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Harry Potter

Geeking Out: News Bits and Utopian Books in an Imperfect World

PotterHarry Potter and the Love That Never Was? Recently J.K. Rowling admitted that she regrets having Hermione end up with Ron. As the author told Emma Watson, guest editor for the upcoming edition of the quarterly British lifestyle magazine "Wonderland," "It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility." Team Ron vs. Team Harry. Phooey! What I want to know is this: Is she Prime Minister yet -- making all of England (at least) safe for and from magic?

In other (ahem) "news" from across the geeky pond, the adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods is back on track. Hurray! Unfortunately HBO is out of the picture. Gaiman expressed nothing but positivity on his blog when he made the announcement that FremantleMedia (the folks "The X Factor") would be developing the series. Goodness knows I'll tune in wherever it ends up. Still, the dream of a Sunday evening of "Game of Thrones" into "American Gods" is shattered.American Gods

In my perfect world, such things would simply go my way. And Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Frank Herbert, and J.R.R. Tolkien would have been immortal and still bursting with new ideas for new books. And vying for tickets to San Diego Comic-Con wouldn't feel like my soul was being swallowed in a Lovecraftian nightmare.

But alas, this is not my perfect world, or even a perfect world. Even in sci-fi stories that explore societal ideals, we read a lot about the dark underbelly of what turns out to be a false utopia, or the somber, dangerous world after the seemingly inevitable fall of a utopian society. Just take a look at the Utopian Science Fiction list Kindle put together.

Sometimes, I like to look at the bright side, though. So on that note, here are a few stories that take a stab at imagining successful utopias.

A Modern Utopia
A Modern Utopia
by H.G. Wells
Print | Kindle
True, there's a bit of darkness inherent in this vice-free society (located on a replica of Earth) which simply banishes its lower class. Still, it's an interesting approach to imagining a simpler/better world.
by Ernest Callenbach
Print | Kindle
The story of the first outsider admitted into "Ecotopia," the green-friendly dream world that was created when the northern west coast seceded from the US decades ago.
by Thomas More
Print | Kindle
If you can forgive that he thought to emphasize freedom of religion, but wasn't forward-thinking enough to abolish slavery, More's vision of an island that rejects the harsh realities of European sociopolitical landscape in 1516 sounds like a swell place.

YA Wednesday: Happy Birthday, Harry Potter (and J.K. Rowling)

Okay, so I know Harry Potter is not a YA book (though they did get progressively darker, no?) but since Harry's birthday falls on a Wednesday this year, and I have these cool new covers to share, I figured, why not?  And in case you aren't up on your Potter trivia, Harry and his creator, J.K. Rowling, share their July 31st birthday.  That's handy...

In just a few weeks something big is happening with the series--Harry's getting a makeover.  If you love the Mary GrandPré covers you grew up with, no worries, they aren't going away, but are being joined by new paperback editions with covers designed by graphic novel author and illustrator, Kazu Kibuishi (which I'm loving).  The new editions aren't available until August 27, but here's a look at a few of them, along with the originals--what do you think?

HP1_new_cover  HP4 HP6

HP1_old HP4_Old HP6_old

Most Read by Facebookers in 2012

If you've got a Facebook profile, you may have noticed a new link: "See Your 2012 Year in Review." The roundup goes beyond your own pictures, new friends, and how many pages you liked, though. Facebook Trends from 2012 includes quite an interesting feature revealing the books that were most read by Facebook users in 2012. And, unlike our own Best Books of the Year list (which focuses on books published in 2012), this list ranges from an entire modern series to decades-old classics.

Topping the list in positions 1, 2, and 3 is Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy in sequential order. At least among Facebook users, the beginning of the Harry Potter saga continues to attract new readers and re-readers. Classics To Kill a Mockingbird (which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year)and The Great Gatsby (soon to star Leonardo DiCaprio in the big screen remake) add a little canon to the mix, while Fifty Shades of Grey stands out as an R-rated anomaly on an otherwise PG-13 list.

Here, in order, is what Facebook users read in 2012:

The Hunger Games

Catching Fire Mockingjay

50 Shades of GreyHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone The Help

Twilight To Kill a Mockingbird Great Gatsby Water for Elephants


Bring On the Banned Books

Every year Banned Books Week (September 30-October 6) is devoted to reminding the reading public and the book community at large that having the freedom to read what we want isn't always a given when it comes to schools and libraries.  Though I've seen the list countless times I'm always struck dumb by the titles that are frequently challenged or have been removed from school libraries--the majority of them being some of the most popular titles of the day like The Hunger Games (#3 on the Top 10 Challenged Books of 2011) , or books like The Catcher in the Rye that are synomous with classic literature (see more banned and challenged classics here).

2012 marks the 30th year of Banned Books Week and the American Library Association created a really cool timeline that shows a significant banned or challenged book representing each of the last 31 years (it includes 2012) and the reason each title made the list.  It's quite a representation of the big names in publishing and children's books in particular--Maurice Sendak, Katherine Patterson, Kurt Vonnegut, Judy Blume, etc. 2009's representative title may look especially familiar as you've probably been seeing trailers for the movie adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower--the book was challenged in both VA and WI for references to drug use, homosexuality, and suicide.  Something tells me there won't be the same reaction to the movie version. 

It's hard to believe with all the reality shows that have taken over television in recent years showing young people doing drugs, having sex, not just drinking but getting completely hammered, that BOOKS are still challenged... I get it that these are books in schools and libraries and it's the use of our (rapidly dwindling) public funds that get some people in a twist, but as a parent I would much rather have my kid read about drugs and become more informed, than try to learn by doing.  Whatever your thoughts on censorship and books, I hope this week to celebrate reading inspires us all to read something new, share a favorite book, or just remember some of the best reads of your life.  Here are a few of my favorite books that have been challenged in recent years--what are yours?


Mickey TKAM HungerGames

Checking out Pottermore

For the past two weeks, the first thing I check when I get to work is the Pottermore site, hoping today will be the day in "early April" that the site becomes available to everyone.  Well, the wait--most of it anyway--is over, and the site is open for registration.

I am now signed up for Pottermore, having created my account with the usual basic info, plus answering a question about which of the Harry Potter books and movies I have read or seen (and yes, there is a box for All).  My input was deemed magical and my name added to a list of magical folk, right above Harry Potter, before directing me to choose a username from five different choices--I assume this will come into play later when I am sorted into a house. 

Sadly, I am still waiting--likely a result of the page crash that happened when we first learned about Pottermore last spring, there is now a process in place that will give new users access to the full site over the course of a few days.  According to the site, once access is granted, "you'll get sorted into one of the four Hogwarts houses, have a wand choose you, and discover exclusive new writing from J.K. Rowling."  In the meantime, I'm checking out the Pottermore blog that has some great illustrations and a sneek peek video. Have you signed up yet?   --Seira

More on Pottermore

Perhaps like many of you, Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. PST--okay, maybe 3:55--I began madly hitting the refresh button on my Blackberry (I was at the beach, and yes, I know how lame that looks...) trying to gain access to early registration for Pottermore.  Sadly, I never got any farther than the "due to overwhelming demand" message, but when I checked back later I discovered that all was not lost.  On each of the seven days between July 31 and August 6, a new clue will be posted pertaining to the corresponding Harry Potter book (so Day 1 the clue was from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone).  Solve the clue and you have the last piece of a URL leading to The Magical Quill, where the registration magic happens. Do I even have to tell you how much I want to see that clue? I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it.  So Day 3 is fast upon us, and I'm trying to refresh my memory of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban before 4:00 this afternoon.  If I don't answer my phone later, you'll know why... Did any of you Harry Potter-loving Omni readers make it through to The Magical Quill this weekend? --Seira

Omni Daily News

Chelsea Handler--Publisher:  Comedienne and bestselling author Chelsea Handler goes one step further than the likes of Jon Stewart and Sarah Silverman--she's getting her own publishing imprint, courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.   Handler has a three-book deal for the new imprint, Borderline Amazing / A Chelsea Handler Book, and the inaugural title is said to be Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, in May 2011.

Barack's picture book: Today the long-awaited picture book written by Barack Obama before he was President Barack, goes on sale.   Of Thee I Sing is gorgeously illustrated by award-winner Loren Long, and the list of 13 Americans profiled, information previously under wraps, includes Sitting Bull, Billie Holiday, and Cesar Chavez.

Countdown to Harry Potter: With the new film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, only days away, screenwriter Steve Kloves, who has written the screenplays for all the Harry Potter movies except Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, talks about adapting the books for film and working with J.K. Rowling:

    “I once e-mailed her and asked her what were the 12 uses of dragon’s blood” — information that is taught to Hogwarts students — “and she wrote back in 30 seconds what they all were. If I ask about Ron’s uncle, I get back five pages about Ron’s uncle, who never appears in the books.”

Moving & Shaking: Author Kristin Kimball talked blood, sweat, and dirt on NPR's All Things Considered yesterday, bumping her book The Dirty Life up our Movers & Shakers this morning.


"'The Chosen One' hahaha": Hogwarts Gets the Internet

First there was Austenbook, then Hamlet joined Facebook, we took a stab at Meyerbook, and now (long overdue), the Hogwarts crew has joined the world of social media thanks to New York Magazine's Daily Vulture imagining how Harry, Draco, and the Weasleys would act on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. It's pretty spot on, too--Dobby the house elf stalks Harry's wall, Bellatrix Lestrange has an Etsy account (selling "Original Apparel-Jewelry-Collectibles-Muggle Ears"), and (who would've thought?) Cho Chang tweets "TEAM EDWARD FOREVER <3 <3 <3 <3."


End-o'-the-Week Kid-Lit Roundup

Quick links from around the kid-lit blogosphere:

Curious Pages. Trusty ol' Bookshelves of Doom point us towards Curious Pages, a.k.a. "Recommended Inappropriate Books for Kids™." Also check out their "Recommended Reading for Cool Kids and Young Rebels" list, and don't miss the interior pages of this 1934 classic:
(And you can thank Dr. Seuss for the also-recommended Boners, More Boners, Still More Boners, and the Pocket Book of Boners.)

Wkmd The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary. Publishers Weekly has the scoop on this book out in March, a "a behind-the-scenes from the author’s perspective, about the moviemaking process." (From author Jeff Kinney: “I was fascinated by the filmmaking process, and I thought my readers might be as wide-eyed and interested as I was. In The Wimpy Kid Move Diary, I’ve tried to tell the story of how a movie gets made in a way that will entertain and inform kids.”)

Katherine Paterson named new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Don't miss Lauren's post on the big kid-lit news of the week, re: the author of Bridge to Terabithia and many other popular books. Outgoing ambassador Jon Scieszka wishes her well Yoda-style: "You are in good hands with the crazy wonderful and hardworking crew of the Children's Book Council. Use your powers for good. Already know you that which you need. A Jedi's strength flows from the force..."

Another "Thursday Three": Cybils Finalists. Pam at PBS Booklights devoted her "Thursday Three" to discussing some of the Cybils "Fiction Picture Book" Finalists (revealed on January 1st) that are most likely to receive Caldecott recognition.

Henson "Mush! North Pole Adventures." School Library Journal put together an intriguing Arctic-themed reading list "featuring explorers and adventurers, both canine and human." The ages range from K through 8, including fun titles like Matthew Henson, Arctic Adventurer ("This graphic biography does an excellent job of capturing the key turning points in the African-American explorer’s life and work alongside Lt. Robert Peary, co-discoverer of the North Pole. A good choice for reluctant readers...").

The economic impact of Harry Potter. From none other than the Economist: "The recession of 2008-09 has been accompanied by bold claims about businesses’ economic importance. As carmakers teetered many people put it about that one in ten American jobs depended on the industry. The figure turned out to include taxi drivers. Similarly adventurous claims have been made for telecoms and road-building. As a single-handed creator of jobs and wealth, though, few can match the writer Joanne Rowling." The rest gets pretty interesting.

Storm in the Barn wins 2010 Scott O'Dell Award. This year's Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction has gone to Storm in the Barn. You can read about the award on Roger Sutton's blog--along with some quasi-controversy over whether a graphic novel can win a prize for historical fiction. Whatever the case, it's a wonderful book:


End-o'-the-Week Kid-Lit Roundup

Quick links from around the kid-lit blogosphere:

Turn your iPhone into a wand! There's a new Harry Potter app out now called "Spells," which lets you join a Hogwarts school, learn spells (from Stupefy to Expelliarmus), and duel with other "students" (via wifi or Bluetooth).

StinkykidSMALL Wimpy Kid zombie parody. Publishers Weekly is calling this graphic-novel parody of the Wimpy Kid books "lightning in a bottle." Tales from the Crypt #8: Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid has apparently gone back for its second and third printing.

"Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical." School Library Journal talks to Mo Willems about his Knuffle Bunny series, and especially the upcoming musical appearing in the Kennedy Center's 2010 season. ("The Kennedy Center was foolish enough to let me write the script and song lyrics, although they did give me a fantastic dramaturg named Megan Alrutz to help me focus on the emotional through line of the story instead of spending all my time figuring out the giant puppet man-eating brassiere.")

2009 Winter Blog Blast Tour. Chasing Ray sponsored and scheduled last week's 2009 Winter Blog Blast Tour, a ton of author interviews across a smattering of great blogs. If you missed it, go back and check it out.

61eL4budcWL PBS Booklights' Thursday Three: Thanksgiving. Hopefully Pam gets to take *next* Thursday off, but last week she was kind enough to serve up some seasonal selections, with three picks for Turkey Day: Thanksgiving in the White House by Gary Hines, This Is the Turkey by Abby Levine, and ’Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by good ol' Dav Pilkey ("The book is blunt at times about the fate of these birds, but always funny, especially when the kids leave the farm considerably fatter and with feathers sticking out from their coats.").

Nov19FinnFluFighterJUMP A middle-grade H1N1 novel. Wha? It's true: Publishers Weekly has the story on Finn Reeder, Flu Fighter, a new novel about a 13-year-old coping with the pandemic. ("Somehow, he survives infection. As their class size dwindles, Finn and his friend Amy face down the school bully, draw comics, catch the principal ordering pizza, and even manage to study once in a while. And when finally, Finn is the lone student remaining in school, he manages to win—and lose—the most intense game of solo dodge ball ever.") You can download it for free before the January 1 release date.

"Hollywood Takes a Closer Look at Picture Books." In which we learn, among other things, that there's going to be a Where's Waldo? movie(!).

Jason Schwartzman interview. Speaking of Hollywood, Jason Schwartzman (currently Ash in the Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the book by Roald Dahl) was just interviewed by ReadKiddoRead, about his favorite books as a kid:

(via Fuse #8) --Paul

Omnivoracious™ Contributors

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