Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Mother Reader just posted the November Carnival of Children's Literature which is full of tips, advice and suggestions for bloggers, parents, teachers, librarians, writers and readers.
I feel smarter already.
No need to ever get up, except for you know, food and stuff. Or to get a book from the back of the chair.
Although (as pixie stix kids pix points out), it looks rather uncomfortable, doesn't it? And where would you put your feet? You don't want to accidentally kick the books on the bottom shelf, and you'd hate to block your book access by placing a footstool in front of the chair. And you couldn't put the chair against a wall or in a corner because then you couldn't get to all your books.
The same designer, Nobody&Co, also makes unusual and creative book shelves.
They look incredibly cool, but I'd need at least fifty to accommodate my burgeoning book collection.
Plus, alphabetical order would be a nightmare, wouldn't it? Or am I the only one that alphabetizes their personal books?
My husband would love it. He firmly believes that books should be shelved by size... not by title, author or subject.
Update: I showed the bookshelf picture to my husband. He said that while he definitely thinks books should be shelved by size, he also thinks that this particular bookshelf is far too inefficient for him. He says it would be more effective if you could move the pegs around.
- Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
- Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
- Frindle by Andrew Clements
- Holes by Louis Sachar
- A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
- Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm
- Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (didn't know I liked that one, did you?)
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Discussion Questions
-On the train to Hogwarts, Draco offers to be friends with Harry. Harry refuses. What do you think would have different if Harry had accepted Draco’s friendship?
-Why do you think Harry was sorted into Gryffindor? Which Gryffindor characteristics do you think Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville possess?
-If Draco Malfoy had been sorted into Gryffindor, do you think he would have eventually become friends with Harry?
-Which house would you like to be in?
-What kinds of food are described in this book? Which ones would you most like to try?
-What classes does Harry take? Which ones would you like to take?
-How do you play Quidditch? What parts of the game do you like? Would you change any aspects of the game?
-How did the Mirror of Erised get its name? What would you see if you looked into the Mirror of Erised?
-Should Harry, Ron and Hermione have snuck out of their dorm to rescue the Sorcerer’s Stone? Why did Neville try to stop them?
-How did Harry get the Sorcerer’s Stone out of the Mirror of Erised? Do you think Dumbledore expected Harry to rescue the Sorcerer’s Stone?
Dumbledore says “There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” What examples are there of this in the book?
-During the final banquet, why does Dumbledore award the last ten points to Neville instead of to Ron, Harry or Hermione?
-When this book was published in
Writing these questions was harder than it looks... because my goal was to come up with questions that would only be applicable to Book One. For example, I couldn't use questions such as: "Why does Harry feel pain in his scar?" because the answer to that question keeps changing with every book in the series you read.
As this blog demonstrates, I can't seem to stop talking about these books!
Update: There are spoilers in the comments section about the 7th book.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Even though this post is about Book One, there are spoilers in it for all seven books.
Chapter Two: The Vanishing GlassAll page numbers refer to the hardcover Scholastic edition.
Connections to later books:
- Parseltounge. The fact that Harry can talk to snakes is first established in this chapter, mentioned again in Book Two and is quite important throughout the series.
- Avada Kedavra. In this chapter the only two things that Harry remembers about his parents’ death are a flash of green light and pain in his scar. In Book 4 we learn that the green light is a telltale sign of the Avada Kedavra curse. And in Book 7 we learn that Harry felt pain in his forehead because he became an accidental Horcrux almost immediately after his parents died (and that’s why he has the scar on his forehead).
Characters and places introduced in this chapter that don't appear again until later books in the series:
- Aunt Marge gives
Dudleya birthday present in this chapter and is mentioned as a possible babysitter for Harry, but she doesn’t actually make an appearance until Book 3.
- Mrs. Figg is briefly mentioned but doesn’t have a speaking part until the fifth book.
- Dedalus Diggle gets another minor mention in this chapter (he's also in Chapter 1) as the tiny man in the violet top hat that bows to Harry in a shop. Both Dedalus Diggle and Harry talk about this incident when they meet in The Leaky Cauldron in Chapter 5.
- Madame Marsh. You have to pay careful attention to catch this one. On page 30, Harry mentions that: “a wild-looking old woman dressed all in green had waved merrily at him once on a bus.” Right about now you’re probably wondering who on earth Madam Marsh is. She has a walk-on part only and she is mentioned as a passenger on the Knight Bus every time Harry rides on it. She is always dressed in green. I love this mention of her in the first book, it’s so incredibly subtle.
- I love the old-fashioned neglected orphan tone of this chapter. It really makes the book feel like a timeless classic. Harry living in the cupboard under the stairs, having to wear clothes too big for him, having broken eyeglasses… all these things are wonderful contrasts with the fact that Harry is incredibly famous.
- "Aunt Petunia often said that Dudley looked like a baby angel—Harry often said that
Dudleylooked like a pig in a wig." (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Scholastic hardcover, page 21).
- Who on earth does Harry make the comment to about Dudley looking like a pig in a wig? It doesn't seem like the kind of thing he'd say to any of the Dursleys.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
My favorite picture is shown above. Even though it's pretty impossible to choose just one... I fell in love with the library of the Admont Abbey in Austria.
Thanks to Another Kick Butt Librarian for the link.
And for me, any library that lets me check out books is beautiful.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
But, let me give you a fascinating example involving a particular book and its place on the bestseller lists.
Workman Publishing has recently released an incredibly cool book called Gallop by Rufus Butler Seder. When you flip the pages of the book, the pictures really seem to be moving. It's amazing. It's fascinating. When you see this book, you can't help but want to own it. Also, it has a simple and surprisingly good text. And a nice big, clear font. This is one of the few books that can equally fascinate both children and adults.
To get an idea of what I'm talking about, check out Workman's website. In the far right corner you'll see a horse galloping... this is what happens when you turn a page of the book. In the actual book, the action isn't quite that fluid, but it's pretty close.
The Booksense list of children's bestsellers currently lists Gallop as its number one bestseller... a position the book has held for two weeks. The Booksense list is representative of the sales of independent (non-chain) bookstores.
Now check out the listing for Gallop on the Amazon website. As of today, Gallop is ranked at #9,483. Pretty incredible, isn't it? How could a book be so popular in bookstores and not popular at all with an online retailer?
For one thing, look at the pictures on the Amazon listing. They don't convey the visual impact the book has. Also, there are only a few reviews (the book just came out last week, so not a lot of people have seen it so far). And the book is listed as not being available for 4 to 6 weeks. (Workman is a relatively small publisher and they're trying to fill the huge demand for the book.)
Why is Gallop so high on the Booksense list? Because independent bookstores are talking up the book, displaying it in prominent locations and showing their customers a book they think is intriguing and creative. And, in the end, it comes down to the fact that you need to actually see Gallop. You need to hold it in your hands. You need to be able to play with it. And, in the end, that's something that you can't do on Amazon.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I recently conducted a poll asking which Harry Potter characters would you NOT like to have dinner with. I predicted that it would be a tight three way race between Umbridge, Bellatrix and Lord Voldemort (none of which strike me as enjoyable dinner companions).
I couldn't have been more wrong. Bellatrix and Umbridge tied for third, and Voldemort came in a surprising fourth. The winner? Aragog the monstrous spider, followed closely by bloodthirsty werewolf Fenrir Grayback. Apparently, readers of Wizards Wireless do not want to be turned into entrees (and you can't really blame them.)
Peter Pettigrew got the same number of votes as Marvolo Gaunt, Morphin Gaunt, Grawp, Bellatrix and Umbridge. I agree that he's not my favorite character by any means, but I was impressed that he ranked that high (he got more votes than Voldemort).
Voldemort and Percy Weasley got the same number of votes. I thought that was astonishing. True, Percy can be a bit pompous and annoying, but he'd be far less likely to kill you because you didn't season the turkey properly.
Grawp, who started with a strong lead, finished in third place.
Severus Snape only got one vote. That was surprising... he doesn't seem like an ideal dinner companion to me. It would be rather difficult to engage him in small talk.
The Giant Squid (who I put in as a joke) got three votes! Very impressive.
Here's the poll results:
Question: Which Harry Potter characters would you NOT like to have dinner with?
In first place: Aragog
2nd place: Fenrir Grayback
3rd place: Marvolo Gaunt, Morphin Gaunt, Grawp, Bellatrix Lestrange, Peter Pettigrew and Dolores Umbridge
4th place: Mundungus Fletcher, Gregory Goyle, Percy Weasley and Lord Voldemort
5th place: Amycus Carrow, Alecto Carrow, Vincent Crabbe, Barty Crouch Jr., Barty Crouch Sr., Dudley Dursley, Petunia Dursley, Vernon Dursley, Cornelius Fudge, Igor Karkaroff, the Giant Squid and Yaxley
6th place: Ludo Bagman, Merope Gaunt, Griphook, Kreacher, Draco Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy, Auntie Muriel, Rufus Scrimgeour, Horace Slughorn, and Sybil Trelawney.
7th place: Fleur Delacour, Xenophilius Lovegood, Narcissa Malfoy, Mad Eye Moody, Mr. Ollivander and Severus Snape
In 8th and last place (with no votes): Viktor Krum and Oliver Wood
See my new poll about how many times you've read the Harry Potter books. If you're a regular reader of Wizards Wireless, you can probably guess my answer, which is: so many times that I'm embarrassed to admit how high the number is. Actually, by this point, it's so many times that, honestly, I've lost count.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Even if you can't read Dutch, check out the interview at De Volkskrant, because it is beautiful and elaborately done to represent pages from the Daily Prophet.
And of, course, I highly recommend the English translation, at The Leaky Cauldron. It's just a touch easier to read, if you're not fluent in Dutch.
I just broke my own rule from my post about advice for beginning bloggers... about not posting every single news story. But, what the heck, I'll make an exception for good, new J.K. Rowling interviews. (Bad, old interviews don't make the cut. =)
I've been blogging for about six months... and here's a few things I've picked up so far. I hope these tips help you. If you're looking for specific advice about being a children's literature blogger- look towards the end of this post.
Blogging is fun, scary, exciting and incredibly rewarding. Congratulations on starting a blog! It's a gutsy step. The hardest part is to keep it going after those first few initial posts. Keep it up... you can do it!
It's hard to blog consistently. It takes a lot of time. All blog readers know that. When you have a chance to blog, don't write posts apologizing for not writing. Instead, just write a post saying something you haven't said before. Some people blog daily, some blog weekly, some blog monthly. Find a schedule that works for you, and don't be embarrassed by it.
Be proud of what you write
Don't say that you're rambling or incoherent. Your voice and opinions are valid, whatever it is that you have to say. The more you knock yourself down, the less likely a reader is to take you seriously.
Find a topic
Decide on the general subjects you want to write about. For example, Wizards Wireless is about three very specific things: Children's books, comic strips and Harry Potter. I try to keep myself limited to these topics because it carves out a niche and lets a reader know what they'll find when they visit my blog. If it's not related to one of those three things, I'll mark the post as off-topic (which I try not to do too much). And if you have too many topics to chose from, don't worry, you can always start another blog on that subject.
Find a mission
Why are you blogging? To advance your career? To tell family and friends about what's going on in your life? To become a better writer? To talk about topics that you're passionate about? All of these are valid reasons... just figure out what you hope to achieve by blogging. That will inform almost every other decision you make. For example, a person blogging for professional development reasons is much more likely to use their real name than someone who wants to let off steam about work.
Above all, write about what you want to write about, not what you think you have to write about.
Contribute original content
There's no need to post every news story on your blog. As a reader, I come to your blog for original content, not recycled information. If there's a big announcement, chances are I've already read about it somewhere else. The exception here, of course, is if you have something to say about a news story or if it's relevant to your subject matter. For example, I wrote quite a bit about J.K. Rowling's announcement that Dumbledore is gay. (The posts are here, here and here, if you're interested). Obviously, people read about it elsewhere... but since I write a lot about Harry Potter on my blog, I felt it was relevant and I had opinions I wanted to discuss.
Steal from yourself
Coming up with new things to say can be difficult. Why not post something you've written in the past? Whether it's a blurb, an annotation or a paper, you can adapt it into a blog post (if it fits your topic and mission). For example, I took excerpts from a paper I wrote for graduate school about The Man Who Walked Between the Towers and posted it on my blog. I changed it and edited it to make it appropriate. It remains my favorite review to this day, because I worked for weeks on the original paper and I'm proud of the writing and research.
If you've written something that's been previously published, make sure you say where it's been published, and make sure you own the rights to it before posting it. Otherwise (if possible), post a link to it.
Tell people that your blog exists
Let your friends and family know that you have a blog. If someone in your real life mentions an interest in the topic you write about, give them the link to your blog. Mention your blog (if it's relevant to the topic being discussed) on listservs and electronic discussion boards.
Join the Community
Connect to the community of bloggers who write about the same topic you do. There are communities of book bloggers, parent bloggers, etc. They link to each other, promote each other and toss around new ideas. Be part of the discussion. Find out who else is in your community.
If someone leaves a comment on your blog, respond to it within the comments section. Most blog programs have an option that will e-mail you whenever a person comments on your blog. This is extremely helpful... particularly when keeping track of comments on old posts.
Leave comments on other people's blogs. If you do, post under the name of your blog. It helps you build a reputation.... and it's a great way to join the discussion in the blogosphere.
If someone links to your blog, add a link to theirs.
Remember that ANYONE can read your blog
Your neighbor, your third cousin, your ex-boyfriend, a potential employer, the person in the next cubicle who drives you nuts... all of these people are potential readers of your blog. It's on the web, it's unbelievably public. Don't insult other people... they'll figure out who you're talking about.
The best advice I've gotten is to write your blog as if your boss reads every post you write.
Some people put their full names on their blogs... some don't. It's a personal decision. But whatever you decide to do, take steps to protect your family. Unless your blog is specifically about parenting, you may want to refrain from mentioning your kids' names or providing pictures. Don't reveal that you're going out of town until after you come back. It's okay to be vague about who you are.
Publish your e-mail address
Include an e-mail address on your blog. Obviously, it's not a good idea to post your main e-mail address because of the potential for spam, but I highly recommend that you create an e-mail account just for your blog. Go to Gmail to set up a free account which you can forward to your regular e-mail you read all the time. Keep it simple... such as: thenameofyourblog at gmail.com
Why is it important to include an e-mail address? So that people with legitimate questions and compliments can contact you. For example, I'm in the process of writing a paper for graduate school on blogs written by children's librarians. I would love to ask bloggers for their permission to be included in my paper and get a bit more background about why they are blogging. But on the majority of the blogs I've been reading, there is no way to contact the writer. It's not really appropriate to leave a note in the comments, it would be extremely off topic.
Link to blogs
Link to other people's blogs and find out who is linking to you. Technorati is a great way to keep track of this. Sign up for a Technorati account (use your new blog gmail account to sign up for all of these various accounts) and claim your blog. Once you've done this, you can see who is mentioning your blog. If someone does link to your blog in a post, go to their blog and thank them. It's always nice to add a reciprocal link to their blog if it's relevant to your blog's topic.
Check your links
Whenever I add a new link, either in the sidebar or in a post, I click on it to make sure that the link works. It's frustrating to a reader if you have broken links.
Create a feed
Burn a feed for your blog. This isn't nearly as scary as it sounds. You may have heard of an RSS feed (which actually, just stands for Really Simple Syndication). A lot of people (myself included) read blogs primarily through feeds.
Do you subscribe to My Yahoo? Then you already know all about feeds even if you don't realize it. Feeds are the headlines that keep appearing on the page, such as the most recent stories from CNN, or the current top sports headlines. I subscribe to blog feeds on my page, so that in addition to seeing what the New York Times Bestseller list is, I also see the most recent blog posts from Fuse #8 and What Adrienne Thinks About That (and many, many others). When I see a new post that I'm interested in, I click on it. You don't have to use My Yahoo to subscribe to feeds. You can also use blog readers such as Bloglines.
The important thing is for you to create a feed for your blog, so that people who prefer to read your blog through RSS can subscribe to it. How do you do this? Go to Feedburner. The instructions are fairly simple. After you burn a feed for your blog, BE SURE to add a graphic on your blog for people to access your feed. How to do this? Once you have a Feedburner account, go to Publicize and follow the directions from there about creating a chicklet. Pick the simplest one, the top one that is a generic "Subscribe in a Reader." I also recommend selecting PingShot and SmartFeed (both available on the Publicize menu).
Once you have a feed, log back into Feedburner regularly so that you can see how many people access your blog... what searches they use to locate it and what sites they're being referred from.
Another great (free) source for statistics is Google Analytics.
UPDATE: Google has purchased Feedburner. You still need to create your RSS in Feedburner, but it no longer tracks statistics. Use Google Analytics for that.
Also, be sure to subscribe to your own feed. That way, you can see if it works, and you can see how often it's updated. Sometimes my feed is updated a few hours after I post, sometimes it takes a day.
If you blog about children's literature (which I do), the community of like-minded bloggers is called the Kidlitosphere. It's a vibrant and wonderful group of people who love children's books and includes librarians, teachers, professors, booksellers, editors, authors and illustrators. They do multiple blog efforts such as the amazing Robert's Snow posts organized by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
Every week, bloggers from the Kidlitosphere join in Poetry Friday and post fantastic poems on their blogs. One blogger each week volunteers to post a round-up of all the Poetry Friday links. See this round-up at Big A little a for an example.
There's even an annual award given by kidlit bloggers called The Cybils. Nominate your favorite children's books from the past year today. Literally. Nominations close November 21, 2007.
How do you get involved with this wonderful community? Head over to Kidlitosphere Central to find out about the various activities of this hardworking group. And then join the Kidlitosphere listserv on Yahoo Groups. Once you've been approved, be sure to introduce yourself and add your blog to the Blog Directory. And then, join the discussion!
If you're a Kidlit blogger, I highly recommend joining JacketFlap. It's a terrific resource for anyone involved in any way with children's books. You can read other people's blogs though JacketFlap... and be sure to add your blog to their list.
What's the point?
Why bother with all this technical stuff? Because blogging takes a lot of time and effort and creativity. If you're willing to do all of that, and put yourself and your ideas out there, it's worth it for people to see what you have to say. And it allows you to get feedback and be part of the blogging community. But, no one is going to know about your blog unless you publicize it a little.
If you make it hard for people to link to you, locate your RSS feed or e-mail you... they're not going to. And the more that other people link to you, the more your rank rises in Google and other search engines. This means that your blog will come up closer to the top of search engine results pages, and more people will see what you have to say and be able to use the information you provide.
So, take the time (it really doesn't take long)... do the technical things described above. If you're overwhelmed, you can do them slowly, one piece at a time. But let your voice be heard.
And once, again... welcome!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Now that I've got that confession out of the way, let me share with you a great interview with Mo posted at Babble, a parenting web site. Thanks to Pirate Ninja Mommy for the link.
My two favorite things about the interview are the picture at the top with the pigeon and the duckling reading a copy of Knuffle Bunny Too... and Trixie Willems' response to her teacher when asked if the Knuffle Bunny books were real stories.
Now that I've started doing storytimes, I seem to be becoming a bigger Mo fan than ever. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, Knuffle Bunny and Today I Will Fly! are just perfect read alouds. I also like The Pigeon Loves Things that Go and Time to Say Please. I haven't attempted Leonardo the Terrible Monster yet, but I recently saw a colleague do wonders with it. I've read Knuffle Bunny Too aloud- but I find it a bit more difficult.
I'll never measure up to MotherReader in terms of Mo Willems fandom (read this post on The Cybils blog to see what I mean)... but when I took a look at previous posts, I saw that there's a lot more about Mo on this blog than I realized.
Here's what I mean:
In this post about my favorite children's books to re-read, I mention two Pigeons and a Knuffle Bunny.
I list Knuffle Bunny as one of my favorite books to read with my son, in this post about 100 books to read to your child before they start school.
This post contains a great quote from an article Mo wrote.
In this post, I wrote about where to find an incredibly stylish (and cute) Pigeon t-shirt.
I posted some of Mo's early Sesame Street videos.
I wrote a review of Knuffle Bunny and a review of Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.
And I talked about my son's reaction to the Knuffle Bunny video.
Plus I've meet Mo twice... if you count thirty seconds at a book signing, and being in the audience when he was accepting an award. Yeah, you're right, that doesn't really count.
This is more serious than I thought. I might have to give him his own category.
And you thought this blog was just about Harry Potter. =)
Friday, November 16, 2007
Welcome to the Wizards Wireless chapter by chapter discussion of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. See this post for an explanation of why I'm talking about the 1st book when the 7th book has just been published.
Welcome to the Wizards Wireless chapter by chapter discussion of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. See this post for an explanation of why I'm talking about the 1st book when the 7th book has just been published.
Even though this post is about Book One, there are spoilers in it for all seven books.
Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived
(All quotes refer to the Scholastic hardcover edition).
Things that we learn in this chapter:
- Professor McGonagall can transform from a cat to a human. This introduces the concept of animagi, which is very significant in Book 3.
- The deluminator, which is important in Book 7 is mentioned here when Dumbledore extinguishes the streetlights in
- Dumbledore’s nose is described as crooked and broken. In the 7th book, we learn that Albus’ nose has in fact been broken by his brother Aberforth.
- Dumbledore says that he wouldn’t remove Harry’s scar even if he could, because “scars can come in handy.” (Scholastic hardcover, page 15). Harry’s scar is important in every book and does come in extremely handy.
- When Dumbledore leaves
Privet Drive, he turns on his heel and vanishes with a swish of his cloak. This is exactly the way apparition is described in later books.
Characters and places introduced that aren’t important until later:
- Dedalus Diggle. Professor McGonagall comments that Diggle is probably responsible for the display of shooting stars that appeared on the Muggle news. Diggle also appears in Book 5 but doesn’t have a real speaking part until Book 7.
- Godric’s Hollow is mentioned as the place where the Potters were living. This is significant because it demonstrates that Rowling had already decided that the village would be named after Godric Gryffindor.
- Sirius Black. This always amazes me. Here we are, on page 14 of the book, and a crucial character is mentioned in passing, although he doesn’t appear again until the 3rd book. Why is this so interesting? Three reasons:
Sirius’ motorbike is mentioned and doesn’t reappear until the seventh book when it factors into a crucial scene.
We get a glimpse of Sirius right before he’s framed for murder, and it sets the stage (and the time) of his battle in the street with Pettigrew.
I think that the first sentences of books are extremely important… and I have always been surprised by the first sentence of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four,
It’s a pretty bland descriptive sentence, wouldn’t you say? It doesn’t leap out and grab you (as first sentences should) and it doesn’t become more significant as you learn more about the characters. I've always found this odd.
Speaking of the opening of the book, I’ve recently noticed an enormous amount of repetition in the first few pages. The word Dursley appears over and over a surprising number of times. Obviously Mr. and Mrs. Dursley are being introduced and it’s important to give background information on them… but their last name is mentioned 14 times in the first four paragraphs. It feels a bit excessive. The word Dursley also is among the first words of nearly every sentence in the first part of the chapter. Take a look at the opening sentences of the first four paragraphs and you’ll see what I mean:
- Paragraph One: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number
four Privet Drive…”
- Paragraph Two: “Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings…”
- Paragraph Three: “The Dursleys had everything they wanted…”
- Paragraph Four: “When Mr. and Mrs. Dursley woke up on the dull, gray Tuesday…”
Maybe this is over analysis because I frequently listen to the audio book (where it is quite noticeable) but I wonder if this is a stylistic choice or accidental.
- Dumbledore mentions that he must have passed a dozen feasts and parties on his way to
Privet Drive. Then how did he get there? If he had apparated, he wouldn’t have been able to see anything other than his departure and destination points.
Things that are never explained (that I wish were):
- How did Dumbledore acquire a scar above his left knee that is a perfect map of the London Underground?
- Professor McGonagall: “There will be books written about Harry- every child in our world will know his name!” (Scholastic hardcover, page 13).
I love this quote because J.K. Rowling, a fledgling author who was thrilled just to get her first book published, could never have known how prophetic this statement would be.
There have been numerous polls conducted about which books in the Harry Potter series are readers' favorites. The Prisoner of Azkaban typically wins, usually closely followed by Goblet of Fire, Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. Few people seem to care for Chamber of Secrets or Order of the Phoenix. And Sorcerer's Stone... well, I've never heard anyone describe it as their favorite.
But I think Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is brilliant. Why? Because it lays out the whole series and sets the stage for everything that follows. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but there are a few important things to keep in mind when thinking about Book One.
- When Joanne Rowling started writing about Harry Potter in 1990, she was an unpublished writer. She had no agent, no publisher and no track record. There was absolutely no guarantee that anything she wrote would ever make it into print.
- It took six years from when she started writing in 1990 until the first book was accepted for publication in 1996. Since Book One contains clues for all the books in the series, this means that Rowling outlined all seven books before the first was even published.
I think Rowling's solid construction of Sorcerer's Stone is what makes the series so successful. It also forced her to think about future plot lines in advance. The structure of the book is wonderful because the author knows where she's going from the very first page. The rest of the series relies heavily on the foundation she built in the very beginning.
Now that Deathly Hallows has been published, readers can finally look at the series as a whole and examine the clues Rowling spread through the previous books. Nowhere are these clues more apparent or important than Book One. So, I've decided to post about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone chapter by chapter in order to point out characters and plot development that Rowling placed in the very first Harry Potter book.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first Harry Potter book I read and fell in love with.
(Spoiler ahead if you haven't read Book One.)
I'll never forget the moment when I found out that Quirrell was the one chasing the Sorcerer's Stone. Rowing had baited me so well... I was completely convinced that it was Snape, and then she pulled the rug out from under me. I couldn't wait to see what other tricks Rowling had in store. It also made me want to reread the book immediately, and I was impressed to find so many hidden clues and wonderful dialogue that could be interpreted several ways.
The other reason that I want to write about Book One is that it's the book I know the best and the one I've analyzed the most. And I think it's fascinating to re-examine it now that we finally know the ending of the saga. Also, of course, it's the shortest book, there are only 17 chapters... far easier than Book 7. =)
Here are the elements that I'm examining in Book One:
- Connections to other books in the series
- Characters and places introduced in the first book that aren’t important until later
- Observations about the chapter in general
- Things that are never explained in the books (that I wish were)
- Questions that I have
- Favorite quotes
Without further ado, here's my analysis of Chapter One.
Note: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was originally published in England as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but since I'll be referring to page numbers from the American edition, I'm also using the American title.
Additional note: My posts aren't chapter summaries. If you're looking for those, the best place to find them is at the Harry Potter Lexicon.
Monday, November 12, 2007
The awards mentioned above are given by the American Library Association (ALA)... and they are a huge deal in the world of American children's literature. This year's awards are being announced on Monday, January 14, 2008 at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. Awards given by the Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC) are listed here, and awards given by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) are listed here. Both ALSC and YALSA are divisions of the ALA.
I plan to post some of the pre-award buzz and post-award reactions on this blog. A great place to start is with the best books of the year lists that have started to appear (even though the year isn't technically over yet). Let's get the ball rolling with this list from Publisher's Weekly of their picks for the best children's books of 2007. Although this isn't a list of speculation about the awards, it does mention a lot of the books that have been garnering buzz this year.
Books that I really like (but that aren't necessarily award contenders) that appear on the Publisher's Weekly list include:
- Nothing by Jon Agee
- Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett (see my review here)
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (see just about any post on this blog for my opinions on this book =)
- The Arrival by Shaun Tan.
Got any 2007 favorites? I'd love to hear them.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
In the meantime, be sure to vote for which Harry Potter character you would NOT like to have dinner with.
Grawp is currently in the lead... quite understandably. Aragog is a close second (also understandable because you'd probably like to eat dinner, not be dinner.) Also in second place are Fenrir Grayback and Dolores Umbridge. Third place is currently a rather large group containing Barty Crouch Sr., Mundungus Fletcher, Morphin Gaunt, Bellatrix Lestrange, Percy Weasley and Lord Voldemort. Definitely not a charming group of dinner guests.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Question: My favorite characters in the Harry Potter series are:
- Hermione Granger (23 votes)
- Harry Potter (21 votes)
- Severus Snape (17 votes)
- Neville Longbottom (16 votes)
- Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley (15 votes each)
- Remus Lupin, Minerva McGonagall, Fred Weasley and George Weasley (14 votes each)
- Ron Weasley (13 votes)
- Sirius Black and Albus Dumbledore (12 votes each)
- Nymphadora Tonks (8 votes)
- Molly Weasley (7 votes)
- Rubeus Hagrid and Lily Potter (6 votes each)
- Dobby (5 votes)
- Aberforth Dumbledore, Lee Jordan, Gilderoy Lockhart, Rita Skeeter and Arthur Weasley. (5 votes each)
- Hedwig, James Potter, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Bill Weasley. (3 votes each)
- Dudley Dursley, Kreacher, Victor Krum, Draco Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy, Narcissa Malfoy, Mad Eye Moody, Charlie Weasley, Oliver Wood and Lord Voldemort. (2 votes each)
- Bellatrix Lestrange, Dolores Umbridge and Percy Weasley. (1 vote each)
- Fleur Delacour, Petunia Dursley,
Dursley, Xenophilius Lovegood, Auntie Muriel, Peter Pettigrew, Horace Slughorn and the Giant Squid. (0 votes each) Vernon
Characters who got more votes than I expected them to: Snape, Voldemort, Umbridge, Bellatrix and Draco.
Characters who got fewer votes than I expected them to: Ron, Albus Dumbledore, Hagrid and Fleur.
I think the results would be very different for these characters if I had done the poll before the 7th book was relased: Neville, Snape, Ron, Albus Dumbledore, Molly Weasley, Dudley, James Potter, Lily Potter, Minerva McGonagall and Kreacher.
So, now that I know who everyone likes the best, I'm curious to find out who you like the least? Who do you love to hate? Who do you quietly loathe? Who do you think is a coward? Who would you be unlikely to invite over for dinner? See the new poll in the sidebar.
I expect it to be a close race between Voldemort, Umbridge and Bellatrix... but I'm sure I'll be proven wrong. The new poll consists of the characters who got zero, one or two votes in the favorite characters poll. Also, I added a few Death Eaters and general unsavory figures to round it out. As in the last poll, the choices are listed alphabetically, and you can vote for more than one.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Check out these products from The Noble Collection, based on the Harry Potter movies. They're rather expensive, but fun to look at.
Too busy? Need more hours in the day? You're a perfect candidate for a Time Turner.
Looking for immortality? There's a Sorcerer's Stone available (although I thought Nicholas Flamel had taken that off the market.)
Need an old piece of parchment? Buy your very own Marauder's Map which would be infinitely more useful if you actually went to Hogwarts.
Want flames in your living room? Consider this lovely Goblet of Fire.
Need a bathroom mirror? You can't go wrong with the Mirror of Erised.... although I suspect it would take you far longer to get ready in the morning.
Want to brighten up your library? You need a set of Voldemort and Dumbledore bookends.
Shopping for a college student? Check out this Umbridge proclamation dry erase board. Essential for dorm room doors.
Looking for jewelry? You can get the ultimate fashion accessories: Luna Lovegood's radish earrings and butterbeer cork necklace. Or try a Dumbledore's Army medallion or a Dark Mark pendant. (Is it just me, or do Death Eaters not seem like the type to wear necklaces?)
Want to creep out your roommate or spouse? Buy them this lovely collection of Death Eater masks.
Finally, for the person you don't really like, you should definitely get them Umbridge's quill.
For that special Harry Potter fan in your life (the one who has read all the books) see below the spoilers for a few more suggestions.
Voldemort should have really checked the Internet before going through all the effort of tracking people down and breaking open tombstones. He would have found out that he could have gotten Dumbledore's wand online. Really, all he needed was a major credit card and a mailing address. But you can buy it and have an Elder Wand of your own (and then you can't tell anyone ever.)
Nah... skip the Elder Wand and get Draco's wand, which would of course, be more useful for a duel with Voldemort... an everyday situation we all frequently find ourselves in.
And Harry and Griphook would have found this Gryffindor sword rather desirable. This is the original one, right? It would really be useful for destroying all the horcruxes you have lying around the house.
Thanks to the Leaky Cauldron for the link to the Noble Collection.
Monday, November 5, 2007
I started to answer her in the comments section of her blog, but then it got so long that I had to write a separate post about it. I've listed a few recent favorites below... most of them are ones that have been published in the last ten years. For my favorite picture books when I was growing up, see this post.
Here's a short list of books that never get old:
Peggy Rathmann's books: Goodnight Gorilla, Ten Minutes till Bedtime, and of course... Officer Buckle and Gloria.
Sandra Boynton's and Michael Ford's musical books/albums: Dog Train, Blue Moo and Philadelphia Chickens.
David Wiesner's books, particularly Flotsam, The Three Pigs, Tuesday, Sector Seven, Free Fall, June 29, 1999.... okay... all of David Wiesner's books.
Mordecai Gerstein's The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. It moves me every time I read it. For more about it, see my review.
Mo Willems' books, including: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, and Knuffle Bunny. I wrote a Pigeon review here, and a Knuffle Bunny review here.
Jon Muth's Zen Shorts. I'm crazy about this book.
Oh, there are so many more... but at least this is a start!
Let me take this opportunity to say how incredibly adorable Jody's son is... and how lucky he is to have such a great mom. And I'm very sympathetic to constant re-readings of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight Moon. I have them memorized too. =)
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Okay, this is way too much fun.
See this post for how I created this comic strip... and this one for more information about the limited edition J.K. Rowling book.
Hmmm... now I just need a good name for my comic strip. Any ideas?
Saturday, November 3, 2007
J.K. Rowling recently posted on her website her objection to Harry Potter companion books. This initially struck me as fine... I saw her point that she was planing to write an encyclopedia of her own and she wanted to be sure that the money from such an endeavor went to charity.
But, then I found out what the specific book was that she was objecting to. It's by Steve Vander Ark of the Harry Potter Lexicon. If you visit the Lexicon, (which I highly recommend if you haven't) you will find an online Harry Potter encyclopedia written by a fan (who happens to be a librarian) and several industrious staff members. The Lexicon is extremely well researched, documented, and dare I say, scholarly. What they are proposing to do (as I understand it) is to convert their extensive online material into a low tech off-line portable device: a book. I'm sure the book will be well researched, full of citations, detailed and scholarly (which has not been true of all the Harry Potter companion books that have been published so far).
The Leaky Cauldron has been covering this story in depth. If you want to read more about it, (and see names and dates and lawyer memos) the original article is here, an update is here, and a second update is here. For Rowling's post about the book, see this page on her official website. Vander Ark's publisher RDR Books, talks about the issue here.
But what has me confused is this... isn't it okay for someone else to write a book about another author's work as long as they give quotes and references (and don't republish the original verbatim)? Don't we have countless scholarly works in this vein? On a less scholarly note, what about episode guides to T.V. shows that are written by fans? However, since no one in the J.K. Rowling/Warner Brothers camp has seen the book... it's unclear what the format is.
My feeling is that fans understand the difference between a Harry Potter encyclopedia written by J.K. Rowling (who can add new information to the story and characters) and one that is a catalog of facts that have been published thus far. Why make such a big deal about it? Vander Ark's book is now receiving far more attention (and will probably sell better) than it would have otherwise.
What do you think?
Thursday, November 1, 2007
She has written several copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard (mentioned in the 7th book) but isn't publishing it. One copy will be available to the public by auction (with the proceeds going to charity). There's more information here at The Leaky Cauldron.
Incidentally, there are all kinds of new fun things on J.K. Rowling's website... this post at The Leaky Cauldron tells you how the new hidden secrets, and this one explains some of the cool new features.
Update: The book was sold at auction on December 12, 2007 and was purchased by Amazon.com.
There are more details about in this post.
Last week's big Harry Potter news story was J.K. Rowling's statement that Dumbledore is gay.
To see what readers of this blog thought, see the poll results below:
Question: My reaction to J.K. Rowling's revelation about Dumbledore:
- 43%: It surprised me.
- 37%: I suspected it after reading the 7th book.
- 12%: What???!!!
- 6%: I knew it all along.
In the midst of J.K. Rowling's announcement there was a sizable backlash of people who felt that this kind of information was unwanted and unnecessary. I posted a poll on this topic and found the readers of Wizards Wireless to be overwhelming in favor of Rowling providing details about the characters. For my opinion, see this post.
Question: My opinion about J.K. Rowling revealing additional details about the characters in the Harry Potter books is:
- 66%: I love reading all the details. I find it fascinating.
- 19%: The books stand on their own. Her comments are irrelevant.
- 14%: Enough already! I wish she'd stop.
- 0%: I don't really care either way.
Be sure to vote on my long-running poll about your favorite Harry Potter characters. The results have been fascinating so far.