5 years ago today the world said good-bye to one of the greatest fantasy authors of all time, Lloyd Alexander. When Lloyd Alexander wrote "The Chronicles of Prydain" in the 1960's his editor Ann Durrell stated "At last, at last America has produced a writer who's a challenger for the great allegorical fantasy crown, worn so long by the British."(Jacobs, 272). Some have compared Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain to the works of Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. While it may be debatable how he compares to these other fantasy authors, there is no debating that Lloyd Alexander was one of the most influential American children's authors of all time.
I was first introduced to Lloyd Alexander in my early childhood when my oldest sister checked out "The Book of Three" from the public library. As a young boy I remember thinking that the book received it's name due to the three characters that I noticed on the front; a boy, a girl and a pig. Years later when I was in middle school I saw the entire set of "The Chronicles of Prydain" for sell at a book fair at my school for $5. I thought "5 books for $5, that's a good buy" (how good of a buy, I had no idea). I decided to purchase them for my sister since I knew she enjoyed them. I for some reason never gave them to her, and after a while decided to keep them and read them myself. I instantly fell in love with the land of Prydain.
Fast forward to a few years ago when I decided to research Lloyd Alexander after re-reading Prydain for the umpteenth time. It was early 2010 when I learned that Lloyd Alexander had passed away only a few years ago. I was devastated. I had no idea that he had been alive for quite a few years that I had been a fan of his books.
However, at the same time I found out that Brigham Young University (which was only about a mile from where I live) had obtained many of Alexander's belongings, and had created an exhibit titled "Alexander's Box" (named after Alexander's nickname for his office, "The Box"). This exhibit was a recreation of Alexander's office and included such items as his desk and typewriter, his Newbery Medal that he won in 1969 for "The High King", the harp that inspired Fflewddur Fflam's instrument in the Prydain novels, photographs of Alexander, and so much more.
I also found out about two professor's at BYU who had close connections to Alexander; Dr. Jim Jacobs and Dr. Michael Tunnell. Dr. Jacobs had written his dissertation as a biography of Lloyd Alexander, and Dr. Tunnell had written his dissertation as a companion to the Prydain series (a Prydain encyclopedia of sorts).
Shortly after this, I started thinking about the possibility of creating a documentary film using these resources that were in my own backyard. I thought I would keep it small, interview the BYU professors, see if I could scan in the photos that BYU had, and put together a film. A year ago tomorrow, on May 18th 2011, I went out to lunch with Dr. Jim Jacobs. I told him about my idea to make a documentary about Alexander. He was very excited about the idea. He agreed to help me in any way that he could.
As I started to work on the film it has grown into something else entirely. I am now making two versions of the film, a 10 minute version that is being made with BYU, and will serve as a supplement to "Alexander's Box"; and a longer independent version (I'm shooting for 60 minutes). We recently interviewed some of Alexander's closest friends and associates including: his editor, Ann Durrell McCrory; his goddaughter, Sharyn November; and his longtime friends Alexander (Sandy) Limont, and Kemie Nix. We traveled to Drexel Hill, PA to obtain footage of places such as Alexander's childhood home, his last home, and the cemetery where Lloyd and his wife Janine are located.
I decided early on that my film would be non-profit and that my main goal was to create renewed interest in Alexander and his books, and to help his books reach a larger audience. I hoped to inspire others to read, not only Alexander's books, but books in general. A way that I have used this project to help work toward this goal already was by organizing "Lloyd Alexander Day".
Today, May 17th, 2012 marks five years since the passing of Alexander, so it was a natural fit for our celebration of his life and writings. In an effort to increase awareness of Alexander's books we have sent letters to elementary schools across the United States and invited over 30,000 school children to join in celebrating "Lloyd Alexander Day" with us by reading/starting an Alexander book today.
We have also received support from places such as The Free Library of Philadelphia, where for the after-school story break this afternoon they will be reading Alexander's book "The Fortune Tellers" and doing an activity based on that book.
This celebration started in Provo UT, but has reached across the world. The non-profit organization "Children's Literature for Children" which was started by Lloyd's good friend Kemie Nix, has informed us that two of their schools in Kenya, Mt. Kenya Academy and Nyeri Primary School, will participate in "Lloyd Alexander Day" making the celebration international, just as his fan-base is.
In the making of the film, it has grown to be largely outside of my budget. In an effort to make the best possible film that will truly stand as a tribute to this great author, we have started a fundraiser effort through a website called Kickstarter.com. We have set a goal of $15,000 to raise by the end of June. The way that kickstarter works is if we reach our goal, then our project is funded, if we come short, then the people that pledged to the project are not charged, and we get nothing.
Donations can be as small as $1.00, and their are various rewards for pledges of different amounts (DVD of the film, Exclusive Alexander t-shirt, copies of some of Alexander's books, etc.) If you can make even a $1.00 donation, that would help. Just as helpful, spread the word. There are a lot of Lloyd Alexander fans out there who would have great interest in this film if they only knew about it. There are also a lot of people who are willing to donate money to a good cause, we just have to let them know about it. Learn more about the project, or make your donations here.
Here is a video that tells a little more about the project:
So please, join in the celebration of Lloyd Alexander Day with us by reading one of his books, spreading the word about the project, or making a donation. I need your help.
"Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we can do. Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent we are all Assitant Pig-Keepers at heart."
Author's Note, The Book of Three
Jacobs, James S. Lloyd Alexander: A Critical Biography. University of Georgia, ED.D., 1978.