My last post was two weeks ago? Yikes! Clearly the week after summer reading ending I needed to sleep!
I can say that we had a great summer at MHL. Between the two of us, Clare and I put on around 34 programs in the month of July and around 15 in August. I can’t remember the exact number for attendance but it was in the 200s for July and around 130 for August!* That’s why I was so tired and busy! We did a lot.
I’m really proud of the way the summer turned out but we are hoping to make some changes for next year, like streamlining our VolunTeen program. This year it was just crazy: three different sessions doing three different activities, two of them involving little kids from the Children’s Room. At one point, Coke and Nerds candy was exploding all over 20 little kids and 10 VolunTeens in a pretty small activity room. It was a bit chaotic.
But the Magician’s Land: If we’ve talked about books before, we’ve probably talked about this series. The Magician’s Land is the third and final book and I loved how it ended. It was very satisfying for me. It wrapped up just enough for me to not be wanting too more. Sometimes a series ends and you’d kill for more from that world. I felt that I would always appreciate more from Quentin and Fillory, but I was happy with what I got.
Here are some brief highlights of what I liked with some spoilery bits, so be tread carefully:
-Asmodeus’ brief cameo was so badass, and yet I wish I could had heard more of her story!
-Niffin-Alice following Quentin around his unsettling mirror house was so creepy – not quite to the levels of giving me nightmares about the Beast and Reynard the Fox – but creepy enough that as I was reading it alone in my apartment I thought, “Maybe I should save this for morning.” There’s something about mirrors that is so unsettling – I blame whoever in elementary school told me about Bloody Mary.
-I love how Quentin helped Alice to remember her humanity with bacon, champagne, and sex. This makes sense to me.
-I appreciated how Grossman gave us more insight into Eliot and Janet. Janet especially was a character who I had a hard time liking and figuring out in the first two books so it was nice to see her more fleshed out and human. And Eliot is always delightful, but I thought it was great how Grossman showed his earnest, serious side.
-The Drowned Garden of feeling and emotions Julia shows Quentin at the end was probably my favorite part. I love what she says to Quentin after showing him a little plant:
“This is a feeling that you had, Quentin [. . . ] This is how you felt when you were eight years old, and you opened one of the Fillory books for the first time, and you felt awe and joy and hope and longing all at once. You felt them very strongly, Quentin. You dreamed of Fillory then, with a power and an innocence that not many people ever experience. That’s where all this began for you. You wanted the world to be better than it was.
“Years later you went to Fillory, and the Fillory you found was a much more difficult, complicated place than you expected. The Fillory you dreamed of as a little boy wasn’t real, but in some ways it was better and purer than the real one. That hopeful little boy you once were was a tremendous dreamer.” (Page 388)
This is what these books are about: they are a love song, a paean to stories and how they shape you. How they make you believe in the impossible – that Fillory or Narnia or Middle Earth might actually be real**, or that your father is a secret amazing magician, or that there is something more – and sometimes the impossible is possible and sometimes it’s not. Fillory was real and so was magic, but it didn’t automatically make Quentin happy. He so desperately wanted his father to have some deep secret – like James Potter or heck, even Darth Vader – that would make Quentin the “chosen one” but he was just a regular man. I think this broke Quentin more than his father’s death.
But I think the hopes, and the breaking and changing of hopes in the sometimes harsh and sometimes wonderful light of reality, is part of what makes us human. We believe and our beliefs are shattered and challenged, but we still dream for that taste of magic, or love, or power, or recognition, or whatever it is we want. Sometimes it happens; the rest of the time life’s experiences are shaping, molding, and refining us into the people we become.
I cried when I read about that little plant of an emotion that I understood: the magic and longing and wanting of reading a book. That’s one of the reasons why I love this series so much. Grossman just gets what it’s like to lose yourself in a story and allow it to consume you for a while. Even when you feel like you’ve “outgrown” it, that feeling is still there.
So if you haven’t read this series, I recommend it! It may give you nightmares but it will stay with you for a while. And maybe we can all find Fillory together someday.
On a final note, I just want to say that this month was my last month Skyping with one of the coolest librarians I’ve ever met: Valerie my YALSA mentor. She’s amazing, hilarious, and so encouraging. I’ve learned so much from her and I’m so sad that we won’t be talking as often as we have been for the last year. I highly recommend the YALSA Virtual Mentor program to all YA/Teen librarians. It’s so great! I hope that someday I will reach Valerie’s level of awesomeness and get to mentor a new Teen librarian! Thank you a million times, Valerie! May you have endless buckets of glitter! See you in Austin in November!
*I looked up the stats: July had 34 programs with 277 in attendance; August had 16 programs with 130 in attendance. So in six weeks, Clare and I did 50 programs and had 407 in attendance. And all but four of those programs were ones we designed and put on ourselves! Holy moly!
**There’s a small, not so secret part of me that still thinks these places might be real. And I’m disappointed and relieved everyday when I convince myself that they are imaginary.