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From Harry Potter-style mega-hits to controversy over banned books to hot competition for literary prizes, there is never a dull moment in the book world. Chapter & Verse keeps readers up-to-date on the latest in literary headlines. Check in with us daily to learn about books and their people - those who write them and those who love them.

Suzanne Collins' book will be illustrated by writer and illustrator James Proimos, whom Collins said convinced her to embark on the project.

'Hunger Games' author Suzanne Collins will release a picture book

By Staff Writer / 11.30.12

The Hunger Games” author Suzanne Collins is following up the massive success of her young adult dystopian trilogy with a picture book.

The book, “Year of the Jungle,” will be autobiographical and based around Collins’ father’s time serving in Vietnam. The story centers on a young girl named Suzy who worries about her father's safety after he leaves to fight overseas.

James Proimos, who has written and illustrated children's titles such as "The Many Adventures of Johnny Mutton," will be creating the illustrations, and Collins said in a statement that he was the one who convinced her to write it.

“For several years I had this little wicker basket next to my writing chair with the postcards my dad had sent me from Vietnam and photos of that year. But I could never quite find a way into the story,” she said. “It has elements that can be scary for the audience, and it would be easy for the art to reinforce those. It could be really beautiful art but still be off-putting to a kid, which would defeat the point of doing the book. Then one day I was having lunch with Jim and telling him about the idea and he said, 'That sounds fantastic.' I looked at him and I had this flash of the story through his eyes, with his art. It was like being handed a key to a locked door.”

The first installment in “The Hunger Games” series was released as a movie last March starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, and the next three parts of the series (the last book is planned for two films) are set to be released in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The first "Hunger Games" book was released back in 2008, but the series still occupies the number four spot on the children’s series part of the New York Times bestseller list for Dec. 2 and ranks number six on the IndieBound children’s fiction series list for Nov. 29. Before “Games,” Collins had written a fantasy series for tweens titled “The Underland Chronicles.”

“Jungle” will be released Sept. 10 through Scholastic. It will be aimed at readers 4 and older.

A petition is promoting the idea that books should be an essential part of emergency relief efforts like those which occurred after the earthquake in Haiti. (Paul Chiasson/AP)

Should books be a part of emergency relief efforts?

By Husna Haq / 11.29.12

Sure, disaster victims need food, clothing, and shelter during humanitarian emergencies – but books?

That’s what a new campaign is fighting for.

Books are “nourishment for the mind” and should be a critical part of emergency relief efforts after disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the Haitian earthquake, or the Indian Ocean tsunami occur, according to a literary-humanitarian campaign circling the globe.

To date, more than 100 writers, intellectuals, literary groups, and public figures including four Nobel laureates and the humanitarian organization Libraries Without Borders have signed The Urgency of Reading petition, which states, “In humanitarian emergencies, reading and writing are essential to healing and reconstruction.”

“While there is no question that organizations and governments must devote the majority of their efforts to promoting the physical wellbeing of disaster victims, more attention should be given to nourishing the mind as a second measure to help victims cope with catastrophe and move forward,” the petition states.

Nobel literature laureates JM Coetzee, Doris Lessing, and Toni Morrison, along with Nobel peace laureate FW de Klerk and authors Jeffrey Eugenides, Junot Diaz, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, and Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, are among those who have signed the petition. The campaign, organized by Libraries Without Borders, is challenging the UN and other international organizations to include “nourishment of the mind” as a fundamental post-disaster necessity.

“The first priority is life, but when life is secure, what can people do if they are staying in a camp?” Libraries Without Borders chairman Patrick Weil told the UK’s Guardian newspaper. “They cannot do anything, and they can become depressed. Once life is secured, books are essential. They're not the first priority, but the second... They are so important. They're the beginning of recovery, in terms of reconnecting with the rest of the world, and feeling like a human being again.”

Weil told the Guardian that the first email Libraries Without Borders received after the Haitian earthquake was a request for books to reopen a destroyed library. Libraries Without Borders not only helped reopen the library, it sent an emergency mission to the disaster-struck country to distribute books and educational resources to displaced persons. The work Libraries Without Borders and other literary organizations did in Haiti were transformational, Haitian writer Danticat told the Guardian.

“I saw personally how much comfort books can bring to young people living in internally displaced camps and tent cities through my involvement with an organization called Li, Li, Li! where Haitian teachers and artists, who were sometimes displaced themselves, read books to children in the camps,” he said. “Though people were in a lot of pain and were suffering a great deal, they were able, for an hour or so, to find some comfort in the pages of a book. I have great belief in the power of words, written or read, to help us begin healing. I have experienced it in my own life and I have also seen it in action.”

That’s why Danticat and signatories like authors Dave Eggers, Marie Darrieussecq, Amin Maalouf, and Amelie Nothomb are challenging the UN to include “nourishment of the mind” in its disaster relief efforts.

“LWB’s years of dedicated humanitarian assistance in Haiti and 20 other countries have demonstrated that books and educational opportunities for disaster victims are essential to healing, rebuilding society and recapturing lost humanity,” reads The Urgency of Reading petition. “...Today, however, the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, published by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, do not include nourishment of the mind as a fundamental necessity in post-disaster zones. In order to challenge the United Nations and other international organizations to implement initiatives that respond to this need... Libraries Without Borders is launching this international call to action..”

Food, water, shelter, and health are “absolute priorities,” the petition affirms, but “nourishment of the mind,” namely books, should be a second measure to help disaster victims cope and move forward.

It’s an intriguing idea – and certainly a provocative one. We’re eager to hear what you think: Are books a necessity during humanitarian crises? Would you sign this petition?

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

Writer Marc Abrahams serves as the master of ceremonies at the 2011 Ig Nobel awards ceremony, which honors peculiar scientific efforts. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Weird science: 'This Is Improbable' chronicles the world's strange experiments

By Randy Dotinga / 11.29.12

Have you ever wondered about why woodpeckers don't get headaches? Or pondered the multisegmental dynamics of hula-dancing, the courtship behavior of ostriches toward humans, or the reason why discus throwers get dizzy but hammer throwers don't?

Scientists have. In fact, they've wondered about countless strange topics and written countless studies about them.

Marc Abrahams, editor and co-founder of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, has been tracking bizarre research since 1994.

He's the master of ceremonies at the annual Ig Nobel awards, which honors scientists and others who've launched peculiar research or done peculiar things. Yes, many of the winners come. And yes, they love it.

Recent honorees include the inventor of a bra that transforms into protective face masks, researchers who studied why bedsheets wrinkle, and the US Government General Accountability Office "for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports."

Abrahams has compiled some of the world's oddest scientific efforts in his new book "This is Improbable."

I asked Abrahams to describe some of his favorite improbable research, explain its value (if any), and get to the bottom of the pressing issue of the "forces required to drag sheep across various surfaces."
Q: What is improbable research?
A: It makes people laugh and then think. When you first encounter it, there's something so unexpected that it's funny, then a week later you're still thinking about it.
Q: Is this all serious research?
A: When something is called research, it means somebody is trying to understand something nobody has made much sense of.
Q: Do they understand how strange it can look to, say, discover what happens if you give an anti-depressant medication to a clam?
Everybody does things that look pretty strange to people who don't do those things. They forget it will be interesting to other people and maybe funny.
Q: What's an example of scientists not realizing that their project is pretty darned loony?
A: There was a study called "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep across Various Surfaces."

That was done by seven scientists in Australia in a part of the country where raising sheep is one of the main industries.

When they shear those sheep, they bring thousands of sheep in a very short period of time into one giant building. The sheep do not always want to move where they're asked to, and the shearing involves big equipment that can be very dangerous.

The people who run the industry are always looking for ways to make the sheep move more quickly. It has to do with a lot of money and the potential for injuries. They brought these scientists in, and they found that if you design your floors differently, things will go better. One of the main conclusions is that it's easier to drag the sheep downhill instead of up.
Q: Shocking! What did the researchers say when you contacted them?
A: That was the first time it occurred to them that what they'd done seemed funny. They'd been brought in by an industry to solve a problem, and they've done that.

Q: A lot of strange research has to do with farming. What's up with the cows and the cat?
There was a study done in the 1940s somewhere in the Midwest by some professors who studied dairy cows. They were trying to figure out exactly why sometimes cows give a lot of milk easily and sometimes it seems to get stuck in there.

They tried to see what happens when a cow is startled, to see if the milk would come out. They came up with a technique of startling a cow: they'd put a cat on the cow's back and blow up paper bags, popping one every 10 seconds.

It quickly became clear that the cat could be dispensed with.
Q: Improbable research doesn't have to be scientific, right?
A: There was a long study about the history of the paper clip, but only one aspect: how the paper clip affected legal proceedings throughout the United States. In some cases, whether there was or wasn't a paper clip on a thick stack of documents was used as evidence that someone saw or didn't see the document. There were all kinds of regulations and laws about how things must be fastened: a paper clip or a staple?
Q: What's the oldest improbable research you've come across?
A: There's a beautiful report that must be close to 200 years old now from someone who was trying to figure out how fast the wind goes inside a tornado.

First you've got to find a tornado. But you can't go and stand there. That might be dangerous.

They came up with something that might behave a little like a tornado. They took some dead chickens, looked at the feathers on them, put them inside a cannon, aimed it straight up, and figured that when the chicken is flying through the air, the wind will be pretty similar to the wind in a tornado.

Then they'd be able to count how many feathers were missing. That would allow them to calculate how much force was in the wind.

About 150 years went by, then in the 1950s or '60s, scientists ran across this old report and realized there were some problems in the way they did this.

One of the scientists was Bernie Vonnegut, the older brother of Kurt Vonnegut, who was interested in science at least in part because he had an older brother who was a pretty well-known scientist.
Q: So was this an effective way of measuring tornado wind speed?
A: If you tracked down that carcass, you have no way of knowing how much of the effects you were seeing came from the wind and how much came from the explosion inside the cannon.
Q: Are there researchers who have performed a lot of improbable research?
A: Professor John W. Trinkaus has published almost 100 studies about things that annoy him. They're all everyday things.

One of them is about the express line where you're supposed to have 10 items or less. He counted how many times customers had less than the amount or more.

Now we know.

Generally, he finds that whatever the problem it is, it's getting worse over time.
Q: That doesn't sound like very optimistic research, does it?
A: It's not. But I think it cheers him up. He seems to have that outlook that everything is falling apart, and he can get proof of that. He's still counting things that annoy him.
Q: Well, at least he has a hobby. What about truly pointless research?
Q: A researcher named Beth Scanlon of Central Connecticut State University published a 1985 study called "Race Differences in Selection of Cheese Color."

She went to a supermarket, set up a table with pieces of white and yellow cheese, and stopped people and asked them if they'd like to take a piece of cheese. She'd note the ethnicities of those who chose the types of cheeses. There were just numbers and no explanation of what they might mean or why she was asking.

I have read this study any number of times, and I've shown it to people and have written about it, and I have yet to run across anyone who would understand what this person could have possibly hoped to learn.

It's beautiful that way.
Q: You were never able to track the author down. We could put out an APB for her. Beth Scanlon, where are you?
A: Maybe it will bring her out of the woodwork.
Q: Or at least out of the supermarket. Beth, hello?!

Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.

Books coming from Archway Publishing will not carry the Simon & Schuster name which appears on company titles such as 'In the Shadow of the Banyan Tree' and 'Where They Stand.'

Simon & Schuster will enter the self-publishing world

By Husna Haq / 11.28.12

If there was any doubt in the publishing industry that self-publishing is here to stay, news that a top mainstream publisher is teaming up with a self-publishing company to create a self-publishing imprint should put those doubts to rest.

Simon & Schuster announced Tuesday that it is partnering with Author Solutions Inc. to create Archway Publishing, a separate publishing house focused on self-published fiction, non-fiction, business, and children’s books.

Self-publishing is a booming sector of the publishing industry, and Tuesday’s news reaffirms the significance of self-publishing.

“Self-publishing has become a viable and popular route to publication for many authors, and increasingly a source of content for traditional publishers, including Simon & Schuster,” Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “We’re excited that we’ll be able to help more authors find their own path to publication and at the same time create a more direct connection to those self-published authors ready to make the leap to traditional publishing.”

Simon & Schuster is marketing Archway’s self-publishing offerings as a premium service – which comes at a premium cost to authors. Archway will offer authors a range of packages from a basic $1,599 children’s package that includes “editorial assessment” and “cover copy review” to a $24,999 “Outreach” program for business books that includes an “author profile video,” and a reception at BookExpo America, the industry’s annual national convention.

It might be a tough sell. Archway will be staffed and operated by Author Solutions (not Simon & Schuster) and final products will not have the Simon & Schuster name attached to them. “With no Simon & Schuster personnel involved, and without the Simon & Schuster name attached in any way to the final product, Archway’s prices – significantly higher than the competition – could be a hard sell,” writes the New York Times.

Still, the partnership helps an established publishing house like Simon & Schuster get in on the skyrocketing self-publishing trend with relatively little risk.

According to data from research firm Bowker, some 211,269 books were self-published in 2011, up more than 60 percent from the previous year, as reported by Shelf Awareness.

Driven in part by the rise of e-readers, self-publishing has itself given rise to self-published author stars like Amanda Hocking, the e-book phenom and millionaire behind the “Trylle Triogy,” and John Locke, author of “Saving Rachel,” the first author to sell more than one million self-published e-books through Amazon.

Further proof that self-publishing is highly sought-after? In a move to capture some of the self-publishing market itself, Simon & Schuster’s rival Pearson, parent company of Penguin Group, bought Author Solutions in July, before Simon & Schuster’s announcement. That’s two large publishing houses (and three by extension, since Penguin Group is merging with Random House) going after one small self-publishing start-up.

As Bob Dylan said, the times, they are a changing.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

Actor Martin Freeman (l.), who plays Bilbo Baggins in the 'Hobbit' films, stands with director Peter Jackson (r.). (Ross Setford/AP)

'Hobbit' premiere draws thousands in New Zealand

By Staff Writer / 11.28.12

The world premiere of the film “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in Wellington, New Zealand drew thousands to the red carpet to catch a glimpse of the stars and the people behind the movie.

An estimated 100,000 fans showed up, including some who sported elf ears and wore the distinctive large and hairy hobbit feet. Some had arrived the night before to make sure they had an area from which to watch the action.

“It’s been a long day, but is it ever worth it,” Cinnamon Tararo, a “Hobbit” lover who came to the premiere with her husband and son and stood for eight hours, told the Wall Street Journal.

Actor Martin Freeman, who stars as timid hobbit Bilbo Baggins, said he was impressed by the fans that attended.

“For a baying mob, they are very well-behaved,” he told New Zealand-based website Stuff.

Before the premiere, Jackson spoke about how determined he was to secure Freeman for the project. Originally, scheduling conflicts arose because Freeman was involved with the BBC series “Sherlock,” on which he plays sidekick John Watson.

“That was one time I was very, very worried because if the casting of Bilbo was wrong, the films wouldn't work,” Jackson said at a press conference, according to the Guardian. “Bilbo has to carry the heart of the film…. I had downloaded the first series of Sherlock from iTunes and was watching it on my iPad at about 4 o'clock in the morning, and watching Martin, I thought there really is no better Bilbo in the world. He's got every quality that we want. I thought, when he needs to go back and shoot the second series ["season" in the US] we'll stop filming and make that work. It was a pretty radical thing to do but I'm incredibly pleased that we did it.”

Freeman told the Wall Street Journal that he loved many aspects of the character of Bilbo.

“I love his vulnerability but I also love his strength of character,” he said. “I love the fact that he feels the fear and does it anyway.”

Some fans at the premiere cheered when actor Andy Serkis, who performs as the character Gollum using motion-capture technology, spoke in the character’s trademark throaty voice.

As part of the event, New Zealand musician Neil Finn performed the song he had written for the movie, “Song of the Lonely Mountain,” with a band and also performed tracks originally done by his bands Split Enz and Crowded House.

While actors including Cate Blanchett, who stars as elf Galadriel, and Richard Armitage, who plays dwarf leader Thorin, attended the premiere, Ian McKellan was unable to go but sent a video message.

“I wish I were there in my spiritual home in Wellington,” the actor who portrays wise wizard Gandalf said in the video.

Celia Wade Brown, the mayor of Wellington, saw the film and gave a rave review to the Wall Street Journal, adding that the 3-D used in the movie “made the cliff paths and the falls in the mountain terrifying.”

While the first "Hobbit" movie will come to the US on Dec. 14, the second film in the series, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," is set to arrive in 2013. The third and final film, "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," will be released in 2014.

Since the win, Mo Yan, the first Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, has been accused of compromising his independence by being a member of the Communist Party and vice president of the official writers association. (AP)

Herta Muller calls Mo Yan's Nobel win 'a catastrophe'

By Husna Haq / 11.27.12

Nobel Prize laureates will always have their detractors – it’s a given considering the eminence of the award – but rarely have the detractors been as critical as those of Mo Yan. After the Chinese novelist’s 2012 win, critics have been emerging from the woodwork with regularity, accusing Mo Yan of complicity with Communist leaders.

The latest criticism comes from 2009 Nobel Prize laureate Herta Muller, who told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter this weekend that Mo Yan’s victory was “a catastrophe” and an “incredibly upsetting choice,” according to the Associated Press.

She accused the Chinese novelist of praising his country’s tough censorship laws and called his win “a slap in the face for all those working for democracy and human rights.”

Known for his depiction of rural Chinese life, and particularly its women, Mo Yan was compared to William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and praised by the Nobel committee for his “hallucinatory realism” that “merges folks tales, history, and the contemporary.”

Since the win, Mo Yan, the first Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, has been accused of compromising his independence by being a member of the Communist Party and vice president of the official writers association. That association is especially troubling for Muller, who came of age under the totalitarian regime of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and whose own work was often subject to censorship. (She now lives in Germany.)

“The Chinese themselves say that Mo Yan is an official of the same rung as a (government) minister,” she told Dagens Nyheter, according to the UK’s Guardian.

She isn’t the only one to call him out. Immediately after he won the award, dissident artist Ai Weiwei told the press, "Giving the award to a writer like this is an insult to humanity and to literature. It’s shameful for the committee to have made this selection which does not live up to the previous quality of literature in the award.”

We’re curious to see whether the Nobel Committee or Mo Yan himself respond to these escalating attacks.

Of course, Mo Yan’s homeland, which is planning a Mo Yan theme park, has nothing but praise for the writer. As the New York Daily News reports, “Chinese officials have openly celebrated Mo’s Nobel – an ominous sign.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

"I wanted to begin a holiday that would expose as many kids as possible to this joy" of bookstores, says Jenny Milchman, founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. (Ben Arnoldy)

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day is celebrated at stores around the world

By Staff Writer / 11.27.12

You are most likely aware of Take Your Child to Work Day, but a new holiday may be a little less familiar: Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

The event, which lands on Dec. 1 this year, is taking place for the third time and was founded by author Jenny Milchman, who writes on the event's website that she thought of the idea for the special day when her children were young.

“I was going to story time at bookstores nearly every week,” Milchman wrote. “Did all children know the pleasure of spending time in a bookstore? I wondered. Of being drawn into a magic world for a while, then being left to choose treasures on the shelf? I wanted to begin a holiday that would expose as many kids as possible to this joy.”

Last year, 400 bookstores in the US participated as well as stores in the UK, Canada, and Australia. This year 1,100 stores have received materials related to the event – a newsletter and poster – meaning they may choose to participate.

The website for the day features a map which allows users to find bookstores in their area that will be celebrating Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, and many stores are planning special events.

“On December 1st, 2012, take the child in your life to a bookstore,” Milchman wrote on the site. “Watch his face light up as you give him free access, not just to a new book, but to tomorrow."

While the celebration doesn’t specify you need to take your child to an indie bookstore, the day is exactly a week after Small Business Saturday, which encourages consumers to go to their local stores for their purchasing needs. President Obama headed to Virginia bookstore One More Page Books with daughters Sasha and Malia to honor the day, picking up picture books that will reportedly be given as Christmas gifts.

The president and his daughters Sasha (l.) and Malia (r.) shop at One More Page Books in Arlington, Va. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Obama shops local again on Small Business Saturday

By Husna Haq / 11.26.12

He’s done it again! Indie bookstore surprise supporter President Obama visited a local bookstore on Small Business Saturday, the second time he’s touted the shopping local day (and bookstores) in as many years.

This year Obama took his daughters Sasha and Malia to One More Page Books in Arlington, Va., near Washington. The trio spent about 20 minutes in the store browsing through books and quietly conversing with other shoppers. Then Obama reportedly whipped out his BlackBerry smartphone, on which he made a shopping book list.

“Preparation, you know,” he told shop owner Eileen McGervey, according to news reports. “That’s how I shop.”

Obama and his daughters bought 15 children’s books at One More Page Books to be gifted to family, according to the White House. It did not release a list of which books he purchased.

On Twitter the President later added, “My family & I started out holiday shopping at a local bookstore on #SmallBizSat. I hope you’ll join & shop small this holiday season. –bo”

Launched in 2010, Small Business Saturday was started by American Express to redirect some of the holiday shopping frenzy to supporting small business nationwide. Last year some 100 million Americans supported small businesses on Small Business Saturday, according to American Express. This year, independent bookstores played a more prominent role with the launch of Thanks for Shopping Indie, the American Booksellers Association’s weeklong promotion bringing special discounts to popular titles at indie stores.

Last year, Obama and his daughters visited another local bookstore, Kramerbooks & Afterwards Café in Washington, where they purchased eight books, including novels, nonfiction, and children’s books. (Read more about that visit and which books Obama bought here.)

Saturday, we’re glad to report, was all about the books – no politics. When asked by a reporter whether his literary shopping spree was the President’s effort to keep the country from going over the looming fiscal cliff, Obama answered, “Come on, we’re doing Christmas shopping. Happy Thanksgiving, folks.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

The Department of Internal Beard-Hairs works to motion-capture a beard for the 'Hobbit' film. (Peter Jackson/YouTube screenshot)

As 'The Hobbit' premiere nears, the movie team works around the clock (+ video)

By Staff Writer / 11.26.12

The newest behind-the-scenes “Hobbit” production video shows the team hard at work in the post-production phase of the first film, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

“It’s due to be completed literally two days before the premiere,” director Peter Jackson says at the start of the video, then added with a chuckle, “Hopefully.”

Much of the video, explains Jackson, takes place at Park Road Post Production, the building in Wellington, New Zealand, that contains the facilities necessary to complete that specific part of the film process.

“This is where we’re spending a huge amount of time at the moment… You’re going to see a lot of sleep-deprived people in this blog,” Jackson said. “Everyone’s working around the clock.”

The video starts in the editorial section, which a sign labels “The Bunker" and which contains the cutting room where Jackson and editor Jabez Olssen work on cutting the second film in the planned trilogy.

The director describes his duties in the process with a tongue-in-cheek attitude.

“When Jabez has something very simple to do that doesn’t need me, I get the cups and go make a cup of tea,” Jackson said.

The viewer is then taken into the previs (or "previsualization") section of the post-production team, which deals with creating what previs production manager Marion Davey described as 3-D storyboards for the movie. These help Jackson create his shots for the film.

During the video, the previs team receives an order for an image called “Goblins slowly move torture machines towards the Great Goblin’s platform,” and an animated stopwatch ticks off the minutes as the team works.

Next, VFX supervisor Eric Saindon heads over to Wexford Road, the production office where the “Hobbit” animators work. At the office, animation supervisor Dave Clayton explains the process behind animating the sequence in which three hungry trolls threaten Bilbo (Martin Freeman), including the use of motion-capture technology so the movements of the actor playing one of the trolls could be used for the film.

“Are there any more of you little fellas hiding where you shouldn’t?” one of the trolls growls in footage from the film.

“No,” Freeman replies hastily, dangling as he’s held upside down by the troll.

Jackson explains that the field of motion-capture has made significant strides during production, which brings the cameras to the next stop on the tour: the Department of Internal Beard-Hairs. The men working in that department motion-capture beards to be added to the film, which involves creating a virtual beard, then adding motion-capture dots to an actor where the beard would go, and having them act as they would in the scene.

“Motivation here: it’s dark, it’s stormy, you’re in the mountains,” beard mocap technician Jance Rubinchik tells the actor, who then winces and looks uncomfortable as he would in such weather as the camera rolls.

Later at Wexford Road, two staff members “release the animators” as the first task of the day. When they knock, the door opens to reveal a group of people dressed in pajamas.

“If people don’t have to leave, we’re happy for them to stay,” Saindon says. Shots show crew members cooking eggs, doing laundry, and even getting massages.

Conceptual artists John Howe and Alan Lee are also shown hard at work, adding in backgrounds.

“We’re painfully conscious that behind us are considerable teams of people, waiting for artwork to do 3-D and the texturing and the lighting and the animation,” Howe said.

Director of photography Andrew Lesnie works on a sequence of the film in which Frodo (Elijah Wood) runs down the road as Bilbo (Ian Holm, in Bilbo’s older years) stands above him. Lesnie color-grades the sequence to clean it up and make it more attractive.

In the sound design department, one part of their work involves bringing friends and family to a field to scream and yell in fright – sounds which will be used as background for a dragon attack on a river village.

A red line on a map then zooms from New Zealand to the UK, where musicians are shown recording a bombastic part of the score of the film with lots of French horns and cellos in legendary recording studio Abbey Road.

“The premiere is very, very close, but fortunately, people are staying calm,” Jackson deadpans at the end of the video, followed by shots of people partying and fighting with ice cream and pillows.

Check out the full video.

Broadside Bookstore in Northampton, Mass. is an independently owned bookstore. (Joanne Ciccarello)

Make like Obama and shop 'Small Business Saturday' this weekend

By Husna Haq / 11.23.12

Want to take a page out of President Obama’s book? Shop local this Small Business Saturday. Last year, after Thanksgiving, Obama skipped the Black Friday crowds (a security nightmare, we imagine) and the Cyber Monday rush (he had a few other things on his plate, like Pakistan, Egypt, and healthcare reform). But he made a rare exception for Small Business Saturday, taking daughters Sasha and Malia to Kramerbooks & Afterwards Café, an indie bookstore in Washington, D.C., where he browsed for books and greeted shoppers, including one young boy with his grandmother.

“You doing some Christmas shopping? Not yet?” he asked. “Well, we’re starting early. This is ‘Small Business Saturday,’ so we’re out here supporting small businesses,” the President said, according to news reports.

Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses nationwide. This year, independent bookstores are playing a starring role. On Saturday, the American Booksellers Association will launch Thanks for Shopping Indie, a weeklong promotion bringing customers special pricing on a bevy of indie titles.

For this inaugural promotion, the ABA worked with more than 20 publishers to get discounts on 66 ‘Indie Next List’ titles, including B.A. Shapiro’s “The Art Forger,” Jami Attenberg’s “The Middlesteins,” Junot Diaz’s “This is How You Lose Her,” and Bee Wilson’s “Consider the Fork.”

Each indie bookstore has its “own unique plans for the promotion,” Bookselling This Week reported.

“Because we love so many of the titles on the list, we decided to go pretty big with the promotion,” Libby Cowles, community relations manager for Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colo., told bookselling industry newsletter ShelfAwareness. “We love the message of thanking our customers for supporting independent businesses during the Thanksgiving holiday.” Maria’s Bookshop will display 25 of the staff's favorite titles in the front of the store with signage promoting "Books We Love."

According to ShelfAwareness, many bookstores will also be featuring a two-day sale on the Kobo Mini for $49.99 (it’s usually retails for $79.99). That special Small Business Saturday promo price is only available Friday, November 23, and Saturday, November 24.

We’re grateful for indie bookstores and we plan to wear our gratitude on our sleeve this Small Business Saturday. We hope you do, too.

(And if you’re curious what was in the First Family’s book bag last year, here’s a list: “The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz, “Tails” by Matthew Van Fleet, “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever” by Jeff Kinney, “Zen Shorts” by Jon Muth, “The Tiger's Wife” by Tea Obreht, “Descent into Chaos” by Ahmed Rashid, and “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selnick.)

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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