Improbable Phrases

Who says that?

How The Adult Became Disenchanted

Did everybody but me know that Rudyard Kipling is not appropriate for children? I had a little space in my teaching schedule this week and I thought I’d read the kids a couple of the Just So Stories, since we had just read a few fables in the unit I was covering. And then I spent an hour and a half trying to find one to read. Project Gutenburg has the vast majority of the tales free online, so finding the texts wasn’t hard. Finding one that I was comfortable reading in front of the kids was much harder. The Elephant’s Child is full of domestic violence. Several of them, including one about a Rhinoceros, are VERY RACIST against Asians. This is problematic for obvious reasons. There were a few that were super boring, including one about the creation of the alphabet (?!?). And so I ended up reading them How the Camel Got Its Hump, while taking out the words that were way above their vocabulary level. They liked it and asked for a second one, and I had to tell them that I didn’t have a second one for them to listen to. It was the only one that I could find.

I remember as a child listening to radio adaptations of the Just So Stories. They were full cast works with narrators and Bobby McFerrin, I think, providing music for it. Now I wonder how much they were adapted. Did I think that these were children’s stories because National Public Radio took out all the parts that I didn’t want to read to my 6th graders? Or did the various horrors just not register with me? I don’t know for sure, but now I want to try and find them to re-listen to them.


A Calendar of Tales: October, by Neil Gaiman

I don’t usually post stories here. But ever since this one came out, I have loved it. I am sharing this with you, because it is well-written and it has fabulous things to say about kindness and contentment that I think everyone should hear at least once. It’s less than 7 minutes long. I promise you won’t regret it, and if you do, I’ll buy you a cookie in compensation. Give it a try.

Magic and Dragons that I Missed

Two of my favorite authors went on a dual book tour together. They even came to Chicago, though this was taped in Portland. I think it was the saddest I’ve been in a while about being in Indonesia instead of America. From the video it looks like Mary Robinette Kowal was signing and distributing wooden fans. Fully, completely jealous.

The Sweetness of the Spoken Word

I just finished listening to a novella by Laini Taylor called Night of Cake and Puppets. It was super cute, all about two kids who meet at work and are too painfully shy to talk to one another. And then one night the girl decides to take charge and make things happen. The plans she makes are both elaborate and sweet. This being a YA novella, it all culminates in a single kiss.

I’ve decided that I love being read to. The way in which professional narrators create audiobooks is amazing and I have really enjoyed the last few that I have listened to. The woman who narrates Laini Taylor’s books is particularly fabulous. She does voices, accents and tone in a way that really creates the different characters. I find her really easy and enjoyable to listen to for hours at a time.

I remember as a child we would listen to audiobooks in the car on the way to various vacation spots. We would mostly listen to mystery novels as that they had more action and less description, thereby making the story easier to follow: the events weren’t obscured by a wordy paragraph on the beauty of trees. Since I mostly listen to audiobooks in hour long chunks at my desk, I’ve been going through the few fantasy novels I have from the library. It’s been fun.


Here There Be Dragons, Thank Goodness.

My first memories of reading have to do with dragons. One of my first favorite books was called There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent. It featured pictures of an orangey yellow dragon that Billy Bixbee’s mother wouldn’t admit existed until it was almost too late.


Source here.

When I was tired of the children’s library section in mid-elementary school, I would go upstairs to the YA section and I found a new set of dragon books: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. In the same vein of Kent’s book, these 4 books were populated with friendly dragons. They were big and toothy and potentially dangerous, but were mostly kind and helpful. The star of the show was a greenish blue dragon named Kazul, who was King of the Dragons. She wasn’t Queen of the Dragons, no, that was a boring job and she had won the right to be the King of the Dragons fair and square.


This is the cover that I remember from when I was a child. I loved Cimorene, the princess pictured here, who was no-nonsense, smart, and good with a soufflé pan. The article where I got this picture from is also very interesting: it looks at the ways in which Disney stories have created a false dichotomy of princesses, where they need to either be wild tomboys in defiance of all rules or bubblegum-pink empty-headed simpletons with pretty dresses. My girl Cimorene was held up as a possible middle-ground option. Good to see her get the recognition she deserves.

As an adult, I continue my love affair with dragons. In 2012, a book was published with one of the most lovely and breath-taking covers I’ve seen in years: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan.


Source here.

This story was written in a Jane Austen-like era, with the addition of dragons. I was very pleased to discover, however, that the marriage-minded, one-dimensional Austen heroines were not in attendance for this book. Isabella, the protagonist of this book, and Cimorene would have been girlfriends. Isabella is a scientist in a culture that thinks women should have respectable hobbies like sewing and gossiping. The dragons that she studies are very dangerous, and exceedingly toothy. Early on in the book, she is nearly killed by one. Isabella is a strong-minded badass. Her love for the dragons that she studies is evident, and there are some really great descriptions of these fearsome creatures.

Whether frightening or friendly, dragons have always been a large part of my reading life. I am anxiously looking forward to getting back to the US this summer to pick up a copy of Marie Brennan’s second Isabella Trent novel, The Tropic of Serpents. I’ll probably re-read Wrede’s Dealing With Dragons for the hundredth time too.

The Fault in Our Stars Trailer

I am most excited for one movie this year: The Fault in Our Stars. I love that book so much and can’t wait to see what the movie version is like. The author of the book has given the movie his stamp of approval, so I’m not worried. Except that I’ll cry in the theater. It comes out in the US in early June and I definitely want to see it when I’m home.

Summer Reading Program

I miss libraries. There aren’t any in the city, or if there are, they’re hiding really, really well. I think there might be a privately run one in Menteng, but I’m not sure if there are English books there. I’ll probably check it out sometime soon.

The whole culture of literacy for pleasure doesn’t seem to have caught on here in the same way as it has in the Western world. The bookstores I’ve seen are largely comprised of English language imported books. Gramedia stores, which would have more Indonesian books, have a huge electronics section.

I find that I’m reading more slowly so that the stuff that I have will last. It’s a little sad. I am definitely looking forward to the summer and the new books that are waiting for me to read. I’m particularly excited about one of the anthologies: The Bread We Eat In Dreams.

Hopefully I also got some good books for the Christmas, sort of, that we’re going to have in June. Don’t know what my parents got me off of my Amazon wishlist. But since I really only put the best of the best on that list, I am confident it’ll be exciting.