AARON HUR

Memorial Day is on the last Monday of every May. After the Civil War, General John A. Logan made a holiday called Decoration Day, to honor those who died in the Civil War. Then, in 1890, many cities adopted Memorial Day instead of Decoration Day as a holiday, honoring not just those who died in the Civil War, but all people who gave their lives to protect their country.

Aaron interviewed Mrs. Hur:

“Memorial Day Is a day where we remember those that gave their life, and they sacrificed everything for their country. It gives us the opportunity to be grateful for all of our military and the freedom they provide us with. It makes us stop and remember why Memorial Day was started in the first place, and helps me remember that it started after the Civil War where our nation was divided, and we fought for the principle that all men and women are equal. Every day we take for granted the sacrifices our military faced, and we would not be here today without it.”

Aaron interviewed Mr. Hur:

“Memorial Day is a day for remembering people who have passed away, for both those one knows intimately and those who made broader sacrifices for the greater good – these men and women are remembered. People celebrate people who died in military action, for great causes like civil rights, and military family who are no longer with us. Overall, it is a day to remember people who died serving the Constitution of our country.”

Here’s an example from the United States Air Force:



CAROLINE CHANG

John Bellairs uses the verb ‘worm’ to show that Lewis’s intentions are less than noble. He uses it to show that Lewis thinks that Tarby is like a god, and that he is just a minion that has to earn the favor of his master. Lewis thinks that in order to earn Tarby’s favor he has to do something that will impress Tarby. Lewis thinks that if he learns to ice skate, he will impress Tarby, and win favor with Tarby. ‘If he got good enough he might be able to worm his way back into Tarby’s favor.’ When Jonathan and Lewis finally found the skate, Bellairs makes it seem that Lewis encounters it as ‘a short aluminum ski for a midget.’ Is finding one skate a symbol here? Was it purposefully placed here to represent how Lewis is midgeting himself by pursuing Tarby (a false friend?).

A week before Christmas Lewis encounters his thought-to-be-dead Aunt Mattie at midnight. She is wearing a wrinkled black dress, and heavy shoes with thick heels. There was ‘a shaking blue light’ that filled the air around Aunt Mattie. This made the encounter so much more terrifying. ‘Lewis even thought he smelled kerosene – her house, her furniture, and her clothing had always reeked of it.’ Lewis remembered so much, and I think that this could have been his memory turned into a vision. The scene gives me the creeps with the blue light, and the aunt who has risen from the dead. All of this is supposed to give the reader a creepy midnight feeling. 

I think this might have happened to try and show Lewis that if he needed to worm his way back into someone’s favor, then he shouldn’t be friends with that person. I think that when Aunt Mattie said, ‘“Well, Lewis? Aren’t you glad to see me?”’ it is to show Lewis that Tarby would treat Lewis like garbage even if he could get back. Who should Lewis be happy to see?

A week after this experience Lewis has a magical Christmas, where he is given a Christmas egg. The Christmas egg throws light on the grown-up life of Lewis, and who he becomes. When John Bellairs writes ‘But it was not until he was a grown-up man, working as an astronomer at Mount Palomar, that he was able to discover the magic property of the magic egg’ it makes me think that Lewis just puts the magic egg away in his closet or toy box and then later discovers it when he is all grown-up. This could lead to a whole story about how he rediscovers the egg, and the different magical properties of the egg. Also, if the egg can show different planets, and Lewis works as an astronaut, then that could lead to him making some alien discovery, or other groundbreaking space discovery. Some of the other Uncle Jonathan magic during that Christmas might play a role in the other books too, las in our expectations for variations of the decor for future Christmases. The Fuse Box Dwarf could be used again in a different holiday like April Fools in order to show how the Barnavelts’ celebrate different holidays. This could lead to a whole book about different holidays. There could also be a reason to all the decorating when John Bellairs wrote ‘Jonathan did a lot of other things that Christmas,’ implying that Jonathan didn’t usually do a lot during Christmas, but because it was Lewis’ first Christmas at 100 High Street Jonathan wanted to make it the best.

Although there are only two obviously magical items in this chapter, some of the non-magical descriptions create a really wonderful visual like ‘he put strong lamps behind the stained-glass windows, so that they threw marvelous patterns of red and blue and gold and purple on the dark sparkling snow outside.’ But how can we forget the other magic item: the Fuse Box Dwarf. Lewis was not at all surprised by this dwarf. He actually felt that this little man should be pitied rather than censured. I imagine that the little man jumps out with his arms raised up. I also imagine this dwarf to wear an elf suit and have a red beard. When he yells “Dreeb” it’s more of a screech at the top of his lungs like “skreeee”.

In the days that followed Christmas Lewis tried to enjoy himself. ‘He kept thinking that Jonathan’s magic show was meant to cover up what was happening to the house.’ Lewis encountered a ‘shimmering’ which he thought was like the house was going to disappear. I think that it means that there might be an overuse of magic, or that something big is about to happen. Lewis thought he was losing his mind, and there is a sort of clear indication when John Bellairs wrote, ‘Lewis forgot what day it was, what he was after, and at times almost forgot who he was.’ The lights that flicked on his bedroom walls in his dreams were not leaf-lights, ‘but rags and patches of orange light.’ This might be some more indication that Lewis is going crazy. Maybe he is magic drunk. When spring finally comes around, Lewis looks outside his house and discovers that the Hanchett house was overgrown with spiraea hedge. He also noticed that the only visitor his new neighbor got was Mr. Hammerhandle. He literally bumped into Mr. Hammerhandle once or twice. On one occasion Mr Hammerhandle calls Lewis a little snip. ‘“You little snip! You’re looking to have your throat cut out, aren’t you?”’



ROEN SCOTT

To me, the poem “The Dong with the Luminous Nose” by Edward Lear, is a rather intriguing story. It’s not one of those stories when the prince (the Dong) finds his princess (the Jumbly girl), gets married and lives happily-ever-after. The Dong has lost his Jumbly Girl when she went back to sea in the sieve with the other Jumblies, and still goes out overland in search for his Jumbly Girl and… is still out there, always looking for her. This ending was a nice change from the usual, but it also makes me curious why it ended like that. Why didn’t the author make it so that the Dong finally finds his true love and they sail off together in the moonlight and live harmoniously together? Was he just sick of the ending in every story (like I can be), or did this sort of experience happen to him?

Part of me wonders if he found his true love, but it somehow got away, and he didn’t get his happily-ever-after, maybe like he had dreamed about. This ending made me very curious – it made me hope that the author (when he was still alive) had made a sequel, and there was more to the story than it seemed. I want to know if the Dong ever found her, if they ever fell in love again, if all he did to try to find her paid off. I was also wondering why he chose to make the nose the part of his body that became luminous. Was it just random, or was there a meaning to it, one that I hadn’t noticed? All in all, I enjoyed this poem: it made me ask questions, be curious, and I liked that. I liked that I didn’t know everything there was to know about it, and that the story didn’t need to be like every other one to be amazing and unique.

Alison Bizzaro adds to the conversation:

This poem is extremely odd in an intriguing way. There is not a thing in this poem that makes sense, but it makes me curious to find out why such a strange poem was written. This poem is most likely famous for the same reason I am intrigued by it. It’s so odd, almost surreal, but it makes you curious. This poem also uses very colorful visual descriptions, such as “a lonely spark with silvery rays/ piercing the coal-black night” and “Slowly it wanders,–pauses,–creeeps,–/Anon it sparkles,–flashes and leaps;” which keep any readers of this poem interested in the poem. The illustrations give a clear idea of what these clearly made up beings look like. It would be quite difficult to imagine what such specific characters could possibly look like, and the illustrations help to paint a picture and set a tone for the poem.



MICHAEL LIN

The Curse of the Blue Figurine by John Bellairs has been quite a marvelous experience for one of my age to read. Right from the beginning you cannot but just help imagining the scenario as if you were Johnny Dixon himself. Bellairs creates very thorough and thought-out characters, most significantly Professor Childermass. At first, the professor just seems like an average grumpy old man who does nothing but complain. But he is far from it. The Prof only seems like this to people he doesn’t like. (Have you noticed that I’m not consistent with capitalizing ‘professor’? Well, neither is Dial Press. Look with me, if you will, on page 41. At the beginning of the first full paragraph of page 41, the word professor is capitalized while not addressing anyone in particular! But you can look at the 3rd line of the same paragraph to see the word Professor being properly capitalized – so because of this mistake, I will simply stick with the capital letter, partially to show Dial Press that I’m a better proofreader than they are, and partially to show honor and respect to… PROFESSOR C!)  While on the topic of Professor Childermass, he is introduced to the story as he makes his entrance into the Dixon home, hot and cursing. His car is stuck in the snow, and he’s ready to blow one of his own cylinders. “You know Henry,” the professor snarls, “in a hundred years, people will think we’re out of our ever-loving minds to spend so much of our valuable time taking care of automobiles. Think of it! Everybody on this block owns a two-ton hunk of metal that he has to feed gas and oil – .” But suddenly, the Prof stops when he sees “Gods, Graves, and Scholars, by C. W. Ceram,

and The Mountains of Pharaoh, by Leonard Cottrell,

and James Henry Breasted’s History of Egypt.” 

Commenting on Johnny’s books on page 15, the Professor speaks disparagingly about his nieces, in glowing approval of Johnny reading these books (and not even for an assignment!): “I have just come from visiting my sister’s daughter, who lives up in New Hampshire. She has two children your age, but they couldn’t read their way through a book of cigarette papers.” The Professor then launches into the story of Father Baart, an evil parish priest from the 19th century, who ran the church that the Dixons attend.

Prof Childermass describes Father Baart by saying, “He was short and wore a black cloak and he had a big head and a jutting chin and lots of grayish hair that he wore long. And an overhanging forehead, and a hawkish nose, and a deep-set, burning eyes. So if you’re ever in the church late at night well…” only to be cut off by Johnny’s grandpa. But in this short outburst, we can clearly see that on the outside the Prof may seem like a toxic, grumpy guy, but when he is speaking with someone he finds interesting or worth talking to, the Prof really opens up.

We can really see this bond being formed between the two when Johnny discovers the figurine. On pages 39-42, the Professor is the first person who comes to mind to help figure out the mystery of the figurine. But Johnny catches the Prof off guard in his so-called fuss closet. The Professor proceeds to go on a story of his whole fuss closet. Explaining that “[he] has a rotten temper… [he] came up here –as [he] always [does] in such cases… and he fussed. [He] cursed and yelled and pounded the walls and the floor,” (Bellairs, 39). Normally, even a friend walking inside of your home wouldn’t incline you to tell them a story about a closet, right? But the Professor is so fond of Johnny that he can’t help but welcome him in at any time even though he doesn’t even know why Johnny is there in the first place.

 Bellairs writes, “Johnny found the old man kneeling beside the tub. He was wearing a rubber waterproof apron, and the sleeves of his shirt were rolled up. The tub was half full of water, and in it floated a fleet of little wooden boats. They were galleys, with matchstick oars and little triangular sails. Little paper flags fluttered from the sterns of the ships. Half of the flags were red and gold and had coats of arms on them. The other half were green and had gold crescents,” (Bellairs, 61). Why such detail? In reality, these are just little tiny boats that are being fiddled with by the Professor. No one would expect a scene with a Professor playing with wooden ships in a bathtub, or would they? But the Prof elaborates and see explains the specific battle he is re-enacting, in preparation for his next day’s class, so we learn about the Prof’s abiding passion for teaching history. When reading that scene for the first time, one would not immediately discard the scene and say it has no meaning. In fact, we think of it as revealing character and humanizing the Professor even more. And without the realism in these kinds of scenes, readers would just gloss over them, which is why we can really appreciate Bellairs’ craft and choice of vocabulary. Without it, the book would not be itself, and without this craft, readers like myself would not be so enticed into the book and almost forced to make predictions. The book itself is just so enjoyable and welcoming to read so readers cannot help to try and predict the story. Questions like, is the blue figurine actually cursed? Is Johnny going to get more revenge against Eddie? and Why did Johnny remove the figurine from the church crowd and compete in our minds, fueling interest. Overall, Curse has been a wonderful enticing story that I am eager to finish and to read sequels. 



ZAYD MAHMOOD

Zayd is reading “The Wind in the Willows” and here adds (from Ratty’s eyes) more rapturous devotion to the best season for a water rat: summer of course!

Ratty’s poem

The summer is bright, just like you my friend

O, summer tell us what flora you send

The purple loosestrife bright with spikes

Then come the willow herbs bright as a sunset cloud

The pageant of the river bay

So clear in the summer day

The fields are green, the animals happy

The caravans ready to go with ‘baccy

The river so clean

So nice and pristine

It is the river not the bay

Summer is the hot siesta of the year.

Zayd writes: Now spring is upon us as Mole decides to start a little diary. Of course this diary has been destroyed over the last 15 years. Or so we thought… Last week in the river Thames locals have discovered a page of Mole’s diary that has had one magical power. This diary has made people feel as if they are living right beside him.

The Diary of Mole

I have gotten quite frustrated with Ratty. Even I, his dear loyal friend, have to admit that he’s been a little bit of an ignoramus this time. After all, did he or did he not let the foolish, carefree, yet kind Toad…. I am just dumbfounded at how this kind and benevolent animal (Ratty) had been fooled by the nitwit. But it is water under the bridge for me (for I don’t know if Mr. Badger feels the same as I do). He seems to have not taken it lightly that Toad has escaped.  Guess Toad’s going to do some rash and irresponsible actions that are probably, wait no, going to get him in trouble with the police. Well, I will tell you something. I am not going to bail that incompetent fool out no matter how many letters or sob stories he tells. Anyways, it is more trouble going to look for him.     

Day 2

As I wait for Ratty to finally be done chatting with his river comrades, it is blazing out here. Finally, Rattyemerges from his little hidey-hole with a depressed borderline sad look on his face.

I asked him why he had such a long face and what the matter was. Otter’s adventurous son Portly had run off somewhere and Otter had become hysterical. Ratty, being the good little chap he was, said he couldn’t bear to watch Otter sob so much that his Gucci throw rug was sopping wet. Therefore he was set on rescuing Portly before Otter breaks down. Of course, Ratty cranks that little mind of his and starts coming up with endless possibilities. Finally, he comes up with the answer that all of us should have seen. THE RIVER OF COURSE!

 Where else would Portly have gone! The river is the most fabulous and perfectly splendiferous for an otter to go. Well, we must go with haste for there is no time to lose. We quickly sped into Ratty’s house (almost knocking the door down) and found ourselves a nice and tidy boat. The boat was nice and well-structured but sadly it reeked of gherkins. As we set off into the river I saw Ratty. He was acting very oddly indeed. He was entranced by this music coming from out of nowhere. I thought that this was the absolute stupidest thing I have ever heard until I heard it as well. The sound of beautiful music filled my earsso much that I wanted to start singing. It was as if the whole forest came to life. The willowherb sings a deep harmonious tone.

The trees sway and dance along. The purple loosestrife sings the high notes. While I am enjoying this very song I notice an island erected from right out of the water. This was where the music was coming from and Ratty was sure of it. As we edged nearer to the island the music got louder. It filled my mind and took control over me “Ratty was tearing up at the sound of the music”. I walked onto the island and saw none other than Portly, Otter’s adventurous (and very cute) son snoozing and dozing away in the lap of an animal. Then I looked closer and realized it was no animal at all. It was a majestic figure. With a pointed chin and hooved feet why he looked magnificent. Then I looked at Ratty. Ratty was bowing in front of this creature and instructed me to do so as well. Ratty claimed that it was the demigod Pan or Himself. That is all I am writing in my journal for today because Ratty is now dozing off near the fire and I ought to do so as well (blows out the candle).

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