Don't ask me why "Backwards Day," (January 31st on my librarian's desk calendar), should make me think about the opening lines of novels, but it does. Call me Contrary...ha ha.
Anyway, some of my favorite opening lines -- the ones that made me really want to continue reading:
1. "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."-- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1876)
2. "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
—George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
3. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a
good fortune, must be in want of a wife." —Jane Austen, Pride and
4. "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." —Zora Neale Hurston,
Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
5. "It was a pleasure to burn." —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
6. "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." —Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups (2001)
7. "Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come
to learn, is women." —Charles Johnson, Middle Passage (1990)
8. "I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things."-- Lisa Yee, Millicent Min, Girl Genius (2003)
9. "If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it."-- Richard
Peck, The Teacher's Funeral (2004)
10. "If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book."-- Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning - A Series of Unfortunate Events (1999)
This may run a little long but...so do some books.
Just finished this a day ago and this is not hyperbole: What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb. If you work with children from third grade through middle school, you should read this book and attempt to press it into their hot little hands. It made me laugh, made me think, made me cry. The author conjured beautiful, descriptive sentences that I wish I had written. You won't regret reading What Happened on Fox Street. It will grab you from the first paragraph and hold you until the last page!
Mo and her five year old sister Dottie live on Fox Street (a dead end) with their dad. Mo defines her life by Fox Street: her relationships with her varyingly kookie neighbors, the rhythms of the neighborhood, and the memories people have of her dead mother. This is her universe, so when changes come, she feels threatened and must redefine both her street and herself. Through these changes—good, bad, and excruciatingly difficult—one thing sustains Mo: the possibility of someday seeing a real fox on Fox Street.
Though the narrative is realistic fiction, Mo has moments wonder and awe that feel touched by whimsy and the fantastic. She faces difficult situations, such as the possibility of moving, and struggling to be both a sister and a substitute mother of her younger sister, but she emerges with wisdom and a changed view of the world. You will, too!
Tricia Springstubb, you are my hero!
Chris Raschka on his 2012 Caldecott Award for the picture book A Ball for Daisy. The illustrations are absolutely wonderful, complementing a heart-warming story about a small dog dealing with the loss of a special toy. It's a tale that any child-- and any adult who remembers what it was like to be a child-- will appreciate.
Jack Gantos on his 2012 Newbery Award for his novel Dead End in Norvelt. Jack Gantos, the eponymous hero of this story, set in 1962, lives in the town of Norvelt, PA, a planned community created during the Greate Depression and named for its biggest supporter, Eleanor Roosevelt. Grounded by his parents for misbehavior, Jack comes under the supervision of the local librarian, who gives him the task of typing obituaries of the town's residents. Well, it's not as dull as it sounds for soon he's having adventures involving Eleanor R., molten wax, strange promises, Hells Angels, a homemade airplane, voices from the past, and even a possible murder.
Kadir Nelson on his 2012 Coretta Scott King Award for his picture book Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans. This book expressively maps the story of the black experience in America; it's a story of injustice and hope, of racism and courage, or brutality and faith.
A viral video..."The Joy of Books." They are just so darned adorable, why would anyone want a Kindle or a Nook or a Kobo? Don't tell me how much a big hardcover weighs or how hard they are to lug around. Good grief, exercise those biceps...Thank you, crazedadman!
I have a confession to make... which I may have already confessed on this blog, but I will confess again or re-confess, whatever the correct terminology may be. As a child, I whiled away countless hours (or perhaps minutes) reading the dictionary. It's true. On a rainy afternoon when outdoor play was impossible... or in the late evening, when there was nothing but mind-numbing reruns on broadcast TV (this was back-in-the-day before cable), I would haul down the old Webster's from the bookshelf in the family room, place my finger in a random notch in its thick side and let it fall open. Who knew what treasures might be found on those tissue-paper thin pages. Yes, I'm a word nerd, always have been, always will be.
So imagine my joy in celebrating "Thesaurus Day." Who cares if Wikipedia blacks out its site to protest the SOPA bill in Congress? Who needs freakin' Wikipedia. I can name four dozen websites where you will find whatever information you need that you might ordinary seek out on Wikipedia just because, admit it, it's at the top of the search results' list. But Thesaurus Day??? Where would a writer be without Roget's in print -- or, in a pinch, any of the online thesauri?? Now that would be a loss!!
Just look at all the epossible synonyms related to speech and the word "remark:" statement, comment, crack [slang], one's two cents' worth [informal], word, say, saying, utterance, observation, reflection, expression, note, thought, mention, assertion, averment, allegation, dictum, declaration, interjection, exclamation, question, answer, address, greeting, apostrophe, sentence, phrase, subjoinder, Parthian shot.
Just like the Inuit have multiple lexemes for snow and snow-related events, we have a wondrous variety of words at our disposal. So put them to use and entertain your friends!
In addition to today's holiday honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., January 16th is also National Fig Newton Day (I kid you not), and, according to my handy Librarian's Desk Calendar, Appreciate a Dragon Day. Never heard of it, you say? Well, neither had I, until I did a little Googling, and sure enough, wound up with over 16 million results. Turns out this holiday was created not by a group of obsessed Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying gamers, but by an author, Donita K. Paul in 2004 to herald the release of her children's book, DragonSpell. (Now why didn't I think of that back in September? Maybe I could have created a "Tell Us What's in Your Box Day" to shill for my novel! Too late...)
Anyhow, I am happy to lend some appreciation to dragons I have known and loved over years of reading and/or listening...
Starting, of course, with Puff...
But it was Smaug, the fire-breathing, gold hoarder of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, who really captured my imagination as a child...
Smaug, terror of The Hobbit
Smaug is so covetous and obsessed with his treasure, guarding it, sleeping on it, that pieces of gold and jewels have been embedded in his flesh! Coming to a theatre near you in 2012, courtesy of Peter Jackson and his crew of WETA wizards. But better yet, read the book first!
I moved on to other dragons, entering into what I think of as my "classical" phase... First, there was the dragon from the Argonautica, the Greek epic poem by Apollonius Rhodius, which relates the myth of the hero Jason and his band of brothers, the Argonauts, who are given the quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the land of Colchis. The fleece, property of the cruel King Aeetes, whose daughter, Medea (yes, that one), is a sorceress, is guarded by, what else, a dragon.
Jason and the dragon (before it falls asleep)
Medea's sleeping potion is the key to overcoming this dragon. Jason and Medea hook up, escape the clutches of her father and brother, and the poem ends on a high note. Unfortunately, the marriage doesn't last and all ends badly, very badly. (See Euripides' tragedy, Medea, for the gruesome, dragonless details.)
Then I came across the Old English and Norse dragons, the nameless one in Beowulf and the dragon Fafnir (or Fafner) from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Sigurd slays Fafnir
Fafnir is also the villain of William Morse's cod-epic poem The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Nibelung. Norse hero called Sigurd who forges a mighty sword in order to attack the dragon Fafnir, who guards, what else, a priceless hoard of gold. "He laughed and smote with the laughter and thrust up over his head. / And smote the venom asunder, and clave the heart of Dread". He kills the dragon and gets the gold, but there is, of course, a curse upon it.
There are, of course, numerous "neo-modern" dragons, in both children's and adult literature. Ruth Stiles Gannett brought us kid-friendly dragons in her children's books of the 1940s, including My Father's Dragon, in which young Elmer dares a voyage to Wild Island to rescue a baby dragon.
The Harry Potter series featured numerous breeds of dragons, including Hagrid's pet, Norbert. In Dragon Rider, a children's fantasy by Cornelia Funke, the dragons are friendly and approachable, with names like Firedrake and Sorrel. The problem is horrible humans. But the dragons are befriended by a brave orphan, Ben, who becomes the "dragon rider".
An image for a Terry Pratchett Discworld calendar by Jackie Morris
But dragons aren't just for kids. Terry Pratchett has several in his Discworld fantasy series as does George R.R. Martin in Song of Fire and Ice novels.
So I suppose dragons do deserve a day of appreciation. They've brought me much wonder and reading pleasure over the years!
Santa tucked Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-Ray under the Christmas tree this season and I have spent recent evenings watching the contents in the original order of release. (It just seemed the appropriate thing to do.) So when this entertaining list came over the transom recently, I found myself chortling convulsively in the library. If I was the shushing kind of librarian, I might have had to shush myself. As it was, the children passing through on their way to lunch just nodded knowingly to each other: there goes Ms. Z, laughing again. Anyway, I challenge you to keep a straight face, even if you are not a big Star Wars fan.
George Lucas, the maker, as C-3PO would say, is a great storyteller and film maker, but he also has a reputation for writing dialogue that's just cringe-worthy, especially in the last three Star Wars epics (that would be I, II, and III). So here are 25 lines from Star Wars that can be improved by substituting the word "pants."
1) A tremor in the pants. The last time I felt this was in the presence of my old master.
2) You are unwise to lower your pants.
3) I find your lack of pants disturbing.
4) She must have hidden the plans in her pants. Send a detachment down to retrieve them. See to it personally, Commander.
5) These pants may not look like much, kid, but they've got it where it counts.
6) Lock the door. And hope they don't have pants.
7) Don't worry. Chewie and I have gotten into a lot of pants more heavily guarded than this.
8) Great, Chewie, great. Always thinking with your pants.
9) Yeah, well, short pants is better than no pants at all, Chewie.
10) You look strong enough to pull the pants off a Gundark.
11) Jabba doesn't have time for smugglers who drop their pants at the first sign of an Imperial Cruiser.
12) Maybe you'd like it back in your pants, your highness.
13) Governor Tarkin, I recognized your foul pants when I was brought on board.
14) You came in those pants? You're braver than I thought.
15) I used to bulls-eye womp-rats in my pants back home.
16) We've got to be able to get some reading on those pants, up or down.
17) Han will have those pants down. We've got to give him more time!
18) That blast came from those pants. That thing's operational!
19) Attention. This is Lando Calrissean. The Empire has taken control of my pants. I advise everyone to leave before more troops arrive.
20) These pants contain the ultimate power in the Universe. I suggest we use it.
21) TK-421... why aren't you in your pants?
22) General Veers, prepare your pants for a surface assault.
23) I cannot teach him. The boy has no pants.
24) Your pants betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially one. Your sister!
25) Luke... help me take... these pants off.
One evening with the Internet down = one and a half books read....hmmmm
Also, fine collection goes to the extreme at this library.
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