Tuesday, November 30, 2010

YOU by Charles Benoit (YA)

Tuesdays with Morzant:

A Book Recommendation
by Penny C. Monster

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. As you may know, Norman interrupted my previous two blog postings for no other reason than to rattle my chain with his books about frogs. He was quite successful in doing so. That’s why this week I have sequestered myself and this week’s guest in an undisclosed location. Norman won’t be able to disturb us and he and that copy of THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY I saw him carrying around this morning can go jump off a—

PENNY: Morzant?

MORZANT: Oh, sorry. I’m happy for the opportunity to talk with you today, Penny. You had a book you wanted to tell me about? Something for my studies of Earth literature?

PENNY: It’s a book I think you will be very interested in. In fact, after I tell you about it, you are going to want to rush out and find a copy so that you can read it right away. Can you guess what the title of the book is?


PENNY: You are not even close.

MORZANT: Ah, I wasn’t thinking. I forgot that you usually read fiction of the supernatural, macabre, or thriller variety. Is the title THE PRESCIENT MURDERER CREEPS AT MIDNIGHT?

PENNY: I’d totally read a book with a character who foresees the murders he’ll one day commit. But you are wrong again. This book doesn’t have any supernatural parts. Would you like to take another guess? I’ll give you a hint. It’s a unique book. You might even say it’s you-nique.

MORZANT: Oh, no. Norman got to you, didn’t he? He sent you here to tell me about THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY, didn’t he?

PENNY: What? No. The book is called YOU (HarperTeen-HarperCollins, 2010).

MORZANT: Thank Hermit’s crab cakes. What’s it about?

PENNY: It’s about you. You are in the tenth grade. You like math. You are one of the “Hoodies” and a jock named Jake makes your life even more miserable than it already is. You are angry all the time. You have a bit of a temper. Your parents keep hassling you to get a job. The only really good thing in your life is the girl you like, Ashley. But you don’t know if she likes you.

MORZANT: Aside from the part about me liking math, none of that information about me is accurate. I do get miffed at Norman sometimes, but I’d hardly say I’m angry all the time. And I don’t know a girl named Ashley, but if I did she would probably like me, don’t you think?

PENNY: Then a new kid comes to school. He’s strange. And he’s got a smart-alecky comment for every situation. His name is Zack.

MORZANT: Are you sure it isn’t Norman?

PENNY: No. It’s Zack. And he’s taken a special interest in you, though you can’t figure out why. When he introduces himself to you, he already knows your name is Kyle Chase.

MORZANT: No, I’m Morzant from the planet Zeenton. I like math and food that is unusually stretchy.

PENNY: When you’re reading this book, you are Kyle Chase.

MORZANT: What are you talking about?

PENNY: It’s written in the second person. That’s why I said it’s you-nique.

MORZANT: Second person? What does that mean?

PENNY: Well, a story written in the first person is all about what I did. I went to the grocery store. I bought a bunch of bananas. The bananas were rotten, so I had to throw them away.

MORZANT: That’s disappointing. You should have returned them for a refund.

PENNY: No, you don’t understand. That was just an example of how a novel written in the first person sounds. The narrator gives a firsthand account of the story’s events because the narrator is the one who experienced those events. If the novel is written in the third person it would be like, Penny C. Monster went to the grocery store where she bought a bunch of bananas. They were rotten, so her friend Morzant suggested she take them back to the store for a refund. Get it?

MORZANT: Maybe I do. What is second person then?

PENNY: Second person would be like, you went to the store. You decided that you would buy papayas because last time the bananas were rotten. Later, at home, you remembered you’re allergic to papayas.

MORZANT: I’m not as well-read as you, but I have never encountered such a narrative. It seems as though it would be strange to read a novel written in that way.

PENNY: I know. I thought the same thing. But it wasn’t weird at all. I really felt close to the main character and related to him.

MORZANT: You mean you?

PENNY: Yeah. Right. Me. Uh, you. The story sucked me in. I cared about what happened to me. I mean you. I mean the main character of YOU. There’s also a bit of a mystery. The book opens with you surrounded by broken glass and lots of blood. You—the reader, not the character—get the idea that something horrible happened, like maybe somebody even died. The rest of the book is a flashback leading up to that moment. Not til the end do you—the reader, not the character—know what happened. And, even though I know how YOU ends, I’ll probably read it again. I really like YOU.

MORZANT: And I like you, too, Penny. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention. I will indeed study it.

Good-bye for now, humans—

PENNY: Just one more thing, Morzant.


PENNY: Norman asked me to give you something.


PENNY: Sorry. I have trouble saying “no.”

MORZANT: It’s okay. It’s getting so it doesn’t feel like Tuesday without a frog book.

Good-bye for now, humans. I hope you enjoyed this post and that you will be sure to read YOU as soon as you possibly can. See you next time!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Tuesdays with Morzant:

Norman Interrupts Morzant’s Interview with Bigfoot. Again.

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. You may remember that the last time we got together, Norman postponed my planned interview with Bigfoot without consulting me. But your patience is about to be rewarded, Bigfoot fans. Bigfoot has graciously agreed to meet with me today.

[Knock, knock.]

MORZANT: That must be him. Stand by for the interview of the century! We’ll soon know Bigfoot’s favorite soup and what books he’d take with him for an extended stay on a deserted island.

[Norman enters.]

MORZANT: Oh, no.

NORMAN: Hi, Morzant. Something smells good. Did you make more donuts?

MORZANT: Yes, I did make more donuts. For Bigfoot. For Bigfoot to eat while I interview him. Today. Norman. Please tell me you didn’t send Bigfoot away. Again.

NORMAN: I didn’t send Bigfoot away again.

MORZANT: Thank the High Plains of Oklahoma. Is there something I can do for you? Preferably at a time when I’m not expecting Bigfoot at any moment.

NORMAN: So, now’s good?

MORZANT: As I just said, I’m expecting him at any moment. Oh. I see. You sent Bigfoot away again, didn’t you?


MORZANT: Then why did you tell me that you didn’t send Bigfoot away?

NORMAN: You asked me not to. What could I do? You said “please.” Don’t worry. He’ll come back. Probably. To tell the truth, he did seem a little put out.

MORZANT: What do you want, Norman? You want Bigfoot’s donuts? Fine. Take one. Take them all.

NORMAN: Calm down. I actually stopped by to help you with your studies of Earth literature. But if you’d rather not be disturbed, I’ll go. Do you have a bag or something for the donuts?

MORZANT: I’m sorry I snapped at you. You actually came to help me? Have you been working on your novel?

NORMAN: Yes. But that’s not why I’m here. I came to show you this comic book. It’s called THE MUPPET SHOW COMIC BOOK: MEET THE MUPPETS (Boom! Kids-Boom Entertainment, 2009). I thought you might like it because one of the characters is Kermit—

MORZANT: The Frog. Wonderful! I adore Kermit the Frog.

NORMAN: Wait. What? You know about Kermit the Frog?

MORZANT: Of course. I realize your bringing that cartoon periodical here was a ruse so you could needle me yet again about my being a frog, which I’m not, but I must disappoint you. I'm already familiar with THE MUPPET SHOW and Kermit the Frog.

NORMAN: You’ve read this comic? Was it delivered as part of your frog book-of-the-month subscription?

MORZANT: Humorous, Norman. I don’t know anything about your comic book as you call it, but I’m quite fond of THE MUPPET SHOW television program.


MORZANT: Yes. A Zeentonian satellite positioned near this solar system picked up electromagnetic waves of THE MUPPET SHOW and transmitted them to Zeenton. Those images were the first proof we had that life existed on your planet. It’s a terrific program. Can you imagine my surprise when I finally arrived on Earth and found considerably fewer felt-based beings than expected?

NORMAN: You’re a riot, Morzant.

MORZANT: If I remember correctly, THE MUPPET SHOW was a theatrical production of musical numbers and comedic sketches performed by various puppets called Muppets. In between the acts, a plot progressed behind the scenes. For example, a minor, albeit comical, inconvenience might befall the show’s guest star or its regular talent and that obstacle would interfere with the onstage performances. There was an audience in the Muppet theater which also consisted of Muppets. Interestingly, this show within a show device is employed in William Shakespeare’s HAMLET. It would seem Kermit and his thespian comrades inspired Earth’s most celebrated playwright. May I see your comic book?

NORMAN: Uh. Sure.

MORZANT: Yes. This is just the same as the television program. There’s Fozzie with his gags and guffaws. The brilliant Doctor Bunsen Honeydew with his hapless lab assistant, Beaker. We can’t forget Gonzo, a cryptid if I ever saw one. And of course, Kermit the Frog orchestrates the entire show. What’s the matter, Norman? None of your usual quips?

NORMAN: What can I say? I was going to tell you about the exploding frogs on a log. Well, technically they’re toads, but I wasn’t going to tell you that. After that, I had a bit about the part in the comic where the Swedish Chef tries to make frogs’ legs. Then I was going close with something about Kermit and his banjo and ask you whether all frogs are good banjo players. I probably would have asked you to pluck out a little tune for me.

MORZANT: I almost feel guilty for foiling your plans to use such funny material. You should know, this comic book almost makes up for your having interrupted my interview with Bigfoot. Again. It has several segments devoted to my favorite recurring Muppet skit, Pigs in Space. Captain Link Hogthrob, First Mate Miss Piggy, and Dr. Strangepork always get mixed up in an amusing space predicament.

NORMAN: I like Pigs in Space, too. It’s really funny. There’s just one thing I would change.

MORZANT: Oh? What’s that?

NORMAN: I’d make it Frogs in Space.

MORZANT: Touché, Norman. Touché.

Good-bye for now, humans. As to an interview with Bigfoot, perhaps I can entice him back with another batch of homemade donuts at a time when Norman is on vacation.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Norman’s Novel

Tuesdays with Morzant

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. Today I’m going to interview Bigfoot. I’ve been looking forward to this since I began my tenure as the official interviewer for BIGFOOT READS. Although I’ve known Bigfoot as long as I’ve known Penny, there are many details of his existence that remain a mystery to me. For years I’ve asked him to reveal his birthplace and shoe size, to no avail. I feel confident that today I will succeed in coaxing those secrets from him, and maybe a few others as well. Did you hear a knock? That must be him.

NORMAN: Hey, Morzant. What’s up?

MORZANT: The ceiling fan and tiles, my ship’s transparent silicone dome above that, then an abundance of cumulous clouds resembling a herd of giraffes playing miniature golf—unless they’ve shifted significantly since last I looked—and, beyond that, the Earth’s troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and finally the exosphere. Although fascinating, none of that is relevant to the question at hand which is, what can I do for you? I hate to rush you, but I’m expecting Bigfoot.

NORMAN: About that. Bigfoot isn’t coming today. I just ran into him and told him you’d interview him another time. I hope that’s okay.

MORZANT: Why on Zeenton’s plateaus would you do such a thing?

NORMAN: I needed to talk to you about—what is that? It smells like a bakery in here.

MORZANT: I made donuts for Bigfoot.

NORMAN: Yummy. Can I have one?

MORZANT: Certainly. But Norman, I wish you had consulted me before sending Bigfoot away. I was up all night preparing questions. And making these donuts.

NORMAN: I didn’t know you could bake.

MORZANT: Technically these donuts were fried, not baked. But, yes, I am adept in the science of food preparation. All that’s required is a rudimentary understanding of the basic principles of chemistry. That particular donut was made from a popular Zeentonian recipe with substitute ingredients for the marptorf and cinnapetum I ran out of several weeks ago. I’ve not had time to return to Zeenton to replenish my spices. I believe the result is still satisfactory. Do you agree?

NORMAN: I think so. Can I have another? Just to be sure.

MORZANT: Yes. Now, please, tell me what was so important that you took it upon yourself to postpone my interview with Bigfoot?

NORMAN: I almost forgot. See, I'm writing a novel and—

MORZANT: You’re writing a novel? How exciting! What’s it about?

NORMAN: Uh, yeah. I’m not sure about the plot yet. It’s sort of changing as I go. But the main character has a lot in common with you. I wondered if maybe, if I get stuck on what the character might do or say, I could come talk to you. It’d be like research.

MORZANT: As an advocate of research in every pursuit, I’d be delighted to help. Perhaps you’d return the favor. Would you permit me to observe you as you write your novel? What a boost it would give to my studies of Earth literature to actually witness the process of its creation!

NORMAN: Sure. I guess.

MORZANT: Marvelous! Are you planning to write now? I see you have your laptop with you. Why don’t you make yourself comfortable over here? How’s that? Do you need more light? Would you like a chair with more lumbar support? Background music? You go ahead and write as you normally would. Don’t mind me. I’ll be nearby taking notes.

NORMAN: Is it that important I write exactly like I always do?

MORZANT: Oh, yes, absolutely. Critically so. Any variation in your modus operandi could lead me to incorrect conclusions regarding the nature of writing fiction.

NORMAN: In that case, I’ll need a snack. I usually snack while I write.

MORZANT: Will these homemade donuts be adequate?

NORMAN: For a start. How about something to wash them down with? Got milk?

MORZANT: Will soy milk suffice? It’s all I have. I’m lactose intolerant.

NORMAN: Nevermind. I don’t always drink milk while I write. But I always have hot chocolate. With little marshmallows.

MORZANT: Very well. I’ll prepare your hot cocoa beverage.

NORMAN: With little marshmallows.

MORZANT: Of course. With little marshmallows. In the meantime, you can begin writing.

Experiment 278.54: Observation of an Earth Novel Writer

Subject: Norman the Half-Invisible Turtle

Date: November 2, 2010

Subject boots laptop, begins to type 13:53:24.

Subject presented with hot cocoa beverage with little marshmallows.

Approximate typing rate: 10 words per minute

Approximate snacking rate: a bite every 5 words

Subject scratches nose.

Subject resumes typing.

Subject asks how to spell “amphibious.”

Subject takes bathroom break.

Subject resumes typing.

Subject hums “Froggy Went A-Courtin’.”

(For later study: Does the sound of humming alter the creative thought process?)

Subject begins to mutter to himself.

Subject requests synonym for the word “delusional.”

Subject produces tapping sound. Impossible to ascertain source of sound due to Subject’s state of half-invisibility, but suspect Subject is tapping foot against leg of table.

Subject ceases typing, 14:27:46.

NORMAN: That’s it for today.

MORZANT: Would you allow me to read what you’ve written?

NORMAN: I don’t know. I mean, it’s just a few rough paragraphs.

MORZANT: For my studies, it’s imperative that I see your early work so I can contrast it with the final product. For example, I’ll want to know if the noun-to-adjective ratio changes significantly or if there is more or less exposition in the later drafts. Please, Norman. I won’t be critical. I don’t yet grasp the intricacies of literary craft.

NORMAN: When you put it that way, I suppose it’s okay.

MORZANT: I’m eager to meet this dashing character that resembles me. Is he a scientist?

NORMAN: No, he’s—.

MORZANT: Wait. Don’t tell me. I want to read for myself.

Zantmor did not like being a tadpole. The gradual disappearance of his tail alarmed him. The constant worry about the appendages that would one day appear filled him with dread and self-loathing. And worst of all was the chronic swimmer’s ear.

Yes, he said to himself daily. There’s nothing worse than being a tadpole.

And he believed that to be true, until he became a frog.

NORMAN: What’s the matter? Why did you stop reading? Don’t forget, you promised not to be critical.

MORZANT: Of course. It’s just that—

NORMAN: Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe I’d better just write my novel in private.

MORZANT: No! It’s good. I like it. Let me finish.

Zantmor hated being a frog more than he had hated being a tadpole. He wasn’t much of a hopper and he didn’t care for the taste of flies or worms. His days were spent dodging little human boys and their nets. At night he was obliged to croak for no apparent reason.

Being a frog is not for me, he said to himself daily.

So one day Zantmor decided he wouldn’t be a frog. He decided to be an alien from the planet Tonzeen.

NORMAN: Well, what do you think so far?

MORZANT: I look forward to observing the revision process.

Good-bye for now, humans. I apologize for the postponement of Bigfoot’s interview. I hope to interview Bigfoot soon and to find out if he prefers glazed or cake donuts, powder or candy sprinkles.

Also, please return for further observations of Norman’s novel-writing endeavor.