Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dear Wizards Wireless

"I haven't finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet. Are your posts about the book safe to read or will it spoil the whole book for me?"
Sincerely, Harry Potter fan

Good question! I know there are lots of people who haven't finished the book yet.... because work or kids got in their way, or they are slow readers, or they're reading the other books in the series or... they're just not done. (Or they're planning on reading the book whenever they get around to it.) And I have to say that I admire all of you who have been able to slowly savor the book and not gulp it down in one weekend like I did. If you are in the "currently reading HP7" category, here's how I've organized the posts on this blog:

Posts labeled "Harry Potter" are general comments and news items about the Harry Potter series. They don't contain spoilers (or at least, I don't think they do). If they do, there is a spoiler warning at the top.

Posts labeled "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" are part of my chapter by chapter commentary about the seventh book. Yes, there are spoilers, but only for the specific chapter the post is about. For example, if you read the post about Harry Potter 7: Chapter Five... it would only include information about the book up until (and including) the fifth chapter. So, these posts are safe to read if you haven't finished the full book yet. Since I haven't finished the commentaries yet... there is currently no information past the tenth chapter.

For those of you looking to avoid Harry entirely, there are lots of other posts on this blog about children's books and comic strips. More to come!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Harry Potter: The Musical

Warning: There are no facts whatsoever in this post. This is a total rumor (i.e. not going to happen) but the idea intrigued me and I couldn't help writing about it.

There was a post on the Leaky Cauldron yesterday about a rumored musical version of Harry Potter. So what if it's completely untrue? Isn't that a great idea? In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit here that I'm a theater person... more specifically a musical theater person. The combination of two of my favorite things... Harry Potter and musicals.... well, that just sounds too good to be true. (Turns out it is.)

But while I'm thinking about it, here's some of what I'd love to see if Hogwarts ever decides to come to Broadway:

-A singing and dancing Voldemort

-A chorus of house elves

-A mechanical Buckbeak that flies off the stage.

-The set! Wouldn't the set be fabulous?

And the songs! What wonderful potential! How about....

Sorcerer's Stone: "You're a Wizard!" An upbeat patter song where Hagrid explains to Harry that he's a wizard and what really happened to his parents.

Chamber of Secrets: "The Secrets of Tom Riddle." In the Chamber of Secrets, Tom Riddle tells Harry his history in the form of a melodic ballad.

Prisoner of Azkaban: "The Shrieking Shack Montage." A complicated overlapping Sondheimesque song (like "Someone in a Tree" from Pacific Overtures) with Sirius, Lupin, Pettigrew, Snape, Harry, Ron and Hermione.

Goblet of Fire: "The Hungarian Horntail." A creative and evocative ballet version of the First Task.

Order of the Phoenix: "Harry's Lament." Starts off slow and then builds to a crescendo as Harry insists that no one understands him. (Similar to "Rose's Turn" in Gypsy.)

Half Blood Prince: "The House of Gaunt." A slapstick comedy song (similar to "Master of the House" in Les Miserables) featuring Marvolo, Merope and Morfin Gaunt.

Deathly Hallows: "The Silent Song." In which everyone stands on stage and doesn't say anything for fear of ruining the plot.

What do you think? Got any ideas for this musical extravaganza?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Harry Potter 7: Chapter Ten










Chapter Ten: Kreacher’s Tale

Picture: I loved the photograph of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. At first glance, I thought Harry was in the picture, but then I noticed that it was James. It's a very subtle difference.

Most memorable:
The letter from Lily to Sirius. It was such a magical thing for an orphan like Harry to find.

-Harry, Ron and Hermione figuring out who R.A.B. was and the awful realization that they had thrown the locket in the trash.

-The images of Voldemort, Kreacher and Regulus in the cave. Before I read the book, I couldn’t imagine how on earth Regulus would have figured out about the cave, but the explanation Kreacher gave made perfect sense.

-The way Regulus sacrificed his own life to save Kreacher and stop Voldemort.

-Kreacher with tears in his eyes.

-Harry giving Regulus’ locket to Kreacher.

Worth pointing out:
-Petunia cares about Lily more than she lets on. In Lily’s letter to Sirius, it is mentioned that Petunia gave Lily a vase for Christmas (which Harry later smashed while tooling around on his broomstick). Although Petunia publicly acts as through she doesn’t have a sister… she still cares enough to send Christmas presents.

-Regulus Black is very similar to Draco Malfoy. They were both Slytherins, they were both Quidditch Seekers, they both became Death Eaters when they were 16, and they both got in over their head. Actually, they’re related too… I think they are second cousins.

Connection to previous books:
-If you have the Scholastic editions, compare R.A.B.’s letter (Half Blood Prince hardcover, pg. 609) to the note on Regulus door (Deathly Hallows, pg. 186). Both notes appear in the same handwriting font… which is a clue that Regulus is R.A.B. Thanks to Cheryl at Brooklyn Arden (who was one of the editors of the Scholastic edition) for pointing this out.
**Warning: don't read Cheryl's posts until you've finished the whole book.

-It’s interesting that Sirius gave Harry his first broomstick, because Sirius also gave Harry the Firebolt in Book 3.

Favorite quote:
Harry wanders into Sirius’ room while Ron and Hermione are still asleep. Hermione bursts into Sirius’ room and finds Harry.
“We woke up and didn’t know where you were!” she said breathlessly.
“Ron! I’ve found him!”
Ron’s annoyed voice echoed distantly from several floors below.
“Good! Tell him from me he’s a git!” (Scholastic hardcover, page 183)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Blog maintenance

I've added several new lists to the links section including:

-A hugely expanded list of independent children's bookstores. See this post for more about it.

-A much longer list of comic strips.

-A few of my favorite blogs.

In other blog news:
I'm working on the Harry Potter chapter-by-chapter posts and should have more up soon. I've been busy doing frivolous things like writing papers and studying for final exams.

Speaking of which, my fall semester of graduate school starts very soon, so blog posting may slack off a bit.

I've been experimenting with polls for the last month... although the poll feature has been acting very odd. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sorry about that.

Thanks for reading Wizards Wireless. I never knew blogging could be so much fun.

Independent Bookstores

You may have noticed that my list of independent bookstores on the right-hand side of this blog has grown quite a bit. I originally posted my favorite 10-or-so bookstores and wrote about how much I love to visit bookstores when I travel in this post.

Then, I recently posted a query on both the PUBYAC (public librarians serving children and young adult) and child_lit (scholarly discussion of children's literature) listservs. I wanted to know everyone's favorite (non-chain) bookstores that were either exclusively children's bookstores, or bookstores with excellent children's departments.

I was flooded with wonderful suggestions, and the result is that I now have a list of over 80 fabulous bookstores. I just added a link for each bookstore mentioned. They are listed alphabetically by state, city and then the name of the store.

A few other resources:

Booksense has a terrific directory of independent bookstores.

Author Kathleen Duey has a "wonderful bookstores" list which is well worth checking out.

Also, there is a new Internet-only children’s independent bookstore: Through the Magic Door .

I'm always interested in hearing about more wonderful bookstores. If your favorite isn't on my list, either e-mail me or put a note in the comments section of this post.

UPDATE: I now have 90 independent bookstores on my list! Help me reach 100... and let me know what your favorite is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

For better? or for worse?

So, here we are... a few short weeks until the end of For Better or For Worse as we know it. In September Lynn Johnston is starting the hybrid strip which will include scenes and characters from many years ago. See this post for more information about it.

There is an excellent interview with Lynn Johnston in the Patriot News that's worth reading because it's very current and mentions how Elizabeth's storyline will be continued. She also admits that it's been tough writing the small children and teenagers in the strip.

I have to say that I'm going to miss the strip when it's gone. I'm not sure yet if the hybrid will work for me.... I'm reserving judgement on that until I see it. Whatever else fans and critics have to say about it (and there's been a lot said recently) I think that For Better or For Worse has been unique on the comics page for many years and it's the one I'm the most curious about every morning. It's been the only comic strip where characters really change and develop (whether we like what they develop into is an entirely different matter). And I think the reason that there has been so much angst about the plot is that it's one of the few strips that has content that can really be discussed and analyzed.

My hope is that there's a new comic strip writer out there who is inspired to really explore their characters in the way Johnston has... and that there is a syndicate that is willing to sign them, newspapers that will take on a new strip, and readers that will give them a chance. Now, that's a strip I can't wait to read.

UPDATE: It seems that the published interview with Lynn Johnston was only a small portion of the entire interview. The journalist who did the interview has posted the entire thing on his blog. It's fantastic and much better than the shortened interview. To read the unabridged version, go to Chris Mautner's blog. Thank you, Pirate Ninja Mommy for the heads up!!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mo Willems Sesame Street animation

I'm a big fan of Mo Willems. You may have already guessed that from my review of Knuffle Bunny.

Mo started out as an animator for Sesame Street. I watch a LOT of Sesame Street (well, my son does, and I watch it with him) and I've had many guesses about what Mo animated, but it's nice to have some actual titles and images to go along with my suspicions. Thanks to this mention by Fuse #8, I was able to find three examples of his early work on Youtube.

Check them out:

Tommy LePlaid

A spokesman talks about the letter L

I have a small octopus on my head

I loved watching these because they're so different, and yet so similar to his later work.

Check out Mo's blog.... he has a brief mention of the videos and a sneak peek at one of his upcoming books. I love seeing sketch by sketch versions of final images.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

In defense of audiobooks

I was quite startled to see an article entitled "Your Cheatin' Listening Ways" in the New York Times on Thursday that slams the audiobook industry and implies that listening to a book is a form of cheating. It surprised me because audiobooks are extremely popular these days and the article felt like it could have been written ten years ago when books on tape (or CD or MP3) were far less in vogue.

Why are audiobooks so popular? One reason (as the article points out) is that people are busy and listen to audiobooks while they're doing another task, such as driving or laundry. While this is true, I think the article neglected an important point: that the quality of audiobooks has markedly improved over the years. Audiobooks have gone from dry atonal readings to full scale productions which include music and multiple narrators. Many people are auditory learners and simply absorb things better by hearing than by reading. And of course, people who are blind or dsylexic listen to audiobooks. I don't think this diminishes the experience of the book at all.

My favorite audiobook narrator is Jim Dale (see this post). I think he's absolutely wonderful. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a particularly good audiobook and possibly the best of the whole series. As always, I think Jim Dale's narration enhanced the text and gave it an additional dimension.

I've recently been drawn in by Bruce Coville's company Full Cast Audio. As their name implies, Full Cast Audio has a different narrator for every character and I think this adds an incredible richness to each of their recordings. I had the pleasure of listening to their production of Kenneth Oppel's Airborn and it was just fantastic. I had thoroughly enjoyed the book when I read it, but I really feel in love with it when I listened to it. Matt Cruse was read by teenage actor David Kelly and this helped me get a much better sense of this character than I have before. I also thought that Bill Molesky, who read Captain Walken, was right on the money with his wonderful magisterial interpretation.

To my delight, there is a new award for children's audiobooks sponsored by the American Library Association. The Odyssey Award is in its first year, and I can't wait to hear the winner and honor books announced in January 2008.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle: New and Improved?

Look! This post isn't about Harry Potter! Amazing, isn't it?

One of my very favorite children's book characters has always been Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. She's a wonderful (and unfortunately fictional) woman who lives in a very 1950ish neighborhood (not surprisingly since the books were published in the 1950's) who always knows exactly how to solve every possible child-rearing problem. Each book contains several short stories that are very loosely connected and they make great early chapter books. They're slightly difficult to read aloud because of the complicated sentences and long chapters, but well worth the effort. My personal favorites are the very first chapter "Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Herself" in the first book (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle) and "The Waddle-I-Doers" which is the last chapter in the last book, (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic).

My friend Cate likes the earlier books the best because Mrs. Piggle Wiggle comes up with creative (and vaguely believable) solutions like the Radish Cure.... whereas in the later books Mrs. Piggle Wiggle primarily uses magic, and well, that's a little harder for the average parent to do. Cate also wonders (and so do I every time I read the books) why the neighborhood mothers haven't learned that when they have a problem with their children they should immediately call Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (who will, of course, be able to solve it for them). Instead, they all seem to waste valuable time by calling several of their friends until one of them finally suggests asking Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (who then, of course, solves the problem.)

Alas, author Betty MacDonald passed away in 1958, and so only four Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books were ever published. The original books are in the process of being re-released with new covers. I think it's great to have these books in print, in any form, though it's hard to improve on the classic illustrations by Hilary Knight and Maurice Sendak.

Recently, Betty MacDonald's daughter Anne MacDonald Canham found an unpublished manuscript of a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle story. The first new Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book in fifty years will be be published in October 2007, it's titled Happy Birthday Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and features the unpublished story along with several new stories written by her daughter. Several more Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Anne MacDonald Canham are currently in the works. I have mixed feelings about this... on the one hand, I love the character, in any form... and on the other hand I think it's hard to improve on the originals. But since it's written by MacDonald's daughter, it's being done with a huge amount of love and respect... so I'll reserve my opinion until I read the new book. What do you think about it?

Harry Potter 7: Chapters Eight and Nine










Chapter Eight: The Wedding

Picture: There were some great images in this chapter and so I found it an odd choice that the illustration was of the last sentence in the chapter. Is Harry the one on the far right?

General comment: A wedding is a wedding is a wedding. No matter if it’s magical or in the midst of a war… there are still difficult relatives, quirky neighbors and of course, jealous former boyfriends.

Most memorable:
-Xenophilius Lovegood. What a great name! It can’t be easy for him to fill out forms.

-That Luna was instantly knew who Harry was, even though he was disguised.

-There’s only one minister in the wizarding world?

-Auntie Muriel is a wonderful character. I love her comment that Xenophilius looks like an omelet.

-Ron and Hermione’s reactions to seeing Viktor Krum.

-It was fantastic the way the wedding ceremony changed seamlessly into the reception. I could have used that during my wedding.

-The power of gossip and rumor and how Auntie Muriel’s words cause deep doubt in Harry. Also, the helplessness of Elphias Doge at the mention of the scandals in Dumbledore’s youth.

-Scrimgeour's death. I felt like I was just getting to know him and this caught me by surprise.

-Fred’s description of how Uncle Bilius used to behave at weddings.

-The fact that champagne bottles floated unsupported through the crowd, refilling glasses when needed.

Connection to previous books:
We now see why the brief mention of Gregorovitch the wandmaker in Book Four was important.

Also, Bathilda Bagshot- who to this point has only been mentioned once in Book One- and that was as the author of a book on Harry’s booklist.

In Book Four, Viktor Krum and Hermione were dancing at the Yule Ball and Ron was jealous and sitting next to Harry. When she was done dancing, Hermione was exhausted and sat down next to Harry while Viktor went to get more butterbeer.

In Book Seven, Ron and Hermione were dancing and Viktor was jealous and sitting next to Harry. When she was done dancing, Hermione was exhausted and sat down next to Harry while Ron went to get more butterbeer.

Favorite quote:
Viktor Krum casts an admiring look at Ginny during the reception.
Harry gets suddenly irritated and says: “She’s seeing someone. Jealous type. Big bloke. You wouldn’t want to cross him.”
Krum’s response: “Vot is the point of being an international Quidditch player if all the good-looking girls are taken?” (Scholastic hardcover, page 150).

Chapter Nine: A Place to Hide
Picture: Hermione’s dress. Wow. I had no idea it was that elaborate.

Most memorable:
-The image of Lupin and Tonks standing united together and putting up a solid defense.

-The incredibly quick mood change from the wedding reception to Tottenham Court Road.

-Harry, Ron and Hermione's great cover-up of the battle in the diner.

-The image of the corpse of Albus Dumbledore. That was incredibly creepy.

-The image of Draco Malfoy torturing a Death Eater- and the fact that Harry felt sorry for him.

-Hermione’s small beaded purse that rattles like a cargo hold. This is probably one of my very favorite things in the whole book.

Favorite quote:

“Ron struggled for a moment before managing to extract his wand from his pocket.
‘It’s no wonder I can’t get it out, Hermione, you packed my old jeans, they’re tight.’
‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ hissed Hermione, and as she dragged the waitress out of sight of the windows, Harry heard her mutter a suggestion as to where Ron could stick his wand instead.” (Scholastic hardcover, page 167.)