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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Notes on an expanding universe

I love that I keep introducing blog posts with my big goals for keeping up to date on posts. I'm like, "Hey guys you'll get two of these a week." And you're like good one.

And it probably is a good one. Probably as good a one as any of the ones I've put in here during the last couple of weeks. The fun part is that when I put a joke out it's like making a lovely pie and sending it out in to space. Nobody's going to eat the pie, because nobody is out there paying attention in space. My best hope is that said pie bounces off a satellite or something and the satellite looks over it's satellite shoulder and says, "did something just hit me?" And then the satellite shrugs.

Also the pie was made of gravel.

Listen. I know you just read that and thought now that's something I could never do. Make a simile about pies and satellites. This is why I'm me and you're you and you're probably very happy with yourself and I have to constantly seek approval by writing blogs that no one reads.

Is it kitten time yet?

So let me look at this here Goodreads app to see what else I've read and not considered. Oh yeah!

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo

I blame comic books for not writing, so I can blame Super Mario Land 3D for not blogging. And not reading new books. And not making any friends on the train. Oh, I guess I can blame a dry persistent cough and my tendency to look like someone you don't want to start a conversation with for the latter part. Hey, I'm on a train and I'm interested in talking to a stranger. There's a cute college girl or that guy in the hoody buried in a Nintendo machine with the twitchy eye. I wonder how many Pokemon he's found!

So instead of reading my own books for fun I read books to my girls before they go to bed. And the most recent one we read was Newberry Award winner Flora and Ulysses.

A lot of folks assume it's easy to write a children's book. And obviously it is easy if you want to churn out garbage. 

<Ahem> Hey, I'm a big-time celebrity and I don't have talents but people recognize my name. I'll write a book about an oyster who gets bullied or whatever. 

That's my impression of some people who are writing children's books.

But the people who are really doing it are doing the hardest job there is, I think. Here's a brief digression that will eventually lead back to the book at hand. The book I read to the girls right before this one was Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary. And here's another digression: when I was growing up my mom would read scary books every once in a while. Not often, because she said she needed to get the scary out of her system from the last book before she could read another one. Well that's how I am with Ramona Quimby books, instead of being scared I start crying at some point in every one of those books. The reason why is because when I read a Ramona Quimby book I can see how my girls are seeing the world and it breaks my heart a little that even when Ramona's parents and teachers are doing their very best she's still pretty confused and sad and disappointed in life sometimes. And scared. And it hits me that my kids feel like that too and it's just part of growing up and why do they need to go and do a thing like that?

Anyway, Flora and Ulysses is another book that does that. Flora is dealing with rougher stuff than Ramona ever did and I think it makes sense for a modern book for her to have to deal with divorced parents who don't understand her sometimes. Her mom especially is wrapped up in her writing career and worries that Flora is too weird and wants to discourage that so that she can be a normal, happy girl. The discovery of a super-powered squirrel who she is determined to mold into a superhero who can fight crime doesn't help this situation. There's a whole other cast of weirdos and Flora is told at one point that "the universe is expanding." During her adventure she discovers insights about said universe that expands the way she sees it, too.

"Nothing
would be
easier without
you,
because you
are 
everything,
all of it-
sprinkles, quarks, giant
donuts, eggs sunny-side up-
you
are the ever-expanding
universe
to me.” 

One thought I had while reading this is that happily there has never been a better time to be a little weird as a kid. When I was young I felt like it was important to hide my enthusiasm for your Metroids and Zeldas and Marios and your what-have-yous from my peers. For every secret I revealed about warp zones I had to make sure to know enough about the Dallas Cowboys and 49ers to please my peers. Of course I failed, but I still tried.

Now my son can wear a Minecraft hat to school and the other kids say, "Minecraft, cool." My daughter can be obsessed with dragons and Legos and make little shields and swords out of paper for her Mega Man figure and nobody gives a crap. 

I'm not saying the world is a better place except that I kind of am. There's this climate change thing that is making animals like pikas have to really struggle and that bums me out kind of a lot. But people are also generally getting cooler about each other's weirdness and that's fantastic. 

Anyway. Flora and Ulysses is very, very sweet. It's funny, too. And insightful. The illustrations are adorable. And the universe is expanding. Turns out in an expanding universe there's room for everybody, which is a nice thing to remember every once in a while.