Friday, May 27, 2016

Every Day in May: 27

Strega Nona

from the Strega Nona series by the wonderful Tomie daPaola


"Bubble, bubble pasta pot, 
Boil me some pasta to fill me up.
I'm hungry and it's time to sup
So boil me some pasta to fill me up."

"The punishment must fit the crime."


I never considered doing a character from a picture book until my mom mentioned that my sister Mary had been hoping I'd do Strega Nona. And then I thought, of course!

Strega Nona means "Grandma Witch" in Italian. She cures people's ailments and solves their problems. She's the go-to lady in her little town in Calabria. When her assistant decides he can do magic too with her enchanted pasta pot, he gets the entire town into trouble. But Strega Nona is on hand to save the village and make sure the punishment fits the crime. (Don't you love how I'm trying to not give spoilers on a picture book? But it's such a wonderful one.)

Strega Nona throughout the books is wise, magical, adorable, and Italian. That was something I really loved as a kid - this was our book. Sure, other stories had beautiful princesses that were exotic and beautiful. We had an Italian grandma who was a peaceful force for goodness and still kicked butt.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Every Day in May: 26

Tricia "Trillian" McMillian

from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams

" 'Probability factor of one to one.... we have normality. I repeat we have normality.' She turned her microphone off - then turned it back on - with a slow smile and continued: 'Anything you still can't cope with is therefore your own problem. Please relax. You will be sent for soon.' "

" 'I don't think I can stand that robot much longer, Zaphod.' "

" 'Tricia McMillian?' he said. 'What are you doing here?'
" 'Same as you," she said. 'I hitched a lift. After all, with a degree in math and another in astrophysics, what else was there to do? It was either that or the dole queue again on Monday.' "


Trillian is a great character. She's a mathematician and an astrophysicist, and takes the opportunity to jump planet when offered the chance. She is smart, funny, and logical, and is the much-needed voice of reason when all of the incredibly wacky events in the books take place.

Her depiction here with her two white mice, Benjy and Frankie (who incidentally are really aliens who created a supercomputer, but I'm getting ahead of myself) is based on her appearance in the books, and not the movie or tv series. I'm still wrapping my mind around that too.

If I had planned things out better, I would have posted Trillian yesterday for Towel Day, the day honoring Douglas Adams.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Every Day in May: 25

Molly Grue

from The Last Unicorn by the fabulous Peter S. Beagle


" 'She is the last. She is the last unicorn in the world.'

" 'She would be.' Molly sniffed. 'It would be the last unicorn in the world that came to Molly Grue.' Molly said, 'It's all right. I forgive you.'

" 'Unicorns are not to be forgiven.' The magician felt himself grow giddy with jealousy, not only of the touch but of something like a secret that was moving between Molly and the unicorn. 'Unicorns are for beginnings,' he said, 'for innocence and purity, for newness. Unicorns are for young girls.'

"Molly was stroking the unicorn's throat as timidly as though she were blind. She dried her grimy tears on the white mane. 'You don't know much about unicorns,' she said."


I had drawn Molly previously in an Illustration Friday entry. I've mentioned about my favorite book in middle school; The Last Unicorn is my current favorite book and has been for quite some time. It's got humor and heart but it reads like poetry.

It wasn't until I read the book as I was older that I got Molly Grue. Really, really understood her. She feels that the best of her life has passed her by. The part of the book where she meets the unicorn for the first time and cries, "How dare you, how dare you come to me now, when I am this?" brings me to tears every time.

She's described as bony, pointed, sharp. She makes bold statements about what she feels is true and doesn't mince words or suffer fools. But as the book goes on, and she has more contact with the unicorn and her plight, she becomes softer and begins to allow herself to open up. It's a beautiful story and she's a bright and wonderful part of it. If you haven't read it, or have only seen the movie, do yourself a favor and pick it up today.

Bonus shot - the autographed hardcover edition Paul got me for Christmas one year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Every day in May: 24

Egwene Al'Vere

from the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan


" 'I'm the Amyrlin but...Elayne, Sheriam doesn't have to think very hard to recall a novice named Egwene, staring goggle-eyed at everything and being sent to rake the New Garden walks for eating apples after bedtime. She means to lead me by the hand, or maybe push me by the scruff of my neck.' "

" 'I am in command until this threat passes. You will call me Mother.' "

" 'I am Aes Sedai by virtue of having been raised to the Amyrlin Seat,' Egwene replied calmly...'I can cite the relevant passages in the law, if you wish.' "


(No huge spoilers here - the series is 13 (14?) books long and I haven't finished them yet.)

Egwene is just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world... (sorry, couldn't help it) until fate brings mysterious visitors to their village with a knowledge of magic, called the One Power. It turns out that not only does she have the spark and can "channel" magic as well, but she is one of the strongest in history. She joins the group of women who do magic called Aes Sedai and becomes involved with a rebel faction as corruption and evil break their ranks apart. Though she's still a novice, she's chosen as their figurehead and leader, the Amyrlin - mostly so that she can be controlled by others who are older and wiser, and also so that if they fail in their mission, she will take the brunt of the punishment. Egwene turns all this on its head by actually being a good leader and taking her position quite seriously, to their dismay.

If you enjoyed the Lord of the Rings series and you have a lot of reading time, give the Wheel of Time series a try. Egwene is only one of many characters, but I love her resilience and loyalty. She is always striving to take care of those around her and to better herself. Sounds like a mother indeed. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Every Day in May: 23

Margaret Simon

from Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume


“We must, we must, we must increase our bust.” 

“Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I just told my mother I want a bra. Please help me grow God. You know where.”

“I lived in New York for eleven and a half years and I don't think anybody ever asked me about my religion. I never even thought about it. Now, all of a sudden, it was the big thing in my life.”  


I thought I was around 10 when I read this, and I just recently handed it off to my 12 and 13 year old daughters because I didn't think they were ready to read it earlier. Go figure. 

Margaret is a great character because she says what we were all thinking about - growing up, periods, how icky they were, how exciting and strange it all seemed. Being in that middle place between being a little girl and becoming a woman and not really knowing where you fit in. At the time it must have been revolutionary to talk about personal things like this, and I can easily see why this book was banned over and over. But to me, this book is a classic, and reading about how Margaret navigates these waters is a helpful reminder that every kid has to grow up and nobody is alone. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Every Day in May: 22

Esmerelda Weatherwax

The Discworld series by the fantastic Sir Terry Pratchett


“ 'I'm not a lady, I'm a witch.' ”

"Witches are not by nature gregarious, at least with other witches, and they certainly don't have leaders. Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn't have."  

“Esme Weatherwax hadn't done nice. She'd done what was needed.” 


Though I love pretty much all of the characters that make up the (20+?) Disc wold universe, I have a special place in my heart for Granny Weatherwax. She is plainly and happily herself. She can be fearsome when she wants to be, or frightening, but most of the time she's a no-nosense old lady who prefers to use "headology" over magic unless it's absolutely necessary. 

She can borrow animals' bodies and uses them to travel and see places she wouldn't be able to as a human. For those times, she lays on her bed with a sign that reads "I aten't dead" as a precaution, lest anyone think she has passed away. Spelling is not one of her strong points, but it's probably because she hasn't considered it necessary to spend time on. If you're not familiar with Discworld, I encourage you to start reading. This chart is helpful, if not completely up to date, to give an idea of where to start. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Every Day in May: 21

Scarlett O'Hara

from Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell


" ' Fiddle-dee-dee.' "

" 'Dear Scarlett! You aren't helpless. Anyone as selfish and determined as you are is never helpless. God help the Yankees if they should get you.' "

" ' I’ll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day."


At the beginning of Gone With the Wind, Katie Scarlett O'Hara is a spoiled teenager who's about to come of age. She's beautiful and knows it, and is looking forward to a season of flirting and plotting and scheming to get the man she wants. What happens instead is the start of the Civil War, and instead of balls and cotillions, she has to put her scheming and plotting to other uses - for her family, for her land, but most of all, for herself. Because deep down, Scarlett just wants everything to go back to the way it was.

She was the backbone of her family and basically kept them all afloat. Her sheer grit and determination allowed everyone else in the story to be true to their lofty goals while she made unsavory deals and did what needed to be done. I'd like to believe that underneath it all, there was a motivation of kindness and love - everyone couldn't have loved the surface Scarlett without there being something underneath it all that was worthwhile. She never gives up, even when she knows what she's doing is wrong - she pushes it down to think of it when she has a chance to later - tomorrow. And then she gets up and tries again. For that determination and her loyalty, I admire her. I hate to think of what happens when "tomorrow" comes and the realization of all she's done and endured catches up with her. And I hope that some redemption will be hers as well.