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September 22 is Hobbit Day! It marks the start of Tolkien Week. 

Here are 10 ways to celebrate:

1.) Click to learn more about Hobbit Day and Tolkien Week, celebrated each year since 1978 by The American Tolkien Society.

2.) Read (or reread) The Hobbit. Or share your favorite passages with a friend.

3.) Go barefoot, as hobbits rarely wear shoes.

4.) Eat heartily, and don’t miss Second Breakfast! There is some discussion as to whether Second Breakfast is the same as or in addition to Elevenses. Either way, Halflings eat six or seven times a day and are particularly fond of apples, blackberry tarts, ripe cheeses, mushrooms, hot soups, cold meats, bacon rashers, scones, potatoes (Samwise Gangee’s favorite), and fruit or meat pies. But, perhaps avoid roast mutton, as that is frequent food of Trolls.

5.) Argue with other Tolkien geeks over whether Hobbit Day actually fell on September 12 or 14, since the Shire Calendar varies from the Gregorian.

6.) Noodle some riddles. Hobbits adore riddles. Bilbo used them to get the best of Gollum in the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter. He later wrote “all that is gold does not glitter” in a telling riddle about Strider, which Gandalf gave to Frodo.

7.) Check out the latest trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug hitting theaters December 13, 2013.

 

8.) Visit your local library or a local bookstore for more Middle-Earth mythology via Tolkien’s posthumously published works: The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth, or The Histories of Middle-Earth.

9.) Have that “Unexpected” or “Long-Expected” Party! Hobbits like to socialize. Well, except Bilbo of course.

10.) Raise a glass of wine (preferably Old Winyards red), “a good deep mug of beer,” or perhaps a restorative cup of tea, and drink “to The Shire!”

September 22 is Hobbit Day!

The Hobbit: My Own Unexpected Journey

Happy Hobbitversary! 75 Years On

Bring on The Hobbit Movie Triple Play!

A Tolkien Travesty: Nobel Jury Not So Noble

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silhouette cropI have a high back window that has played home to a succession of spiders. Jokingly, I have referred to each as Charlotte A. Cavatica, after Wilbur’s friend. Visiting kids always like to climb up and take a look at the arachnid in action—spinning or repairing the web and, yes, sometimes wrapping up struggling prey. It’s a bit like my own personal Nature Channel.

Now it turns out, I actually do have a Charlotte out there, complete with a very large egg sac that she is tending. Like most people, I have a natural fear of these eight-legged beasts, but I loved Charlotte’s Web so much (still do), that I cannot bring myself to kill them. I have somewhat perfected the art of spider catch-and-release.

Also, I was really moved by Life and Death in Shanghai, Nien Cheng’s wrenching memoir of her persecution during China’s Cultural Revolution. Cheng was imprisoned in solitary confinement for seven years, her only friend a spider in the upper corner of her cell. As she watched the spider swing about creating its intricate web, Cheng wrote, “I knew I had just witnessed something extraordinarily beautiful and uplifting … I felt a renewal of hope and confidence.” With the spider there, she felt less fearful of the guards who bullied her daily.

Alas like Charlotte, that spider passed away with the arrival of winter, and it is a truly heartbreaking moment in the book. [Aside, Cheng was a wonderful writer and I highly recommend this read!]

Radiant.

Radiant.

I confess, though, as I look out at the bulging egg sac dangling so close to my window … I am a bit (ok very) freaked. [Click on the pic to really see the eggs.] One day hundreds of spiders will burst out separated only by a pane of glass. I’m terrified of a spider invasion through the cracks of my house. But these two books have left such a mark that I cannot bring myself to sweep it all away.

Instead, I’m hoping that like Charlotte’s brood these mini critters will quickly spin tiny balloons and disperse, sailing off with the wind.

 

Perhaps the runt will be left behind to occupy my window, if so I would name her Aranea.

Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

Life and Death in Shanghai, by Nien Cheng

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Files cover“Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place,
but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.”
—E. L. Konigsburg

I stopped and caught myself when I heard that E.L. Konigsburg passed away last Friday. It hurt. But almost immediately, that gave way to the familiar, deep-in happiness I always feel when I think of her. Oh, I loved her books when I was growing up!

Like Elizabeth, I had a pet frog so I was thrilled by the schemes and magic in Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. And, I have to point to Konigsburg’s tale of Eleanor of Acquitane, A Proud Taste for Scarlett and Miniver, for sparking my interest in biographies and historical fiction. (Cannot wait for the next Hilary Mantel!)

But most of all, I loved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler—the story of Claudia and her little brother Jamie, who run away to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Claudia is the reluctant adventurer. “Secrets are the kind of adventure she needs. Secrets are safe, and they do much to make you different. On the inside where it counts.”

Still, ‘the Mixed-Up Files’ had just enough adventure (and mystery) to keep me hooked, but there was also the research and library angle, which especially appealed to a bookworm like me. I’ve read the book countless times and have given it to almost every kid I know.  After they read it (and are in on the secret), it’s especially fun to take a child to the Metropolitan Museum to see the “Mixed-Up” haunts.

Claudia and Jamie spent a lot of time in the Egyptian galleries and the very bronze cat they admired is still in a case there. There are several period bedrooms on display, though the exact bed that the kids slept in has been dismantled. Likewise, the fountain they bathed in is gone, though there are several others in the Charles Engelhard Court. Finally, in a case of life imitating art—well, art imitating fiction—the Met recently put on display a small marble statue called the ‘Young Archer’ which may or may not have been carved by Michelangelo.

In fact, so many children ask about the book, that the museum has put out a special “Mixed-up Files” guide to their collection. (As opposed to the American Museum of Natural History, which pretty much has nothing from Night at the Museum. #disappointedkids)

In addition to being a great storyteller, Konigsburg wrote beautifully. When Elizabeth looks out at spring from her window she finds, “new green was all over … green so new that it was kissing yellow.” The author won two Newbery Medals and several other literary citations.

Konigsburg would often tell her readers, “before you can be anything, you have to be yourself. That’s the hardest thing to find.” Most of her novels were about self-discovery and that time in life when children start to define themselves with their actions and choices.

I like to think of E.L. Konigsburg starting off like the out-of-place, questioning Claudia and in her later years resembling the accomplished Mrs Frankweiler, smiling with her secret. I’m so grateful to Konigsburg, and I am sad that she is gone. But mostly, when I think of her, I feel that happiness and excitement which she so perfectly described, and I can still it flapping around a little.

Scholastic Book Clubs Tribute Page to E.L. Konigsburg

Washington Post: E. L. Konigsburg Obituary and Bio

New York Times Books: E. L. Konigsburg, Author, Dead at 83

WP Style Blog: To My Lawyer, Saxonberg, the Genius of E.L. Kongisburg

The Metropolitan Museum Kids Guide: the “Mixed-Up Files” Issue

The Metropolitan Museum Unveils a ‘Maybe’ Michelangelo

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Hobbit movie image crop etcSomehow, with the bustle of the holidays, I did not make it to the The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey. We had a collection of extended family—cousins, grandparents, in-laws—almost like a gathering of the Bagginses, Brandybucks, and Tooks. Our festivities kicked off the Thursday before Christmas with people coming-and-going, so it was nearly the six-day hobbit Yule celebration.

After Christmas dinner, when things had finally settled down, I was feeling rather like Bilbo Baggins, ready for a quiet night by the fire with a cup of tea. Then, the phone rang. The family fun was not over, and an evening trip to The Hobbit was proposed. Much like Bilbo with the dwarves, I declined the adventure at first. But my 14-year-old nephew talked me out of this moment of temporary insanity. Just like Bilbo, when I saw everyone leaving, I realized I did not want to be left behind.

There were eight of us, heading off like Thorin Oakenshield’s merry band of dwarves. Among us were three Tolkien geeks (moi aussi), including my brother-in-law who quoted to us impressively from The Silmarillion. Our company also included a couple of people who hadn’t “gotten into” The Hobbit, another way of saying “I just stopped reading.” And, we actually brought along someone who’d never seen The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) film trilogy. (I know, but you cannot pick your relatives.)

Everyone, from the neophytes to the Tolkien-obsessed, loved The Hobbit movie! As with LOTR, Peter Jackson mined Tolkien’s detailed notes and his history of Middle-Earth, The Silmarillion. Jackson starts his story before the novel does, with the exciting tale of the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor and the Lonely Mountain. Also, in the first few scenes, we get a cameo of Frodo—and the whole theater cheered. There were more cheers when Bilbo’s pen scratched out the book’s first words: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Later, there were gasps and some hisses when Saruman showed up in Rivendell.

Thanks to this Star Wars-esque reverse filming of LOTR before The Hobbit, many viewers learn about Saruman’s treachery before they see him as an important force for good in the first book. It’s like watching young Anakin Skywalker, knowing he will grow up to be Darth Vader. Though here it’s a pity, because the Saruman story unfolds with some great twists in LOTR that have much more punch if you’ve read (or seen) The Hobbit first.

Without anymore near spoilers, I’ll add that keen observers will note that the dreaded three Trolls from this film make a brief cameo in LOTR: The Fellowship of The Ring. Finally, I’ll admit that I teared up when Bilbo first reaches for Sting.

My favorite part of the movie, however, is when Frodo heads out to greet the arrival of Gandalf. Yes, this film starts on the very same day as the LOTR trilogy, Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday—now celebrated around the world as Hobbit Day. We will next see Frodo at the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring, on the road waving down Gandalf. This circular approach is a brilliant move by Jackson, and I feel will ultimately weave the two trilogies together perfectly. The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey is worth the trip!! I just wish, per Saturday Night Live’s trailer above, there really were 18 more sequels.

Bring On the Hobbit Triple-Play!

Happy Hobbit Day! Happy Hobbitversary! 75 Years On

September 22 is Hobbit Day

Ten Ways to Celebrate Hobbit Day

The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey (official site)

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy

Lord of The Rings Wiki

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It’s Banned Books Week (Sept 30- Oct 6), organized each year by the American Library Association (ALA). The awareness campaign was founded in 1982—the same year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a New York school district could not remove Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five from its middle-school and high-school libraries. Well, barely. The court was sharply divided over this decision, split 4-4 as to whether limiting the books would violate the students’ First Amendment rights. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger actually sided with the book banners. The swing vote was cast by Justice Byron White, who concurred with the four that wanted to limit the school board’s ability to withhold books, but he refused to comment on the First Amendment issue. Er, I’m no lawyer, but denying books to students seems a pretty clear violation of both “freedom of speech” and “freedom of the press.”

It was close call, but that ruling hasn’t stopped Slaughterhouse Five from being barred repeatedly from school bookstores and libraries, as recently as 2007 in Howell, Michigan. Other frequently banned classics include high-school favorites like A Separate Peace, by John Knowles; As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner; The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger; The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding; and just about everything written by Hemingway, Orwell, and Steinbeck. Check out the ALA’s list of the Most Frequently Banned and Challenged Classics.

Back in 1918 when James Joyce’s Ullysses came out it was banned from publication in the U.S., Ireland, Canada, and England. Sylvia Beach famously came to the rescue by printing and selling the book from her Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. In 1940, U.S. Post Office actually declared Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls “non-mailable.”

But censorship is not something of the past. Right after the first The Lord of the Rings movie debuted in 2001, a pile of Tolkien’s books were burned outside a church in Almagordo, New Mexico, for being “satanic.” Clearly, these people had not actually read the books (or seen the movie). In 2010, a California school district banned Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary owing to “explicit definitions.”

Last year, the ALA reports there were 326 attempts to remove books from school curricula and/or libraries. The Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2011 include To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (both repeatedly challenged in the 21st century). Of course, the list includes The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, just as a few years back the target was on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I confess, I feel a bit squeamish about younger children reading The Hunger Games, but that’s a decision for their parents—not the state … or the local town council, seriously?

So celebrate our right to read this week by reading a banned book … or any book. Check your local library for Banned Book Week events. Also, don’t miss the Virtual Read-Out on YouTube. Passages from banned books will be read in video clips by celebrities, famous authors, and just about anyone who wants to upload to the channel. Read on.

30 Year Timeline of Banned Books Week

Top Ten Banned Books of 2011

List of Most Frequently Challenged Classic Books

Banned and Challenge Classics: History by Book

BBW Virtual Read-Out on You Tube

Bookman’s Does Banned Books on You Tube

Flashback Post: Banned Books Week 2011—Celebrate  Celebrate our Right to Read

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September 22 is Hobbit Day!  Here are 10 ways to celebrate:

1.) Read or reread The Hobbit. Or share it with a friend.

2.) Go barefoot, as hobbits rarely wear shoes.

3.) Eat Heartily, and don’t miss Second Breakfast at 11:00 am. Hobbits eat six or seven times a day and are particularly fond of apples, blackberry tarts, ripe cheeses, mushrooms, hot soups, cold meats, bacon rashers, scones, potatoes (Samwise Gangee’s favorite) and fruit or meat pies. But, perhaps avoid roast mutton, as that is frequent food of Trolls.

4.) Argue with other Tolkien geeks over whether Hobbit Day actually fell on September 12 or 14, since the Shire Calendar varies from the Gregorian.

5.) Noodle some riddles. Hobbits adore riddles. Bilbo used them to get the best of Gollum in the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter. He later wrote “all that is gold does not glitter” in a telling riddle about Strider, which Gandalf gave to Frodo.

6.) Check out the latest trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hitting theaters December 14, 2012. Or, look behind-the-scenes via The Hobbit movies official blog.

7.) Log onto HobbitDay.com for an all-day online festival with Tolkien experts, readings, and events.

8.) Read about The Hobbit‘s 75th Anniversary:

Bio Close-up: The 75th Anniversary of J.R.R.  Tolkien’s The Hobbit

The Hobbit: What Has Made the Book Such an Enduring Success? (via the Telegraph)

The Hobbit Second Breakfast (via the Wall St Journal)

Why J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit isn’t Just For Kids (via the Wall St Journal)

9.) Have that “Unexpected” or “Long-Expected” Party! Hobbits like to socialize. Well, except Bilbo of course.

10.) Raise a glass of wine (preferably Old Winyards red), “a good deep mug of beer,” or perhaps a restorative cup of tea, and drink “to The Shire!”

September 22 is Hobbit Day!

Bring on The Hobbit Movie Triple Play!

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It’s a big weekend in The Shire! Today, September 21, marks the 75th Anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, first published in 1937. The book, which has never been out of print, has sold over 100 million copies and been translated into 50 languages. In 1954, the poet W.H. Auden called The Hobbit, “one of the best children’s stories of this century.” So many decades later, Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and the fiesty band of  rogue dwarves continue to fascinate readers of all ages. Indeed, Tolkien’s “re-creation of Middle-earth has affected every fantasy writer since.”

Then tomorrow, Saturday, is Hobbit Day, observed every year on September 22. Tolkien fans around the world will celebrate with Second Breakfasts and toasts the Shire. This is actually the birthday of both Bilbo and his nephew Frodo Baggins, aka the two ring bearers. This date takes on even greater significance because it kicks off the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first book, The Fellowship of the Ring, opens with Bilbo’s birthday party on September 22, after which he passes the One Ring on to Frodo, and trouble follows fast.

Earlier this week, a tantalizing new trailer was released for the upcoming movie The Hobbit: An Uexpected Journey. I must say that I am triply excited that there will be three films instead of one.

We have to wait until December for the film, but this weekend all things Hobbit can occupy our thoughts. Here are 10 Ways to Celebrated Hobbit Day!

September 22 is Hobbit Day

10 Ways to Celebrate Hobbit Day

Bring on the Hobbit Movie Triple Play!

The Hero is a Hobbit: W. H. Auden in The New York Times

The Hobbit: What Has Made the Book Such an Enduring Success?

The Hobbit Second Breakfast (via the Wall St Journal)

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