Critical Linking: September 14, 2014

The Scholastic catalogs you got in elementary school were already cool, but now Usher is joining forces with the children’s publishing giant to launch the “Open the World of Possible” initiative, which is designed to encourage young readers. On Nov. 6, Usher will perform and host a a live webcast, “Bigger Than Words,” which will broadcast live from the Scholastic headquarters in New York City.

Usher: still one of the coolest people around.


Journaling, I believe, is a practice that teaches us better than any other the elusive art of solitude — how to be present with our own selves, bear witness to our experience, and fully inhabit our inner lives. As a dedicated diarist myself, I’ve always had an irresistible fascination with the diaries of artists, writers, scientists, and other celebrated minds — those direct glimpses of their inner lives and creative struggles. But, surely, luminaries don’t put pen to paper for the sake of quenching posterity’s curiosity — at least as interesting as the contents of those notable diaries is the question of why their keepers keep them. Here are a few perspectives from some of history’s most prolific practitioners of this private art.

A great look at authors who kept diaries/journals, why they did that, and what value it brought to them.


Jessica Lee, the secretary of a Harry Potter-themed charity Pitt Project Potter, encouraged any students who admire the series enough to vandalize a restroom to channel their love for philanthropy by joining Project Potter. 

“Maybe let’s not use the word ‘vandalism,’” said Lee, a sophomore anthropology major. “Maybe decoration.”

University of Pittsburgh students have a toilet stall in one of their buildings dedicated to Harry Potter. Unofficially, of course.


Dame Daphne Du Maurier is well known for having taken inspiration for some of her most celebrated works from her adopted home county of Cornwall in the far southwest of England. Jamaica Inn (1936) was inspired by an overnight stay at the real-life Jamaica Inn, an isolated 18th century pub on Bodmin Moor, in 1930.Frenchman’s Creek (1941) was inspired by Readymoney Cove, where Du Maurier owned a holiday home on the coast. And the imposing Manderley estate in Rebecca (1938) was at least partly based on Menabilly, a grand country house that Du Maurier herself moved into in 1943. It was while at Menabilly that she saw a flock of seagulls following a plow at a nearby farm and was struck by a simple yet unnerving thought — what would happen if the birds attacked? The resulting story, The Birds, first appeared in Du Maurier’s collection The Apple Tree in 1952.

It’s still a story that makes me nervous to be in the presence of a large number of birds. That and fourteen other “behind the story” stories.


“The older I got, the more frustrated I became that all the popular books in stores and online focused on white characters,” We Read Too founder Kaya Thomas told “Whenever I tried to find books with characters of color, I would have to look in sub-categories or search longer than I should have had to. I created this app so that books created by and for people of color can be found easily and in one central location.”

Within three days of debuting in the iTunes App store in August, the app had already received more than 350 downloads. We Read Too users can browse more than 300 books across various genres written by authors of color featuring characters of color. 

“It’s about time something like this came around!” reads a We Read Too customer review. “I only wish I had something like this when I was younger! Children of color read too!”

A free app to help readers find children’s books by authors of color. This is brilliant and wildly necessary.


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