Tag Archives: Indiana Jones

The Re-Reading Project: Sammy the Seal and Danny and the Dinosaur

It was feeding time at the zoo.

All the animals

were getting their food.

– Sammy the Seal

One day Danny went

to the museum.

He wanted to see what was inside.

-Danny and the Dinosaur

I’m pretty sure that Sammy the Seal by Syd Hoff was the first book I ever read myself, followed quickly by Hoff’s Danny and the Dinosaur. But, I keep changing my mind about which one was actually my first book, so they stand together as my first books. They’re probably a lot of kids’ first reads, as they’re both Level 1 books in the I Can Read! series, the first of which was 1957’s Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. So the I Can Read! series was already 30 years old by the time I was reading.

Danny and the Dinosaur was published first, in 1958 and then Sammy the Seal in 1959. Each book is 64 pages of simple text and represents one day of freedom and fun. Danny meets the dinosaur at the museum and they hang out in the city together, most often helping out its citizens (kinda like a Superman version of Godzilla), then the dinosaur goes back to the museum rather than be Danny’s pet. They have further adventures together in later books. Sammy the Seal is given a day pass of sorts from the zoo, because he asks the seal feeder, Mr. Johnson, nicely. He also explores the city (one of my favorite pages shows a local man saying, “That seal must be from out of town.”), though he spends about half the day hanging out in a classroom with a bunch of schoolchildren and a redheaded teacher. He takes a cab back to the zoo just in time for dinner.

I was inspired to re-read these earliest of books when I mentioned them in my Charlotte’s Web post and Hoff’s niece Carol responded. I still have my original copies, but they’re in storage at my parents’ house, so I checked them out from my local library, where I’m a well-known patron. One of the librarians joked with me when I picked them up, saying the librarians were speculating on whether I’d meant to request them, since they varied a bit from my usual reading tastes. “Well,” she conceded, “All of your reading is a bit odd, so I told them this was actually pretty normal for you.” I told her about the Re-Reading Project and she told me about her favorite Syd Hoff book, Lengthy. I’d never even heard of it before and I was engrossed for several minutes while she narrated it for me. It’s apparently out of print, which is unfortunate because it sounds like a sweet story.

Sammy the SealDanny and the DinosaurIt just takes me about 5 minutes to read these books now, since there’s only a line of text on each page and the language is very easy, which is what makes them great Level 1 books and the reason why they were the first books I was able to read myself, every word. What struck me most re-reading them now is how absolutely dated the books are, and already were in the 80s when I first read them. Which strangely makes them feel timeless. Kinda like Indiana Jones. And they were utterly familiar: I must’ve read these books so many times as a kid that I all but memorized them.

Syd Hoff did more than write some of the most influential kid’s books ever, which would be a lot on its own. He sold almost 600 cartoons to The New Yorker, had two long-running syndicated comic strips and wrote books for adults as well. He was even the host of a t.v. show, called Tales of Hoff. Which, from the description on Wikipedia, kinda sounds like Bob Ross’s show combined with Roald Dahl’s. Here’s a clip of Hoff drawing and narrating, but I’m not sure if it’s a clip from Tales of Hoff.

I think it’s fitting to end this first month of re-reading where I began my reading odyssey. I didn’t originally intend to re-read so many books this month. I thought I’d maybe re-read four, but I had so much trouble narrowing it down that I re-read eight instead! I had a lot of fun, but moving forward, I’ll only be re-reading one title each month (August is ambitious, with three).

However, a nice side effect of this first month of re-reading has been the conversations I’ve had about great reading experiences, here on the blog and with friends and family off the internet. I’ve invited some of them to re-read an influential title from their life and write a guest post for the blog. February will kick off with one of these guest blogs. Some of you may also like to join me in the Re-Reading Project, so send me a message and let me know.

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Film snob?

Last weekend, I was accused of being a film snob because I have (very legitimate) complaints against Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

It came on t.v. while I was at a friend’s house visiting and her husband insisted that as an Indy fan, I should just appreciate the movie rather than pick apart its (many) faults.

I studied film, so this isn’t a new thing. My defense against accusations of snobbery is always – Dude folks, I own and enjoy Crossroads. And I make people watch it when they come to my house.

Accordingly, I am super excited about Fast & Furious. Seriously. The fact that Vin Diesel and Paul Walker and the uber talented Michelle Rodriguez are back – “New model. Original parts” – makes me a happy, happy girl.

And then there’s the fact that I may actually watch the Hannah Montana movie. Willingly. Even…maybe…happily.

I think I have successfully acquitted myself on all counts of snobbery here. Just remember, not everybody can be this refreshingly honest.

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Sex in the City and "uncontacted tribes"

No spoilers here, this time.

First, let me say that I never watched Sex in the City except in snatches whenever my former roommate T. used to watch it. I did read the book, which wasn’t very good, and saw enough snatches to know that the t.v. show brought new life to it. It’s not that I think the show was a bad one – I suspect that it was very well produced, written and acted.

I just can’t be bothered. I’m not interested.

So no biggie. The movie’s not for me. I’m not going on a rabid rant about the fact that the movie exists, but I would like to complain for a second about the fact that Entertainment Weekly, which I subscribe to, devoted over 80 PAGES of their magazine (two issues ago) to the SiC movie. WTF???? WHY??

I understand that some people will find this fascinating and will lap up every exquisite detail of the articles from varied angles. But what about those of us readers, male and female, who don’t give a shit about this movie? That was a wasted issue for us because there were maybe 10 pages we could actually read. I’ve NEVER seen EW devote so much of an issue to a single item (a lot of an issue, yes, but not over 4/5, not 80 FREAKING PAGES). Even if they devoted 80 pages to something I cared about, I’d still wonder why they were doing it. 80 pages is a lot in a floppy, glossy entertainment magazine. I mean, why didn’t they just publish an insert that those of us who don’t care about SiC can throw away???

What makes me sad is the fact that I haven’t seen and will likely never see SiC and I’m still willing to bet it’s a better movie than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. At least in the sense of keeping true to its universe and having a legitimate story that makes sense.

I still don’t care, though. That’s probably SiC‘s worst crime – failure to make me give a shit. Otherwise, it’s pretty freaking awesome, I’m sure.

Now. “Uncontacted tribes.” Yeah. Go read the article and look at all of the pictures they link to. Two thoughts. First, if they’re aiming weapons at you, you have contacted them. They’re not “uncontacted.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m splitting hairs. But still. Second, what’s with my suspicious mind that immediately thought – this is a hoax or an advertisement for Survivor. I love me some Survivor (been watching it my entire adult life), but I seriously wouldn’t put it past Probst and Burnett. If there are “uncontacted tribes” on this planet, let’s all do them a favor and leave them that way. That means, no logging their villages away and no flying aircraft over them in order to get pictures. Get it? Got it? Good.

And no matter what you think, SiC and uncontacted Amazon tribes ARE connected in a very real way and viable co-subjects for one blog post. Promise. 🙂

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