Harry Potter Secrets: Highlights of J.K. Rowling’s US Book Tour


October brought US fans of Harry Potter a rare treat: a meeting with the wizard’s creator herself: Ms. J.K. Rowling. Rowling has done few publicity tours in the U.S. during the course of the book, but the final installment of the series sent her to several cities to meet with school children. During these meetings, she read exerpts from Deathly Hallows, answered audience questions, and gave tidbits of information about characters and storylines for those of us who are just dying to know more. Here’s the highlights:

  • Ms. Rowling is thinking of authoring a Harry Potter encylopedia to bring fans up-to-date with the exploits and future endvors of beloved characters. She has not begun working on it yet, however, stating “It’s not coming along, and I haven’t started it yet. I never envisioned that as being the next thing I did. I wanted to take a break and a step back and then [do that] in due course.”
  • After Voldemort was vanquished, Kingsley took over the ministry of magic and eradicated the latent discrimination there
  • The Malfoys did not get into trouble following the death of Voldemort because they allied themselves with Harry in the 11th hour
  • Harry and Voldemort are distantly related through the Peverells, although the Peverells’ blood runs through many wizarding families
  • Dumbledore could sometimes see Harry beneath his invisibility cloak by using the incantation “homenum revelio,” which did not need to be uttered aloud
  • Winky the house-elf (originally belonging to the Crouch family, and freed in book 4 to work at Hogwarts) continued to work at Hogwarts, and she was one of the elves who attacked the Death Eaters in the final battle
  • Hermione greatly improved the life for house-elves after her graduation
  • Teddy was raised by his grandmother, Andromeda, but often visited Harry and Ginny, since Harry was his godfather
  • Harry, Hermione and Ron all went back to school after the final battle to finish their education
  • Ron took Fred’s place at Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes
  • Ginny became a celebrated player for the Holyhead Harpies, then retired after a few years to become the Senior Quidditch correspondent at the daily Prophet
  • Peeves is a spirit of chaos that entered Hogwarts long ago, and has proved impossible to get rid of. He has nothing to do with the Bloody Baron’s story
  • During the final battle, Remus was killed by Dolohov and Tonks was killed by Bellatrix
  • In the last scene of the final book, Snape’s portrait is noticeably absent in the headmaster’s office. Because he abandoned his post before dying, wizarding tradition did not allow his painting to be hung. Harry, however, ensured that Snape’s likeness was eventually placed in the office, where it should have been
  • Umbridge was able to conjure a patronus while wearing the locket (as Harry was unable to do) because her nature was uncannily aligned with the locket’s essence. It therefore helped rather than hindered her
  • After Kingsley took over the Ministry of Magic, dementors were no longer used at Azkaban. The use of dementors was a sign of the underlying corruption of the Ministry
  • The Hufflepuff common room is accessed through a still-life painting near the kitchens. It is the opposite of Snape’s dungeon in decor, and sports lots of yellow wall hangings and comfy armchairs. Dorms are accessed via underground tunnels that lead to perfectly round doors
  • George never gets over his twin’s death, and names his first born Fred
  • When Dumbeldore looked into the Mirror of Erised, he saw his family returned alive and well, and his brother reconciled with him
  • Lily loved Snape as a friend, and may have grown to love him romantically if he did not love the Dark Arts so emphatically
  • You cannot destroy dementors, but you can limit their numbers if you limit misery and despair
  • Fawkes permanently left Hogwarts when Dumbledore died, which is why he did not aid Harry in the final battle
  • Lockhart never recovers
  • Harry ensures that Snape’s heroism was known throughout the wizarding world, although Rita Skeeter writes a piece entitled “Snape: Scoundrel or Saint?”
  • Teddy Lupin is not a werewolf–he’s a Metamorphmagus like Tonks
  • To create his horcuxes, Voldemort had to murder humans. To create the diary, he murdered Moaning Myrtle; to create the cup, Hepzibah Smith (who owned it previously); To create the locket, a Muggle tramp; To create Nagini, Bertha Jorkins; to create the diadem, an Albanian peasant; to create the ring, Tom Riddle Sr
  • Dementors do not have souls, which is what makes them so frightening
  • The third smell Hermione smelt in the amortentia potion was the smell of Ron’s hair
  • Slytherin becomes diluted in subsequent generations, and is no longer the pure-blood bastion of years past
  • Harry’s son, James, eventually found the marauder’s map in his father’s study and sneaked it out
  • Harry can no longer speak parseltongue since he is no longer a Horcrux
  • Dung sold Sirius’s two-way mirror to Aberforth
  • Dumbledore’s boggart is the corpse of his sister
  • Umbridge is imprisoned for crimes against Muggle-borns
  • Hermione brought her parents home and restored their memories directly after the final battle
  • James knew of Snapes feelings for Lily, which is why James picked on Snape so often
  • Narcissa Malfoy was never a full Death Eater; she just firmly believed what her husband believed
  • Mr. Weasley eventually fixed Sirius’s motorcycle and gave it to Harry
  • Firenze was eventually welcomed back to the herd, and the herd had to accept that his pro-human leanings were honorable
  • A wizard’s Patronus often mutates to take the image of the love of one’s life, since they often become the “happy thought” that generates it. This is why Snape’s Patronus was a doe, while James’s was a stag and Liliy’s was a doe
  • Krum eventually found love in his homeland of Bulgaria
  • The death of Hedwig marked the end of Harry’s childhood and innocence
  • Harry, Hermione and Ron all get their faces and histories on chocolate frog cards. Ron describes this as his finest hour
  • Snape was the only death eater that could produce a full Patronus, since a Patronus is used against things that Death Eaters usually generate and fight along side, so they don’t need one
  • After Voldemort’s death, the dark mark on every Death Eater faded to a scar, much like Harry’s lightening bolt
  • Bellatrix’s true love was Voldemort; she only married another because it was expected of her
  • Dumbledore is gay. He fell in love with his friend Grindelwald, and was heartbroken when Grindelwald began working with the Dark Arts
  • Neville Longbottm married Hufflepuff Hannah Abbot. She eventually became the landlady of the Leaky Cauldron
  • After their graduation, Remus Lupin was supported by James and Lily Potter because he was unemployable as a warewolf. James had enough family money to support the three of them
  • James, Sirius, Remus and Lily were full time Order of the Phoenix members. Once Lily became pregnant, James and Lily went into hiding and stopped fighting
  • Portrait occupants can only move freely to other portraits within their dwelling, or to another portrait in which they are depicted. These are strict rules that Ms. Rowling followed throughout the series
  • Hagrid never marries. The giant wars caused a shortage of females of the larger persuaion, and the one he did meet during the books was a bit more refined than he
  • Molly Weasly was always slated to finish Bellatrix during the final battle. Ms. Rowling wanted to pit the obsession of evil against the love for family, while showing that Molly was a wizard to be feared
  • Harry, as a Horcrux, wasn’t destroyed when he was stabbed by a basilisk fang because Fawkes was there to mend him. Horcruxes must be destroyed beyond repair to be fully gone, and since Fawkes was able to repair Harry quickly enough, he wasn’t destroyed
  • Luna Lovegood becomes a great naturalist and marries a fellow naturalist
  • Cho Chang marries a muggle
  • Snape teaches potions because Ms. Rowling hated chemsitry while in school; she penned this as revenge against her chemistry teacher
  • During the taping of the movies, Ms. Rowling talked to the actors and actresses, reveling the ultimate outcome of their characters (to some extent). Emma Watson new the most, although Danial Radcliff pretended to know the ending of book 7 before it was released
  • Dumbledore is a Machiavellian figure, pulling lots of strings behind the scenes
  • Crookshanks is half Kneazle
  • Hermione’s birthday is September 19th
  • It took 45 wacks with the ax to almost behead Nearly Headless Nick
  • Fred and George were born on April Fool’s Day
  • Ginny’s full name is Ginerva and was the first girl to be born to a Weasley in several generations
  • Mrs. Weasley’s maiden name is Prewett
  • Harry Potter became the head of the Auror Department in 2007
  • Arthor Weasley was slated to die in book 5 when the snake attacked him. Ms. Rowling decided she didn’t want Ron to grow up so quickly (which a death of a parent will do) but still wanted one character to mirror Harry’s parentless childhood. She traded Mr. Weasley’s life for that of Lupin and Tonks
  • Ron was written as the loyal and funny friend that glues the group together. He was also the last to mature–he did so as he destroyed the horcrux
  • Harry was able to see through Nagini’s eyes because both were horcruxes–they both shared a portion of Voldemort’s soul. This is also why Harry was able to speak parsletongue
  • Aunt Petunia almost told Harry “I know what you’re facing and I hope it all turns out well” as she left him for the last time, but stopped herself
  • Dumbledore reminded Petunia of her wish to attending wizard school like her sister Lily when he wrote her a letter asking her to shelter Harry
  • Lily’s sacrafice proved to protect Harry (while James’s didn’t) because Lily was given the choice between life and death, and time to think on her decision
Published in: on October 22, 2007 at 6:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle


4 stars

Ah, Avi. This is a master author. He has written numbers Newberry Award winning books, and his style is something to be appreciated. This story involves the adventures of a young, English girl traveling to the new world via ship after her boarding school ends for the year. She must travel alone (a travesty for a proper young lady!) across the Atlantic in the care of the ship’s Captain and his crew. During the voyage, she uncovers a mutiny plot, falls out of the Captain’s favor, and ends up joining the crew as “one of the boys.”

I love how this is a high-seas adventure without having anything to do with pirates. Have you noticed that’s the big theme now-a-days? Everything involving ships or the ocean always has a pirate association. This is just a girl, in a seemly normal situation, who must push her boundaries and decide what is right and wrong. It’s a quick read (a pretty short book) but exceptionally engaging. It didn’t win for its year–it was beaten by Maniac McGee in 1991–but it is a fabulous book, and one that should be read by anyone addicted to oceanic adventures.

Published in: on October 19, 2007 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Maniac McGee


4 stars

Have I told you about Newberry Award books yet? No? Well, I’ll just have to write something for you, now won’t I? Anyhow, I collect Newberry Award winners, and will eventually write a series of essays comparing and contrasting the winners each year. Maniac McGee was one of only 2 Newberry Award books in 1991, and beat out True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle for the gold. I must say, I liked Charlotte a little bit better, but then that just could be because I was in a high-adventure mood when I read it.

Maniac McGee is the story of an orphan who lives on his own for a few years after his parents die. He returns to his old town, only to be caught up in a vicious race struggle between the town’s residents. Maniac uses his natural charm to help bridge the gap between the citizens, and has some adventures on his own in the mean time. It was a great, easy read, and passed on a message that is common in Newberry Award winners: race doesn’t matter.


Published in: on October 19, 2007 at 12:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia


3 Stars

This was an interesting book–it was one in my string of celebrity biographies, and I really just picked it up because someone told me Angelina Jolie started her career by playing Gia in a movie. (Not a great movie, by the way, but a movie none-the-less). This book chronicles the life of Gia, one of the first great supermodels in the industry. Hers was a little tragic, with a single year where she was on top of her game, until she got addicted to heroin and contracted HIV. Her demise from AIDS complications brought the virus into the mainstream.
The book was interesting. The author made a point of trying to find as many people who worked with, knew, or dated Gia during her lifetime. There’s a whole, tragic chapter where he mentions all of the friends and acquaintances of Gia who died of AIDS before he was able to interview them. The stories were interesting, and I could tell the author admired and felt for his subject. His treatment of Gia’s younger, more rebellious years, as well as her descent into addiction and her ultimate death. It was a long book, but well written and seemingly comprehensive. If you’ve ever wondered about her, this is the place to start.


Published in: on October 19, 2007 at 12:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Newbery Award Books

The Newberry Award medal is given once a year by the American Library Association to the best literature for young readers. Now you may be thinking “Wait just a moment…I’m not a young reader! Why in the world would I care to read ‘literature for young readers’?” Well, because it’s really, really good, that’s why! Truly, these are fantastically crafted, engaging stories that often incorporate some sort of lesson.

What I’ve noticed from reading most of these books is that the major difference between these and what most people think of as “adult fiction” and “children’s fiction” is presence of hardcore (read: badly written) sex and perhaps smarmy love triangles or badly investigated murders. Seriously. That’s it. Every other adult theme is tackled in these stories, and often written about with more skill and understanding than adult fiction books. I highly recommend these books for anyone and everyone who enjoys a good story.

This is a list of the award winners since 1922 (all 366 of them). One of my ultimate goals is to read all of these books. An on-going challenge, I know, but one I’m willing to tackle.

The higher power of Lucky 2007
Penny from Heaven
Hattie Big Sky
Criss Cross 2006
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow
Princess Academy
Show Way
Kira-Kira 2005
Al Capone Does My Shirts
The Voice that Challenged a Nation
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
The Tale of Despereaux 2004
Olive’s Ocean
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever
Crispin: the Cross of Lead 2003
The House of the Scorpion
Pictures of Hollis Woods
A Corner of the Universe
Surviving the Applewhites
A Single Shard 2002
Everything on a Waffel
Carver: A Life in Poems
A Year Down Yonder 2001
Hope Was Here
Because of Winn-Dixie
Joey Pigza Loses Control
The Wanderer
Budd Not Buddy 2000
Getting Near to Baby
Our Only May Amelia
26 Fairmount Avenue
Holes 1999
A long Way from Chicago
Out of the Dust 1998
Ella Enchanted
Lily’s Crossing
The View from Saturday 1997
A Girl Named Disaster
The Thief
Belle Prater’s Boy
The Midwife’s Apprentice 1996
What Jamie Saw
The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963
Yolonda’s Genius
The Great Fire
Walk Two Moons 1995
Catherine, Called Birdy
The Ear, the Eye and the Arm
The Giver 1994
Crazy Lady
Dragon’s Gate
Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery
Missing May 1993
What Hearts
The Dark-thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural
Somewhere in the Darkness
Shiloh 1992
Nothing But the Truth: a Documentary Novel
The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane
Maniac Magee 1991
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Number the Stars 1990
Afternoon of the Elves
Shabanu, Daughter of the Wind
The Winter Room
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices 1989
In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World
Lincoln: A Photobiography 1988
After the Rain
The Whipping Boy 1987
A Fine White Dust
On My Honor
Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens
Sarah, Plain and Tall 1986
Commodore Perry In the Land ofthe Shogun
The Hero and the Crown 1985
Like Jake andMe
The Moves Make theMan
One-Eyed Cat
Dear Mr. Henshaw 1984
The Sign of the Beaver
A Solitary Blue
Sugaring Time
The Wish Giver: Three Tales of Coven Tree
Dicey’s Song 1983
The Blue Sword
Doctor DeSoto
Graven Images
Homesick: My own Story
Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush
A Visit to William Blake’s Inn 1982
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Upon the Head of the Goat: A Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944
Jacob Have I Loved 1981
The Fledgling
A Ring of Endless Light
A Gathering of Days: A New Englands Girl’s Journal, 1930-1832 1980
The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl
The Westing Game 1979
The Great Gilly Hopkins
Bridge to Terabithia 1978
Ramona and Her Father
Anpao: An American Indian Odssey
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry 1977
Abel’s Island
A String in the Harp
The Grey King 1976
The Hundred Penny Box
M.C. Higgins, the Great 1975
Figgs & Phantoms
My Brother Sam is Dead
The Perilous Gard
Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe
The Slave Dancer 1974
The Dark is Rising
Julie of the Wolves 1973
Frog and Toad Together
The Upstairs Room
The Witches of Worm
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH 1972
Incident at Hawk’s Hill
The Planet of Junior Brown
The Tombs of Atuan
Annie and the Old One
The Headless Cupid
Summer of the Swans 1971
Knee Knock Rise
Enchantress From the Stars
Sing Down the Moon
Sounder 1970
Our Eddie
The Many Ways of Seeing: An Introduction to the Pleasures of Art
Journey Outside
The High King 1969
To Be a Slave
When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw and Other Stories
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler 1968
Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth
The Black Pearl
The Fearsome Inn
The Egypt Game
Up a Road Slowly 1967
The King’s Fifth
Zlateh The Goat and Other Stories
The Jazz Man
I, Juan de Pareja 1966
The Black Cauldron
The Animal Family
The Noonday Friends
Shadow of a Bull 1965
Across Five Aprils
It’s Like This, Cat 1964
Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era
The Loner
A Wrinkle in Time 1963
Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland
Men of Athens
The Bronze Bow 1962
Frontier Living
The Golden Goblet
Belling the Tiger
Island of the Blue Dolphins 1961
America Moves Forward: A History for Peter
Old Ramon
The Cricket in Times Square
Onion John 1960
My Side of the Mountain
America is Born: A History for Peter
The Gammage Cup
The Witch of Blackbird Pond 1959
The Family Under the Bridge
Along Came a Dog
Chucaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa
The Perilous Road
Rifles for Watie 1958
The Horsecatcher
Gone-Away Lake
The Great Wheel
Tom Paine, Freedom’s Apostle
Miracles on Maple Hill 1957
Old Yeller
The House of Sixty Fathers
Mr. Justice Holmes
The Corn Grows Ripe
Black Fox of Lorne
Carry on, Mr. Bowditch 1956
The Secret River
The Golden Name Day
Men, Microscopes, and Living Things
The Wheel on the School 1955
Courage of Sarah Noble
Banner in the Sky
…And Now Miguel 1954
All Alone
Hurry Home, Candy
Theodore Roosevelt, Fighting Patriot
Magic Maize
Secret of the Andes 1953
Charlotte’s Web
Moccasin Trail
Red Sails to Capri
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
Birethdays of Freedom, Vol. 1
Ginger Pye 1952
Americans Before Columbus
Minn of the Mississippi
The Defender
The Light at Tern Rock
The Apple and the Arrow
Amos Fortune, Free Man 1951
Better Known as Johnny Appleseed
Gandhi, Fighter Without a Sword
Abraham Lincoln, Friend of the People
The Story of Appleby Capple
The Door in the Wall 1950
Tree of Freedom
The Blue Cat of Castle Town
Kildee House
George Washington
Song of the Pines
King of the Wind 1949
Daughter of the Mountains
My Father’s Dragon
Story of the Negro
The Twenty-One Balloons 1948
Li Lun, Lad of Courage
The Quaint and Curious Quest of Johnny Longfoot
The Cow-Tail Switch, and Other West African Stories
Misty of Chincoteague
Miss Hickory 1947
Wonderful Year
Big Tree
The Heavenly Tenants
The Avion My Uncle Flew
The Hidden Treasure of Glaston
Strawberry Girl 1946
Justin Morgan Had a Horse
The Moved-Outers
Bhimsa, the Dancing Bear
New Found World
Rabbit Hill 1945
The Hundred Dresses
The Silver Pencil
Abraham Lincoln’s World
Lone journey: The Life of Roger Williams
Johnny Tremain 1944
These Happy Golden Years
Fog Magic
Rufus M.
Mountain Born
Adam of the Road 1943
The Middle Moffat
Have You Seen Tom Thumb?
The Matchlock Gun 1942
Little Town on the Prairie
George Washington’s World
Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison
Down Rayton Water
Call It Courage 1941
Blue Willow
Young Mac of Fort Vancouver
The Long Winter
Daniel Boone (Daugherty) 1940
The Singing Tree
Runner of the Mountain Tops
By the Shores of Silver Lake
Boy with a Pack
Thimble Summer 1939
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Hello the Boat!
Leader By Destiny: George Washington Man and Patriot
The White Stag 1938
Pecos Bill
Bright Island
On the Banks of Plum Creek
Roller Skates 1937
Phebe Fairchild: Her Book
Whistler’s Van
The Golden Basket
The Codfish Musket
Caddie Woodlawn 1936
Honk, the Moose
The Good Master
Young Walter Scott
All Sail Set: A Romance of the Flying Cloud
Dobry 1935
pageant of Chinese History
Davy Crockett
Day on Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic
Invincible Luisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women 1934
The Forgotten Daughter
Swords of Steel
ABC Bunny
Winged Girl of Knossos
New Land
Big Tree of Bunlahy
Glory of the Seas
Apprentice of Florence
Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze 1933
Swift Rivers
The Railroad to Freedom
Children of the Soil: A Story of Scandinavia
Waterless Mountain 1932
The Fairy Circus
Calico Bush
Boy of the South Seas
Out of the Flame
Jane’s Island
Truce of the Wolf and Other Tales of Old Italy
The Cat Who Went to Heaven 1931
Floating Island
The Dark Star of Itza: The Story of A Pagan Princess
Queer Person
Mountains are Free
Spice and the Devil’s Cave
Meggy MacIntosh
Garram the Hunter: A Boy of the Hill Tribes
Ood-Le-Uk the Wanderer
Hitty, Her First Hundred Years 1930
A Daughter of the Seine: The Life of Madame Roland
Pran of Albania
Jumping-Off Place
The Tangle-Coated Horse and Other Tales
Little Blacknose
The Trumpeter of Krakow 1929
Pigtail of Ah Lee Ben Loo
Millions of Cats
The Boy Who Was
Clearing Weather
Runaway Paoose
Tod of the Fens
Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon 1928
The Wonder Smith and His Son
Downright Dencey
Smoky, the Cowhorse 1927
Shen of the Sea 1926
The Voyagers: Being Legends and Romances of Atlantic Discovery
Tales from Silver Lands 1925
Nicholas: A Manhattan Christmas Story
The Dream Coach
The Dark Frigate 1924
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle 1923
The Story of Mankind 1922
The Great Quest
Cedric the Forester
The Old Tobacco Shop: A True Account of What Befell a Little Boy in Search of Adventure
The Golden Fleece and The Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles
The Windy Hill

Published in: on October 19, 2007 at 12:56 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,

The Gunslinger


3 1/2 Stars

I have begun my way through Stephen King’s sci-fi epic series, The Dark Tower.  I actually read the first three books, like, fifteen years ago, then waited impatiently as future installments failed to come.  Well eventually the series got finished, and finally I am getting around to rereading it.

The first installment in the series is The Gunslinger, which introduces us to Roland and his quest to find the Dark Tower.   Throughout his trek across a dead world, bits of Roland’s past are slowly revealed, giving the book a nice flow.  It is slow but interesting.  The grand mystery of what the whole series is about is also slowly chipped away at, and one shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition.


Published in: on October 8, 2007 at 10:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Amber Spyglass


3 Stars

I have often wondered if the bad guys won the American Civil War. Like every other grade schooler, I was taught all the reasons why the South had to be smacked down, but I have also since learned that history is often just propaganda from the winning side. My friends think I am crazy, but I still wonder.

So you can imagine my happy surprise when the underlying story of His Dark Materials is revealed towards the end of the second book of the trilogy, that thousands of years ago the bad guys won a great war in heaven, and all of Christianity is just their propaganda.  This concept, unfortunately, is not explored very much and instead resides in the background.

In the foreground of The Amber Spyglass is a slow and boring tale of childhood friendship and first love, or something.  I kept expecting the pace to pick up like it did in The Subtle Knife, but it never did.  I kept waiting for the big reveal, but it never came.  It wasn’t a bad book–just disappointing after its two predecessors.


Published in: on October 8, 2007 at 10:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Subtle Knife


4 Stars

The second installment of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, The Subtle Knife was my favorite. It starts off kinda slow, with a rather uninspired catching-up of past events and introduction of new characters, but then it really takes off.

Not only is this the most action packed of the three books, with edge-of-your-seat suspense and chode-numbing close calls, it also is the most surprising. For near the end, a great unmasking occurs. It turns out that while pretending for most of two books to be a better than average kid’s adventure series, His Dark Materials is also a compelling science fiction story. I will go into more details with my review of the final book.


Published in: on October 8, 2007 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Golden Compass


4 stars

Adrienne made me read this book. The timing was weird, because shortly before I started reading it, I was paging through a copy of the Watchtower magazine that some Jehova’s Witnesses (who fortunately were only looking for Spanish-speaking targets) had left me, when I found a Golden Compass reference. Apparently that was the name that the most prolific bible-printer of the 19th (maybe) century gave to his … printery? It got me wondering, and I eagerly began reading Pullman’s Golden Compass in hopes of finding some devious connection. Alas, I did not, but it was still a good book.

The setting of the book is intriguing. It at first seems kinda like olden-times England, but it’s way not. The fact that Pullman is able to reveal the setting without the characters ever becomming aware of their strangeness, and without ever just coming out and saying what’s going on, is impressive. Probably my favorite thing about this book.

That’s not to say that the story is not good. It follows a girl named Lyra as she travels across Europe experiencing adventures and uncovering mysteries and such. But it is a little ordinary, while the setting is special.


Published in: on October 8, 2007 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

It’s Banned Books Week! Woo!


Well, as you may or may not know, the week of September 29-October 6 is banned books week. What a wonderful celebration! This week marks the 26th anniversary of Banned Books Week, and is the perfect time to pick up one of the many fabulous books that you are still allowed to read, despite the numerous removal requests.

Did you know that you could challenge books you find offensive? Weird! I always thought I just wouldn’t read them, but you know, whatever. (Now I have a picture in my head “My child accidentally spent 6 hours reading 300 pages that offended her parents! How dare you let these books loose on an unsuspecting public!”) I did some digging and found that the most common reason for challenging a book was “sexually explicit content.” Does that surprise anyone at all? Not me. The close second was offensive language, followed by unsuited to age group, occult theme, violence, promoting homosexuality, and promoting a religious viewpoint. A few books were also challenged for nudity (um…nudity? Really? Did these books have pictures, or were the people challenging the naughty thoughts in their own heads?) racism, sex education, and anti-family.

New goal! I’m going to read all the books on the ALA’s “100 most frequently challenged books” list! That sounds like an all around good time to me.

For those of you who want to know, here are the top 10 most challenged books of 2006: (from ALA’s site)

“And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group;

“Gossip Girls” series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;

“Alice” series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;

“The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

“Scary Stories” series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;

“Athletic Shorts” by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language;

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group;

“The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence.

And for those who also want to know, here’s the top 100 most challenged books from 1990-2000. I wish they’d do an all time list–I’d love that!

  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume (Really? Judy Blume’s on the list? Aren’t here books a staple for third graders everywhere?)
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (You know, I bet this is on the list just because it made people cry. Stupid book! Now I expect Old Yeller and the last Harry Potter to be here, too.)
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine (Umm…Goosebumps? Did someone try and ban hastily written horror-lite for teens? Actually, that might be a better reason than some of them on the list….)
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Uh, why? I can’t remember anything remotely offensive in this book. Maybe someone really hates physics or something.)
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl (Oh, good lord. I bet this one just got on the list because it has witches in the title. I’ve read more offensive things in the Sunday Comics in Virginia.)
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume (Look! It’s Judy again! I guess people were super offended by a story about a little girl getting picked on in school.)
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan (Alright, this book sound really good. I think I’m going to start here.)
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras (Yep, I can see why this is here. Girls should not read about their periods! That is a subject for parents to uncomfortably address two days after a girl freaks out because she’s bleeding somewhere strange!)
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein (Now wait a minute…is it even legal to try and ban Shel Silverstein? I don’t think it is! I bet it was that poem about eating peas with honey…that did screw me up as a child for awhile, after all. Peas and honey are gross. And it’s hard to eat with only a knife. Stupid poems. )
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice) (Well, ok, I can see the offense in these. But they were so pornographically good! People need to get laid more often, I think.)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King (This one is just here because it’s my least favorite Stephen King book, I bet. There were bunches of Stephen King fans who thought “oh, what is this crap?!? Ban him!”)
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (Well, yes, giant peaches are offensive, after all.)
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (Judy again! That’s number three, lady! Good for you.)
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly (Hey, I liked this book. People are weird.)
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (Judy! Judy!)
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford (Um, are these those find Waldo books? Really? Was someone offended by the striped hat and cane?)
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Well, want to do something else? In honor of Banned Book Week, I just took a few moments to email my U.S. Representative and remind her about how important certain freedoms are to me. You can do the same! Enjoy the week!


Published in: on October 2, 2007 at 4:21 pm  Comments (6)