Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Ode to Aslan and Others

When I was eleven, I spent the summer in Denmark with family. Knowing how avid of a reader I was, and how limited the English-language book selection would be overseas, my family drowned me in books for my eleventh birthday.

"Don't read them until you're in Denmark!" they said.

My birthday is in February. I didn't leave for Denmark until May. What on earth did they expect out of me? I was a book-hungry eleven year old, not some self-flagellating medieval monk.

My darling Mormor bought me the Narnia series. These books didn't stand a chance. I ripped through them like nothing else before. Talking animals! Kings and Queens that were MY age! Sword fights and wars and magic and the best lion in the world and witches and did I mention the talking animals? This was all before the age of Harry Potter (or rather, Harry would come out very soon after) and I think it was the first real, literary fantasy that I had ever encountered (the Babysitters Club, however, I was exceptionally familiar with).

Before Narnia, I had built a solid foundation that served me well in navigating this wonderful world. I remember books on Ancient Egypt and Greek Mythology- Narnian field guides, if you will, which made fauns and minotaurs all the more familiar and welcome in a book. A fantasy of sorts, but incredibly distant from my own life (though I did play Persephone on the playground-- going down the slide was descending into Hades).

And then there were these books. I wanted to BE Lucy Pevensie like I had wanted to be no one else before. Because she and her brothers and sister had something that I didn't have. Not just magical adventures and talking animal guides. They had power. They had real importance in this world, even if they were essentially and completely powerless in their own (like I was in mine, at 11).

This power, I think, is one of the most important gifts that children's literature can give to its readers. The faintest glimmer of hope-- the idea that your voice matters, that you do have something to contribute, that no matter your size or your gender or your color or your age, you can be a hero.

This has been ingrained in me. I can't help it-- I find that this principle shows up in the books that I love to read, as well as the books that I want to write. I guess there could be worse things to want to read and write about.

All of this was sparked by this:

The Dawn Treader trailer! This was always my favorite book-- I think I'm a sucker for anything set on a boat.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Beginnings

So, after a months and eons long (and tragic!) lack of blogging, I've decided to give it another go. We've been revamped, renamed, and redesigned over here and I hope all of that back-breaking painting and remodeling of the page here is worth it.

I do have to admit. Being one of those Whippersnappers of the Internet age, Twitter is more my style. 140 characters, I'm in, I'm out, I'm back to life. But sometimes, you need a place that's bigger than a tiny text box. Sometimes there are things to be said that require space to breathe.

What those things are, well, I don't know yet. Glee is over for the summer, so there goes the opportunity to squee and rehash that.

But, as a reader and a writer, I'm sure I'll find something to say. I've rarely been speechless in the past.

When in doubt, however, there is always poetry to supply words that might otherwise hang invisible between us.

My First Memory (of Librarians)

by Nikki Giovanni

This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
          wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
          too short
                    For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
          a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall

The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.