May 13, 2008

Weekly Geeks #3, Blogging Tips Meme and Bookworms Carnival

The theme of the third Weekly Geeks is fond memories of childhood books. Dewey says:
“You could approach this several ways. I’ll probably list my favorite childhood books with maybe a paragraph about each book: why I loved it, how old I was when I read it, where I got the book, etc. You could also just pick one childhood favorite and review it as you would any other book. Or, if you’re fast, you could make up a meme other weekly geeks might like to use.”
I decided to pick a specific childhood favourite of mine and write about it: Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. Between the ages of 9 and 14 I must have read it at least once every year. Probably more. And I know, one of the pillars of Holocaust literature does not sound like the most common reading material for a girl so young.

The thing is, at the time the book did not feel heavy. I'd go as far as saying that it did not sadden me. The knowledge that she had died did, but I didn’t know the horrifying details until later. I’d read the book again and again to evoke her – it was her company I craved. I was a lonely child, and she felt like a friend. Anyone who’s read the book knows that, despite the dreadful circumstances in which Anne Frank lived, there is a lot in it that is normal, or as normal as it can be. She lived in hiding, in constant fear of being caught, and yet – and this is what’s so striking – she still experienced many of the same emotions girls her age experience. There was a lot about her I identified with – her curiosity, her enthusiasm for books and stories and writing, her tempestuous relationship with her mother, her first love, her daydreams, her desire to become a writer. She inspired me keep journals, something I did obsessively in my pre- and early teen years, something that got me through a lot.

I loved her. In a way she was like an imaginary friend. Except she was real, and she had died a particularly cruel death at age 16 because she was Jewish. I think that having read her diary so often and so young is one of the reasons why I have such a big interest in Holocaust literature. The book taught me at a young age that unbelievably cruel things are done to innocent people. To good people. To people full of potential. And – how can I say this without sounding silly, or presumptuous, or incredibly insensitive regarding those who indeed have a personal connection with Holocaust – it made WW2 feel personal in a way. Because inside my head she was my friend, and she had been killed. What I’m trying to say was that it taught me compassion, and it made me realize at an emotional level that those who had died were real people, and not just numbers.

Despite its bleak topic, I can honestly say I have fond memories of this book. Two years ago I revisited it after a number of years away, and it made me smile and it made me cry and it made me feel as close to her as I did as a child. What made me pick it up again was realizing that one of my very favourite albums, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In an Aeroplane Over the Sea, had been inspired by Anne Frank’s Diary. So I’ll leave you with “Holland, 1045”
The only girl I've ever loved
Was born with roses in her eyes
But then they buried her alive
One evening 1945
With just her sister at her side
And only weeks before the guns
All came and rained on everyone
Now she's a little boy in Spain
Playing pianos filled with flames
On empty rings around the sun
All sing to say my dream has come

And it's so sad to see the world agree
That they'd rather see their faces fill with flies
All when I'd want to keep white roses in their eyes

Kim tagged me for the Blogging Tips Meme she created. This meme is extremely useful to all of us, and plus, if you answer it you will be entered to win a $15 Amazon giftcard. Isn’t that extremely generous of Kim? So come on everyone, share your tips!

My tip is this: make your blog as easy to navigate as possible. Nothing frustrates me more than coming across a blog I really like but in which the only way to access the content that is not on the first page is to press the “older posts” button repeatedly. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

How can you make your blog easier to navigate? Well, first of all, a search box is very useful. Secondly, I’d suggest having links to your archives and your tags in your sidebars – these don’t necessarily have to take lots of space, since you can choose to display them as a drop-down menu. For detailed guides about how to do this and much, much more (including how to add a horizontal navigation menu (aka tabs) to blogger, which I've recently done!), consult Tips for New Bloggers. They have the best advice, and I wouldn't have been able to do half the things I did to my blog without them

Mrs. S tagged me for the 6 Random Things About Me Meme that’s been going around, but I’ve been sitting here for 10 minutes and can’t come up with one, let alone six, things worth sharing. So I’ll apologize and leave it for another day.

And finally! The 11th Edition of the Bookworms Carnival is up at Scotter Chronicles. The theme is Urban Fantasy, and there are lots of yummy posts to be discovered. The next edition of the Carnival will be hosted by me, and the theme is fairy tales. Tomorrow I’ll post the official info page and tell you all the details.


  1. What a powerful book that is! I only read it once, but I remember being very moved by it. The first book involving WW2 that I ever read was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. I remember very distinctly trying to wrap my mind around why people were killing people just because they were Jews.

    And thank you for being the first one to offer blogging tips for my meme! I can't agree more with your advice. It is so frustrating to try and navigate a poorly designed blog. It doesn't make me want to come back, that's for sure.

  2. Thanks for the reminder about The Diary of Anne Frank - I too read it several times and felt a close affinity to Anne. And thanks for the link to more blogging tips! I've been trying to figure out how to add a search box and now I know. :)

  3. That is indeed a powerful book, Nymeth! I had only read once but the story is enough to stay in my mind for long...

    And thanks for the great advice regarding the drop-down menus for blogs. :)

  4. Anne Frank's story was a favorite of mine growing up too--it had such a deep impact on me. I think she is in part what created my thirst for learning more about that time in history--she and my father.

  5. What a beautiful post, Nymeth! Thank you so much for sharing this. I have to admit I've never read it...I think I've always been too scared. Annie read it about a year ago, and I admit I was always a bit puzzled by her reaction. Now I think I understand. I just assumed that it would leave her depressed, but I didn't see that at all. In fact, she just wanted to talk about Anne as a girl...and now I can understand that that's really how she saw her, as a little girl as opposed to a tragedy.

    And I meant to tell you yesterday, but I think I forgot, that I love your tabs at the top...I spent a lot of time checking them out. I really love your authors one!

  6. That's one I never read but really should. Great post.

  7. i've never actually read the whole diary. i've read the play and used parts of the diary for teaching - and it was very effective 'cause the kids loved the book! they really got into her life and her world.

  8. What a lovely post!! Is it bad that I have never read this?? It's one of those books I've always meant to read, but I just haven't done it! Thanks for the reminder that I reall need to get on it!

  9. The Diary sent me into research about other survivors and a continued interest in all aspects of WWII and Nazi Germany...with fear and loathing. Yet Anne illustrates the triumph of the spirit.

  10. Thanks for the tips! I've wondered about adding tabs. I love sites that are easily navigable. I do have archives and labels, but they are down at the bottom of my sidebar. I'm thinking tabs might be the way to go to help make moving around my site easier.

  11. Love many of the books you have listed to read or have read. I see you are reading Rusalka. My husband and I are Cherryh fans. I've got Rusalka on my list of books for 1st in a Series Challenge.

  12. You know I've never read The Diary of Anne's almost embarrassing to admit. But after growing older and knowing her history it's always seemed like it would be such a hard book to read. But you write about it so beautifully that I'm tempted to put my barriers aside and dive into it. I know it's an important book. Love the Neutral Milk Hotel song and those lyrics are is really powerful...thanks for sharing :)

  13. Kim: Number the Stars is another great one. It is frustrating, isn't it? Especially if the blog is a very good one content-wise and you really want to read more, except you can barely access the posts!

    Hearther: You're welcome :) I'm glad my tip was useful!

    Melody: It's one that stays with you, that's for sure. And you're welcome :)

    Literary Feline: I imagine that she had that effect on several people - and I'm very glad she did.

    Debi: Anne Frank's personality is fascinating, and I think that when you're young it's easy to sort of "forget" her fate and focus on who she was instead. And that makes the book's impact even greater when you finally realize exactly what happened to her. And thank you! They come in handy, don't they? Even for me, when I want to find a link to an old post of mine for some reason or other. I'm glad Weekly Geeks finally encouraged me to do this!

    Chris: thank you :)

    JP: It makes sense that they did. It's so easy for young people to feel close to Anne.

    Stephanie: It's not bad, no - it's never too late to read it!

    Jenclair: Yes. And she doesn't let us forget.

    Terri B. You're welcome! I love Rusalka so far - it's my first Cherryh book and I'm really enjoying her writing.

    Chris, you're welcome. I'm glad you like the song! The lyrics really are great. For the whole album, actually. And no, it's not I was telling Stephanie, it's never too late. And you know, this book is not hard to read in the same sense that Night, for example, is. Of course that being fully aware of what happened to her, getting to the very last entry is incredibly sad. But throughout the book you get to know and "spend time" with a remarkable young girl who was an incredible writer despite being so young.

  14. My sister made me read Anne Frank when I was 11 or 12 and it's one of those stories that just haunts you forever after you've read it...if this book helped you to connect to the events of WW2 on a personal level, well then it did its job 9and there's not anything silly about that)...what a wonderful review...
    NMH's album is so powerful - I gave the cd to everyone on my Christmas list this past year (my wife raised an eyebrow when the credit card bill came in, but she didn't fuss!)...

  15. The Diary of Anne Frank was also a favourite of mine when I was growing up -- still is, really. I don't think that it's strange reading material for youngsters ... in fact I remember that several of my grade eight classmates had also read it.

  16. I must gifted about 20 copies of this bok to various children in my family and friend. I think this needs to be read by all. I do not think of it as a horrific or strange.

    This remains one of my favourite books till date. I think like you, I will review it too and soon.

    Childhood Memories

  17. After reading this, I have read a good many boks on the Holocaust.

  18. Hi Nymeth - I'm going to turn the meme on its head and ask your readers to comment on 6 random things about you instead :)

    I'll start:

    You're hosting the next Bookworms carnival and its about Fairy Tales (I'm going to participate in this - my first one - and I'm v excited!)

    Anyone want to post random fact number 2?

  19. I only read The Diary of Anne Frank for the first time last year, but I agree with you that it's more a story of a young girl growing up and all the emotions that normally entails, than a story of the Holocaust, if that makes sense the way I said it.

    BTW, well done on the tabs at the top. You've been busy but it looks great and so organized! :)

  20. Ken: You're right, it did its job. I just didn't want to sound disrespectful to those who did have friends or family members die. And wow, what a wonderful Christmas gift! There's nothing like sharing good music (or good books, of course).

    shereadsbooks: At the time I didn't know anyone else who was quite as obsessed with it as I was, but I seem now that it's common enough - and it's a good thing that it is.

    guatami tripathy: You're absolutely right. I look forward to your post!

    Mrs S. I will still do the meme, I just need to feel a bit more inspired and a little less blah than I did the other day :P I'm thrilled to hear that you're participating in the Carnival!

    Tanabata: It does make sense. And thanks! It was actually easier and faster to do than I expected :)

  21. Although I normally love WWII-related books, I actually wasn't a huge fan of The Diary of Anne Frank. Perhaps I was too young to appreciate it...I think I will have to re-read it now and see if I still feel the same.

  22. grrr--I was thinking about tagging you for the 6 things about me meme, but didn't tag anyone. I would love to know 6 random--even small insignificant things about you!

  23. nymeth: Might I make a C.J. Cherryh suggestion? After looking over some of the titles you read I'm thinking you might like one called The Dreaming Tree. It is a one volume version of two of her novels, The Dreamstone and The Tree of Swords and Jewels. Something about this one has really hung with me.

    Glad you are enjoying Rusalka. I'm looking forward to reading it.

  24. Becca: Yes, it's possible that you'd feel differently now. But if not, ah well...some books just don't work for us!

    Trish: Done :P

    Terri b: Thank you so much for the suggestion. I'll definitely look for The Dreaming Tree!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.