Archive for April 2007

Mortimus Goes to Massachusetts

April 11, 2007

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I’ll be in Massachusetts today.

I’ll be speaking at New Testament Christian School and delivering 60 books! then off to Veritas Academy to deliver more books.

Then I’ll be meeting with the administration of another school to discuss THE PURLOINED BOY to see if they want to participate in the pre-publication program.

Then I’ll wisk off to deliver a book to a library to see if the library wants to use THE PURLOINED BOY in a summer reading program.

Whew!

Morty

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Recommended Reading: The Bartimaeus Trilogy

April 10, 2007

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Once you’ve finished THE PURLOINED BOY and you’re wondering, “What would Mortimus recommend?” look up what I think is the best young adult fantasy series to come along in a while — THE BARTIMAEUS TRILOGY.

The author is Jonathan Stroud and I don’t know much about him. But his books are very entertaining, crisply written and thoughtful.

The hero of the books is a djinn named Bartimaeus. The bad-guy, I guess you could say — is his human master, Nathaniel (aka John Mandrake).

They live in a world much like ours but for one important exception — it is run by magicians (or perhaps a better name is wizards).

The books address what I think is a glaring problem with the Harry Potter stories and others like them — what would magic do to its practitioners and how would they relate to the rest of us?

I think magic would corrupt them and they would use it to dominate and intimidate regular folks. So it is in the world of Bartimaeus and Nathaniel.

The books are not only realistic about human nature, they’re a lot of fun!

Morty gives them 5 stars!

Morty

That’s so Weird! — Just what is a “Weirdling”?

April 9, 2007

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I’m one of those outlandish (and getting rare) people who think that words mean things and who thinks the history of words is important.

The word weird has a history. These days people use it to describe something odd, or strange, and leave it at that.

According to The New Oxford Shorter Dictionary (you know, like a real dictionary) there are three (count ’em!) different entries for weird.

It is derived from the Old English “Wyrd” and means: Inexorable fate, destiny. A person claiming or thought to have the power to foresee and control future events; . . .

In Late Middle English: Having or claiming to have preternatural power to control the fate or destiny of human beings etc. Partaking or suggestive of fate or the supernatural, unearthly, eery, . . .

The dictionary has more to say, but I’ll stop there. Perhaps the only instance some modern people have of the word being used in this way is from Shakespeare — the weird sisters from Macbeth.

The second book in the Purloined Boy trilogy is called The Weirdling. If you’ve finished the first book, can you guess why?

Morty

Cornerstone 7th Grade Finishes THE PURLOINED BOY

April 6, 2007

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I’ll be visiting the school to talk with kids after Easter vacation. The 8th grade will begin reading in May.

Hope you liked it gang!

Morty

What Makes a Hero? Part 2

April 5, 2007

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You probably got the drift from my last post that Trevor fits Aristotle’s mold for hero development better than Plato’s.

Well, if that’s what you thought you win a set of moldy encyclopedias!

Yep. Trevor is about as ordinary as they come.

Indeed, in early drafts I described Trevor as, “. . . the most ordinary boy who’d ever lived in this or any other world.”

After a while I decided to show it rather than tell it. Now he is introduced to the reader as one frightened kid — haunted by dreams, intimidated by bullies, and nearly friendless but for one important exception.

But there is one thing that distinguishes him in a positive way — it is his power of sight. We’re told he sees things others don’t. Where that power comes from is a mystery. But he doesn’t have it due to some wizard-like or demigod-like status yet to be discovered. If anything, it is a gift. A strange gift. He didn’t ask for it and he doesn’t want it.

I did want to show that he would grow in the story and the way I foreshadow that is by making him gangly. He must grow into his destiny.

So, Trevor is the sort of hero who becomes one because one is needed and he is chosen and in the end, because he choses to do what must be done.

Morty

What Makes a Hero?

April 4, 2007

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The debate is at least as old as Plato and Aristotle.

Are heroes born or made?

Do heroes have some special stuff — coming from a unique hero origin — that makes them different than ordinary folk?

Or are heroes made by the press of circumstances and important choices made along the way?

Plato advocated the first. Aristotle the second.

It is interesting to survey some recent young adult books on this point.

Tolkien, who normally sides with Aristotle on most things (bet you didn’t know that, did you?) cheated a little bit with Bilbo Baggins. We’re told that the Baggins in him hated adventures — “make you late for supper!” But the Tookish part woke up one day and off Bilbo went — There and Back Again.

C.S. Lewis, who normally sided with Plato on most matters (maybe you knew that — he as much as says so in the Narnia books) seems to have favored Aristotle’s view with the various very ordinary boys and girls who find themselves in extraordinary situations but make heroic choices in his books.

J. K. Rowling is an extreme case of Plato’s view. Harry Potter is a wizard, after all. (Regular ordinary folks are just Muggles.) But he’s special even by wizard standards! I think part of the appeal of the Harry Potter stories is the growing self-awareness by Harry of his utterly special specialness.

That plays well with people who like thinking of themselves as special (don’t we all?) and who identify with him as he saves all the dunderheads who clutter up the world — both wizard and muggle. (At the end of each book they reluctantly recognize his specialness — which is even more satisfying.)

That’s also a major problem with the Harry Potter stories. (Eeek!! Morty has criticised Harry Potter!)

(By the way, I enjoy the Harry Potter stories. They’re very entertaining.)

Another recent series with almost an identical story line are the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books. I like those stories too. I’m reading Sea of Monsters — book two. Very good. But simply substitute Greek god for wizard and Camp Half-Blood for Hogwarts and you’ve got basically the same story-line.

But where is Trevor Upjohn in this? What sort of hero is he?

To be continued . . . !

Morty

The Horace W. Porter School in Columbia Joins the Fun!

April 3, 2007

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Mortimus will be visiting the H. W. Porter School in Columbia in early May to meet with students and distribute THE PURLOINED BOY! There are 45 kids already signed up thanks to the great work of Mrs. E!

Morty