In Defense of Jim Theis: the Prelude

HangerWhen Mojo was a wee lass--and here I mean VERY wee, preschool Mojo--one of her All Important Jobs on laundry day was to go to all the closets in the house and collect all the unused wire hangers. I would bring them down to my laundry-folding (or perhaps ironing) Favorite Mother, who would praise me effusively for my incredibly helpful help.

Being young and perhaps a tad stupid, wee Mojo used to take an inordinate amount of pride in the sheer NUMBER of hangers she could find. I do recall at one point contemplating doubling up the hung clothes on hangers just so I could take the extra freebies down and earn the praise I apparently so longed to hear. (Ultimately I decided against it, since I did the calculations and concluded the extra work was not worth it.) Anyway, since there were four bedrooms and five people in the house (the Favorite Younger Sister wasn't around yet, the Interloper) I would amass this huge pile of wire hangers, enough that my stubby little fingers had trouble carrying them all. And, being a scientifical-type lass, all these hangers made me wonder if they could support my weight. (Forget whether or not the hanging rod could support it--that was not the issue. Nor was it even considered. Besides, the closet hanging rods back then were thick pieces of wood, maybe two inches in diameter, and the closets were never more than four or five feet in length, and I was a thin little stripling, so I'll guess YES.)

So, okay, sometimes before bringing them down to my Favorite Mother, PERHAPS I would get this huge bunch of wire hangers all aligned, and I'd hang them all on a bare section of closet hanging rod, and try swinging from them. I discovered very quickly that ONE by itself would NOT support my ever-growing frame. A whole bunch would, but they were hard to hang onto. Thus ended my Wire Hanger Adventures. (Again, I believe I was FIVE.)

Charlotte's WebWhat does THIS--charming an anecdote though it might be--have to do with Jim Theis? And who exactly *IS* this Jim Theis, and why is Mojo writing about him? To which Mojo answers (rather snottily, even for her) if you have to ask, turn in your Geek card; you don't have Serious Geek Cred despite your following Wil Wheaton on Twitter, so you'd better start Googling before you look any stupider. And before I get into discussing Jim Theis, I will first wrap up my wire hanger story by fast forwarding to second grade, when I was first introduced to CHARLOTTE'S WEB by E. B. White. Which I only bring up because I KNOW second grade is when Mrs. Allen first read us CHARLOTTE'S WEB, a chapter at a time while we gathered around her on a carpeted section of the floor, and I'll never forget the silly voice she used for the geese.

So, we have wire hangers, we have CHARLOTTE'S WEB, and we have Jim Theis, who you have now Googled, foolishly thinking by Googling him somehow this would magically all make sense. SURPRISE! It doesn't! It's still all in Mojo's twisted little brain. You see, somewhere about seven or eight, Mojo first became conscious of the possibility of becoming a WRITER. Not for the joy of the craft, mind you, but strictly--and very consciously, for such a young thing--for the FILTHY LUCRE. Perhaps I had read of some gigantic author's advance in the newspaper. I don't know. All I knew was, I wanted FAME AND RICHES and writing seemed to be a pretty easy, lazy way of doing it. It seemed to beat digging ditches, at any rate. All I needed was to write a BOOK.

And by golly, I was then struck with the MOST BRILLIANTEST IDEA TO EVER GRACE THE MOST CREATIVE GENIUS IN THE UNIVERSE. I was going to write an adventure story about an impossibly charming young girl--oh, say, seven or eight years old--that was sure to become a BLOCKBUSTER BEST SELLER and earn me the millions I so craved. (If I had all that money, I wouldn't have to BEG my parents to keep a pony in the garage--I'd just BUY ONE MYSELF. A pony. Not a garage.)

I will now give you the outline of my magnum opus. COPYRIGHT 2013 BY MOJO PLACE SO DON'T TRY STEALING IT YOU PIRATING INTERNET SAVAGES YOU OR ELSE!!!11!

Once upon a time a charming young girl named Fern (and this is the sole CHARLOTTE'S WEB reference. I decided to name her Fern after Fern Avery of CHARLOTTE fame, and consequently agonized for DAYS about whether or not Mister White would SUE ME for copying him. I had enough understanding of plagiarism to know that Copying Was Bad, but I hadn't grasped it enough to determine the scope of my hideous transgression. It is perhaps psychologically interesting to point out that I decided to keep the name Fern--since clearly it was a blockbuster name with a proven track record in popular fiction--but if anyone should ask me why the girl was named Fern and whether or not I had STOLEN HER from E. B. White … well, I would just LIE, and KEEP ON LYING. Yep. I had it all planned out. I would tell them I had NEVER HEARD of CHARLOTTE'S WEB, nor of any Fern Avery ensconced therein, and if someone brought up Mrs. Allen's class I would LIE SOME MORE and say I didn't remember her ever reading us ANYTHING. Yeah, that's the ticket. When you're EIGHT. But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yeah--)

Once upon a time a charming young girl named Fern (NOT FERN AVERY, OH NO, NEVER HEARD OF HER, I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT) was asked by her mother to take a bunch of hangers (see what I did there? Damn, that Mojo's a cunning lass!) over to her grandmother's house. Fern's grandmother just lived a short distance away, evidently within walking distance, and not SEVERAL HOURS IN A CAR TO PENNSYLVANIA, where both of MY grandmothers lived. (Ah, the magic of fiction! I should also point out that this was in a time when young children were allowed to roam about their suburban neighborhoods fairly unsupervised.) So Fern competently and confidently took up a big bunch of hangers in her stubby little child-hands and set off on what was supposed to be a journey she had made several times previously.

Now. It turns out that the path to Grandmother's house went through this undeveloped section of wilderness--kinda a la Little Red Riding Hood--but instead of meeting up with a wolf, our courageous Fern had to cross this incredibly steep, incredibly deep, incredibly DANGEROUS RAVINE with nothing but a single, rickety frayed-ropes-and-rotten-planks style bridge. You know the type--just the sort of thing you'd let an eight-year-old cross unsupervised on a regular basis. And just the sort of bottomless ravine one would NEVER EVER FIND ANYWHERE IN SUBURBAN CONNECTICUT. I think plagiarism-prone wee little Mojo dreamed up the ravine courtesy of reading BRIGHTY OF THE GRAND CANYON. Once again, I digress.


Ahhh. All this picture needs is a rickety ropes-'n'-planks bridge.

So anyway, we have brilliant and lovely and talented young Fern-who-is-in-no-way-related-to-the-Averys-in-any-way-shape-or-form, dutifully clutching her pile of wire hangers she is delivering to her beloved Grandmother. She begins skipping merrily across the rickety bridge. And THEN… as you might have suspected… the last of the fraying strands of hemp or sisal or whatever bridge ropes are made of decide, at that critical point, to give up the ghost. The ropes-'n'-planks bridge falls apart, casting poor Fern into the seemingly bottomless abyss.

BUT WAIT!!!11!! Oh, sure, you might think this is the end of our incredibly charming heroine Fern, but you would be WRONG. Because, as LUCK and INCREDIBLY WONDERFUL WRITING by eight-year-old laws-of-physics-challenged Mojo would have it, the big bunch of WIRE HANGERS Fern was clutching CAUGHT on an PROTRUDING BRANCH, allowing her to hang, kinda a la Sergeant Snorkel in Beetle Bailey, and thus temporarily defy death.

And here I must leave YOU dangling, dear reader, much like our ill-fated Fern. I've already written far too much for today's limited attention spans and aside from referring to Jim Theis I have yet to make that connection. I will do so next blog post…


(And she HAS!!! You can check out part two HERE! And if THAT's not awesome ENOUGH, here's PART THREE!!!11!)