Exploring the Library

We have a library in the museum where I work, and a while back, the librarian showed me this fantastic book.

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I have never more wished that I’d taken Spanish instead of French. Look at these brands!

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There are also fantastic illustrations throughout, including this one of a pipe organ:

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And this one of a Phoenix:

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So very cool. Someone who speaks Spanish please tell me what all this is about because this book rocks.

Another Go Set a Watchman Post

In case you maybe somehow haven’t heard, the Harper Lee novel Go Set a Watchman was released yesterday. I have seen plenty of comments and posts saying they will read it or they will never own a copy. I have seen plenty of reviews that say it falls far short of To Kill a Mockingbird (honestly, how could it not). I have also, just like many of you, questioned the motivation and timing of its release. If it is, however, what it is purported to be — an earlier draft of Mockingbird given a strong Revise & Resubmit by her publishers — then it is utterly fascinating.

It is a fascinating glimpse into the HOW of writing something as timeless and enduring as To Kill a Mockingbird. Personally, I don’t care whether she’s accurately captured our hopes and dreams for the future of beloved characters because — and this is very important — they aren’t the same characters. So Atticus is a racist? That’s an important stop the character made on the way to becoming the man who defends Tom Robinson. Jean-Louise’s grown-up problems fade into the sharper, more black-and-white, fair-and-unfair problems of a six-year-old. I confess, there’s something comforting about the idea of Aunt Alexandra being largely unchanged.

Some people have suggested that this new writing will irreversibly taint the old. I humbly suggest that these people are wrong in both their expectations and their extrapolations of Watchman. To be fair, it is not all their fault; Watchman was billed as a sequel, which it is not. It is billed as new, which it is not. It is a draft. To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful, beautiful, enduring novel, but it did not spring fully-formed from the mind of Ms. Lee. It took work and messiness and writing and rewriting. I think there is both room and reason to appreciate Go Set a Watchman for what it is: an imperfect stepping stone to one of the pinnacles of American literature.

What I’m Reading – Sick Day Edition

Today I am home sick from work, so I am curling up with some old favorites and some new reads. As you may have picked out, I am a fan of fairy tales and folklore, so it should be no surprise that my sick day reading looks like this:

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That’s the recently-published collection of Bavarian fairy tales, a newly acquired Propp, a Norton Critical Edition, and a Maria Tatar (my hero!). I think I will be kept thoroughly amused. I’ll probably do a more in-depth piece on each after I read them.

Victorian Children’s Literature – New Find

So I found this great old children’s book called Sketches of Little Boys. Despite the creepiness of that title to modern ears, it’s a delightful mid-19th century piece specifically for boys full of stories about good boys and bad boys.

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The exact little boy in this story always puts things back where he found them, so when a valuable book is missed from the family library, Father is sure the boy did not lose it after reading it. Sure enough, an Uncle had borrowed the volume while the family was out, and everything works out nicely.

It apparently was part of a series put out by “Dean and Son, 31, Ludgate Hill, three doors west of Old Bailey,” and best as I can tell, was printed in the 1850s. I don’t know how it got to New Orleans, but I wish I could find more!

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Awesome Illustrators – Graeme Base

If you are unfamiliar with Graeme Base, I am sorry. You missed out on The Eleventh HourAnimalia, or one of his other brilliantly illustrated stories.

Snakes-and-LaddersI was first introduced to Base’s work when my mom got us The Eleventh Hour. The story is a mystery that takes place at a birthday costume party for an elephant (with a solution that even an adult might struggle to figure out), but what stuck with me was the colorful, brilliant artwork. Every page is richly detailed and filled with hints, codes, and puzzles. There’s a sealed packet at the back with all the answers, but it is well worth the struggle to figure out the answer for yourself.

Animalia is one of the best alphabet booksHORRIBLE-HAIRY-HOGS I’ve ever seen. Every page is filled with layers upon layers of things that begin with the assigned letter. The letter H, for example has the Hairy Hogs, but a closer inspection reveals honey, hamsters, a house on a hill, and even a happy face sticker. I could read this book today and probably find things I’ve never noticed before.

I’ve loved Base’s books for years, and the best part is he’s still working. For more information about Graeme Base and his books, click here. You can even follow him on Instagram!

(Would that make it an InstaGraeme?)

What I’m Reading – Trigger Warning

gaimanI love short stories, I love Neil Gaiman’s writing, and something has to break up the crushing reality of Steinbeck. It may seem odd to break up the struggle of life as a depression-era farm laborer with fantasy/horror, but it works for me. (And no, I haven’t finished Of Mice and Men. It’s only 100 pages or so, but it is really sad, okay?)

I’d already read his short story “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” (beautifully illustrated by Eddie Campbell) before I got this, but it fits nicely this collection. I’m not done with it yet (seeing as how I’m reading it concurrently with several other books), but my favorite story so far is “My Last Landlady.” It’s a wonderfully grim little bit of horror that I won’t spoil for you here.

No one needs me to tell them that Neil Gaiman is a brilliant writer. However, if you haven’t picked up Trigger Warnings yet and you like eerie stories, I’d highly recommend it.