Author Archives: Jack L.

June 10, 2009

Trivia Answers: Percy Jackson (Sea of Monsters)

Posted by at 7:50 am in Percy Jackson, Trivia | Permalink

Percyjackson2_130Hey, all — congratulations to everyone who wrote in and answered all my Percy Jackson trivia questions, even the really self-aggrandizing one about my favorite band ever! Here are the answers, along with the original questions:

1. On his travels in Sea of Monsters, Mr. Jackson meets Circe. What does she turn him into?
“A guinea pig” – A Major Bibliophile

BONUS: What similar animal does Circe turn Odysseus into? “odysseus wasn’t changed into an animal, his crew mates were changed into swine” – rachel (Good catch, rachel, I’m wrong and you’re absolutely right! Fifty gold stars!)

2. Annabeth teaches Percy about “hubris” — a key element of the Icarus myth. How did Icarus die?
“flying too close to the sun” – rachel

3. Which famous pirate do Percy and Annabeth meet?
“Blackbeard” - dramateller

4. Who was the original hero associated with the quest for the Golden Fleece?
“Jason” - A Major Bibliophile

(ULTRA OBSCURE) What old man was changed into a rock by Hermes for betraying him?
“The old man of Onchestus.” – songheart

Congratulations again, everybody! Now celebrate by buying yourself some Iron Maiden albums and air guitaring until your fingers fall off!

Less talk, more rock, Splotters!

— Jack, STACKS Staffer

June 3, 2009

Trivia Answer: Chronicles of Narnia

Posted by at 1:00 pm in Trivia | Permalink

Narnia_130Now that's what I call a team effort. Congrats to all who wrote in with answers to the Narnia trivia questions! I'm going to post the best answers I got for all four:

1. What kind of creature is Mr. Tumnus?
"A faun." – Aliyah

2. Why can't Susan return to Narnia in The Last Battle?
"Susan can't return because she doesn't believe in it anymore." – Aly

3. The seven Narnia books were not published in chronological order, meaning that the events in Book 1 are not the beginning of the story. Can you arrange the books in chronological order?
"#1-Magician's Nephew.
#2-The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
#3- Horse and His Boy
#4- Prince Caspian
#5- Voyage of the Dawn Treader
#6- The Silver Chair
#7- The Last Battle"

4. What does "further up and further in" mean? Who says it, and when?
"When the 3 Pevensie children (Peter, Lucy, and Edmund), Eustace, Jill,
Polly, and Digory all arrive at the TRUE NARNIA (Book: The Last Battle),
Aslan roars over his shoulder, 'Come futher in! Come further up!' which
led everyone to say 'Further up and further in.'" – Mary P (+ shout-out to LibrarianVei, who had a great little analysis of this moment)

BONUS: J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were both members of a small authors group in England. What was it called?
"The Inklings." – Aliyah

Congratulations again, everyone! Internet high-five!

— Jack, STACKS staffer

June 2, 2009

Trivia: Percy Jackson Book 2 (The Sea of Monsters)

Posted by at 7:34 am in Percy Jackson, Trivia | Permalink

Percyjackson2_130 Hey, Splotters! Over the long Memorial Day weekend, I did a lot of thinking. Some soul-searching, if you will. And I came up with the answer to a very important question: if I were a demigod like Percy Jackson, I would want my god-parent (ba-dum tcchh) to be Hermes. I realized this in the middle of an ultimate frisbee game, which was reducing my legs and my lungs to jelly; Hermes’ winged shoes would have been really useful. (My team won anyway. Obviously.)

Anyway, as you can tell, I’ve got Greek mythology on the brain, and you know what that means: It’s time for Round 2 of Percy Jackson trivia! (You can check out Round 1 here.)

1. In his travels in Sea of Monsters, Mr. Jackson meets Circe. What does she turn him into?
(BONUS: What similar animal does Circe turn Odysseus into?)

2. Annabeth teaches Percy about “hubris” — a key element of the Icarus myth. How did Icarus die?

3. Which famous pirate do Percy and Annabeth meet?

4. Who was the original hero associated with the quest for the Golden Fleece?

5. (ULTRA OBSCURE) What old man was changed into a rock by Hermes for betraying him?

Good luck! I’ll post the answers when someone gets all (or most) of these right.

— Jack, STACKS Staffer

May 28, 2009

Trivia: The Chronicles of Narnia

Posted by at 7:00 am in Trivia | Permalink

Narnia_130Written by J. R. R. Tolkien’s close friend, C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia have sold about 120 million copies worldwide. Personally, they’ll always hold a special place in my fantasy literature-loving heart. If you haven’t read them, what are you waiting for? If you have, take a crack at these trivia questions!

1. What kind of creature is Mr. Tumnus?

2. Why can’t Susan return to Narnia in The Last Battle?

3. The seven Narnia books were not published in chronological order, meaning that the events in Book 1 are not the beginning of the story. Can you arrange the books in chronological order? (No cheating!)

4. What does “further up and further in” mean? Who says it, and when?

BONUS: J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were both members of a small authors group in England. What was it called?

Good luck, Splotters! Check the answers here.

— Jack, STACKS Staffer

May 27, 2009

Author SPLOTlight: Maurice Sendak

Posted by at 7:28 am in Authors | Permalink

Wherethewildthingsare_130 A couple days ago I happened across the trailer for the new Where the Wild Things Are movie. Now, I should mention before we get into this that I'm a pretty big WTWTA fan: I read the book (or was read the book, I guess) way back when I was, like, 1 year old; I've got a T-shirt; I bought my mom a French translation (Max et les Maximonstres) for her birthday one year; etc. So it's safe to say that my hopes for the movie are pretty high. And if you've read WTWTA, or another of Maurice Sendak's famous works, In the Night Kitchen, you know why. Like Chris Van Allsburg, an author I blogged about recently, Mr. Sendak excels at drawing the insides of our minds.

So, a little background on this wizard of a storyteller. He was born in Brooklyn in 1928, and decided he wanted to become an illustrator when he saw Disney's Fantasia at age 12.

His first illustrations were published in the very creepily-named 1947 textbook: Atomics for the Millions:


And WTWTA was published in 1963, winning Mr. Sendak the Caldecott and instantly catapulting him to fame as an author.

Some other trivia about Mr. Sendak's fascinating life and work:

  • His 1970 book, the aforementioned In the Night Kitchen, has been banned in four states (including my home state of Illinois, to my dismay).
  • He was an early member of the group that eventually produced Sesame Street.
  • Where the Wild Things Are is only 10 sentences long.
  • He has designed stage sets for famous productions of several plays, ballets, and operas, including The Nutcracker, Hansel and Gretel, and The Magic Flute.
  • Brundibar, his collaboration with famous playwright Tony Kushner, was one of the New York Times' 10 Best Illustrated Books of 2003, proving that his artistic genius has endured over the years.
  • In 2006, his first pop-up book, Mommy?, was released.

One cool thing I was found out was that WTWTA almost became one of the first-ever computer animated movies. John Lasseter, who would go on to direct a bunch of great Pixar movies (Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Cars), experimented with using a hybrid of traditional animation and CG to tell the book's story in 1983.

That never happened. Now, 26 years later, it's my pleasure to present the very awesome, a little bit dark and scary (but then, so was the book), surprisingly grown-up-looking, long long long-awaited trailer for "Where the Wild Things Are." Let the wild rumpus start!

What was your favorite Wild Thing? And are you looking forward to the movie as much as I am? Let me know in the comments!

— Jack, STACKS Staffer

May 21, 2009

3 Questions for Percy Jackson

Posted by at 6:55 am in Percy Jackson, Reads | Permalink

Lightennigtheif_130Monster slayer, demigod, wise-cracking teen, and all-around class act Percy Jackson is the hero of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books by Rick Riordan.

If you’re a loyal Splot reader, then you know I’ve been a little bit obsessed with Percy Jackson lately (check out my book review of The Lightning Thief and my P.J. trivia). In honor of the end of that awesome series, I’d like to pose three questions to the demi-god himself!

1. Who would win in a fight: you or Harry Potter?

2. Are you ever tempted to use your powers for ridiculous ends . . . like . . . creating a giant, air-guitaring, animated statue made of water?

3. If you couldn’t be a hero in the Greek tradition but instead were a hero from another mythology — Native American, Hindi, Norse, whatever — who would you be?

I expect Percy will answer these just as soon as the last monster is dead and vanquished! I’m not holding my breath, though.

How do you think Percy would answer these? How would you? Holla at a schola in the comments!

— Jack, STACKS Staffer

May 16, 2009

Trivia Answer: Percy Jackson & The Olympians

Posted by at 6:26 am in Percy Jackson, Trivia | Permalink

Lightennigtheif_130Wow! That was impressive. Congratulations to Jacob, who nailed every question of my my Lightning Thief trivia — and answered only a few minutes after the post went up! To recap, here are the questions and Jacob’s absolutely correct answers:

1. What was the Roman (not Greek!) name for Percy’s father? – Neptune

2. What is the first hint we get of who Percy’s father really is? – When Percy doused the Cabin 5 kids in bathroom water (although we also get a much smaller hint earlier when Percy mentions that the only activity he’s good at is canoeing)

3. Which monster is Percy’s namesake famous for killing? – Medusa

4. Which three planets are named after Percy’s father and uncles? – Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto

5. Why is the entrance to the underworld in L.A.? (Feel free to be creative with this one.) – The entrance to the Underworld is always in the west.

6. Where did Percy stab Ares, and what classical hero is this a reference to? – Heel; Achilles

Way to go, Jacob! I’ll have to make the questions harder after I read Sea of Monsters . . .

— Jack, STACKS Staffer

April 28, 2009

Book Rec: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Posted by at 7:07 am in Percy Jackson, Reads | Permalink

Lightennigtheif_130One of the most common suggestions our friendly forum-goers give is the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Well, I found myself with nothing to read recently, and after seeing the 10th comment in one day that basically went, “OMG PJ IS SOOO GOOD!” I figured I’d give it a shot.

“PJ” is by Rick Riordan of The 39 Clues fame. Once I found that out, I was already excited. Maze of Bones, Rick’s entrée into the 39 Clues series, was a great blend of action, history, and humor. I expected the same from the first book in the PJ series, The Lightning Thief, and I was not let down. Right off the bat, you like Percy. He’s funny, brave, a little rebellious, and a good guy when it counts. (Might sound obvious, but that’s really important. A good story is nothing if you don’t like its hero.) And when things in his life get crazy — I don’t want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say that at one point early on he’s forced to defend himself from his math teacher with a sword — he takes it all in stride.

Pjato_book1 I should mention the coolest part about the book, of course: it’s all about Greek mythology. Percy is the son of one of the 12 major gods (Zeus, Hermes, Aphrodite, Ares, Poseidon . . . ), and has the powers to prove it. Of course, there’s no point in giving a character powers unless you’re going to throw him at some horrific monsters and devious, plotting gods, so you know right away he’s going to run into trouble. And when he does, Riordan lives up to his reputation: the plot, and the individual scenes that make it up, are fun and fast-paced.

Again, I refuse to be one of those guys who gives the plot away during a review, so you’ll have to mostly take my word for it. But the way that Rick blends stories and creatures from classical mythology with the modern day elevates the book from a by-the-numbers hero story to something that feels really fresh and inventive. Percy’s journey mirrors that of classic Greek heroes like Jason or Hercules — a deliberate choice, no doubt — and having that kind of story updated for the new millennium turns out to be just as much fun as you’d expect.

The Lightning Thief is highly recommended, and I’ll definitely be continuing on to the rest of the series. I got the same tingles as I did when I read Harry Potter for the first time, and I need to know where the story goes!

Have you read The Lightning Thief? What did you think? What was your favorite part? (Mine was the scene in the statue shop.) Tell me in the comments!

— Jack, STACKS Staffer

April 27, 2009

The FIVE: Best Sidekicks From Books

Posted by at 9:14 am in Reads | Permalink

Imagine this: a tired hobbit is climbing up the side of an enormous active volcano. A very heavy ring sits on a chain around his neck; the weight of the ring is making the individual chain links cut into his skin. He hasn’t had food or drink for days, and since leaving his home months ago he’s been stabbed, tied up in a web, and chased by orcs. He keeps climbing, determined to make it to the top, but eventually fatigue wins out and he collapses on the side of the volcano. The end. Game over. Evil triumphs and proceeds to make life generally miserable for everyone.

Bad ending, huh? That’s what would have happened in Lord of the Rings if Frodo hadn’t had Sam at his side. As we all know (or if not, SPOILER ALERT!), what really happens after Frodo collapses is that Sam picks him up, carries him to the top, and saves his life/the world. Which raises the question: how many of our favorite stories only turned out the way they did because of a courageous sidekick? To honor these unsung heroes, I’d like to present the Five Best Sidekicks Ever.

Thehungergames 5. Peeta, The Hunger Games
(for ages 12 and up)
While the debate rages on on about whom Katniss should end up with, one thing is pretty obvious: without Peeta and the dramatized love story he helped her pull off, Katniss might not have made it to the end of the games. The fact that he actually does love her just adds a whole new twist to this hero-sidekick relationship. That relationship will probably be one of the focal points of the sequel (also ages 12 and up), Catching Fire (which comes out September 1, 2009) — at least, I hope so!

Tintin 4. Snowy, The Adventures of Tintin
Part of me thinks it might be a good idea to keep a Wire Fox Terrier around at all times in case I ever get tied up by some mustache-twirling villain. Snowy has chewed through ropes that were tying Tintin’s hands many, many times. Plus, he’s just really funny and pretty darned cute. Snowy is actually so famous in Europe (where he’s known as “Milou”) that he appeared on a 10-euro coin back in 2004, next to his pal Tintin.

Hp1 3. Ron/Hermione, Harry Potter
This is tricky, ’cause technically Ron and Hermione are actually two people. But there’s no question that Harry needed them BOTH to defeat You-Know-Who, and how can you pick Ron over Hermione or vice versa? Hermione’s so smart, always coming up with brainy solutions or providing a crucial bit of magical trivia. And Ron is unflinchingly loyal, supportive, and brave. But if I really had to pick one, I guess I’d . . . nah, I can’t do it! To make up for that cop-out, here’s the recently released two-minute trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, out in only a couple months . . .

Endersgame_kid 2. Bean, Ender’s Game
Bean was already really cool in Ender’s Game. The tiny supergenius helped Ender develop some of his best Battle Room strategies, and he was right there at his side when Ender started training on the asteroid. But Bean got even cooler in Ender’s Shadow, the “parallel” companion novel to Ender’s Game, in which it’s revealed that Bean was behind a lot of the successes and “lucky breaks” that helped make Ender a star — for example, he helped put together Ender’s army using undervalued, unappreciated players. (Although part of me wonders why Orson Scott Card wanted to undermine his original protagonist . . . )

Lotr 1. Sam, Lord of the Rings
Not much doubt about this one, was there? Almost everything that Frodo goes through, Sam goes through as well — and in the end, he’s the one who has the strength to actually pick Frodo up and carry him up that mountain. In a lot of ways, Sam is the emotional heart of that whole story, especially as Frodo becomes more and more distant towards the end. Sean Astin’s strong performance as Samwise Gamgee in the movies ensures, thankfully, that this character will be remembered for a long time.

Who are your favorite sidekicks? Let me know in the comments!

— Jack, STACKS Staffer

April 4, 2009

Author SPLOTlight: Chris Van Allsburg

Posted by at 6:59 am in Authors | Permalink

ChrisvanallsburgIf I were to magically transfer my most vividly remembered dream onto paper, I bet it’d come out like a Chris Van Allsburg story. Whenever I read one of his books, I’m reminded of one of those dreams that you only sort-of remember when you wake up — some details are missing or kind of vague, but others are incredibly vivid and lifelike. Maybe the scenes don’t really make sense when you put them together, but when you think about them, they bring out strong, powerful feelings of, well, something.

To this day, just like with dreams I had years and years ago, I can still remember exactly what some of Chris Van Allsburg’s drawings look like, even though I haven’t actually seen them in a long time. You could call most of his works picture books, but make no mistake — these are very sophisticated, complex and occasionally dark pieces of literature. He’s definitely one of those rare “children’s authors” whose work can appeal to kids, teens and adults — and he just happens to tell his stories with words and pictures.

JumanjiI’m rambling a bit, so let’s get down to facts. C.V.A .was born in Michigan in 1949. He went to art school at the University of Michigan, where he actually started by studying sculpture, and then got an MFA (Master’s Degree in Fine Arts) at the very hip Rhode Island School of Design. He wrote his first successful picture book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, when he was 30, and he never looked back. It won him a Caldecott Honor, and his next book, Jumanji, landed him the Caldecott Medal itself. Since then, he’s written over a dozen books, several of which have been adapted into movies. He’s probably best known for The Polar Express, but some of my favorites are a little more obscure. The Widow’s Broom, The Wreck of the Zephyr, The Wretched Stone, and Two Bad Ants are all a little “out there,” frankly, but that’s why they’re so awesome. Unlike a lot of children’s authors, C.V.A. isn’t afraid to get a little weird on his readers.


But if you really want to get the C.V.A. experience, pick up one of his books, wait until it gets dark and everyone else has gone to bed, and start reading.

What are your favorite Chris Van Allsburg books? Let me know in the comments!

— Jack, STACKS Staffer