Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March 2k8 Launches

Welcome to the book world the Class of 2k8's March launches, Jody Feldman's The Gollywhopper Games and Elizabeth C. Bunce's A Curse Dark as Gold, two very different stories about young people trying to salvage a family legacy.

In The Gollywhopper Games, young Gil Goodson hopes to redeem his family's good name after his dad was falsely accused of embezzling from the Golly Toy Company. If Gil wins the Gollywhopper Games, he'll show the world that Goodsons aren't cheaters, and will win enough money to help his family make a new start far away from the cloud of scandal hanging over them. Gil's an engaging young hero with a quick wit, a friendly personality, and a tenacious determination to make good. Readers can solve the Gollywhopper Game puzzles along with Gil--they're challenging enough to be fun, but not so difficult that you feel like putting your eye out with your pencil. Great for puzzle-lovers, punsters, and fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory--and for you adult readers, the writing and characterization are MILES ahead of that recent best-selling puzzle book The DaVinci Code!

A Curse Dark as Gold is a fascinating re-telling of the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale. Young Charlotte Miller struggles to keep her family's woolen mill running after the death of her father. Charlotte is a practical young woman. She doesn’t believe in curses or magic until a series of weird and inexplicable disasters force her to rely on a mysterious little man who can spin straw into gold. All her instincts tell her to turn him away, but Charlotte feels responsible for the townspeople who depend on the mill for their livelihood. It's not just her own income at stake; Charlotte won't relegate her neighbors and friends to poverty. Meanwhile, she has to contend with an uncle who seems bound and determined to bankrupt her. Everything comes to a head when Charlotte realizes that to save her mill, her friends, her family, and her infant son, she must figure out how to right an ancient wrong. When the story's villain’s secrets are finally revealed, their heartbreaking stories make them as sympathetic as the main characters. A great read, but keep a box of kleenex handy!

Find out more at the Class of 2k8 web site, or on our Class of 2k8 blog, where Elizabeth will be guest-blogging all week.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

March 1839 - A Good Month or Just OK?

(My novel, A Difficult Boy, takes place in 1839, so every now and then I like to take a look at what was happening back then. Thought I might share some of my findings.)

Think people in the 1830s didn't LOL or ROTFLOL? Well, okay, they may have done it, but as far as we know, they didn't abbreviate it that way. But netlingo and textspeak are just new twists on an old practice of making shortcuts for popular expressions. In 1839, you might not LOL, but you might call someone TBFTB (Too Big For Their Britches) or SP (Small Potatoes)--or, if you liked them, they'd be OK. Yup, OK. Now there are more theories on where OK came from than there are emoticons ;) {:-O (You can find a list of most of those theories here.) But the OK expert was Dr. Allen Walker Read of Columbia University. In the 1960s, he was determined to track OK to its POB and DOB (Place of Birth and Date of Birth). According to Read, OK first appeared in print on March 23, 1839, in the Boston Morning Post: "He of the Journal...would have the 'contribution box,' et ceteras, o.k.—all correct—and cause the corks to fly, like sparks, upward." OK was short for "oll korrect"--a deliberately botched spelling of "all correct." Weird? No weirder than "lite" ice cream or Krispy Kreme Donuts. OK got a big boost in 1840 when New York supporters of presidential candidate Martin Van Buren nicknamed him "Old Kinderhook" in honor of his home town and formed an OK Club to back him in the election. Unlike TBFTB, OK survives today.

Want to find out more?
Listen to this NPR story on the origins of OK.
Or read this article about OK from wordorigins.org, where you can learn about the origins of other common words and phrases.
Wordorigins.org is the Web page of David Wilton, author of Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends (Oxford University Press, 2004)--a book you might want to check out if you're interested in an entertaining look at where common words and phrases come from.