I’m easily distracted, but I could not put Backstage down. There were times when the narration could have been subtler and the antagonist more realistic, yet I loved the story. Much like in other books by Smith, the main characters have remarkable chemistry. Whether it is the adorable lead couple Sam and Mel or the hi-jinks of young boy band, Backstage left me wanting more. I can’t wait to see what drama (and new song lyrics) the next book has in store.
There is something about a poetry collection that spans the entire length of your life. Maria Haskins has been writing as long as I have been alive and her talent is beyond seasoned. The passion, words, and emotion behind every poem are astonishing and mesmerizing. But perhaps her own words describe it best:
take me with you take me even farther away from the fire.
I wrote a fairy tale for my students today. Enjoy.
The Gnome Prince
Gabriel was a poor gnome with a small garden. He grew it for a king and queen across the lake, but his heart belonged to a maiden. She rode by in her carriage each week to court. The gnome tried picking up the nerve to throw himself in front of her horses, but feared injury and the rising cost of healthcare. So, he decided to impress her another way: with corn. But how?
The answer came in the form of a magic toad. He granted wishes in exchange for red hats. Gabriel could wish for the most mesmerizing corn in the land and win the praise of his fair maiden. The gnome had but one red hat however handed down from his grandfather. He hated losing it, as it was precious, but how many chances do you get at true love? Thinking of her flawless hands, he could not resist, and the toad was more than happy to oblige. He greatly enjoyed his collection of red hats.
Gabriel became overjoyed at the prospect of impressing the maiden and planted corn late into the evening. When the sun rose, his neck burnt and sweat poured profusely. It was not so easy missing his hat, but the gnome did not give up. Every time the maiden rode by in her carriage his love for her grew stronger. After many weeks his corn was as high and beautiful as any in the land. The maiden could not help but stop and gaze upon it.
“Oh, Gabriel, did you grow this corn for me?” She asked.
“Why yes, milady,” he replied. The maiden knew his name! Gabriel looked longingly at her.
“But,” she told him, “You need not sell your hat or burn your neck for corn. I have always loved you. Why do you think I have ridden by these past months?”
The gnome smiled as they climbed into her carriage and rode toward the kingdom. They lived happily ever after.
Lurking in the Deep is an anthology of water and fear. I enjoyed most of the stories, but had favorites: The Water’s Edge, The Reluctant Seamstress, Wrath, and Dark Waters were by far the most frightening. I enjoyed the dark twists and original plot in The Reluctant Seamstress, whereas the beauty of The Water’s Edge was something to be marveled. My only criticism is that though the stories are individually good, it felt there was too much emphasis on dark creatures.
It’s no secret I have high expectations for children’s books. I think they should challenge the young and old alike to interpret and feel a broad range of emotions. Borrowed Wings by Regina Puckett hits this on every level. The cover is brilliant, grabbing your attention, and the story is no less fantastic. The artwork and story are supremely touching. I’m 27 years-old and the tale of a mother and son dragon brought tears to my manly eyes. But I’m also a teacher and see great value in the lessons taught about the importance of love and family. You will love this book no matter what your age. I only wish it had gone on forever.
This is the ninth and next to last episode of Hedwig and the Owlery. There is only adventure left in our journey after this. It has been a pleasure writing and reading your comments. Today Hedwig faces off with Lord Voldemort over Surrey during the Battle of the Seven Potters. You can find the last episode here. And the first one here.
Hedwig and the Owlery
The funeral for Dumbledore and train ride home was a blur. She had written her own eulogy for Hermes but hadn’t brought herself to read it. The other owls had coaxed small parts out of her:
“A testament to owning humans…”
“The love of my life…”
“My dream owl…”
Hermes’ funeral had been a modest affair compared to Dumbledore’s. Fawkes and Francis flew his body high into the mountains with Hedwig. When they finished reciting his last rites Hermes was dropped into the clouds below. Hedwig’s tears froze on her face and she hoped that they reached him somehow.
She wrote a letter to Percy under the guise of a Ministry official. It would be believed as many owls had died during the Battle of the Astronomy Tower. Still, the dishonesty was heart wrenching. She wanted to tell him the truth about their love and Hermes’ bravery. She wanted to tell everyone.
After the train ride, Harry and Hedwig were soon alone for the first time at Privet Drive. Harry could not speak owlish, but he saw the pain glow deep within her amber eyes. “We’ve both lost something irreplaceable tonight,” he told her. She wasn’t sure if he meant Dumbledore or he truly knew of her love with Hermes. They had grown closer than she cared to admit over the past six years. There were times he truly felt like her owner and less a pet. Yet still, she doubted he had deduced anything of their romance, or Dumbledore had told him. She had never told the headmaster, after all….
The summer blazed by in preparation for the task ahead. Hedwig did not think and feel remorse as badly when she kept busy.
The Battle of the Seven Potters over Surrey was Hedwig’s finest hour. Harry never realized, but she had perfected enchantments of her own. Killing curses and Full Body Binds did not miss the young wizard by chance. “Expelliarmus!” the owl yelled frequently as Death Eaters and Voldemort approached. It did not have the intended effect but greatly slowed his advance.
“Avada Kedavra!” Voldemort shouted. Harry’s wand preformed magic he did not know. Hedwig however was fully aware. She had practiced defensive magic with his wand while he slept. She held it in her beak, increasing its defenses. Now, through absorbing the skills of Voldemort and her owlish magic, the wand was more than match for danger. Voldemort was stunned as he should have been: he underestimated owls as most everyone else did. Harry seemed to put more stock in the magic of house elves than her.
Gold sparks connected their wands and Hedwig felt a spark of pride and vindication, if not anticipation for the end result. The plan had worked; others were hurt but she protected her pet in the face of great danger.
There was only one problem: Hedwig had to sacrifice herself for him: the rat-haired scamp she was once despised. He was her responsibility and despite everything she cared for him. The power of sacrificial love could save Harry as it had before. None of the Death Eater’s magic would be binding, though it was already too late for George and Mad-Eye Moody.
She flapped her wings and hooted loudly, drawing attention to herself. It would not be long now. Death might be easier than life. She could see her nest again and mother. Perhaps the suitors would come back and admire her plumage. Perhaps Hermes would be with her. Hermes… he was the hardest to remember. She thought of his eyes staring deeply into hers; the soft grip of his wings on her back… Soon, she might feel him, but it couldn’t be the same as before, when they had years and years ahead of them.
It was surreal as the blinding flash of green light hit her body. She felt both hot and cold at the same time. Her thoughts shifted from the shock of pain to Harry and then Hermes. She closed her eyes for the last time and felt Hermes holding her. She felt his tongue as the battle continued to play out. And as her body fell, it no longer mattered….
Welcome to the eighth episode of Hedwig and the Owlery. There are only two adventures left in our journey. I will not say “do not weep” for not all tears are an evil. Tonight Hedwig fights dementors with Hermes. You can find the last episode here. And the first one here.
Hedwig and the Owlery
Hedwig grew tired of Dumbledore’s inaction. Wizards and witches were disappearing left and right. Hedwig was determined her pet would not be one of them. She frequently patrolled the grounds, occasionally catching up with a dark wizard or two. They sneaked in regularly but with Hermes help they were dropped far off in the mountains. Whether trolls caught up with or not them they were never sure.
She had not been able to thwart Death Eaters entrance through the Vanishing Cabinet. The other wizards had distracted her and Malfoy had executed his plan to perfection. If only Buckbeak had flogged him harder his third year…. She would not have told him off as she did. In fact, she may have even cheered him on.
Hedwig knew she had to act. “I must go,” she told Hermes who had arrived to be with her earlier that night. “I’ll go with you,” he replied. She wanted to argue. She wanted him to be safe. “No, please, I can’t lose you…” Her amber eyes filled with tears. “It will be all right. Percy told me to look after, Ron.”
They flew out of the owlery toward the castle. Dementors had entered the grounds. Hedwig was not sure how they arrived but felt frightened nonetheless. Did they come from the Vanishing Cabinet too? It seemed unlikely, yet there they were, spreading fear and panic….
She became transfixed and forgot Hermes flew next to her. “It will be okay,” he told her gently. “We will act as each other’s patronus.”
They flew into the heart of the storm without fear. The Dementors were accustomed to the taste of human souls and could not understand what attacked them so viciously. Hedwig ripped the long cloaks from their shoulders as Hermes scratched their gaping face holes. It was agonizing and the wizards below felt nothing of despair.
“We’ve done it, my feathery beauty!” Hermes shouted and embraced Hedwig. She kissed him as she had at the Quidditch pitch. Their beaks and small tongues interlocked in bliss. It was utter and complete perfection. Hedwig did not realize something was wrong until their wings parted….
Hermes was in free-fall. She rushed to catch him with all the poise of a seeker. Had someone hit him with a spell? What dark magic had dementors worked in their last breaths? It couldn’t be real; they had beaten them together. Hedwig caught him before hitting the ground, but only just.
“What happened?” Hedwig asked.
“Someone shot a spell, I don’t know from where…”
“Hermes, are you hurt?” Hedwig could clearly see that he was.
“I’m injured badly. Can you get me to Hagrid?”
“I will,” she said. Hedwig dared not tell him what she already suspected. Flames rose high near the Forbidden Forest.
“Just in case,” Hermes told her as they began flying in the right direction, “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Hedwig replied as her claws gripped him tighter. His eyes closed but she refused to accept it. “Wake up, Hermes. We’re almost to Hagrid’s. Wake up, please!” The flames from the hut already stung her eyes. It was too late. Hagrid fled into the forest as Harry chased Death Eaters. She couldn’t believe her eyes and knew despite her grief she must help the foolish boy. “Stay here, my love,” she said folding his wings over his heart. He looked peaceful in their last moment together. It was hard to leave him and become fierce against her enemies but her intensity did not suffer. Harry claimed to have seen Buckbeak attacking Severus Snape, but it had not been the hippogriff.
Hedwig thought of the memories torn away from her as she clawed and pecked Snape’s greasy hair. Whether or not he cast the curse, they were all responsible. Hedwig didn’t care if it made sense. After much blood loss and injury, Severus Snape soon reached the boundary and disapparated with the rest of the Death Eaters.
Hello and welcome to the seventh edition of Hedwig and the Owlery. There are now as many episodes as books, but we have a few more to go. Tonight Hedwig rescues Harry and meets a new owl. Perhaps something will develop romantically. You can find the last episode here. And the first one here.
Hedwig and the Owlery
Percy’s owl, Hermes, delivered a message to Ron and stopped by the owlery for relaxation. He was as obnoxious and uptight as his owner. “Harry Potter is dangerous,” he told the other owls. Hedwig knew it was bunk: Harry was completely inept and could barely jinx a bowtruckle. She tried telling Hermes how worthless he was on more than one occasion, but he didn’t listen. He was determined Harry had some dark power yet to be revealed. It was ridiculous, of course. And yet, something in his yellow eyes possessed her: it was completely unmagical and at the same time very magical.
He returned the next week. There was no package in his claws, but he said his business was of upmost important. Hermes seemed slightly coy and more nervous than before. Hedwig found it strange she felt the same way. “Don’t you have business of upmost importance?” Hedwig asked as Hermes paced along the roost.
“I do, but I’m not sure I agree anymore. Your owner, Harry, seems all right, and the Ministry… I could never say a word against my master, but…”
Hedwig put her wing on his. “It’s okay,” she said.
They flew through past the Quidditch pitch and rested on the goal posts together. They could see Hogwarts Castle in the distance. Hedwig had never appreciated its vast beauty before. The turrets jutted out becoming clouds and melting with the sky. Before she knew how it happened her beak touched Hermes. They were kissing like Harry and Cho Chang under the mistletoe.
Hedwig saw something that made her regret the moment. Harry and Hermione were leaving the grounds with Umbridge. If she was fast enough she might help them….
“Hermes, it has been beautiful, but my pet is in grave danger….”
Hermes was surprised but understood. He had seen the same trouble in the distant light. She flew away before he could offer his help.
If only she could find them in time. There were noises that sounded like hooves, possibly centaurs. And then, something that was unlike anything she had heard before. It crashed against the trees and caused the ground to thunder.
The half-giant Grawp thudded around the forest and it was clear. Harry could be trapped beneath him or in danger. She searched the area frantically. The miasma of centaurs, dust, and other creatures made it near impossible. Minutes passed and she didn’t notice the thestrals flying, with their being invisible, until too late. She would never catch up with them at the rate they were going.
Hedwig could only do one thing: find Dumbledore and rip him limb from limb. Nothing else could give her solace. By the time she found him, Harry had returned.
“How could you leave the castle and not stop him from going to the Department of Mysteries? That’s the most reckless, dangerous place he could have gone. You knew exactly where Voldemort wanted him to go and yet, there were no guards anywhere to stop him. Did you want him to risk his life with the other students?”
“Hedwig, it is about defeating Voldemort for good. We needed an opportunity to catch his followers. This was the best way to flush them out into the open.”
“How can you use young children as bait?”
“Dear Hedwig, it’s for the greater good. If I told Harry he would more than understand. He wants nothing more than fighting those responsible for his parents’ deaths.”
“He wants his friends alive more than he wants vengeance!”
“That’s not for you to decide.”
“Nor you!” Hedwig spat before pecking his face. She slightly regretted her tactlessness but guilt was short lived as the sixth year went by.
Much like J.K. Rowling, the fourth book gave me some writer’s block. I guess I understand where she was coming from. This Wednesday however, Hedwig speaks with a dragon and maneuvers Harry through the Triwizard tournament . You can find the last episode here. And the first one here.
Hedwig and the Owlery
Fawkes broke up with Hedwig before term ended. He told her several hurtful things that were not intended to be hurtful. “There are plenty more owls in the sky,” Fawkes said as he pecked her beak affectionately. “I need to stretch my wings, darling.”
The indignity was that anyone could break up with her. She was the most beautiful owl at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, she had dated the handsomest and only phoenix….
Hedwig tried to distract herself hunting over the summer. When this didn’t work, she observed the Dursley’s. If anything was representative of the futility of relationships or pair bonding the scrawny woman and her blimp husband were. They were nothing compared with the failures of the Weasley clan, however.
How did Mr. Weasley let his offspring slip the fat human candy? His tongue grew enormous before anything constructive was done. Wizards were incapable of watching their offspring, mused Hedwig. Her mother would have flogged her for such behavior. In fact, once she talked out of turn and had most of her feathers pecked off.
The events of the year unfolded and consumed her attention. She initially thought Harry might be safer without quidditch. The Triwizard tournament however was far from safe. Hedwig was enraged Harry could be put into a dangerous contest without her consent. She was his true guardian after all: not the transient canine with fleas named Sirius Black.
“You let him enter the contest!?” Hedwig screamed at Dumbledore. She had flown into his office upon hearing the news. Fawkes had woken but she didn’t care. His loyalty would soon be tested. “He’s a fourth year student. Merlin’s beard! I can’t protect him underwater.”
“The tasks are not life threatening and we have took all the necessary precautions.”
“Really? I’ve flown over the forest and seen your dragons. Tell me those are safe and I’ll kiss Buckbeak.”
Dumbledore, for once, did not have an answer for her. Perhaps he did not want to speak of any more preparations for the Triwizard tournament. It was not likely however she could tell Harry anything, given he never cared to learn owlish. But still she might find some other ways to fill him in.
She flew toward the forest and approached the fierce looking dragons. It was unclear which Harry might get, but she had a feeling it would not be the Common Welsh Green. “That boy has sour luck,” she thought seeing the Hungarian Horntail. Smoke fumed from its nostrils that soon turned to flame.
“Hello,” Hedwig said apprehensively. “You will likely be facing my human in the first task.”
“Am I now?” the dragon retorted.
“Yes. You are.”
“I suppose you’re here to ask for mercy.”
“Well you don’t need to. We aren’t trained to kill the humans. And we wouldn’t anyway. The idea is to scare them a little, you know? Make it look like a challenge.”
“That’s a relief,” Hedwig told her.
“Yeah, I bet it is. Everyone thinks dragons are so violent. We eat everything we see like mindless animals. No one mentions our contributions to science or culture.”
“Science and culture?” Hedwig hesitated.
“You think Dumbledore came up with the twelve uses for dragon blood? We practically told him. The most significant thing he did was learn to speak dragon.”
Harry lived as she maneuvered him through two more tasks. Dobby or Barty Crouch hadn’t really come up with gillyweed. Nor had the maze been cleared for him by accident. She never trusted the false Moody but possessed a share interest in keeping Harry alive for the time being.
“How many humans smell like dogs?” Hedwig asked. Her friends were often amazed she could locate a wanted serial killer when the best wizards could not. Wizards were narrow minded, she concluded, and would not permit themselves to see obvious realities. Sirius Black only looked like a dog; he moved very much like a human. Hedwig could spot a human pretending to be a dog kilometers away. He walked much stiffer and more awkward than any others she had seen.
It was Dolores Umbridge she could not throw off. The woman had it in for her and was determined to find out her business. She was such a toad: and far from delicious at that. Hedwig would eat her, of course, but enjoy very little of the taste.
Filch did not help matters sneaking around. Why did he insist on being such a nosy squib? She could only give him the slip so many times before he caught up. But, as she was much quicker, it would not be easy.
It was an unpleasant day to begin with. Henry, a large screech owl, had brought a howler back to the owlery with him instead of taking it immediately to its owner. The result was noise and chaos in an already noisy and chaotic environment. It did not help matters when Harry came in and gave her a letter to send. Before she reached the boundaries of the castle something powerful had hit her. It must have been some curse, because she did not remember the event. Luckily, Harry found her. He wasn’t always good for nothing, she thought. In fact, he might be an okay pet… someday.
She soon had far greater concerns than noise or even Harry. Hedwig soon asked herself something she had never recalled any owl asking: can owls fall in love? Hedwig wasn’t sure until the day came.