Monday, September 29, 2008

Throw a Delicious Tantrum

In which I pitch a fit, and so do you.

Welcome to the second installment of our new feature: No, Seriously, Just Try It. For background on all this fun, click here.

I got to pitch a fit this week. Aren't they delicious sometimes? I mean, most of the time in the world, we go along, acting all mature (well, most of the time, er, oh, and this too, heh heh) and trying to teach children not to have tantrums and to be fair to others and blah blah BLAH. The fact is, we all have tempers. We can control them, of course. But every once in a while it's so good to blow your top, isn't it? Yum.

On the other hand... you may also know that I used to be a teacher. I never ever flipped my lid while teaching. In fact, I was remarkably unflappable, I have been told. I was talking with some second graders one day and one of them complained that her teacher had yelled at her class. One of my students said, "Oh, Ms. Jacqui doesn't yell." I was so proud. Then he went on. "She whispers. It's much scarier."

He was right. As fun as it is to go postal,* sometimes it's much more effective to go small. To whisper, to refuse to answer the questions, to drop a silence so hard on someone she can hear your blood boiling. Sometimes, it's better to say as little as possible, and to let the listener (or reader) fill in the rest.

Here is your challenge for this week: try it both ways. Take a scene on which you are working and write it twice. In the first, have a character totally lose it, over the top, let it all out melodrama. It doesn't have to be anger or rage; if it's a confession scene, make her tell it ALL. If she's finally expressing her lurve for someone, give her a soap opera star worthy speech.

Then, put that version aside and make her do it again much much smaller. Whispers, not letting anything out, the minimal possible dialogue she needs to keep things moving.

The final version will probably be somewhere in the middle, but I'm always surprised by what my characters say when I let them lose it, and by what they do in the face of the silent treatment.

No, seriously. Just try it. And come back and tell us how it went.

* And to think of fun ways to say it. Does "go postal" offend postal workers, I wonder? I mean no offense; it's just so descriptive. But if it hurts my mailman's feelings I'll stop using it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Could Your Writing Use a Crazy Pill?

In which I reveal that in addition to being juvenile, an overbearing parent, a bad housekeeper, and plagued by invisible demons, I am also a bad pet owner. But in a way that makes me a better writer.

I was never going to blog about my kids. Oh well. Then I was never going to blog about my pets. But you know how I feel about the "I will never" vow. As usual, I promise I get to writing eventually.

My cat is depressed. I have two cats, a brother and sister from the same litter, nearly identical except that the female has always been insane a little skittish, and the male is an attention hound. Lately, though, he's been hiding, limping, generally acting sick.

So Thursday, instead of finishing my novel, I took the cat to the vet. The nurse assured me the appointment would be over in 40 minutes, in plenty of time to drop them back off and etc. I was overcaffeinated and stressed out.

Remember in Zoolander when Will Ferrell's character wonders if he's taking crazy pills?

The vet was very sweet. My cat is physically fine, she told me, but the move has upset him. She thinks his behavior is a form of acting out. Had I considered the possibility that my cat was having emotional troubles?

I had not. I have two human children, boxes to unpack, a novel to finish, a house to sell, and a husband who's been to the hospital twice this week for heart issues,* to say nothing of troubling world events, voters to register, and, yes, I realize others have much more about which to worry, but the cats are low on my stress list. Also, they are cats. She went on.

Perhaps I could take 30 minutes or so a day to focus on my cat, to show him some affection and let him know things are safe in the new house? He needs babied right now, made to feel loved. Sometimes older cats develop social anxiety disorders; there are medications, of course, that can help with stress, antidepressants and the such, and kitty counseling, play therapy...

I looked around for the candid camera.

While she went on, it occurred to me to use this in a book. Not the cat specifically, but the idea that these little stresses always seem to come when you're dealing with other things that are the "real" story. Right when you think you're starting to make headway on the actual problem, the vet wants you to spend more time with the cat, and even though it's silly, it adds to the tension. So now I want a scene where my character, right in the thick of dealing with all the stuff I've thrown at her, has a "crazy pill" moment, where the person to whom she's talking is wanting her to be worried about something that is absolutely not the real problem. I'm thinking of the way the Dursleys interrupt the real work Harry Potter is trying to do with their pettinesses and even though their issue is negligible, it adds to the mix of troubles and you want to shake them. Can you help me think of other examples? Do you have a good one in your own book?

As for the poor kitty, I'm trying. I didn't tell the vet that the cats standoffishness may also have something to do with Captain Destructo's new "KITTY RUN AWAY!" shriek, which is now followed by Tink yelling, "MOMMMMM! HE'S CHASING THE CAT!" louder than bombs. To make it up to him, I fed him twice this morning, and Tink let him sleep with her favorite stuffed friend.

* The Mighty Thor is fine, by the way, but I was freaking, of course.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Stupids Read Banned Books

Welcome to this week's installment of Elise's Banned Book Challenge, in which

Jacqui Reads Her Children Books That Other People Think Are Bad For Them

Week Five:
The Stupids Have a Ball
by Harry Allard, illus. by James Marshall

The Stupid family throws a costume ball to celebrate the fact that their children failed every subject on their report cards.

Thoughts: I decided it wasn't fair only to review books where I totally and completely disagree with the politics or opinions behind the challenge. So I picked this one because I have strong negative feelings about the word "stupid" and have talked to Tink many times about not using it. Also, it won a Parents' Choice Silver Honor Award, much like another book near and dear to me. In the end, the stupid thing didn't bother me, though I fear it did introduce the word into Tink's vocabulary. But the book wasn't that funny*, other than the dad dressing up as our country's first president George Washingmachine. I didn't even have a cute conversation with Tink about it. Check out The Stupids Die instead, which I think is hilarious.

And stay-tuned for next week when I return to bashing people who want to tell others whom to marry.

* Certainly not as funny as, say, hairy-nosed otters.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Heh heh. Hairy noses. Heh heh.

In which I make juvenile and punny jokes.

Welcome to this week's Thursday News of the Absurd Will Someone Please Write This Book Inspirational Moment (TNoftheAWSPWTBIM).

The news this week? Not so funny. All my regular odd news resources are dull, and the teens at my local coffee house have been avoiding the crazy lady who writes down what they say actually discussing academics. But then I found this.

From AFP:
Rare otter species found in Vietnam

Apparently, researchers were thrilled to find two of the world's rarest species in a national park in southern Vietnam. Everyone thought they were extinct and now here are two of them.

But what do they call them?

Hairy-nosed otters.

Hee hee. Hairy-nosed otters.* I can't read that without laughing. Doesn't it sound like something you'd call your pesky younger brother? "Leave me alone, you hairy-nosed otter!" Try to say it aloud without laughing.

Have you read their favorite book? Hairy-nosed Otter and the Sorcerer's Stone? Personally, I preferred Hairy-nosed Otter and the Beaver of Azkaban.

Rather than a book to write this week, I want titles. Did you cry at the end of The Velveteen Hairy-nosed Otter? Giggle at the antics of Hairy-nosed Otter-et the Spy? Swoon at the romance in Twilight, the story of the teenage girl who falls for the perfect guy, only to find out that he and his family are secretly hairy-nosed otters?

Heh heh heh. I like that one. Perhaps I should go back to single lattes. In the meantime, what's YOUR favorite hairy-nosed otter book?

* Not to be confused with the hairy-nosed Kotter. Do you think when researchers realized these were the species thought to be extinct they shouted "Welcome back otter?"**

Monday, September 22, 2008

No, Seriously. Just Try It.

In which I tell a story, eventually relate it to writing, challenge you, and introduce a new Monday feature here in Jacqui's Room.*

1. The story
I took Captain Destructo to the grocery store the other day. I don't know if I've mentioned it yet, but in addition to being, um, active, Destructo is, at 22 months, the size of the average three-and-a-half year old. I am not joking. So he can reach everything, including everything in the cart. His favorite thing to do is reach back, grab something (like say a loaf of bread or a package of raw hot dogs or a baby wipes), and to eat it straight through the packaging. Shopping with Destructo is like shopping with an over-caffeinated goat.

So I'm standing at the check out counter, tossing half-chewed items onto the conveyor belt, taking them away from Destructo and putting them back on the conveyor belt, promising him stickers if he'll just not. be. a toddler. FOR. FIVE. MINUTES, trying to hold my wallet under my chin, dropping my wallet, wondering how the heck a giant jar of mango and chipotle chutney got into the cart... The usual. And I hear a snicker.

I look up. There's a young woman standing there rubbing her little bump of a pregnant belly. And staring at me. Absofreakinglutely smug smug smug. You could practically see her brain saying, "MY baby is NEVER going to..." and "I am NEVER going to be one of THOSE moms!"

So I shouted, "Think fast!" and threw the hot dogs at her. No, I didn't. But I thought to myself, "Honey, NONE of us was ever going to be one of those moms. Look forward to seeing you here in about a year."

2. I promise we are getting to the part that's about writing soon.
So then I got to thinking: this is how life goes. One of the things that makes getting older bearable interesting is the way we tell ourselves, "I'll NEVER" and then we do, and there's a story that gets us there.

I swore I would never in a million billion years...what? What have you sworn you'd never do that now you do all the time? And how did you get there?

3. I challenge you to just try this:
In my wanderings through the world on online card craft blogs, I noticed they challenge each other a lot more than we book bloggers do. And they DO the challenges.** So, I am stealing the idea. I challenge you this:

Look at your work in progress or something you're revising or anything. What would your main character never, ever do, not in a million billion years or for a thousand dollars?

Now, make her do it. Make her do the one thing she would have sworn would never happen. And make sure to show (not tell) us how she got there. Tada! You've made your character more complex and your story more full of tension.

4. No, seriously.
Really, go write it. Oh, come on, just try it.
Which brings us to our new Monday feature: No, Seriously. Just Try It.
This idea grew out of three things I've been pondering while revising my novel.
1. My best writing comes when it's pressure free and I am thinking "just try it" and having fun.
2. One of the hardest things for me about revising is thinking outside the box; it's hard, when you're so wrapped up in something, to envision how it could be different and better in big ways.
3. I should blog more about writing.

So every Monday for the next six weeks, I'll have a No, Seriously. Just Try It (hereafter abbreviated N,S.JTI.) idea for you. But you have to promise me you'll try some of them, okay? And you have to tell us how it went in the comments. And I still want to know what's been crossed off your "I'd never" list.

Who's in?

* See what happens when I drink a triple latte?
** They also give each other a lot more presents, which they call Blog Candy. I'm working on that part.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bloggy Business

In which I feel the bloggy love and reveal what a weirdo I truly am.

Look at this! -->
I won an award. It's from the very sweet Christy, whom I enjoy, and not only because she tells me how funny I am all the time. I like best her pieces on seeing through the eyes of a child. I am to proudly display my new blog bling and to drop it on other blogs that I love.

But then I thought: Where did this award start? I mean, what if it was started by something I hate, like the guy at I must find out before I go giving a kitten-hating award to my bloggy friends!*

So I set off searching. I started back at Christy's and traced the I Love Your Blog Award back through some great kidlit blogs, through horror writers, primitive artists, a collage and mixed-media crowd, all over the US and Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

All of this made me think: Holy cow, there are a lot of blogs out there. And then: Why am I blogging when there are a million other people doing it?!

And then I thought how great blogging is for Writing, the noun. I mean, think how much writing is going on every day on blogs. Not that all of it is great, or even entertaining, but at least it's happening. And before the blogosphere, I'll bet some of these people just didn't write. And now they do.

Feeling the bloggy love, I tracked on. I got bogged down with a group of inter-awarding card-crafters and escaped eventually to the blogs of knitters, who skipped to ranchers, horse-lovers, and a blog for the aging equestrian, which lead me to ... nowhere. I got to the Horseshoeing Housewife and I could go. no. further.

I pouted. And then I thought: Hmm. Maybe I should have just Googled "I Love Your Blog Award Creator" or something. Duh. So I did. And I got here (love his first paragraph), and stopped again.

And then The Mighty Thor started watching over my shoulder. And then he mocked me. I was dazed and my face had turned blue, but the small part of me where the skin wasn't fused to my laptop knew I deserved it. So I gave up. Because I realized the only possible end to all of this tracking was this.

So thank you, Christy, and the rest of you, go see Thorp's blog, because I really do love it, and because it will lead the next person tracking the award to a whole new genre. I have to go take out my eyeballs and wash them in lye.

* Sadly, this is how my mind really works.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Take That, Rabbit-love Haters

Welcome to Week Four of Elise's Banned Book Challenge, in which

Jacqui Reads Her Children Books That Other People Think Are Bad For Them

Week Four:
The Rabbits' Wedding, by Garth Williams

Two little rabbits play really cute games all day, including "Hop Skip and Jump Me" and "Race Around the Blackberry Bush," but the little black rabbit is sad. Why? He's afraid he won't always be with the little white rabbit, whom he loves more than anything. So they get stick dandelions in their ears, get married and live happily ever after.

My thoughts: Dang, this book is sweet. The games the rabbits play made me giggle. The illustrations are so phenomenally real and detailed that both Tink and I reached out to try to pet the rabbits several times and were genuinely surprised to hit paper. The reason it was challenged is so ludicrous I want you to guess in the comments. You have all the info you need in the summary above. You can hear Tink's idea below. What do you think?

I discussed it with Tink:
TINK: (in baby voice) This book is soooooo cuuuuuute.
JACQUI: I know. The pictures are by the same illustrator who did Charlotte's Web. I love the pictures.
TINK: Bunneeeeeeeeeez! (pretending to pet them)
JACQUI: So what did you like and not like?
TINK: I loved it all, except it was too sad when the black one was sad!
JACQUI: Well --
TINK: (straightens up) Wait. Is this one of those books some people don't think you should read me?
TINK: Why do they think that?
JACQUI: What do you think?
TINK: Well, they should think it because the rabbits stick dandelions in their ears and they should be afraid dumb kids will stick dandelions in their ears if they read it.

Hear that kids? No dandelions in your ears.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Pigeon Named Trouble

Welcome to this week's Thursday News of the Absurd Will Someone Please Write This Book Inspirational Moment (TNoftheAWSPWTBIM).

But first, as lovely as it is, this has got to be one of the signs of the apocalypse. Or else someone seriously screwed up at the Ministry of Magic. Other theories?

Now, on to the book one of you is going to write me...

From MSNBC and the AP:

Homeless Homing Pigeon Creates Flap

"A New Hampshire couple are trying to figure out what to do with a homing pigeon that came to the wrong home — theirs."

Apparently, the pigeon, whom the couple has named "Trouble," refuses to leave the yard. They've tried setting him free, but he keeps coming back. And nobody can find his owner. The couple and the authorities are convinced poor Trouble is confused.

He's not confused, people! He's trying to tell you something. He's a homing pigeon, for goodness sake. I'm not sure how it works, but either someone "homed" him to you, or his owner is buried in your backyard!

You can go two ways with this. First, there's the pigeon story. Poor Trouble. He's not smart. He's not pretty. He can't soar like an eagle. He's good for one thing: delivering messages and getting back home. So what happens when the darned humans won't take the hint? Trouble's going to have to make them see the light somehow, all while avoiding power lines, detection by his owner's arch enemy, and the neighborhood cats. I want very simple text. For some reason, I have Garrison Keillor's voice in my head as the voice of Trouble. And I want Matt Phelan to illustrate (yes, he's the brilliant illustrator of The New Girl...And Me, as well as the forthcoming Two of a Kind, both by yours truly); check out the Pigeons of the Month feature from his sketch blog.*

Alternately, there's the mystery of Trouble's owner and what Trouble's message is (Ah, trouble always has a message for us...). I kind of like the owner buried in the backyard idea. And it's up to Edmond, the eight year-old asthmatic whose mother won't let him outside for fear he'll over-exert himself, to find the answers. I made up Edmond; feel free to insert your own main character. The title, of course, is Looking For Trouble.

Will someone please write me one of these books?

* The truth, though, is that I know Matt lives in Philadelphia and I know, having lived there, that the pigeons are not nearly this cute. They are flying rats and someday I will tell you about my ongoing war with the pigeons next door (title: The Pigeons Next Door), which involved coffee filters, snowballs, and an old shoe. If I don't use it in a book.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jacqui's Room Notes: the Jacqui's Room Notes

There they are. My 15 Classics in 15 Weeks, with the exception of the ones I had to return to the library. I put Pride and Prejudice in there too, since she started the whole thing. Total number of pages read: 6,453.*

If you are look to the left on this page (you may have to scroll down), you can see the whole list. Click on a title to see the Jacqui's Room Notes.

"What have you learned?"

1. Don't fear Tolstoy.
I liked most of the books, not just appreciated them, but actually enjoyed them. This sounds strange, but the fact is that I'd never have gone into a bookstore and said, "I think I'll try Silas Marner." I tend to focus on modern books and to believe people when they complain about assigned reading. No more.

2. Jane Austen sure could write.
It sounds obvious, but reading the classics was writing boot camp.

3. There are many other goofy-humored book dorks out there.
I can spout all day in a literary way** about Blood Meridian, but I think everyone's favorite Jacqui's Room Notes post is still Moby Dick. Am I right? Tell me, please. Which was your favorite? I'm curious.

4. Six Degrees of Separation applies to writers.
Everybody I read this summer read everybody else. Whitman referenced Melville, who was a friend of Hawthorne, who talked about Dante, who's in Goethe and McCarthy and everybody else, for that matter. And they all loved Cervantes. So my sense that I would be a better reader having read these 15 was spot on.

"But who won???"
I have three winners: Diane T., J.Thorp, and Kristi Valiant, each of whom seems to have read, well, a bunch of books this summer, and to have posted his or her own notes, all of which I found very interesting. Winners will receive a very cool (in a bookish way) small pack of bookish paraphernalia including bookmarks and a "Books! I Need Books!" button.

So, what about you? Did you meet your own classic-reading goal? Tell us about it in the comments.

"What's next?" people keep asking. Well, I have to crawl into a hole and not come out until my YA is finished. You should do the same. Catch up. Get what you have to get done done.

Because in November, you have work to do. You have a novel to write. Stay tuned.

*not counting the middle 500 million pages of Moby Dick, for which "read" is probably an exaggeration
** unintentional sing-song rhyme

Friday, September 12, 2008

Take That, Book-Haters, Week 3

It's time for Week 3 of Elise's Banned Book Challenge,* in which

Jacqui Reads Her Children Books That Other People Think Are Bad For Them

King and King
by Linda De Haan, Stern Nijland

Forced into marriage by his mother the queen, the prince cannot find true love until he meets his own prince charming.

My review: I love the idea of this book. I like the fairy tale turned on its head. The queen has a fabulous, bossy voice (she tells the prince she'd already been married twice by his age). I like that nobody in the book comments on the fact that he falls in love with another prince; it just happens. I think this book should exist and should be in classrooms, despite the wrath of the book-haters (who hate lots of other things too) who worry that, as one site said, "it's clearly written to normalize homosexual romance and "marriage" in the minds of very young children" (wouldn't that be terrible?!). That said, the story didn't grab me personally. Maybe it's a lack of character motivation issue? We never see the prince yearning for love and there's not really any pressure for him to get married. Plus, the parade of princess-candidates is a little bizarre; I didn't always get the joke.

I discussed it with Tink:

TINK: That was weird.
JACQUI (preparing speech on accepting all kinds of families, etc.): What was weird?
TINK: The book.
JACQUI: How was it weird?
TINK: I don't know.
JACQUI: Was it because you were surprised he married another prince?
TINK: No! (as if I am being ridiculous) That part was like the princesses!
TINK: Princess Amani and Princess Stefanie got married to each other.
JACQUI: Was that in a book?
TINK: Oh, Mom! (again, like I am being silly)
JACQUI: Who are Princess Amani and Stefanie?
TINK: You know!

But I don't know, and I want to! And Tink wouldn't tell me! Anyone have an idea???

* For explanation, read here

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Feldman and the Infinite

In which I shamelessly plug the work of my oldest friend.

From See.Also:

15,000 Library Books Are Found in Lawyer's Village Apartment

"In 1975, Joseph Feldman, a 58-year-old lawyer in New York City, was discovered to have stolen 15,000 books from the New York Public Library. He had rented two or three apartments specifically to store these books, and it took 20 men, 7 truckloads over 3 days to remove them all.

Books covered the stove. Books filled the bathtub and sinks. There was only a small passageway leading through the apartment, not room enough to live.

But why did he do it?"

Why indeed! This fascinates me. Will someone PLEASE write me this book?

Wait, someone already wrote the play!* If you live in or near Philly, go see it at the Philly Fringe Festival this weekend (click here). Feldman and the Infinite was written by my friend Erika Mijlin, who is a creative genius and to whom I babbled at the age of zero. So go go go! And report back to the rest of us, because I am fascinated by this story.

In the meantime, I think he was housing and feeding an Ink Drinker. What do you think?

* This is really a Thursday News of the Absurd Will Someone Please Write This Book -- Hey! Look! Someone Wrote the Play! Moment. I know this is two weeks in a row that you have been left uninspired and probably crying for lack of anything to write; I promise a return to our regularly schedule TNoftheAWSPWTBIM next week.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Demons Who Plague Me

In which I blame invisible enemies for my failure to be productive as a writer in any form. Yup, I blame invisible demons. Like the sane person I am.

Demons Who Plague Me

The demon who runs errands
The “you need to make time to exercise” demon
The “reading is research” demon
The demon who blogs
The prewriting demon
The “you need to spend time with your kids” demon
The food demon
The get organized demon
The don’t have the right equipment demon
The "look how nice that other mother's scrapbook is; what record of YOUR kids' lives do you even have?" demon
The “who do you think you are?” demon
The no ideas demon
The demon of sweeping mines and breaking blocks
The demon of others’ writing
My mom (because she calls me every morning to chat)
The "You should be nicer to your mom when she calls" demon
The “I should really...” demon
The outline demon
The “I need a schedule” demon
The demon who starts Monday
The demon who sends her kids to school/daycare sick and then my kids get it
The demon who breaks stuff in my house
The demon who knows what not to wear
The demon who sings 80s songs in my mind
The demon who says, “But someone might read it!”
The “you don’t deserve this great life, you’d better give something back to keep karma on your side” demon
The demon of zzzzzzz
Teacher Inservice Days
The guilt over being mean to my kids in the morning demon
The forgot a pen demon
The demon who shoe shops
The demon who says this project isn’t working, do another one instead
The demon who makes lists instead of writing
Etc. etc. etc.

Who plagues you?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dune: the Jacqui's Room Notes

In which I make my neighbors wonder what the heck is going on in my sandbox.

At some point, I will draw an intelligent and incisive parallel between the sowing of prophesies in Dune, the 2008 presidential election, and our work as writers. But for now, I bring you:

DUNE, by Frank Herbert*
Synopsisized in a conversation between the narrator and the son of Duke Leto of the Atreides, some photos, and one video clip.

Thousands of years into the future, humans have scattered across the galaxy, inhabiting every planet, even those that seem to present insurmountable environmental limitations. The planet Arrakis has never seen rain. Moisture is so precious that people wear suits carefully designed to recycle the body's own waste water into drinkable form and --

I'm sorry? My suit is going to do what to what? Oh. Huh. Go on.

Into drinkable form, and they carry the tools necessary to extract the 70% water left over in the weight of a dead man. In --

Okay, that is just nasty. Seriously, Dad, are we really going there? Okay, okay.

Inhospitable to humans and patrolled by gigantic toothed worms that digest anything they can find, --

Hee hee. Giant worms. Oh crap! That thing just ate a plane! My bad.

Anything they can find, Arrakis should by all rights be uninhabited and unwanted. But it holds Spice. The highly --

Does that make those maidens the Spice Girls? If you wanna be my lover...

Do you mind?


The highly addictive cinnamon-like spice turns blue the eyes of the native Fremen of the planet and traps all who visit Arrakis in its spicy clutches.

That sentence made no sense.

I am a science fiction narrator; I don't have to make any sense. If you knew more about our world you'd get it already. Just nod knowingly; that's what everyone else in the book does.

(nods knowingly)

Many battle for control of Arrakis and the spice. But who will rule in the end?
The Emperor?

The Duke? The Baron?



The son of the Duke and the result of some mysterious inbreeding project lead by the Reverend Mother and her coven of mind-reading, butt-kicking mystics.

It will be me! I have drunk the bile of the giant worm and I see it now! I am the messiah, but this is science fiction, so I can't just say "messiah" I have to have difficult-to-pronounce, vaguely-Hebrew-sounding invented words for everything and put them all in a glossary at the back of the book. Anyhoot, I am the Kwisatz Haderach and I can see the past, present, future, the workings of blood cells, and inside your minds, all of you! Also, I can do a whole lot of other stuff you can't! Do you know the prophesy?

(nods knowingly)

I shall lead this planet to freedom with my princess wife-in-name-only (who will someday write my biography in clunky tongue and italicized chapter headings) and my beloved concubine.

It's him! It's him!

Come! Let us fulfill the destiny!

And that, my friends, concludes the 15 Classics in 15 Weeks Remedial Lit Summer Project. Full wrap up as soon as I can breathe tomorrow.

* I've gotten many strange looks from people wondering how I came up with Dune as my last classic for the summer. Here's how it went:

1. I asked people for help choosing the last classic.
2. Someone very wisely pointing out the total neglect of science fiction on my lists (and my literary history) and made a few suggestions.
3. I got to thinking about how annoyed I get when people are snotty about "children's lit" as a genre.
4. I decided I'd better check out some science fiction.
5. I carefully chose from amongst several options using a detailed algorithm designed to round-out my summer literary experience they only had Dune at my local indie bookstore the day I went.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Take That Book Haters, Week 2

Look! I'm on time this week with my review for Elise's Banned Book Challenge. For explanation, read here.

On to
Jacqui Reads Her Children Books That Other People Think Are Bad For Them

Week Two:
In the Night Kitchen
by Maurice Sendak

Mickey slides through the floor into the night kitchen, where he gets mistaken for milk, flies away in a plane made of dough, and dives into a milk jug to make sure we have cake in the morning.

My review: This book is weird. It's like Where The Wild Things Are in its dreaminess and fantastic imagination. However, it doesn't have the very familiar emotions that WWWTA has, so I found it a harder book with which to connect; where we know Max and see ourselves in him, we don't know much about Mickey except that he has really fun dreams.

I discussed it with Tink:

TINK: It's fine. I like it. It is funny. The thing I do not like is that at the beginning it looks like they (the bakers) are giants. But they are not, because that is a milk carton, and they are smaller than that. So I don't know what they are.
JACQUI: Tink, this is another one of those books some people think kids should not read.
TINK: Why?
JACQUI: Well, do you see this page?
TINK: Yeah. (has clearly not noticed boy is naked, or doesn't care) What about it?
JACQUI: Well, you can see his penis.
TINK: (giggle giggle) So?
JACQUI: So I guess those people don't think you should, um, I'm not sure. Maybe they don't want you to know what a penis looks like.
TINK: (overcome with giggles)
JACQUI: You know what some librarians did? They put a sticker right there, so kids couldn't see.
TINK: You are not supposed to put stickers in books.
JACQUI: No, you are not.
TINK: It's just a penis. (giggle so hard she snorts)
JACQUI: (to herself) Take that, book haters...

Note: I have since reread this book to Tink. I swear she never noticed Mickey was naked until I said something. Now, on every page, she points and says, "penis!" and cracks up. Sigh.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Warning: this blog may be hazardous to your health

With which I guarantee karmic gymnastics-related injuries to my children

This week we have a Thursday News of the Absurd Will These Administrators Please Get a Grip Rant-Inspiring Moment...

From Yahoo News:

Australian School May Backflip on Cartwheel Ban

"An Australian school which recently banned its students from doing cartwheels, somersaults and other gymnastics during recess is reviewing the decision after parents and students got all bent out of shape."

Apparently, the school had banned gymnastics at recess due to the threat of injury.

Huh. Perhaps it would be best also to ban walking (danger of tripping), reading (squinting may cause damage to eyesight, plus there is always the issue of paper cuts), water fountains (choke hazard), writing (there is simply not a safe enough writing implement), and reading this article (toxic exposure to overuse of puns). Students could be required to wear helmets and knee pads to school, where they would sit in padded chairs that are bolted to the ground (to prevent tipping), no less than arm's length away from other students (violence), and listen to volume-moderated lectures from stuffed replicas of instructors (actual teachers being far too dangerous).

Apparently, "the school had classified gymnastic activities a 'medium risk level 2' danger to children when performed in class."

I'd guess other "medium risk level 2" activities include trigonometry (causes hair-pulling in some students) and wearing your pants too short (provokes spitball attacks). At the top of the "High Risk Level 1" list? Going to a school run by terrified morons.

I am reminded of the wisdom of one of the world's great literary characters, Dory from Finding Nemo. When Nemo's dad justifies his over-protection of his son by asserting that he promised his son he would never let anything happen to him, Dory responds, "Huh. That's a funny thing to promise....You can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun..."

What other activities do you think they should be ban?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Goethe's Faust: the Jacqui's Room Notes

With apologies to Charlie Daniels. For the full effect, click here to listen while you read...

Goethe's Faust, Part 1, the country music hit

The devil went up to heaven, he was looking to spar with God.
He said, “You’d better bet the devil can get that Faust down there. He’s odd.”
God laughed and said, “No way, Evil Angel. You know Faust’s my favorite man.
He spends his days a-just a-learnin’ stuff and doin’ the best he can.”

But the devil he was cocky, he got God to say okay,
Then Mephisto fell back down to earth, to steal Faust’s soul away.
Now Faust was suicidal; he’d been whining for a while:
“I’m so bereft, ain’t nothing left on earth can make me smile.”
So he thought he’d outsmart the devil, signed in blood and at the end
Added “Come the day you hear me say, ‘stop time!’ you kill me then.”

Faust, it’s you they say’s so smart, come on and use your noodle.
‘Cos hell’s broke loose in Germany and it’s dressed up like a poodle.
While you’re on earth, it’s you he’ll serve with love and smiles and gold,
But when you die, the devil gets your soul.

(feel free to dance during the guitar solos and the next verse and join us for Johnny's performance)

Fire on the streets, twirl boys, twirl.
The devil's gonna get Faust a girl.
Kill her mother and her brother, and her honor too.
Faust'll run away before part two.