Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Five -- Tiffany Strelitz Haber

Something new for the Friday Five this week - a picture book author!  Tiffany Strelitz Haber is the author of THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN, which was published by MacMillan in July.  Tiffany is another avid traveler, albeit one who is a much more adventurous eater than I am (calf's brains ravioli, anyone?).


1. What would your super power be? 

Flying.  I realize there is an originality factor of zero with that answer, but I would lovvvvves me some wings.

2. What is the worst job you’ve done?

Hmmm…Imma roll with the job I’ve done the worst AT, if that’s ok.  And that would be: waiting tables at a super trendy, enormous, high-volume restaurant in the heart of Times Square.  Totally UN-qualified for the position, I wrangled the job by acing the pages long “food test” they gave applicants, and then creating an award winning (albeit fantastically falsified) resume of where I had waited tables in the past.  Holy.  Crabcakes.  Waitressing is no joke.

3. Who are your writing heroes?  

That’s an ever changing answer.  Currently, I am obsessed with Brian Selznick (WONDERSTRUCK) and also Robert Paul Weston (ZORGAMAZOO).  Nothing is cooler to me than authors that change the game in terms of format.

4. What annoys you?

When people drive up my a** when I am already going 8 over the speed limit in a 25 and there is a cop down the road handing out tickets like it’s his last day on earth.  DUDE.  I’m not driving this slowly for my health.  Promise.

5. What keeps you awake at night?  

A certain thumping sound…but I really can’t elaborate.


Everyone knows that the M in “monster” stands for MEAN. But what happens when a monster can’t be mean any more? Is he still a monster at all?  One young monster's attempts to live up to his name go hilariously awry as he discovers—with a little help from new friends—that it's not what you're called but who you are that counts.



You can find Tiffany on her website.
On Twitter.
And on Facebook.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Favorite Banned Books

On my first day of Sophomore AP English, I brought home the extracurricular reading list.  I had chosen the “new” teacher – young, foreign, different.  She had big ideas.  Eccentric tastes.  Expansive theories.

My dad grew up in the deep South where politeness was everything and religion ruled all.   He took a long look at that list.  Graham Greene.  Ernest Hemingway.  Kurt Vonnegut.  John Steinbeck.  Ken Kesey.  William Golding. J.D. Salinger.  Anthony Burgess.  He sighed.

“I loved these books,” he said.  And showed me his favorites.

In honor of Banned Books week and in honor of my dad (on whose opinion I still pick up certain titles), I’d like to share a few of those books with you.   I read them in high school.  The “classics” were my books of choice.  They, and my parents, made me who I am.  The reader.  The writer.  The person.  All of these have been banned or challenged at one time or another.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.  Burned by the Nazis.  Banned by the Italians for its accurate portrayal of the retreat from Caporetto.  Challenged for being a “sex novel”.  This was my favorite Hemingway.  A brilliant love story.  Tragic.  I may have thrown it across the room when I finished it, though.  I was a little volatile as a teenager.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.  Banned and challenged for language, promoting criminal activity and “secular humanism”.  Quite possibly one of the most heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read (another one that hit the wall when I read the final page).  I read it on my dad’s solid recommendation.  Then we watched the movie together.  Jack Nicholson rocks.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  I seriously fell in love with Steinbeck and Hemingway in high school.  This book was banned and is still challenged for profanity (damn!), violence and being defamatory to women and differently-abled people.  It was also pulled from shelves in one community because Steinbeck was known to have an “anti-business” attitude and “questionable patriotism”.  You can’t question his technique, though.  George and Lenny live in my mind 20 years later.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  This book is consistently challenged for language (damn again!) and racial epithets.  Also for its portrayal of the treatment of blacks by racist whites in rural Alabama.  Huh.  I may have read it when I was sixteen, but wasn’t that kind of the point?  Lee wrote the book so eloquently she showed us what that community was like.  Her use of language fit the setting.  Those characters were unlikely to wander around calling blacks “African-Americans”.    My dad thought her portrayal of the South was acutely accurate.

This is a short list of  my favorite books when I was a teenager.  I still count them as such today.  (Yes, I was a nerd.  And a drama geek.  Double whammy). I can’t countenance removing them from the shelves of libraries and classrooms.  Or any other book that encourages a child or teenager to think, to question, to discuss.  To read.

The Long List (favorite banned books I read as a teenager):

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Sophie's Choice by William Styron
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger