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    Illinois connection to Walt Disney and Mary Poppins

    Walt Disney grew up, partly, in Illinois.  The first person to get P. L. Travers to admit that she didn't really like the Disney version of her popular book Mary Poppins was from Illinois State University.  I spoke about these connections to ISU's Media Relations in a nice article by Rachel Hatch.  Here's the link:


    Disney chat on WJBC

    Today I am talking on WJBC radio about Walt Disney, the film Saving Mr. Banks, the exhibit Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, presented by D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, the Museum of Science and IndustryWalt Disney's boyhood home in Chicago (MSI) in Chicago, and Disney's connections to Chicago.  

    Here are a few links that might be helpful:


    Also, a money saving tip for visiting museums is to support a local museum that has reciprocal exchanges with other museums.  If you are a member of either the Children's Discovery Museum in Normal and the Peoria Riverfront Museum, you can enter the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago for free.  You just pay for tickets for special exhibits.

    Walt Disney's office recreated at the Disney Archives exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

    Walt Disney and posters from his film studio

     Annette Funicello's Mickey Mouse Club uniform

    A costume that Julie Andrews wore in the Mary Poppins films 


    MLA panel on Children's Literature & the Common Core

    The MLA Division of Children’s Literature will be sponsoring the session “Children’s Literature and the Common Core” on Thursday, January 9, 2014, from 3:30-4:45 p.m. in the Belmont Room (4th floor) of the Chicago Marriott Hotel during the 129th annual Modern Language Association Conference. This panel is open to the public.

    The New York Times has called the controversial Common Core State Standards, “the most important educational reform in the country.” Defending the Common Core, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state school superintendents that he found it  “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core has come from “white suburban moms who—all of a sudden—their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”  

    Using a roundtable format, five speakers will examine the effects of the English Language Arts Standards of the Common Core State Standards on the teaching of college courses in Children’s and Young Adult Literature.  The featured speakers for the session are Sarah Minslow, University of North Carolina, Charlotte; Kristin McIlhagga, Michigan State University; Michelle Holley Martin, University of South Carolina, Columbia; Joe Sutliff Sanders, Kansas State University; and Daniel D. Hade, Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

    While each speaker will present prepared remarks for 5-7 minutes, the session is intended to be an active dialogue and discussion between the speakers and the members of the audience.  Speakers will consider if the Common Core State Standards effectively prepares students for college-level academic work and literacy for the workplace. The political and social implications behind the stated education goals of the Common Core will be examined. 

    Since the Common Core recommends that 70% of the texts used by the twelfth grade should be informational texts, how will this effect of the teaching of fiction, poetry, and drama?   Can the Common Core address issues of cultural diversity given the increasing gap between students of color and their predominately white K-12 teachers? 

    The session has been selected as part of the conference’s Presidential Theme of “Vulnerable Times” and is chaired by Jan Susina, Illinois State University.



    Upcoming PMLA article

    Look for Maurice Sendak: A Tribute essays in the PMLA journal January 2014.  There's a note about the  collection in the Oct. 2013 PMLA.  I'm excited about seeing the tribute as I conceived this idea and helped to select the people to write the essays.  I have an essay as well as George Bodmer, John Cech, Derick Dreher, U.C. Knoepflmacher, Phil Nel, Amy Sonheim and Maria Tatar. PMLA is a publication of the Modern Language Association.

    Sendak was important to how we think about and look at children's literature.  He brought a more challenging concept to childhood, while dismissing children as precious and idealized.  While he was forward thinking and progressive, he was also rooted and deeply influenced by illustrators and aritists.  It was no coincidence that he kept a photograph by Lewis Carroll next to his drawing table.

    Looking forward to see all the essays together in January.


    Upcoming fairy tale films and Alice on TV

    While working on materials to teach fairy tales, I realized that there are numerous versions of fairy tale films Angelina Jolie as Maleficentand television shows that are coming out within the next few years.  Here are some links. In 2014: Disney's Maleficent (starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning). In 2015 Cinderella (dir. Kenneth Branagh.starring Cate Blanchett), Arabian Nights (starring Liam Hemsworth and Dwayne Johnson).The Guardian also has an article on fairy tale related films.

    Maleficent could be interesting with Jolie as the film is supposed to portray the Sleeping Beauty villain in a more sympathetic light than her introduction in the 1959 animated film. Here's more plot synopsis:

    "Maleficent rises to be the land's fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal -- an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king's successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom -- and perhaps to Maleficent's true happiness as well."

    Jolie's young daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt will also be in the film from Disney.   According to this article in, she is the only kid on the set who was not terrified when Angelina came out in full makeup.

    The ABC television series Once will be out again this fall as well as a Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Sophie Lowe as Alice on 'Once Upon a Time in Wonderland'inspired version called Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.  The link takes you to the ABC page where you will be able to see clips from the upcoming show.  It looks rather dark, as the original Once is dark and spooky. ABC executives have said they wanted to extend the Once fairy tale brand. The most promising casting is John Lithgow playing the White Rabbit.  The most interesting casting choice is The Who’s Roger Daltrey as the hookah-smoking Caterpillar. According to Executive Producer Edward Kitniss this is going to be a feisty, more grown up Alice than the Lewis Carroll books:

    "We never wanted her to be a damsel in distress," Kitsis said when asked how they had conceived of their version of the iconic Alice. "We wanted her to go down that rabbit hole, sword in hand, and find her man." In his address to the press, Lee promised that this would be a very "kick-ass" version of the character. Lowe agrees that she is "tough, and both mentally and physically strong."

    That sounds promising, but then here's another less promising quotation from Kitniss:

    ‘‘But of course we’re telling our own story because Alice was never in a love with a genie before,” added executive producer Edward Kitsis.

    Well, it should be interesting to see how this all plays out.  The premiere is Oct. 10.  Tune in.