Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter’

The Greatest Love

Story Ever Told

(in My Opinion)

by Dennis Finocchiaro

Love stories come and go. Most anyone can say they cried reading The Notebook. And let’s face it, The Princess Bride is probably the actual greatest love story ever told, or we can at least agree to disagree. But whenever I think of true love, I think of a small segment of my favorite book of all time, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Of course, these days, everyone has heard of the book because it’s now a movie, or they’re just finding out the movie is based on a book as they read these words. Surprise! (This surprise is only for the misinformed, and I doubt that includes people who end up on this blog). But no, while this book is about the love between a mother and son and in no way romantic, a story within the story is the absolute purest form of love ever created.

I am writing about, of course, the fairy tale Oscar’s dad tells him, of The Sixth Borough.

In this tale, there was once a sixth borough of New York, an island that nobody remembers. Every year they had a big party, the climax being when a man famous for jumping would jump the small amount of water between NYC and this sixth borough. Once year, he finds he can’t make it across. And the next, he jumps and lands in deeper water. At first, the people think the logical: the jumped is getting old. But he insists he has not lost any of his jump (haha) and so they measure the distance only to find that the island is moving away from New York City.

And, of course, this doesn’t sound romantic at all, does it? The story continues past this celebration to two children, a boy and a girl, who are in love. The boy lives in the sixth borough and the girl across the small amount of water. They chat through cups on a string, which of course is absolutely adorable in and of itself. But as the island escapes the mainland, they have to keep adding to the line.

The string from his yo-yo.

The pull from her talking baby doll.

The list goes on. The two kids slowly destroy everything they love just so that they continue talking until, one day, they realize it’s going to end. The boy asks the girl to say “I love you” into her can and captures the words on his end, sealing the cup and placing it on a shelf so that, to this day, as the sixth borough has ended up in Antartica, “On a frozen shelf, in a closet frozen shut, is a can with a voice inside it.”

Why do I think this is the greatest love story of all time? Maybe I don’t, maybe I just absolutely adore it and couldn’t think of another story that gave me the same feeling as this one. But whenever I think of the sixth borough, I get chills. I even went to NYC once and took pictures that reminded me of the tale. Jonathan Safran Foer told a hell of a story in ELIC, but he also made up this fairy tale that made me fall in love with New York and the romantic side of the city. The purity of the love between these two children is described with the diction of a master, and hell, maybe I just have a soft spot for fairy tales.

But then again, there’s always those terrible moments in novels, and let’s face it, not everyone can write a good love story. Vonnegut, for instance, is without a doubt one of my favorite writers. But his stories tended to sway from romance, which was smart. He knew his genre and what worked with his stories; but one of his greatest unrecognized traits was that he avoided what he knew didn’t work. Brilliant. But not everyone is as intelligent as that; ask anyone who reads the Twilight books.

They are my example of romance that doesn’t work for me. And trust me, it’s not the teen angst aspect of the story, I eat that shit up when it’s well-written. But those books were just plain terrible. I know it’s become cliché to make fun of them, but the writing isn’t even any good. Many people ask me how I can love Harry Potter but hate Twilight, and that’s so simple: it’s the writing. J.K. Rowling is one hell of a writer. Her imagery creates moments in my mind out of things that are purely fiction. Like I know what a thestral is, right? But her words describe it and I imagine it. That’s what’s missing from all of the scenes, not just the love scenes, in the Twilight saga.

I can willingly admit I am a fan of a romantic novel. Nick Hornby has written a few that I love. Caprice Crane has, too. But they are artists, working words into stories that grab the reader and pull them in. Twilight just didn’t do that for me. I could never understand Bella’s love for a vampire, nor could I see the attraction. And trust me, I’ve even admittedly read books like The Notebook and A Walk to Remember (would anyone believe me if I claimed they were read for a class?), and as embarrassing as it is, I will admit that I fell in love with the characters. Jamie Sullivan from the latter was written with such a love of life and a purity that I couldn’t help but adore her.

That’s what was missing with Bella Swan and her boys. There was no real reason to care about them, to connect with them or to even want Bella to clearly be with either Jacob or Edward. Readers chose a side with no real reason. Or because they thought one actor was cuter than the other.

So there you have it; I admit, I enjoy a nice, mushy, well-written love story sometimes, but it has to have some literary merit. Is there anything wrong with that?

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Interactive Card Games: A new way to teach in the classroom and in the playgrounds

By WRAGSInk Staff

There is an interesting new product winding its way through schools across Philadelphia and Delaware that promises to revolutionize the way social studies is taught in classrooms.

It’s called Interactive Card Games (ICGs) and local educators in both public and private schools are quickly embracing this innovative learning tool.

Simply put, ICGs turn the elementary school curriculum into fun, eye popping card games that kids and grown ups alike can enjoy. But the beautiful thing about the games is that they educate as well.

Dawn of the Greek Gods, the first product in the line, is best described as “Pokemon with Greek Gods”. Students choose their favorite gods and battle one another, pitting Zeus against Poseidon or Hera against Athena.

This dice rolling game fuses myth and mayhem in a unique package that allows kids to play in and out of the classroom. Parents have grown to love the game because it is so much more than just a game: each card sports intricately detailed biographies on the respective god. “What I really like about D.O.G.G. is I use the cards just as much as my kids do,” Charla Whitaker, a mother of two and teacher at Chestnut Hill Springside Elementary in Mount Airy stated. She explained that though card games like Pokemon and Dungeons & Dragons are great for kids, there is very little educational value to them.

“Harry Potter and Percy Jackson were good but they weren’t real.” Charla’s son points out, “I read Percy Jackson and fell in love with mythology but I still didn’t know anything about the real characters.”

Dawn of the Greek Gods fixes this disconnect between entertainment and learning and makes it enjoyable for all ages. “My husband and I have spent a couple evenings reading the history of some of the characters and then quizzing our kids afterwards; it’s surprising getting the full of things we knew partly growing up. [Greek Gods] is an accurate retelling of the classic mythical heroes,” said Nicolette Fernandez.

Reviews like that make the whole process worthwhile for creators Roger Okewole and his younger brother and teacher, Richard. “This whole thing has been cathartic for me. I hadn’t drawn in years prior to my brother asking me to take on the project,” said Roger, whose ideas for Dawn are visionary, to say the least. He chose not to settle for the run of the mill depictions of myth and delved into what these ‘beings’ would really look like as gods.

“Usually Zeus is drawn as this fat guy with a big white beard holding a lightening bolt,” says Sam Reed, educator at Bieber Elementary School. “What these guys are doing is something different. It’s inspirational. I could really see my students connecting with it because it was so new and smart.” Sam became a fan after the brothers presented the game at his school in Philadelphia.

WRAGS Ink, the company that developed the game, encourages young kids to come up with their own ideas. “ICGs are like independent projects: we want kids to think about their our lines and we’ll develop them,”said Richard Okewole, CEO of WRAGS Ink. He has been working with students at Bieber, Springside Elementary and Tower Hill in Delaware to perfect the ever-evolving game. He’s currently working with students in the hopes of developing Dawn of the African and Norse Gods. ICG Presidents will also be out in 2012, featuring all 44 presidents with artwork from local artists and ideas from students and teachers

The company hopes to start having tournaments in the coming months. Kids can enter and battle using the plethora of gods for prizes. They also hope to develop more cards for the series with the help of local educators and parents. “It’s a great idea,” said Lois Miller, a parent from Bear, Wilmington. “It’s very hard finding stuff out there that kids can actually use to learn. It’s even harder keeping them interested. It’s been incredible watching my children’s interest in mythology blossom over the past couple months.” Mrs. Miller added that perfect storms do not come about this often; it’s hard finding a company completely dedicated to working with young, humble and hungry writers and artists in the community.

Image from Dawn of the Greek Gods, by Roger Okewole

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