Sunday, May 25, 2014

An American reading the British editions: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

(SPOILER ALERT: I’m sharing details of the Harry Potter series in this post, and in every post on the last Sunday of the month for the next four months. Just so you know!)

I’m just an American girl reading the Harry Potter British editions. This month: Prisoner of Azkaban! Check out my posts about Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets before reading on…

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
First Line: “Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways.”
British vs. American English: I’ve been overseas so there are some words/phrases I read in these versions and don’t even recognize as different. Like car park vs. parking lot or jumper vs. sweater. But here are a few differences that popped out to me. 

(British edition word/phrase = interpretation)
torch = flashlight

darned = re-sewn
pop my clogs = die

sharpish = quickly
wrong-foot = to catch off balance

shirty = angry, irritated
do his nut = lose his temper

scarpered = to flee

Laugh-Worthy Moment:
"Professor Trelawney rustled past.

'Would anyone like me to help them interpret the shadowy portents within their Orb?' she murmured over the clinking of her bangles.
'I don’t need help,' Ron whispered. 'It’s obvious what this means. There’s going to be loads of fog tonight.'" (page 219)

Cry-Worthy Moment: “You think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him. How else could you produce that particular Patronus? Prongs rode again last night.” –Professor Dumbledore (page 312)

Notable Quote: “The spell I am going to try and teach you is highly advanced magic, Harry—well beyond Ordinary Wizarding Level. It is called the Patronus Charm.” –Professor Lupin (page 175)

Last Line:  “And grinning broadly at the look of horror on Uncle Vernon’s face, Harry set off towards the station exit, Hedwig rattling along in front of him, for what looked like a much better summer than the last.”

In a late night, solo birthday celebration, Harry turns thirteen at the start of Prisoner of Azkaban. After an incident with Uncle Vernon’s sister Marge, which foreshadows one of the themes of PoA, Harry takes a ride on the Knight Bus and meets the Minister of Magic at the Leaky Cauldron. Not long later, Harry learns that Sirius Black, a crazed escapee of the highly secure wizard prison, is after Harry and plans to kill him to open the door for Voldemort’s return to power.

Throughout the book, Harry learns more about Sirius Black, his friendship with Harry’s father, James, and their old school friends. Through conversations both including Harry and overheard by him, he learns a great deal about his father’s school days. However, most of the information is shared during the climax, which makes for a drawn out scene in the Shrieking Shack. But Rowling keeps it interesting with Lupin barging in, then Snape changing the dynamic once more before the reveal of Peter Pettigrew (formally known as Scabbers). Also, the information itself is intriguing! The story that Harry heard of Black, that he betrayed James and Lily, sold them out to Voldemort then was so distraught about Voldemort’s downfall that Black killed Pettigrew and thirteen innocent people before being thrown in Azkaban—well, turns out that’s not true. In fact it was Pettigrew who betrayed the Potters, handed them over to Voldemort, then killed thirteen innocent people and faked his own death when Black hunted him down to hold him accountable. Whew.

In the Shrieking Shack, the reader sees one facet of Black’s character as he’s focused on revenge and destroying Pettigrew. Black has been without human contact for so many years and spent so much of it as a dog (as he’s an unregistered Animagus) that he acts almost animal. It’s Professor Lupin who is understanding and level-headed throughout the whole ordeal. Since it’s revealed that he's a werewolf (to which Rowling left a trail of expertly crafted clues), it’s refreshing that he rises above the stereotypes and is a great man. We get hints at Sirius' great character as well, but with his focus on revenge/Pettigrew for the entire book, it makes sense that they're just hints for the time being. James Potter certainly had an interesting group of school friends.

Year Three was a tough year for Harry, Ron and Hermione’s friendship. As kids grow up, they change and sometimes grow apart. Luckily the trio doesn’t grow apart but they do have their share of disagreements. In Scabbers vs. Crookshanks, Ron jumps to the semi-logical conclusion that Crookshanks finally ate Scabbers but Hermione points out there are other possibilities and Ron has no proof. Harry doesn’t take sides, but when Hermione tells McGonagall about Harry’s new Firebolt from an anonymous source, Harry is naturally frustrated that his new broom is confiscated. Ron takes it as a personal affront that the Firebolt will be stripped down and the trio spends the winter months in disagreement. It’s Hagrid who brings them together again with Buckbeak’s trial and appeal because of Malfoy’s injury back in the fall. In the end, the trio comes together in the face of a bigger tragedy. However, I think Hermione’s protection of Harry regarding the Firebolt incident had a positive effect on his general reluctance to adhere to the rules while Hermione slapping Malfoy is proof that she’s lightened up a bit and is more willing to stand and fight for her friends than be shackled to the rules.

In the end, Harry emerges from Prisoner of Azkaban with deeper knowledge of his parents and their friends as well as feeling that he has a family connection within the wizarding world, as Sirius Black is his godfather.

Up next: the first giant-sized volume, Goblet of Fire!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

John Green: YA Superstar... and savior?

With the release of The Fault in Our Stars movie just weeks away, I’m seeing John Green everywhere. (Not in person, though that’d be so cool!) He was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2014, TFIOS was EW’s cover story last week and the nerd-hero was featured on Buzzfeed. John Green has exploded into a household name (or close to) and while that’s great, I’m worried about the ramifications of his celebrity status on YA.

Don’t get me wrong, I love John Green. I’ve read TFIOS and all his books except one (I’m saving Looking for Alaska but I’m not quite sure why). I watch vlogbrothers semi-regularly. I live in Indianapolis and feel a certain kinship.

But with all the press around TFIOS, articles about Mr. Green and his bestsellers are appearing everywhere and not all of them are accurate. They’re turning him into the savior of YA contemporary fiction—even the savior of YA overall—from the awful dregs of vampires and supernatural romance and UGH fantasy. (Sarcasm, because of course I love fantasy.)

This has been on my mind a lot in the past month, but I didn’t know how to put it into words. So luckily someone did it for me. But she did it WAY better than I ever could have. Last week, Justine Larbalestier tweeted THIS blog post by Anne Ursu. The article not only hit on my feelings but went into more depth than I ever could have. I even learned a thing or two. (And it reminded me that even though I may be a YA expert in the bookstore where I work, there are many more seriously intelligent and tuned in YA experts out there that have years and years of experience with YA, MG and the publishing world.)

Anyway, I LOVE this article. Oh, and THIS one too, where a YA librarian with over 20 years of experience (and over 2000 YA books read?! WHAT?!) addresses the recent media portrayal of YA.

And one more, because who doesn’t love an accurate and interesting portrayal of John Green that just happens to have been published by my hometown newspaper. (I didn’t go searching for this one—it popped up on my feed as a pleasant surprise!) Key to this one’s accuracy: they didn’t try to interpret John Green’s success and explain his impact on YA but just let John speak for himself.

So if you’re a YA enthusiast, expert or merely an occasional reader, keep a steady diet of don’t-believe-everything-the-media-tells-you because sometimes they’re right and sometimes they are more than wrong. Sometimes they actually do their research and sometimes they say things just to say things.

Don’t let the bestsellers define a genre. Don’t let one author’s spotlight throw the rest into the shadow. And for goodness sakes, read diversely.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Coaxing the Muse

I wish I could take as many vacations as my muse. She also likes to wake late, go to sleep early and it’s quite common for her to siesta from lunch until dinner. She doesn’t like me if I’m sick or cranky and she really hates that I’ve given up coffee. (TBH, I’m not a fan of that either.) And now that it’s almost summer, it’s likely she’ll wander off without any reason at all.

So when my muse (codename: Ariela von Driessen) can’t be found, what do I do? Do I sink into the doldrums and watch hours of Netflix on the couch? No! I do something—anything—to try to coax her back.
Let the coaxing begin.
My reading list is longer than most interstates. So if I’m stuck staring at a blank page, I pick something from my to-read pile and fill the void with pages full of words. It usually sparks something.

Or do anything mindless, really. My muse tends not to be found when she’s needed the most, but if I stop needing her, she’ll likely pop back in unexpectedly.

Go Outside
Maybe I’ll find inspiration in the way the sun shines through the clouds or the way the trees blow in the breeze or even in the rain as it falls to earth. (Or maybe I'll find her sunbathing by the pool.)

Flee to social media. Catch a laugh on Tumblr. Respond to fellow writers on Twitter. Visit blogs and websites and watch videos. Leave comments! 

Write anyway
I shouldn’t require a muse to put words on paper. Though her presence is soothing and I’m a fan of light bulb inspiration, it’s much more satisfying when hard work gets the scene written and edited!

“If the muse is late for work, start without her.” –Peter S. Beagle

Waiting for the muse and doing nothing in the meantime is the worst thing I can do for my writing. With or without Ms. Ariela von Driessen (yes, she’s as finicky as she sounds), I write. Or I do something similarly productive in the writing scheme of things to get the juices going. Then I write.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Diversifying My Reading List

You may have heard of the #weneeddiversebooks campaign that went viral (Yay!) over the past few days. For more information, click HERE. Well, it got me thinking...

Reading is a great way to learn about a culture/race/orientation/religion etc. other than the one you identify with. Personally, books have always been a source of learning for me. I widen my vocabulary, learn about legends, hobbies, history and places other than what I’m familiar with, but am I reading enough diverse books? Am I learning about other cultures/races/orientations/religions in the books I read?

I’m not so sure. Out of the 18 books I’ve read this year, only two of them have main characters who are diverse:
·         Two Boys Kissing—David Levithan
·         The Tyrant’s Daughter—J.C. Carleson

My reading repertoire overall has more diversity, but still the percentage to total books read is low. Looks like I need to ramp it up! For each of the eight months left of 2014, I’m going to read at least one book with a main character unlike me, whether they are of another culture, race, orientation, religion etc. One of the best things about reading diversely is that I'll be able to recommend diversely (remember: I'm a bookseller by day).

My #weneeddiversebooks Reading List for 2014
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian—Sherman Alexie
The Summer Prince—Alaya Dawn Johnson
Ask the Passengers—A. S. King
The Art of Secrets—James Klise
The Living—Matt de la Peña
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe—Benjamin Alire Sáenz
She is Not Invisible—Marcus Sedgwick
Marcelo in the Real World—Francisco X. Stork

Oh, and here’s some diversity in the wild!