes from the TV show included one featuring Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who was seen sitting in a group and telling someone, “You’ll have lordships and castles of your choosing when I take back the seven kingdoms.” She was also seen on horseback riding through what looked like an army.
Actress Diana Rigg, who portrays the new character Lady Olenna Tyrell, said the show has “ a lot of surprises, one or two quite bold scenes… and [is] great fun to do.”
Actor Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, mentioned the size of the cast.
“The show keeps expanding and breathing more deeply,” he said. “You know, we kill a lot of characters, but every character we kill, we add two more.”
Not long ago, we learned that the millennial generation is still valuing its local libraries. Now a new Pew report has assured us that libraries continue to enjoy a vibrant place in the community for people of all ages.
According to a new Pew report, almost 60 percent of people who responded to a survey said they’d used their library within the past year, while a whopping 91 percent agreed with the statement that “public libraries are important to their communities.”
According to the Pew data, which was taken between October and November of 2012, most of those who are going to libraries are doing so for traditional reasons, with 73 percent saying they go to the library to borrow print books. By contrast, 26 percent said they go with the purpose of using their library’s computers or WiFi services.
But respondents were firm in their opinion that libraries had to embrace technology to stay relevant. About 77 percent said that free computer access and access to the Internet is “very important,” and many stressed the importance of libraries engaging with younger generations, with 85 percent saying that libraries should “definitely” work with local schools and offer literacy programs at no cost for children.
And it seems that even those who aren’t yet fully invested in e-books want to try them, with 53 percent of respondents stating that libraries should “definitely” offer a wider range of e-books for patrons.
In short, the Americans surveyed seem to be staying loyal to their local libraries, but they are also perceive a need for libraries to stay in step with the latest technologies and to engage the next generation.
It may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s no joke – a San Antonio library is planning to open one of the country’s first bookless libraries this fall.
That’s right, BiblioTech, a $1.5 million Bexar County paperless library will have scores of computer terminals, laptops, tablets, and e-readers – but not a dog-eared classic or dusty reference book in sight.
“Think of an Apple store,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who led his county’s bookless library project, told NPR when describing the planned library.
The 4,989-squre-foot, digital-only library, one of the first of its kind, will feature 100 e-readers available for circulation, 50 e-readers for children, 50 computer stations, 25 laptops, and 25 tablets for on-site use. Patrons can check out e-readers for two weeks or load books onto their own devices.
“A technological evolution is taking place,” Wolff says. “And I think we’re stepping in at the right time.”
It’s a trend that appears to be catching on. As we reported on in a July 2012 post, “Bookless Libraries – has it really come to this?,” a number of libraries, academic and public, have joined the paperless bandwagon. It began with academic libraries, including Kansas State University’s engineering school, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Stanford University’s engineering school, Drexel University, and Cornell. From there it spread to public libraries, including the Balboa Branch library in Newport Beach, California and even the New York Public Library, which doesn’t plan a bookless future but “a future with far fewer books.”
That’s a vision that makes many bibliophiles – us included – shudder.
In an interview with NPR, Sarah Houghton, director of the San Rafael Public Library in California and a proponent of digital media, called the bookless library “premature.”
Most communities, she says, simply aren’t ready for a digital-only library. For starters, some people simply prefer reading physical books. What’s more, not everyone is technologically literate and may need considerable help – help that would require training staff and swelling the library budget, unlikely in today’s budget-starved environment. Finally, she adds, a lot of content simply isn’t available for digital licensing and purchase.
“So your selection of bestsellers and popular media just went down the toilet because 99 percent of that is not available to libraries digitally,” she says, adding that many publishers either won’t license to libraries or offer expensive or unrealistic terms.
Perhaps most importantly, as we wrote in a previous blog post on the topic, “the shrinking library deprives us of a critical ingredient in the exploration and discovery of books: the ability to wander, browse, and stumble upon new treasures at random.”
And as bestselling author Michael Connelly told Time last year, libraries are also community gathering spaces. “The library is a societal tent pole. There are a lot of ideas under it. Knock out the pole and the tent comes down,” he said.
Houghton’s thoughts on the future of the bookless library? “I think it’ll be a good 100 to 150 years from now until all libraries are completely digital,” she told NPR.
We don’t know about you, but we’re breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Thanks to his unorthodox philosophy and a recent kerfuffle over the use of the term “fascism,” a certain grocery store CEO’s book is getting a lot of attention this week.
In “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business,” Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey puts forward a bold, and controversial, perspective on running a business. His philosophy, the perhaps oxymoronically named "conscious capitalism," has earned Mackey a legion of fans as well as detractors who have vowed to boycott Whole Foods in opposition to the CEO’s approach.
“Conscious Capitalism” explains Mackey’s maverick philosophy on business, a view which advocates that companies must have a higher purpose than simply making money. In Mackey’s view, that higher purpose is creating value and lifting people out of poverty and he argues that we need to redefine capitalism as such to flourish as a society.
“My co-author Raj Sisodia and I describe this as a way of thinking about business to ensure that it is grounded in a higher purpose to enhance its positive impact on the world,” Mackey said in an interview with Forbes. “When reinvented in this way, capitalism is an extraordinarily powerful system of value creation mutually benefiting all stakeholders.”
The book is also a personal memoir of sorts that charts Mackey’s remarkable journey to success. A college dropout who dabbled in Eastern philosophy, yoga, vegetarianism (he is now a vegan), and 1960s counterculture, Mackey started a natural foods store in Austin in 1978 with his girlfriend, Renee Lawson Hardy. Named with a wink and a nod, Safer Way was a spoof on Safeway, which operated several grocery stores nearby. Two years later, Mackey and Hardy merged with another natural foods store to open Whole Foods, which they began slowly expanding starting in 1984.
Now Whole Foods is an $11 billion Fortune 300 company and the largest natural foods store in the US with more than 340 locations in the US, Canada, and the UK. Besides kale chips, sustainably caught salmon, fair trade coffee, and organic chard, the store is known for its responsible business practices, including providing all employees with health care and capping executive pay at 19 times the company’s hourly wage.
Mackey details this and other tools of “conscious capitalism” in his book, which he considers a blueprint for a new kind of capitalism that creates values and benefits all stakeholders, including customers, employees, investors, the greater community, and the environment.
The outspoken CEO recently found himself in hot water while promoting his book. In a discussion about President Obama’s health care overhaul with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, Mackey expressed his staunch opposition to the new health care legislation, which he characterized as ‘fascism.’
“Technically speaking, it's more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn't own the means of production, but they do control it — and that's what's happening with our health care programs and these reforms.”
The comment drew a firestorm of criticism – including from angry Whole Foods shoppers who vowed to boycott the store – and forced Mackey to step back his comments.
He first apologized for his comments in a CBS This Morning interview and later in a blog post in which Mackey said he regrets using the term, which “today stirs up too much negative emotion with its horrific associations in the 20th century.”
One thing is for sure, that eclectic grocery bag of topics – fascism, organic produce, responsible capitalism, and a billion-dollar natural foods success story – has many more of us curious about “Conscious Capitalism.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
“A Memory of Light,” the finale to Robert Jordan’s "Wheel of Time" series, remains at the top of bestseller lists even after fans, incensed that the book will not be released in electronic format until April, began giving the book low ratings on Amazon.
“A Memory of Light” was co-written by Jordan and Brandon Sanderson after Jordan died in 2007. Sanderson worked from Jordan’s notes to complete the last three books of the series.
The controversial decision to wait to release the e-book format of “Light” was announced by Tor, the book’s publisher, in March. Earlier this month, Sanderson explained that neither he nor Tor had wanted to wait to release the e-book but that Harriet McDougal, Jordan’s wife, who also served as his editor, had felt more comfortable delaying it.
“She is uncomfortable with ebooks,” Sanderson wrote on his website. “Specifically, she worries about ebooks cutting into the hardcover sales. It isn't about money for her, as the monetary difference between the two is negligible here. It is about a worry that her husband's legacy will be undermined if sales are split between ebooks and hardcovers, preventing the last book of the 'Wheel of Time' from hitting number one on either list. (Many of the bestseller lists are still handling ebooks in somewhat awkward ways.)…. I personally feel her worries are unfounded, and have explained that to her, but it is not my choice and I respect her reasoning for the decision. She is just trying to safeguard Robert Jordan's legacy.… After talking about the issue, we were able to move the ebook up from the originally planned one-year delay to instead come out this spring.”
At this writing, “A Memory of Light” has almost as many one-star reviews on Amazon (272) as five-star reviews (349).
A commenter from Kentucky who named herself Sarah wrote on Amazon, “I'll buy the book when it comes out in a format I can enjoy on my digital devices. It's 2013, I'm not going to lug around a hardback to read on the bus, in line at the grocery, or even snuggled in bed.”
A commenter named Sutodak agreed, writing, “Pretty pathetic that they are trying to force hardback editions on everyone. It is the year 2013, ebook versions should always be available for such popular releases. Being a long time fan of this series, I had planned on buying both the ebook version for actually reading and the hardback version for the bookshelf. That won’t be happening now until I can buy it used.”
But some Jordan fans had harsh words for the protests of others.
“I don't care if my false review, combined with all of the other false reviews of my comrades, deflate the rating of this book and influence someone's purchasing decisions,” wrote a commenter named Cat Overlord. “I don't care if it hurts the author's livelihood. I'm here to please myself and I don't believe that anyone's hard work should be rewarded. From now on, I'm going to read books like 'Fifty Shades of Grey' and anything I can find by Piers Anthony. Those books are worth buying and reading because they're available electronically. I don't care about merit, art, or value. I care about me and the satisfaction of my childish needs.”
Despite the brouhaha, “A Memory of Light” is selling well on traditional bestseller lists, currently holding the number one spot on the IndieBound bestseller list for hardcover fiction the week of Jan. 17.
The last year or so has certainly been a mixed bag for booksellers. After a holiday season in which Barnes & Noble posted dismal sales while some independent bookstores rejoiced in brisk business, Kobo is now reporting surprisingly strong numbers for its e-reader sales over the past year.
Kobo – owned by Japanese retailer Rakuten but based in Toronto – is reporting that its e-reader sales doubled in 2012, with 4 million of the devices sold in the last six months. That brings the company’s number of registered users up to more than 12 million, which, according to a recent DigiTimes report, means that Kobo now has about 20 percent of the global market for e-readers.
The holiday season was a particularly strong period, the company says, with e-reader sales increasing by almost 150 percent in December.
December also marked the company's third anniversary.
Here in the US Kobo has aligned itself with the country's independent bookseller through a partnership with the American Booksellers Association. For now, however, Kobo remains a relatively small player in a US market dominated by Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble.
But globally 2012 was a big year for Kobo. In addition to launching three new devices – the Kobo Glo and Mini e-readers and the Arc tablet – Kobo expanded services into Japan, Spain, South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, and the Netherlands.
In Canada, where the company is based, Kobo appears to be the market leader, reportedly outselling Amazon Canada.
In 2013, the company says that it intends to further its global expansion, with plans to enter the Russian, Chinese, and Indian markets.
Kobo's year-end report also offered a bit of a snapshot of its customers and their buying patterns. According to the report, the "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Hunger Games" series were the most-read books on Kobo devices; the average Kobo customer bought 20 percent more e-books in 2012 than in 2011; the company sells most books in English, followed by French and Japanese; and romance books are the most popular genre among Kobo customers.
Controversy always seemed to follow Christopher Hitchens. In its latest iteration, controversy has followed the late polemicist, now the center of controversy in a new book, to his grave.
In “Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens,” political activist and author Richard Seymour employs a unique technique to shred Hitchens’s political philosophy to pieces: Seymour puts the late writer on trial.
“It is written in the spirit of a trial,” Seymour tells the UK’s Guardian. “I do attempt to get a sense of the complexity and gifts of the man, but it is very clearly a prosecution, and you can guess my conclusion.”
In that spirit, “Unhitched,” released today, interrogates Hitchens and builds a case against the man whom Seymour calls an “amanuensis” of the George W. Bush administration. The book also charts his shift from “career-minded socialist” and “left-wing firebrand” to “neoconservative Marxist” who Seymour describes as “an advocate of America’s invasion of Iraq filled with passionate intensity.”
Seymour explores Hitchens’s early days as a socialist with the Labour party and casts doubt on the late author’s own version of events in his memoir, “Hitch 22.” “I’ve interviewed a lot of his former comrades. If you read Hitch 22, it’s not an entirely reliable account – what he remembers and what others remember are different,” says Seymour. “He’s subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, revised things.”
While the book is highly critical of Hitchens’s views on war, politics, and religion, there are characteristics of the late writer Seymour openly admires. “There are parts in his writing where you read it and glow, it’s so perfectly put,” Seymour says. Still, all in all, “Unhitched” is “a denunciation of the changes he underwent in the last 10 years in particular, with Iraq and America the two central themes,” Seymour adds.
“Unhitched” grew out of an essay Seymour had written about Hitchens which was published in a collection called “Christopher Hitchens and His Critics.” After Seymour sent Hitchens a copy of that essay, their relationship deteriorated. “We stopped exchanging emails shortly afterwards,” Seymour recalls. “He thought of it as an insult and threw a few back.”
Based on that initial essay, radical leftist publisher Verso commissioned “Unhitched” about six months after Hitchens’s death in December 2011. In spite of the bad blood between the two, Seymour is hopeful that, were he alive today, Hitchens “might have had a bit of a laugh” about the new book. “One thing in his favor is that he was narcissistic but not prickly or vain,” he told the Guardian. “I think he would have thrown an insult or two at me. He described Max Blumenthal as ‘a young skunk who hasn’t learned to piss yet’ and I think I could expect something along those lines.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Betty Abbott Sheinis was 84 and in the final weeks of her life when we met her. But we were immediately enchanted by her warm personality and peaceful spirit.
Anet James and I are owners of a local art gallery. Sheinis's husband Arnold had invited us to their home to see his artwork. As gallery owners, we often visit artists' studios to consider their work for exhibition. This particular home was packed with hundreds of pieces of artwork. There were stacks of art piled three and four feet high in the basement; many closets were filled to capacity and in virtually every room in the house the walls were covered from floor to ceiling with drawings, paintings, and photographs.
About half of the art on display was Arnold's and the rest was Betty’s. She specialized in beautifully crafted watercolors depicting landscapes, city scenes, and the ocean. Like Arnold, she had been an artist all her life.
But our biggest surprise on this March morning was a beautifully illustrated watercolor which Betty had painted 30 years earlier, found peeping out from underneath a pile of folded laundry in a storage room on the the second floor of the house. It was intended to be the cover art for a stunning children’s book. It featured a rabbit and a woodchuck, sipping tea in a lush forest setting.
"At first glance, we thought it might be an original Beatrice Potter or Tasha Tudor illustration for an unknown book,” Anet remembered later.
It was clearly a project dear to Betty's heart, produced with incredible skill. The mystery was, why had it not been published and where were the missing pages for the book?
“Is this my painting?” Betty asked when we showed her the book cover. She no longer recognized her own beautiful works of art but she accepted our praise with grace and humility.
Since Betty had no memory of producing the painting, we had was little hope of getting her to tell us the location of the missing pages. This was going to be a treasure hunt and, at the same time, a unique opportunity to learn more about this inspiring woman’s creative life. We were also given an insight into her 60-year love affair with her husband Arnold, her loyal friend and fellow artist.
“Oh, that’s Betty’s book.” Arnold said when we asked. He had no idea where the rest of the illustrations were or if they even still existed.
“Betty kept everything, so they must be here somewhere," he said. It was clear he wasn’t confident that they would be found.
But several weeks after Betty’s death, Arnold woke up in the middle of the night remembering that she had a secret hiding place for her favorite paintings. Beneath her grandfather’s antique bed, he found all the original paintings for the book stored safely in an old portfolio. They were in perfect condition. He also found the manuscript for the story printed in a small mock-up she had created for potential publishers to review the book.
It was time for this work to meet its public, Anet and I agreed. We decided to publish it ourselves.
The book – titled "Rhoda's Ocean" – tells the story of Wilma Woodchuck and Rhoda Rabbit, who are best friends. But Wilma and Rhoda are very different.
"Practical Wilma believes in neatness, while Rhoda is a dreamer who forgets her shoes and wonders what an ocean looks like," says Arnet. "'Rhoda’s Ocean' celebrates creativity, friendship, and the rewards of being yourself."
In some ways, it tells the story of Betty herself.
She grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains of rural Tennessee where she was the only daughter of five children. At the age of 19, she received a full scholarship to Cooper Union and bravely moved on her own to New York City to attend the prestigious art school. After graduation, she went on to work as an illustrator for a top advertising agency, The Washington Post, and other newspapers. She won several major awards for illustration during her career.
Betty had met Arnold in the late 1940s at Cooper Union, where he was also an art student. Arnold often shares the story of how they met. “I asked her to have a cup of coffee at the local Automat," Arnold reminisced with a twinkle in his eye. "That was a strong cup of coffee, because we were together for sixty years.”
They went on to be married in 1952 and raised three sons in the same house in Natick, Mass. where they had moved in 1970. They have seven grandchildren, to whom the book is dedicated.
“I remember her working on the book, but I never really paid much attention to it," Arnold said. "Betty was always doing artwork even while she was cooking or playing with the boys. We would travel and paint together all the time. She liked the mountains and I enjoyed painting by the ocean.,"
At her funeral, Arnold gave a moving eulogy, ending with, “She was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, companion and friend. She was the only woman I ever loved romantically. Goodnight sweetheart, till we meet tomorrow.”
I asked Arnold if the characters in the book reminded him of anyone.
“I think I was Wilma and she was Rhoda," he replied. "I liked things to be a little neater than she did.”
Arnold lives alone now and paints every day in his basement studio. He also works out in the weight room at the new senior center in town and often stops by the library where Betty had been a volunteer for years. “She was a real lady,” a co-worker there says of her, recalling her “gentle and kind personality.”
Arnold also visits the gallery weekly to check on the book’s progress. He often tells us how much Betty would have loved seeing it finally published.
“She would have been thrilled," Arnold said. "She was a wonderful artist... I miss her very much.”
John Mottern and Anet James are owners of Gallery 55 in Natick, Mass. Gallery 55 is also the publisher of "Rhoda's Ocean."
I must admit – I am a binge reader. I will go weeks without reading a book, but then something will catch my eye and I’ll read it in a couple of hours. After that I’ll make multiple trips to the library to see if they’ve got anything more by the same author. I’ll check out three or four and have them back in two days. When I’m on the wagon, I’ll stay up late reading and get up early the next morning to read more. Which is why Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” series has been one of the more agonizing experiences of my life.
I started reading the series when I was 13. My best friend, who had the locker next to mine in middle school, handed me “The Eye of the World” (the first book in the series), and I couldn’t put it down. I was drawn in by Rand Al'Thor, Mat Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, the mysterious witch Moriane and her dangerous warder, and the strange magic known as the One Power. Their long (14-books-long) journey to the Last Battle to fight the Dark One was just beginning. The fascinating detail of their world and the lack of annoying Tolkein-esque songs didn't hurt, either. I am well aware of the series' weaknesses (endless subplots, too much description), but the books endeared themselves to me. They are old friends now.
It’s strange having lived with these books for so long. It’s like being one of the kids from Narnia – there’s a secret world only a few page-widths away that only I and a few hundred thousand other nerds know about.
I caught up to Jordan as a junior in high school. I’d read 11 of his books in five years. I found out that the next book wouldn’t be released until my freshman year of college. I buried my frustration, and waited.
Then came the news that Jordan had passed on. After that, more news – some guy named Brandon Sanderson would finish the series based on the notes that Jordan had kept. I didn’t know what to think.
Freshman year, when the 12th book arrived in my mailbox (figuratively, that is – the books are actually too big for mailboxes), I took a day off from school to read it. Sanderson did a great job of cleaning up the subplots and rebuilding momentum for the Last Battle. I was again a happy reader.
And now, two books later, here we are – at the end of the journey with "A Memory of Light." It will be a bittersweet goodbye to this gargantuan series for me. And yet I do know that the sound of the back cover closing on the last page of this book will be one of the most satisfying sounds heard in my life to date.
(Check out the audiobook clip below, courtesy of Macmillan Audio.)
Ben Frederick is a Monitor contributor.