“Dance of the Books,” Panel I, Helena Clare Pittman, The Grahamsville Library, Grahamsville, N.Y. www.helenaclarepittman.com

At the Grahamsville Library, as the light of the early morning sun fills the sky, Strega Nona, Harry and Harold, Alice and Willie and their buddies emerge from between the pages of the books that hold their stories. With his purple crayon, Harold sketches big fluffy clouds—his specialty—and Willie wakes the late night partiers with his whistles.

Rise and shine, my famous companions, the sun is up and so must you be to begin your storied days. Harry’s eyes are open, gazing into the distance but, I surmise, seeing only a dark dystopian adventure so popular with his youthful generation. I’ll skim the really crazy bad parts.

Alice, in the company of the March Hare and the Cheshire Cat, conjures how to save the Jack of Hearts at his woefully unfair trial. She decides to cut through the political claptrap by calling out the judges, the King and Queen of Hearts: “You’re just a pack of cards!” she shouts. They freeze into their 2-D selves and collapse into a heap with their 50 associates. Thank heavens. In your era, you (eventually) triumph over nutty behavior every time.

In the early AM, Pinocchio’s nose is only slightly longer than it should be. As the day wears on, falsehoods and smears—necessary to legitimize yesterday’s deceits—will likely extend the growth of his proboscis to an obscene length. As it turns out, however, he can choose the ending of his sojourn. Will he live up to his destiny in his first version where he is hanged for his faults? Or will he find redemption and live happily ever after as in his most popular narrative?

Our sorceress, Strega Nona, busy with magic chores most of the night, floats into the day with eyes wide open. The translation of her name –”Witch Grandma”—disturbs at first. Alas, not my favorite label for my kind, but, sigh, little old ladies rarely receive the monikers they favor–like “Glamorous Grandma” or “Graceful Gran.” With her magic, Strega Nona can make pasta for anyone and everyone. Big Anthony, her helper and a psychological sib of Pinocchio, listens to her magic spell and tests it when she goes out of town. He gets it wrong and the pasta pot bubbles out of control. Power destroys, and in this case, absolute power nearly destroys absolutely, churning out enough pasta to drown the village with no end in sight.

Until the ageless star of the story returns just in time. Her magic strategem? To blow kisses over the pot three times. Big Anthony? Strega Nona doles out punishment to fit his crime: he must consume the entire overflow of noodles.

I can think of many pots of destructive power on which I’d like Strega Nona to put the kibosh—and punish the perpetrators by making them responsible for cleaning up their messes.

The day has just begun, my longtime heroes of your fantastic tales. Your plot is yours to edit–shave a little here, embroider over there, but please don’t stray too far from your well loved paths, those journeys we look forward to reliving whenever we meet again.

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