Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Goodbye, dear readers

I hope that title got your attention because I'll be mostly "gone" for the whole month of November. I am taking on something that seems absolutely ridiculous, but may actually push me in a new direction, somewhere I've never gone before. I'm taking on NaNoWriMo. That, my friends, is short for National Novel Writing Month.

Click on the icon if you want to learn more about it. This is the first one I've ever done, so I have no idea how busy I'll be. I hope, first of all, to make it through the entire month. (Wish me luck ... or stamina.) Second, I hope to write 50,000 words of a novel. I have never done fiction before, so I don't expect my novel will be all that wonderful. No, no, no! Wait!! Let me start over: I have never done fiction before, so I will be amazed at how well it goes. Yeah, that's the spirit!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Just a little gossip here

J. K. Rowling has been gossiping about Dumbledore. Do you want to read what she said?

Here's more:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Post-readathon report

With ten minutes to go, I'm writing my final report for Dewey's 24-hour Read-a-Thon.
Reading total: 4 hours 53 minutes, 189 pages
Plus: 14 posts and 12 mini-challenges
Plus: lost track of how many readers I cheered
Hours awake for cheering and reading: all 24

And now I'll answer Dewey's Post-Read-a-Thon Survey. She said, "On Monday evening I’ll draw a name from the participants, and the winner will receive this Godiva chocolate cat."

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
About 4-5:00 a.m. my time ... because I was getting loopy.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Any light reading, and NO small print.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
First, plan or type out the mini-challenges ahead of time so they can be posted on the hour. Second, be consistent in numbering the hours, maybe by explaining ahead of time that Hour 1 starts in the first minute and Hour 24 means you have one more hour to go. Third, be aware of the Daylight Saving Time where you live, perhaps with a countdown like: "One day + 15 hours before we start, so make your plans accordingly."

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

5. How many books did you read?
Part of one ... I was a cheerleader first and foremost.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
Angels of a Lower Flight, which I was already reading.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Not that one! I enjoyed The Reincarnationist, the book I won, because now I'm looking forward to reading it.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
The one I was reading.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
Make a plan beforehand who you'll visit first, then next. I jumped around, trying not to visit only the readers at the top of the list, but then I ended up missing some of them, I think.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Very likely, but next time as a reader. I'd still have to see what others were doing during the day.

Hour 21 ~ limerick or haiku

Hour 21: This hour’s mini-challenge is to write a limerick or haiku about a character you read about today (if you’re a reader) or about any other aspect of the Read-a-thon (if you’re a cheerleader).

(I'm beginning to wonder about these hours of the 24 hours. I finished Hour 19's challenge just in time to do Hour 20's challenge ... and now you say it's Hour 21? How can that be? Hmmm, Einstein must be right about the relativity of time.)

There was a young lady of blogland
Who hopped around blogs doing cheers, and
The readers were pleased
Until the girl sneezed
And blew away hours and page count. (Hmmm, nope, not quite.)

A blog-hopping lady was cheering;
At reader-blogs she was appearing
Using all of her powers
Until the wee hours
When her reddened eyes were a'blearing. (Ahhh, I don't think so.)

Hour 19 ~ Are comic characters real?

What!??? Bertrand Russell says book characters are not real, that stories in books are claptrap!

## ## #### # ##
(Translation: Linus is over there
arguing with Bertrand Russell.)

Mr. Russell, you are talking to me.
Therefore, I am real.
Either that, sir, or you are in this claptrap with us!

Dewey said:
Hour 19: This hour’s mini-challenge is going to connect us to 24 Hour Comics Day, which is what originally inspired me to host the read-a-thon. My husband is participating in that, and he offered way back when I thought of this to do a mini-challenge. The prize is his original comic, the one he’s been working on all day. I’d tell you what it’s about, but he isn’t quite sure yet. He doesn’t want you to spend any more than half an hour on this mini-challenge. Here are his instructions:
My challenge to everyone (all of you, even those not reading or cheerleading or anything) is as follows:

Write a quick, 3-panel comic either related to reading or related to comics. Simple as that. Related to reading is broad, and can encompass a biographical snippet of an author, ruminations on what it means to read, the language of language, anything. Related to comics is similarly broad, covering, as it does, the relationship between written language and thought as it relates to perceptions of time.

Anyway, for a long time I was thinking it should be an MS Paint comic, but I’ve thought of several neat alternatives. For example:
1. drawn and scan!
2. draw and photograph!
3. Photograph yourself and add word balloons or text!
Make a comic, think about comics. The prize will be awarded at Hour 22.

I have one competitor, so far: Callista!

Dewey's announcement: The winner of the Hour 19 mini-challenge is Callista! She wins the original 24 Hour Comic Day comic done my my husband today.

Yours is the better of the two!
You have word bubbles and three actual panels!
And here-e-e-e-e it is!

(click to enlarge)

On Agate Hill ~ by Lee Smith ~ an excerpt

Dear Diary,
This book belongs to me Molly Petree age thirteen today May 20 in the year of our Lord 1872, Agate Hill, North Carolina. I am an orphan girl. This is my own book of my own self given to me by the preachers wife Nora Gwyn who said, This little diary is for you my dear unfortunate child, to be your friend and confi dent, to share all your thoughts and deepest secrets for I know how much you need a friend and also how much you love to read and write. I do believe you have a natural gift for it. Now it is my special hope that you will set down upon these pages your own memories of your lovely mother and your brave father, and of your three brothers as well, and of all that has befallen you. For I believe this endeavor might help you, Molly Petree. So I urge you to take pen in hand commencing your diary with these words, Thy will be done O Lord on Earth as it is in Heaven, Amen.

Well, I have not done this!

And I will not do it either no matter how much I love pretty Nora Gwyn who looks like a lady on a fancy plate and has taught me such few lessons as I have had since Aunt Fannie died. NO for I mean to write in secrecy and stelth the truth as I see it. I know I am a spitfire and a burden. I do not care. My family is a dead family, and this is not my home, for I am a refugee girl.

I am like the ruby-throated hummingbird that comes again and again to Fannies red rosebush but lights down never for good and all, always flying on. And it is true that often I feel so lonesome for all of them that are gone.

I live in a house of ghosts.

I was born before the Surrender and dragged from pillar to post as Mamma always said until we fetched up here in North Carolina after Columbia fell. Our sweet Willie was born there, into a world of war. He was real little all waxy and bloody, and Old Bess put him into a dresser drawer while the fires burned red outside the windows. Mamma used to tell it in that awful whisper which went on and on through the long hot nights when she could not sleep and it was my job to wet the cool cloths required for her forehead which I did faithfully. I loved my mamma. But I was GLAD when she died, I know this is a sin. I have not told it before. But I am writing it down anyway as Nora Gwyn said and I will write it all down every true thing in black and white upon the page, for evil or good it is my own true life and I WILL have it. I will.

I am the legal ward of my uncle Junius Jefferson Hall who is not really my uncle at all but my mothers first cousin a wise and mournful man who has done the best he could for us all I reckon. We arrived here during the last days of the War to a house running over all ready thus giving Uncle Junius more than thirty people on this place to feed, negro and white alike. Uncle Junius used to be a kind strong man but he is sick and seems so sad and lost in thought now since Fannie died.

This is his wife my dear aunt Fannie who is recently Deceased it has been seven months now, and the baby inside her born dead and backward.

I will NEVER have a baby myself! I sat out in the passage all night long on a little stool and listened to Fannie scream then moan then watched them run in and out, the negros and old Doctor Lambeth who stayed here for three days all told. He is a skinny old man with a horse that looks just like him. He came riding in at a dead run with his long gray hair streaming out behind him under his high black hat. He has always been Uncle Junius best friend. At first I did not get to see the baby though Old Bess thrust him out the door past me wrapped in a bloody cloth then Liddy took him away and washed him and wrapped him again in a clean white sheet like a little bundle of laundry. They put him on the marble top table in the parlor.

What is his name? I ventured to ask Uncle Junius once when he came out of the bedroom but he cursed and said, He has no name Molly, he is dead.

But then Mister Gwyn the preacher arrived and said, Now Junius, you must give him a name, for I cannot baptize him without a name, and he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven without baptism.

So then they unwrapped him, and I got to see him finely, pale blue but perfect, he looked like a little baby doll.

Mister Gwyn dipped his hand in the special water in the rose china bowl and touched the babys little blue head and blessed him saying, Lewis Polk Hall, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen. Amen, Uncle Junius said, Amen, then gave a great sob and rushed over and knelt down and kissed the babys little cheek then went straight back into the bedroom.

Nora Gwyn held the baby for a long time while the servants and some of the neighbor people came in to see him, then they laid him out on the table again with dimes on his eyes and a little white lace dress that somebody had brought him. Uncle Junius had named him for his oldest boy Lewis that served in the Twenty-second North Carolina Regiment under Colonel Pettigrew. Now he is dead, and Uncle Junius is old, and Fannie was old too, she did not have any business with any more babys, Old Bess said. Babys are always dangerous but it is even more dangerous when you are old. But everybody except me wants them, it is hard to see why.

The things that people really want are the most like to kill them, it seems to me, such as war and babys.

More and more people came. They sat in the parlor and gathered outside on the piazza and all over the yard in the shade of the trees. Why do they keep coming? I asked Liddy in the kitchen but she just wiped her face and gave me some parched corn and said, Here, go on, take little Junius down to feed the chickens. Little Junius is a snivelly little boy who looks like he is about a hundred years old. I got his hand and took him out the door and down the hill to the henhouse where all the chickens came running. He threw out the corn like it was a job of work.

Then I heard hammering from inside the barn.

So after he finished feeding the chickens little Junius and I went into the big barn to find Virgil there making something, with Washington helping him. Washington is Liddys son and my best friend on this place, he is milk coffee color with gray eyes and a big smile. Virgil and Old Bess came all the way from South Carolina with Mamma. Old Bess is what they call a griffe negro but Virgils face is as round and shiny black as that globe our uncle Harrison brought back from the Cape of Good Hope, I believe you call it obsidian. Virgil is real old now, but he can still make anything.

By then it was late late afternoon and the sunlight fell through the golden dust to make a shining block in the air and a shining yellow square like a magic carpet on the old barn floor where Washington sat planing a long piece of wood. Yellow dust flew everywhere. A little wooden box sat on the straw beside him. Virgil was fitting two wide planks together up on the sawhorses.

What are you doing out here Missy? he said.

That is her coffin, isnt it? I asked him. Nobody told me, I said.

Dont nobody have to, Virgil said.

Junius held tight to my hand and looked all around the barn like he had never seen it before. He is four years old.

The time will come when it come, Virgil said. He reached into a deep pocket of his overalls. Here now Washington, see can you teach this here little white boy something.

Washington jumped up and Virgil gave him the leather bag full of marbles. Washington whooped. Come on, he said, and got Junius other hand and led us both to a level spot just outside of the door in the shade of the big hickory tree. This ought to do us, Washington said, so we all sat down in the crackly leaves as it was November. Then he took a board and scraped off the leaves and made a round place in the dirt, then used the edge of the board to draw a big deep circle around it. All right now, Washington said. Then he put all the marbles down in the middle of the ring. They were mostly made from the agate and quartz on the hill, but one was sort of silver and one was greeny gold, and another blue as the sky.

Little Junius clapped his hands.

Now this how you do it, Washington told him. He picked up a white marble and held it cupped in his fingers with his thumb behind it. I picked up a clay marble and held it the same way. Junius reached over and got the blue one but he couldnt hold it in his little hand like we were doing so he started to cry.

Now thats all right, Washington said. You dont got to do that honey. Why looky here. You can just roll it. He showed little Junius how to roll it to hit the others and Junius got the hang of it right away.

As for me, I am just as good as a boy at everything.

So we sat there in the dirt playing marbles for the rest of the afternoon until the sun went down in a red ball of fire, and color spread across the whole big sky. I could smell leaves burning someplace. A little cold wind came up.

It got dark in the barn but Virgil kept on hammering. Its about time for supper now aint it? he called finely, and the minute he said it, I was just starving.

I pulled little Junius up by one hand and Washington pulled the other and like that we walked kicking leaves up the hill to the house where they were laying out little Junius mother in the bedroom and big Junius was beating his head bloody on the brick kitchen wall behind the house. We walked right past him into the kitchen.

I bet yall are hungry aint you? Liddy said. She set us all down at the table and gave us some chicken and dumplings out of the big black pot. We ate like wild animals as Fannie used to say. It was nice and warm in the kitchen with that big fire glowing. Here honey dont you want some more? Liddy asked and even little Junius ate another whole plateful. I dont know if he knew his mamma was dead or not.

That was seven months ago, and things around here have gone to hell in a...

Excerpt. © All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dewey's mid-event survey

We’re halfway through the Read-a-thon now, and here’s a survey for you to take in your own blogs, if you like. You can just treat it like any other meme, only there’s no need to tag anyone. Leave me a comment on any of the posts letting me know if you’re participating, so you can be eligible for the drawing for the prize!

1. What are you reading right now?
Angels of a Lower Flight, still.

2. How many books have you read so far?
Parts of two books, though the German book was only to meet a mini-challenge.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Something besides what I've been reading, though I would like to finish that one and move on to something else.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
No, I didn't plan anything else for today.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
The only interruptions to my cheerleading today was *darn* stopping to read for a couple of hours or so ... and choosing to do all the mini-challenges I could.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
That the hours just click over ... we were barely getting into the rhythm of things and suddenly we're halfway through and it's dark outside ... how'd that happen?

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Yeah, remind me to sign up as a reader, 'cause that's what I really am! One reader got it right ... made a comfy nest in her bed and settled down to read with her cat asleep up against her thigh ... sounds perfect to me.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
First, be a reader and, second, read while propped up on cushions and pillows rather than sit so long at my computer! No, no, that's not right ... I've had fun being a cheerleader and dashing from blog to blog. I did, however, think I was going to visit all readers several times, but what with doing the mini-challenges, I've been lured from my cheerleading duties and haven't quite gotten around to every reader once, yet.

9. Are you getting tired yet?
My back is, but I'm still having fun. I'll probably have to take a reading break soon, though.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
Just keep on keeping on! 'Cause I'm cheering for you!! Rah-rah-rah, go-go-go, you can do it!!!

An earlier mini-challenge

Matrimony is an October Booksense Pick and a book Dewey just loved! The author, Joshua Henkin, says, “I’d like to give away a free copy of MATRIMONY to one of your readers.” What a great guy! All you have to do to enter the contest and have a chance to win a copy of Matrimony (autographed, of course) is post in your blog, emailing the blurb to Henkin, saying anything you can think of about the book. Henkin’s email address is jhenkin at slc dot edu.

Henkin says:
They could say something about [Dewey's] review, something about the book itself (this could be something substantive about the novel, or something less so – about the cover, the title, you name it), something about marriage in general, something about their marriage, whatever they would like. I will take the responses and choose the one that strikes me as best/most interesting/most compelling, and that person will receive the free copy.

The publisher's synopsis ( asks, "Can love endure the passing of time?" Yes, I still love the guy, but I divorced him because I could not live with him. A reader says, "Joshua Henkin Gives Marriage a Good Name." Could I learn how to be happily married if I read his book? Hey, Joshua, what do you think? Is it possible to learn?

I have not read this book, so cannot say anything about its content. But I do know about my own marriage. First, I got married too young, at 18. Second, he's six years older and, at 24, considered his new wife a child. Sounds awful, put this way, doesn't it? But he did say to me, "I figured you'd get over these childish ideas." Our marriage lasted 14 years. After our divorce, we remained friends ... which was good, since we had three children who needed both of us. A year-and-a-half later, he had remarried and I had learned the onus was on me to raise our kids. It wasn't easy, but today all three are married, with children ... and they are all the kind of adults any parent could be proud of. I figure I must have done something right. It was just the matrimony I didn't manage very well. Or he didn't. Or we didn't. Can I blame it on being too young to know what I was getting into?

24-hour Read-a-Thon is TODAY

Today's the day!
Hurray, hurray!

And I'm a cheerleader! The official start time is 2:00 p.m. GMT, which is 10:00 a.m. EDT, where I am. Keep up with the action. Dewey will be updating us on a regular basis about what's going on, how many pages have been read, who has won which prize, and lots of other stuff. Take a look here:
(On your mark!) Get set!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Give our leaders the finger...

...index fingers only, please!

What are you voting to protect?

Why are you committed to stopping global warming?

What do you really care about in this world?

Watch this video and consider doing this yourself:

What would you write on YOUR palm, below your green finger?

I think I'll write "MY GRANDCHILDREN."

November 3rd, 2007
is the
National Day of Climate Action

Monday, October 15, 2007

Think GREEN today

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. The idea is to get everyone talking towards a better future. Follow this link and take a look.

Today I plan to WEAR GREEN and offer TIPS and CHALLENGES and IDEAS (like these) on my blogs:

Ideal Bite offers daily TIPS ON BEING GREEN.

Diane of Big Green Purse has a CHALLENGE:
Her "One in a Million" Campaign is urging a million women to shift $1,000 of money they'd spend in a year anyway to green products and services that can help protect the environment. It's important because:
Manufacturing to meet consumer demand drives pollution and climate change.
Pollution and climate change affect our health and safety.
If we use our consumer clout to improve manufacturing, we protect ourselves and the planet, too.
Because women spend $.85 of every dollar in the marketplace, we have the clout to make a difference. Hybrid cars? Organic food? Safe cosmetics? Green shopping has already had an impact.

Women are finding all kinds of ways to swap out "brown" products for "green."

Erin, a Green Purse Alerts! subscriber, joined the One in a Million Campaign at the beginning of this year. She recently sent the balance sheet she downloaded from the Big Green Purse website to help her track her eco purchases and report back on her pledge. It only took her six months to become "One in a Million." Her secret? She bought two water saving toilets for a total of almost $600, then made up the difference in organic groceries, safe cleansers, and organic potting soil.

For IDEAS on how you can swap your current purchases for green ones that would make a difference, visit the One in a Million campaign web page.

Some of the most important options (and ones that should be readily available in your neighborhood as well as on-line) include:
____ Organic, locally grown food (reduce pesticides)

____ Energy-efficient appliances (stop global warming)

____ Phthalate-free cosmetics (protect your health)

____ Fuel-efficient car (save energy, clear the air)

____ Fair trade, shade grown coffee (protect rainforests)

____ Non-toxic cleansers (protect your health, reduce toxins)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Goldie ~ by Ellen Miles

Goldie by Ellen Miles, first in a series of six Puppy Place books, is a wonderful book to read aloud. Kelly told us that the aim of the Four-legged friends challenge is to honor our pets (even if they don't have four legs), and length doesn't matter ... reading a picture book of Bambi to your grandchild counts. I had Kelly's challenge on my mind recently when I went to lunch with my granddaughter and her second-grade class. With six older grandchildren, I know Grandparents Day means it's book fair time. I was thinking, here's my chance to buy a book about an animal and let Cady read it to me. Nah! This is a seven-year-old who knows what she wants.

Her mother had already sent money to school so she could buy a few books earlier in the week, but there was still one more she really, really wanted. The catch is that I was supposed to buy only one book, one. Yeah, but the one she wanted wasn't about an animal. Did I hesitate? No, I set Cady the task of finding a story about animals. "How about one on hamsters?" I suggested, thinking of Herman (see below). No hamster books to be found, but we did find one slightly below her reading level about a golden dog. I assured my granddaughter that I would tell her mother we HAD to buy that book because ... Goldie was her mother's paternal grandmother's name. Ah, yes, my daughter gave me a raised eyebrow at that sorry excuse for buying a book ... like I really need an excuse! That weekend I went to Cady's house, she read me a couple of chapters and, while she was getting ready for bed, I finished Goldie on my own so I could review it here.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 80 pages
Date: 2006

Charles and Lizzie Peterson love puppies and want one of their own more than just about anything. Their mom, who doesn't think they are ready for a puppy, promises them that someday they'll have a new puppy "when the time is right." When their dad brings home a golden retriever puppy, they have a chance to foster a puppy and show their skeptical mother that they are truly ready for a dog of their own. Goldie's thoughts and feelings are included in italicized print throughout the story. Based on how well things worked out with Goldie, the family decides to foster another puppy that the children may get to keep. The realities of dog care — from housebreaking to socialization — are woven into the ten short chapters of this book. This is perfect for every child who wants a dog and every parent who thinks the time is not right. It's a story about responsibility, with puppy care tips at the end.

Rated: 8/10, a very good book.

Kailana's last rule for the Four-legged friends challenge is to tell something about our pets in our introductory post. I have had a number of pets ... turtles, puppies, fish, kitties, salamander, and a hamster named Herman, for example ... but the ones I have bonded with have mostly been cats. So in my introductory post I wrote about Duchess, the cat who waited to walk me home on school days. This time I want to tell you about Herman.


It's been too long for me to remember the details about how and why we got a golden hamster, but I do remember Herman. He wiggled and squirmed and turned in our hands so much that one of my children said, "Herman, the Squirmin' German!" All three roared with laughter, and that strange moniker became his name. Since I was the one who spent the most time with him -- feeding him, cleaning his cage, giving him water, and trying to find him when he escaped -- he became plain ole Herman to me. Herman had a small wire cage with a rattling metal wheel that he would run in, frantically, rapidly, daily, hourly it seemed. The bottom of his cage was covered with cedar shavings, under which a hamster could sleep all covered and snug.

I don't have any photos of Herman, but this one from Wikipedia looks a lot like him. He was a smart little fellow who knew if he tried long enough and hard enough, he could open the door of his cage. He would wiggle and squirm and chew and bite: ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-chunk, ch-ch-ch-ch-chatter, ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-chuck-chunk. And POP after awhile that door would open! He especially liked the corner behind the four-drawer file cabinet, though I can't imagine how he knew it was heavy and hard to move. Poke along the side with a broom handle, and he'd run behind. Poke behind the file cabinet, and he'd run to the side. Poke and prod long enough and Herman would make a mad dash to the sofa and climb inside from underneath. He had probably made the hole in the cloth as his escape hatch. Sometimes we could see him moving along inside the material, safe from us humans who really did NOT want to cut up the sofa and make him run for the other end. Eventually he would emerge, hours or days later, and someone would grab him. Sometimes he would choose to run around the cushions, and all it would take to catch him was a still hand waiting along his path. Soon he would dash right into the hand and be caught. And poor ole Herman went back to work: ch-ch-ch-ch-chuck-chunk, ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-chu-chuck, ch-ch-chat-ch-ch-ch-thunk-ch-ch.

We had Herman during the time I was deciding whether I really wanted a divorce, a time when I often felt frustrated and overwhelmed. There came a day when I was sitting in the kitchen floor, leaned back against the cabinets, with one of the children saying something like, "It'll be okay, Mom." I was thinking about a husband, not a hamster, but I heard a suspicious sound: scritch-scratch-skitch. I shushed my child and said, "Listen!" Scratch-skritch-scrunch-scratch. Slowly, quietly, I leaned toward the corner cabinets and the sound was even plainer. Scritch-scratch. Uh-huh, in case you were wondering, Herman had been AWOL from his cage for several days. Scritchity-scritch-scratch.

I felt under the edge of the cabinet doors. A hole! There was an unseen opening in the corner where the cabinet makers had not entirely made everything fit together; after all, who would ever know, right? Who is likely to get down in the corner under a three- to four-inch toe-inset to check? A six-inch hamster, that's who! Slowly I opened the corner cabinet and reached around to discover a space between the dishwasher and the cabinet shelves. And there was Herman, who had happily settled in by bringing shreds of this and that to furnish his new home.

For an animal I never bonded with, Herman and I have a lot of history together. One night I was sitting in the den after everyone else had gone to bed. As usual Herman was fighting his cage door: ch-ch-chuck-ch-ch-ch-chunk-thunk. I was about as down as I'd been that summer, knowing that I had to leave that marriage, and there's that hamster, chewing like crazy on his cage door. Finally, I said softly to him, "What's your problem, Herman? We feed you, we exercise you, we give you plenty of water and sawdust and everything else you need. Why are you fighting so hard to get out?"

He kept trying to escape, ch-ch-chewing, ch-ch-ch-ch-chucking. And suddenly it hit me. Yes, it sounds like a cliche, but I was struck by the thought: We are just alike! I, too, have food and clothes and everything I need. I, too, am unhappy in my cage. Herman, I understand. I took him out of his cage and held him, though he still wanted to get away to some place nice, like that little cubbyhole in the kitchen.

Herman didn't have the option of divorcing me or leaving town or leaving his cage, for that matter. But I got him a big glass aquarium filled with cedar chips and more space to run. Umm, it didn't have a door, and the top had to be covered, but Herman had more room. And he never, ever (as far as I know) experienced anything like this:

Hamster Wheel Gone Wrong

If the video quits working, watch it on YouTube.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Fur Person ~ by May Sarton

Title, author, date of book, and genre?
The Fur Person ~ by May Sarton, 1957, a fictional memoir (of sorts)

What made you want to read this book?
I read it for two challenges (Outmoded authors and Four-legged friends).

Summarize the book
The Fur Person is May Sarton's fictionalized account of her cat Tom Jones's life and adventures prior to making the author's acquaintance. Tom starts out as a fiercely independent, nameless street cat who follows the ten commandments of a Gentleman Cat, one of which states that "A Gentleman Cat allows no constraint of his person, not even loving constraint." But after several years of wandering from place to place, he grows tired of his vagabond lifestyle and concludes that there might be some appeal after all in giving up the freedom of life on the streets in exchange for a loving home.

I called this a fictional memoir because this Cat about Town finds an acceptable home with two Voices; Sarton's preface tells us those voices are "Brusque Voice (myself) and Gentle Voice (Judy Matlack)." Tom Jones moves in with May and Judy and becomes a Gentleman Cat. After a trip to the hospital, the Gentleman Cat becomes a Gentle Cat and no longer wants to fight. In time Tom becomes a genuine Fur Person and adds this Eleventh Commandment: "A Gentleman Cat becomes a Fur Person when he is truly loved by a human being" (p. 117, LP).

What did you think of the main character?
I loved his attitude, exemplified in his poetry (pp. 82-83, LP):
I'm a whiffling wonder
And my purr's like thunder,
I'm an elegant fellow
And my temper's mellow
And my eyes as green
As have ever been seen;
I've a coat like silk,
Paws white as milk,
I'm a catly cat,
An aristocrat
If you wish to see
Tom Jones, I'm he.
This Jones victorious
Glossy and glorious
Lordly and lazy
And catnip crazy
Yes, glorious Jones
Is me!
How would you rate this book?
Rated: 8/10, a very good book.

Kailana's last rule for the Four-legged friends challenge is to tell something about our pets in our introductory post. I have had a number of pets ... turtles, puppies, fish, kitties, salamander, and a hamster named Herman, for example ... but the ones I have bonded with have mostly been cats. So in my introductory post I wrote about Duchess, the cat who waited to walk me home on school days. My Gentleman Cat, however, was named Jack.

Jack and Jill

When my twin daughters were five and my son was two, they found under the tree on Christmas twin kittens, one male and one female. I have never been able to tell one from the other until cats grow up, but we told our children which we THOUGHT was which. We were, of course, wrong. Before we learned we had mislabeled the kittens, the children had chosen names from among their favorite stories, and the furry babies became Jack and Jill. Or Jill and Jack. Within a few months one darted under the wheels of a car and "Jill" lived on ... until the day it was undeniably clear that "she" was Jack. I'm sure Jack was totally confused when he received his sister's name, after having been Jill up until then. But it was clear that he knew the word meant HIM ... whenever he heard "Jack," even in the middle of a sentence spoken between humans, he would twitch his ear in our direction even if we thought he was asleep across the room.

Jack was an outdoor cat who loved to chase squirrels. When he spied one in the dogwood tree, up he would go after the critter, who simply hopped to a branch of a nearby tree and chattered heatedly at Jack, who sat dejectedly in the dogwood tree like an oversized gray-and-white Persian blossom. Lest you believe Jack was not a hunter, however, let me assure you he brought in his share of "gifts" to the family. One Sunday morning I left my children at home getting ready for church (my mother lived downstairs) and dashed off to the office to make copies for a Monday morning business trip. When I got home, I saw my 10- or 11-year-old son coming across the back yard from the woods. He was dressed for church, crying, and dragging the double-bladed axe. My heart stopped! Until I heard the story. Jack had brought a twitching rabbit onto the patio, and my young son told me he knew if I'd been there, I would have put the dying animal out of its misery. "But Mom, I knew you'd kill he if I used the 22-rifle," he said. Darn tootin! Instead, my kind-hearted child used the axe ... almost, but not quite, as bad as the rifle. And he managed NOT to get blood on his Sunday suit. I was so proud of him for doing that, something that he knew was the right thing to do, even though his little heart was breaking when he did it. I never saw the rabbit because my little boy took care of the problem.

Jack the Gentleman Cat probably wondered about his humans ... didn't they recognize what a gift he had shared? Usually what Jack shared was laundry time. When I would come to the basement laundry room, Jack would follow me and sit on a window sill or the dryer to talk to me while I stuffed the washer with dirty clothes. Since he spent a lot of time roaming the neighborhood, he himself would sometimes be the one who came home bloodied and scarred. One evening about dusk I got a call from a neighbor, telling me my cat had knocked over a large $100 vase on her front porch. By the time my husband got on the phone with her, the vase was worth $200. I got the car keys to go find Jack, went to the basement garage, and found Jack sound asleep on top of the car ... and the garage door was firmly closed. Not. My. Cat! Oh, you can't imagine how happily I called the woman back to inform her the naughty cat was someone else's! Jack, my sleeping fur person, was totally exonerated!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

But enough about me

Time for some fun. This is the first line of a book:
"But enough about me."
Do you recognize that line? Do you know what book it's from? Think about it before reading on. ("But enough about me." Hmmm, who wrote that line?)

I was just over visiting Dewey's blog (the hidden side of a leaf) and learned about TwitterLit. Have you seen it? Twice a day, the first line of a book is posted, and you try to remember if you've read a book that starts that way. You then click to find out what book the line is from. I think it would be exciting to recognize a first line.
Yahoo! Picks: "For either logophiles or aspiring writers, Twitterlit's twice daily delivery of first sentences may be the most condensed form of education and enlightenment you can get."
When you take a look at TwitterLit, look also at KidderLit, which is TwitterLit for kids! Or for those of us who recognize the child who still lives inside. (I'm just a kid at heart, and I don't mind admitting that to YOU because you'll never tell, will you?) And by the way, that quote above is the first line of So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson. You can receive first lines twice daily by email, RSS, or Twitter. Go see!

Bonus first line practice, in honor of Banned Books Week, in a book for Ages 9-12:
"It was a dark and stormy night."
To find out which book it's from, click HERE. I-knew-the-an-swer-I-knew-the-an-swer!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Banned Books ~ a reading project

In honor of Banned Books Week (September 29 through October 6, 2007), I'm starting a new reading project. The rules are simple: Members of the Banned Books project will read and post about banned books. That's it. No time limit, no required number to complete, just reading any book that has ever been challenged or banned; and registration is always open. Please check it out, and read a banned book or two ... or ten!

Celebrate Banned Books Week

The week of September 29 through October 6, 2007, marks the 26th anniversary of Banned Books Week, the ALA's annual celebration of the freedom to read. Here are some ways you can celebrate Banned Books Week:

1. Reflect on what it means that you have the freedom to read whatever you want to read.

2. Consider this list of 10 Most Challenged Books of 2006:
"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.
Off the list this year, but on for several years past, are the "Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger, "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.

3. Attend whatever your nearest library has planned for this week. This Friday, October 5th, I'll go to the Northgate Library in Chattanooga to hear Dr. Fran Bender, UTC Professor and Children's Literature scholar, talk about children's books and censorship issues. (Find logos HERE.)

4. Read a book that has been banned, somewhere, sometime. As the author of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, said, "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." Here are a few authors to consider, if you plan to read a banned book:
The most frequently challenged authors in 2005 were Judy Blume, Robert Cormier, Chris Crutcher, Robie Harris, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Toni Morrison, J. D. Salinger, Lois Lowry, Marilyn Reynolds, and Sonya Sones.

The most frequently challenged authors in 2004 were Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Robert Cormier, Judy Blume, Toni Morrison, Chris Lynch, Barbara Park, Gary Paulsen, Dav Pilkey, Maurice Sendak, and Sonya Sones.

The most frequently challenged authors in 2003 were Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, J. K. Rowling, Robert Cormier, Judy Blume, Katherine Paterson, John Steinbeck, Walter Dean Myers, Robie Harris, Stephen King, and Louise Rennison.

The most frequently challenged authors in 2002 were J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, Robert Cormier, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Stephen King, Lois Duncan, S.E. Hinton, Alvin Schwartz, Maya Angelou, Roald Dahl, and Toni Morrison.

The most frequently challenged authors in 2001 were J. K. Rowling, Robert Cormier, John Steinbeck, Judy Blume, Maya Angelou, Robie Harris, Gary Paulsen, Walter Dean Myers, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and Bette Greene.

The most frequently challenged authors in 2000 were J.K. Rowling, Robert Cormier, Lois Duncan, Piers Anthony, Walter Dean Myers, Phylis Reynolds Naylor, John Steinbeck, Maya Angelou, Christopher Pike, Caroline Cooney, Alvin Schwartz, Lois Lowry, Harry Allard, Paul Zindel, and Judy Blume.
Five of Judy Blume’s books are on the list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: Forever (8), Blubber (32), Deenie (46), Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (62), and Tiger Eyes (78).

5. Read the list of The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000:
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
9. Bridge to Terabithia ~ by Katherine Paterson
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
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
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
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
33. Killing Mr. Griffin ~ by Lois Duncan
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
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
52. Brave New World ~ by Aldous Huxley
53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy ~ by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up ~ by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo ~ by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach ~ by Roald Dahl
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
63. Crazy Lady ~ by Jane Conly
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
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
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
6. Join my new reading challenge, which I just now decided to do, which I'll probably call the Banned Books reading challenge. There would be no time limit, no set number of books to read, just whatever you choose. We would choose books from this list and others provided over time by the ALA (American Library Association). Okay, now that I've talked myself into this new challenge, I'll make it my next post.

UPDATE: More lists of banned books:
1. Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century
2. Most Challenged Books of 21st Century (2000-2005)
3. Wikipedia has a partial list of banned books
4. Read everything I've written on this blog about banned books.
5. Banned Books Online tells about quite a few banned books.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

24-hour Read-a-Thon

Have you checked out Dewey's challenging 24-hour Read-a-Thon?
Be a reader .........
......... a cheerleader
a promoter .................
.......... but be a part of it!