The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, First Thoughts on a Sad, Familiar Song

When I first started using The Hunger Games in my college English 111 courses, it was an obscure little book, and I was the only one in any of my classes who had read it before the first day. But times have changed over the past Hunger Games': All about the new 'Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'decade. I still use the book in my classes, mainly because I have not found anything else that works so well. In that time, movies have been made(with some of my students as extras), popularity has swelled, and my students who don’t pay attention to my constant harping on the importance of the number three in the trilogy (they are confused by four films), keep saying they want a “fourth” book. Instead of spoiling the beautiful symmetry of the original trilogy, the master Gamemaker herself brings us a prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which is both its own special sort of creature and a perfect companion to the original trilogy.

If you haven’t yet read Suzanne Collins’s just-released prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy, fear not, spoilers won’t crop up until after the break, but, if you have read the novel already, or don’t mind the spoilers, join me for a quick round-up of first thoughts, using the three major elements of the title, Snakes, Songbirds, and Ballads, but in reverse order (why? There are many reasons, actually, but I may fall back on the old excuse that I am an ornery mountain woman with excessive book learning). There will be many more posts to come, but we’ll start the dance here.

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Looking for Your Next Celebrity Storytime? Try These!

While we may all get a little tired of being told that we must use these odd times for self-improvement and intense personal growth, there is no denying that many people have taken both comfort from and interest in reading. Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile: Houston, Gloria, Lamb, Susan ...Libraries are realizing that the rural Bookmobile concept is actually pretty amazing, something I knew as a child when the magical delivery service visited my aunt’s house. It was like a traveling Scholastic Book Fair. Amazon is, of course, doing a rip-roaring business, but they aren’t delivering only books, as people are shipping everything including a kitchen sink (if Amazon doesn’t have one that suits the shut-in home-improver, I’m sure Home Depot or Lowe’s will). Local bookstores, many of which are only doing online or appointment sales, are a nice choice, and a good idea if you’d like that bookstore to be there this time next year.

One of the most popular ways to enjoy a good book, though, is to hear it read aloud. There is something magical about the read-aloud. It conveys safety and connection for many of us, reminding us of our childhood and of family reading timeHarry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Wikipedia.  I may have complained mightily about reading any chapter in which I had to do my extravagant voices for Voldemort, Bellatrix, Dobby, and/or Snape, but I wouldn’t trade those sore throats for anything, as reading the Harry Potter books aloud to my children remains one of the most precious experiences we have shared (and I do still do the voices sometimes for laughs, although my daughter has truly made Luna her own. My grandchildren will have a ball with that one).

Celebrities are, of course, taking up the task of bringing storytime comfort, and the Wizarding World has been featuring appropriate readers for Philosopher’s Stone. Daniel Radcliffe, the Boy who Lived to most filmgoers, has read us the first chapter. Noma Dumezweni of Cursed Child took on “The Vanishing Glass.” Newt Scamander himself, the delightful Eddie Redmayne, reads chapter 3, and has an Aunt Petunia voice I truly envy. Artwork from contributors adds to the reading, but Spotify also has all–auditory versions. Many other famous voices are lined up to read aloud each chapter over the coming weeks.Chapter Three: 'The Letters from No One' | Wizarding World

While we wait for the next chapters to be read by the next celebrity readers, you may be in need of another reading companion.  Thankfully, there are some wonderful choices available. Here are a few I like and which you might want to try, but also hope you’ll comment below with suggestions if you have found some that you have discovered and enjoyed. [Read more…]

Rowling’s New Twitter Header Means The Faerie Queene is a Strike 5 Theme?

As many of us are anxiously looking forward to the release of the fifth Cormoran Strike novel, Troubled Blood, this September, the latest change to J.K. Rowling’s Twitter account may have some clues. The novel’s title has several possible origins, including Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene. With her recently changed Twitter header, which includes an image from a beautifully illustrated 1890s edition of The Faerie Queene, Rowling and her crime-writing alter-ego Robert Galbraith may be laying the groundwork for a Spenser-scaffolding installment in the adventures of the ever-fascinating Strike and Robin Ellacott. Some of us truly hope that is the case.

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Farewell to the Last Inkling: Christopher Tolkien (1924-2020)

Last week, the news broke that Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien, had passed away at the age of 95, and Image result for christopher tolkienwhile we might all have hoped he would make it to 111, 95 is quite a run for a human being, even one whose story is so deeply entwined with those long-lived denizens of Middle Earth. While I am not a Tolkien expert (my area of focus is usually an elder Inkling, C.S. Lewis), I hope you will indulge me in a few thoughts about the gentleman who is the last of the Inklings, why his legacy matters, and what this means for his father’s creations. [Read more…]

The Personal Heresy Afoot at Hogwarts

As the school break affords some time for getting up some long-overdue posts, I had been planning a few, but I’ve shunted those to the backburner, with hopes of pulling them forward before I must return toImage result for the personal heresy grading, preaching the virtues of the Oxford comma, and catching incompetent plagiarizers. Instead, I find myself having to do something rather odd, defend J.K. Rowling, but not against the usual antagonists: misguided Puritans, well-meaning but overprotective parents, and the sad horde of people whose imaginations were apparently damaged or removed in some sort of unfortunate childhood accident. Now, I’m defending her against the “fans” who are presently foaming at the mouth over a tweet she refuses to recant despite their most petulant whines and threats. The controversy and the subsequent venom of some members of the once-loyal fandom likely come as no surprise to the savvy Rowling, whose own work predicts just this sort of thing, but it is also reflective of a phenomenon rampant in a number of fandoms these days, a phenomenon C.S. Lewis foresaw with his brilliant examination of what he called “the Personal Heresy.” Join me after the jump for some thoughts on this phenomenon as it is playing out in Potterdom.(If you’ve been under a rock, catch up here and here.) [Read more…]