what’s the difference between scary and creepy?

While trying to explain how very cool it is that Neil Gaiman won the Newbery (which mostly consisted of me naming other books and sighing: The Hero and The Crown! The Tale of Desperaux! The Witch of Blackbird Pond! A Wrinkle in Time!) I also starting blathering on about Coraline, another book of Gaiman’s that was very, very popular in my classroom. To begin with, it had the three magic elements that attract middle school ambivalent readers: it looked short; it looked scary; it looked simple. Of course, all of those things were merely ways into the book. Although it was short, the story it told was complete and felt world-shaping. Although it looked scary, it was really *creepy* (more on that later). And, although it looked simple, the story, and the conversations it prompted in my classroom, proved it was anything but.

My favourite conversation of all was between two of my most-anti-reading girls. After nearly two years with me (and improving their reading levels a LOT), they were now willing to read, but still very picky and demanding about the amount of effort they had to put into the process. These were girls who would rather read a “meh” book that demanded less of them than an excellent book they would have to work at. (Of course, they were also Twilight obsessed, but that’s a different story). Coraline, though, Coraline got passed around the group like some sort of trifecta pick: the teacher liked it, the students liked it, the parents liked it.

Why was that? Well, everyone comes to a book from a different place, but I think these girls liked Coraline because it felt like an adventure. Also, though, because (as I overheard one day… what? teachers are consummate eavesdroppers!)

Dude, Coraline isn’t SCARY. Scary is, like, Nightmare on Elm Street. Scary’s not REAL. Coraline is CREEPY. I kept thinking that if I opened the wrong door at my own house, I’d end up somewhere really not good.

(13 year old girl)

So that was the magic then. These girls never really connected with Harry Potter, Frodo, or Merlin. Their lives were, quite frankly, too fraught with REAL danger to tolerate fantasy danger. But, they did connect with Coraline–the danger she faced, evil adults and world that made no sense, was something they felt was more real. It was creepy not scary. And they loved it.

Now, why they loved the completely unreal and unbelievably perfect Edward and Jacob is fodder for another post.

waitin’ for a breakthrough…

So, I’ve just spent two fun days pretending that I owned an e-reader. I converted some books I owned to a file that my little XO (the OLPC laptop) could handle and cheerfully sat on the couch reading away. I can tell you that the four hours I spent reading two books far exceeded my tries at the Kindle and at the Sony E-Reader in both length and pleasure. It’s not that I have anything, at all, against the idea of e-books, although I would always be leery of dragging anything electronic to the beach, but there are a few…advances…that I need to see before I embrace to e-book as something that will serve as a real replacement for my physical library.
First, I need the e-book catalogues to have more depth to them. Some of the books I own, I own because I cannot depend on finding another copy. They are not necessarily rare (as in expensive), but they are difficult to find. If I’m going to adopt an e-book reader, I want to be able to find all of those wonderful books as well.
Second? Well, I’ve played with the Kindle and the Sony E-Reader. I was impressed with the e-ink technology. But, as someone who reads quickly, I really struggled with how often I had to refresh/change the page and how long it took for a new page to load. The e-reader also had a strange response to being set in portrait mode–it skipped back a section so that the last sentence you *had* been reading was suddenly in the middle of the new page. Needless to say, that drove me nuts. And, it didn’t solve my problem of having to load new pages every thirty seconds.
And last? for now? I’m not sure how I feel about DRM. I am all for artists, writers, creators, and those who bring their works to the public, getting paid. I would, however, be very, very, very annoyed if a book I had bought suddenly stopped *working* because of an argument between a publisher and a distributor. Or, simply because my e-reader died for some reason.

I did love reading my books on my XO. It was great to trot from room to room in the house with both the books and somewhere to type notes on them. The XO is light and has a great battery life, and, because it loaded the entire book at once, I didn’t need to wait for it load–I just scrolled down.

I’m all for e-books. I would love for entire libraries to be so portable that they are available for everyone, everywhere. It just hasn’t happened yet.

As an aside…

The Penguin Book Blog is doing a fun “around the world in 80 books” journey through literature. It started with Great Expectations, and I must admit that it caused me to pause and wonder whether my dislike of that book was born of a not-so-great teacher and if I shouldn’t read it again. The post is definitely worth checking out. I posted one suggestion, and I then spent the next half-hour mumbling things like “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to Bloodsucking Fiends to Hard-Boiled Wonderland” in my attempts to circle the world reading fun books.
Oh, and, also?
There’s a review I wrote of P.C. Hodgell’s Godstalker Chronicles to be found here. Thanks bookgeeks!