I decided to read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore after hearing my friend talk about it and spotting it at the library. A book about a bookstore? Well, I love books, so this must be something I’d love, right?
I was not disappointed.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour bookstore is more than just a bookstore. It’s a bookstore filled with magic and secrets just waiting to be decoded. The bookstore simply needs the right person at the right time to decode the messages. Clay Jannon is that person.
Clay begins working as a clerk at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore after losing his job in marketing at a bagel shop, NewBagel. However, it turns out to be more than just a job and more than just a bookstore. Clay becomes friends with the bookstore owner, Mr. Penumbra rather quickly and soon learns that the bookstore is far from ordinary. He is given some rather unusual instructions such as the importance of keeping a logbook and not to read the books from a specific corner of the store — books that are placed on the Waybacklist.
It doesn’t take Clay long to realize that these books aren’t the same as regular books and that the “customers” that come to Mr. Penunmbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore aren’t really customers at all. Rather than buying books, Mr. Penumbra’s most frequent visitors all borrow books from the Waybacklist, and the books are filled with strange codes that they spend years trying to comprehend or decode.
Clay soon learns from Mr. Penumbra that these codes are written and read by members of a society known as the The Society of the Unbroken Spine, the leaders to be exact. They are known as their Codex Vitae, which are like memoirs of their lives and they possess wisdom and knowledge on key elements of life, one of the biggest of which is the secret for longevity or perhaps even immortality. How will you live on even after you are long gone?
Clay may not be an expert at cracking codes, but if there’s one thing he is good at it’s marketing and technology. After running a semi-successful Google Adwords campaign, Kat Potente, a member of Clay’s target audience, wanders into Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Clay soon learns that Kat is an employee of Google, and the possible key to decoding the books from the Waybacklist.
The two of them launch a campaign with Mr. Penumbra himself, believing that if they simply use Google’s technology such as their book scanners and computers, they should easily be able to decode the books and find out what the secret to immortality is.
However, much to their dismay, they soon learn that there are some things technology is not, nor will ever be capable of doing. Decoding Aldus Manutius’ Codex Vitae is one of those things. This is because while Google’s machines are capable of reading codes and analyzing them, they fail to really LOOK at the code.
The code was written entirely in a special font known as Gerritszoon. This is a popular font that is frequently in stores, on computers, and everywhere else imaginable. It is even used in Mr. Penunmbra’s shop sign. It turns out, Manutius was really good friends with the founder of this font, and the font is the real key to decoding the message.
After doing his own research that includes completing a mission from an outsider to track down the original punches for the Gerritszoon font, Clay discovers the font is very unique in that each letter contains different shapes and indentations that represent a message. Once Clay figures this out he is able to decode the message in his Codex Vitae, which is simply:
Thank you, Teobaldo
You are my greatest friend
This has been the key to everything.
I loved Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore because it is the perfect blend of old and new technology. I related to both Clay and Kat because I work in the field of digital marketing. Google and technology like Google plays a large role in my career, and I do much of the same marketing that Clay has done for NewBagel and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour bookstore. I also love books (physical books, to be specific) and bookstores. I always believed that no matter how advanced we as a society become with our technology, it will never fully be able to replace books.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore successfully demonstrates the importance of books. It shows us how there are some things books can do that technology cannot. It shows us how to be better researchers and listeners. We can’t simply rely on technology for everything and we can merely look at the surface of things like text, we need to go deeper to really understand what one another is saying.
The final message, or what Manutius hid in his Codex Vitae was disappointing to many members of the Unbroken Spine, but it was actually far more significant than they realize. Manutius is saying that friendship and fellowship is one of the secrets to success or immorality. We cannot succeed in life alone, we need to depend on one another to understand life, to progress, and to make contributions to the world that help to make our short time on life worthwhile or memorable so that we will be remembered long after we die.
Technology may continue to advance in time, but there is one thing that is certain: it will never be able to fully replace traditional books and the unique magic and stories they contain.
I remember when I first saw Sharon M. Draper’s novel, Out Of My Mind. It was at a Scholastic book fair my college, Rowan University, was holding to benefit the Students For Literacy club. I was drawn to the simple, yet intriguing cover which was blue and featured a goldfish in a small bowl. I then proceeded to read the back cover and was interested in how the author described her main character as having a “photographic memory”. The back cover mentioned that this character was currently unable to walk to speak, but never once said that she had cerebral palsy, a condition that I had no previous knowledge of.
Image Credits: Novel Novice
Sharon M. Draper’s Out Of My Mind painted a vivid picture of just what it’s like to be 11 years old and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Main character Melody’s classmates want nothing to do with her. She have SO much to say, but no way to say it. She is mute, and for awhile, that means silenced.
Until she received the MediTalker, a device that allows her to type up the things she wants to say on a computer. It’s a lot like Stephen Hawking and the computer he uses to communicate with. What’s more, Melody can prove her intelligence, which may or may not be the equivalent of Stephen Hawking’s in the future, for the first time ever. She does so through not only trying out for, but scoring the highest for the school’s Whiz Kids team.
Image Credits: CPCenter.org
However,Melody has a long way to go before reaching the same level of praise, respect, and acclaim of the talented Mr. Hawking. Despite her proven intelligence, Melody’s classmates still see her as “weird” for her condition. Some such as the novel’s antagonist, Claire, even show a hint of jealousy Then there are characters like Rose that are torn between being a good friend to Melody or looking cool in front of the more popular crowd (e.g.-Claire).
Image Credits: TheVerge.com
When the Whiz Kids have their flight for the next, big round of their competition changed at the last minute, it is Rose who is put in charge of notifying Melody. The other children persuade her not to call, telling her how weird Melody would make them look on television and reminding her of the alternatives they can use for the team. This breaks Melody’s heart.
But it does not break Melody. Melody has a strength within her that can prevail even the cruelest comments and actions from her classmates. She is determined to shine on her own and show her classmates that she can do fine on her own, even without them. She is also quick to remind them that without her, they are nothing, which is why they only placed 9th in the compeition, receiving a tiny trophy which Melody can easily break with her hands, despite the immobility her disease causes her.
Out Of My Mind was an extremely inspiring book that makes readers think twice about their own lives and how fortunate they may be. I am a hearing impaired adult (legally classified as deaf, as I have a 90 dB hearing loss). I always thought I had things difficult because I can’t hear well and people don’t always understand or accept my hearing loss, but that is nothing compared to the challenges Melody faces.
Melody cannot walk. She will never play the sports I enjoyed playing as a child. Melody can not use her voice to communicate. When she wants to say something she has to think of just the right words and hope it comes out right. This is time consuming and can be frustrating. How does a child with cerebral palsy use sarcasm? Most people would think everything they said was true or serious.
I’m also more thankful for the little things in life. I used to enjoy eating at the diner with my friends or after big events to celebrate. Melody could do that, but with assistance. She had to be fed like a baby. This was awkward and embarrassing for her and she felt uncomfortable doing it in front of her classmates. What should have been a fun experience for her turned into a struggle, and sometimes embarrassing experience.
I think the number one thing I’m the most thankful for though is my privacy. I can get up and do things whenever I want to without having a pair of eyes on me at all times. Melody didn’t even have privacy when she had to use the bathroom — even something like that required a great deal of help and assistance.
I am thankful for Sharon M. Draper’s novel. She has invited me into the world of cerebral palsy and created such a strong, unique character that despite her differences, I was able to connect to in a way that felt like I was making a new friend. I am more appreciative of my life after reading how hard Melody’s life is. When a book inspires you as much as Out Of My Mind did for me, you know it’s well written. Five out of five stars for Out Of My Mind. I look forward to reading and reviewing more of Draper’s works in the future.
Lately I’ve felt a bit stuck on the whole coding/web design thing. I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to get the boxes/content to work well together. I have everything with that “working” now, but I can’t truly say I’m happy with how it looks. I feel like everything is really cluttered and squished together. Responsive? perhaps. Emotional web design? No, not really. I don’t think it’s doing much justice for my work at all or showing much of who I am as a writer.
My problem seems to be that I don’t really know what to do or how to do it at this point. I just kind of feel stuck in the stage. In time I suppose for project 3 I’d like to add a carousel of my articles. Something similar to how the Rowan website alternates between different articles relating to the University, but I feel like I don’t know where to go prior to that stage.
I’m starting to consider removing the Twitter and GoodReads article so I have more room on the grid for a third article or to increase the width of the articles. That might work better. I think it’s more important to have the articles stand out and look better than the widgets anyway. Instead of using the widgets I could always link my social media pages to a different page on the website.
I have been trying to look at different websites for blogs that I have worked with in the past or that I feel resemble what I might like to do with my website such as BitRebels.com, AroundPhilly.com, and CloudItGuru.com for inspiration. I’ve always been a big fan of the design featured throughout BitRebels.com, but I know that it is really complicated. When I view the css/html involved it makes my head spin with all of the various codes. I am afraid that it is well beyond my skill level at the moment.
I am looking forward to my next conference with Dr. Wolff on Thursday afternoon to hopefully gain some new ideas and insights so that I know what to do and where to go with my website. I know that although I feel stuck now, this feeling will soon past as I gain inspiration and skills needed to take my website to the next step of web design and make it more professional and reflective of my skills and who I am as a writer.