...you're obviously reading this.
Here we are on the day of the release of the Book That Shall Not Be Named.
Wait, that's what I call the Website That Shall Not Be Named.
Ok, here we are on day of the release of Harry Pooper and the Ghastly Sellouts.
Like I said before, I'm not a big fan of the Pooper. And unlike my harsh judgments of The Website That Shall Not Be Named*, I can actually say I've tried the Pooper.
I was home from being forced out of college (I say forced out because if I had had the money I would have stayed in; I refuse to say "dropped out." That implies that I no longer wanted to attend.)
It had to have been 1999—before the Pooper phenom took over the globe.
It was probably the end of 1999 when I was working for Uncle Sam and planning Dr. Mad Scientist and my ghettorific wedding.
I was plagued with insomnia and couldn't get to sleep. I figured I'd read something and it would put me to sleep. I picked up Youngest Younger Sister's (who now works summers and winters at that same job for Uncle Sam that I did) library book which happened to be the first Harry Pooper story.
The book was amazing! It put me to sleep! For the blessed sleep I was grateful, but after reading the first Harry Pooper, I had no desire to ever touch anything by that author again.
I'd like to say it's because I'm an author snob, and if the first book I read by you doesn't do it for me, I'll never touch anything with your name on it again.
But this isn't true. I just finished my second Haven Kimmel novel which was a highly recommended author. Yeah well, let's just say that when I didn't want to violently smack the characters around for being so goddamned stupid in the first book of hers I read (The Solace of Leaving Early), I was too busy falling asleep reading the second book I tried (Something Rising Light and Swift).
I'd like to say it's because I'm not a big fantasy reader and wizards and magic don't raise my exciteometer.
However, a couple of months ago, on our monthly weekend trip to the library, Dr. Mad Scientist asked me to pick up a childhood favorite of his "Swiss Family Robinson." Since I was in the juvenile book section anyway (Chunky prefers the juvenile non-fiction section. We're raising a bonafide nerd!) , I decided to peruse the titles.
I made it to the "B"s when I discovered a blast from my past.
There was "The Figure In The Shadows" by John Bellairs on the shelf.
I had to check it out!The Figure in the Shadows
is part of the Lewis Barnavelt series of books by John Bellairs. It's about an orphan (hm, sounds familiar) named Lewis who lives with his wizard uncle. Living next door is his uncle's friend, Mrs. Zimmerman, who is also a witch. Lewis is a fat kid who's always picked on and has one good friend—a tomboy named Rose Rita. Put simply, in this book, Lewis and Rose Rita uncover a magical amulet that summons a spirit from the dead that tries to kill Lewis.
"A Figure In the Shadows" is not as voluminous as Harry Pooper and not as fantasmagorical either. Lewis is a normal kid living in a normal town.
In re-reading this book, I had forgotten that Lewis lived in a town in Michigan. Well of course having lived in MI for six years and spawning there, I looked up John Bellairs's personal history to see why he might have choosen to set the stories of Lewis in Michigan. Ends up John Bellairs was born and spent a good portion of his life in Marshall, Michigan.
This just made re-reading this story even more quaint for me because I myself have been lost down the snowy dark farm roads of Marshall that the climax of this book is based on in the wee hours of the night.
I credit my Old Man a lot for giving me the love of reading. Even if it means that I've got not-so-pleasurable childhood memories of him sitting me down when I was younger than Chunky and making me sound out the words of "Tom Thumb" over and over and over and over again to the point that I despise the story of Tom Thumb.
When I was somewhere between the ages of 10 and 12 and in the throes of my John Bellairs phase (much like kids of today are into their Harry Pooper) I believe it was my Old Man who encouraged me to write a letter to Mr. Bellairs letting him know how much I enjoyed his books.
I did, and thrillingly enough—he wrote me back. It was just a short note typed on a ruled index card on what appeared to be one of those old fashioned typewriters and signed by Mr. Bellairs. (I'm old enough to have typed a few school papers on an old shuddering typewriter, but I'm also young enough to have gone to school where we were taught "keyboarding" in highschool not "typing.")
I don't know if I still have that index card. I do know that in 1999, around the same time I read that first Harry Pooper, my mom made me clean out all my childhood junk and box up the stuff I wanted to keep and put it in the crawlspace. I know I kept all my John Bellairs books. Many of them are hardback as I always looked forward to their release just as Harry Poopophiles have been looking forward to today.
Mr. Bellairs passed away when I was a teenager and reading more mature books. He left behind two unfinished manuscripts and two summaries for two future books. Those were finished by a different author. That author went on to write quite a few continuations of the different series John Bellairs created after his death on his own.
I have not read anything not written by John Bellairs solely.
I'm not sure I want to. It wouldn't be the same.
Imagine if J.K. Rowling had been tragically killed in a landslide of her own money or if she choked to death on a silver spoon half way through writing book seven, and someone decided to finish writing Book 7 for her. Would the book many of you are reading instead of reading this blog post be as good?
So there's my nose-thumb to the Rowlinglings and their Harry Pooper mania. I'll stick with my chubby quasi magical protagonist and the world of everyday wizards and witches.
Pooper still sucks in my opinion.
But like a wise librarian once told me when I was grumbling about having to organize the shelves of "Choose Your Own Adventure" and "Sweet Valley High" paperback books that my fellow middle schoolers devoured like candy and always left a mess on the shelves**: It's not what
kids are reading, it's that they are
That same librarian also called me flippant
Maybe she was on to something.*Although, a little sweet little birdie kindly invited me over to visit their nest, and I can now, without a doubt, back up my opinions on The Website That Shall Not Be Named. I stand by everything I've said about them. It's really not that exciting of a Place That Shall Not Be Named and certainly does not live up to the hype in my eyes.**I dropped out of home economics and instead TAed for the school librarian.