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books & literature

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Newly discovered spider bears striking resemblance to 'Harry Potter' sorting hat

A team of scientists thought there was something familiar about a new species of spider that they discovered in the mountains of southern India. The insect looked surprisingly like the sorting hat used in J.K. Rowling’s famed Harry Potter series.

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The spider’s "sub-triangular abdomen" gave it a distinctive cone shape. Combined with its inconspicuous brown coloring, the spider looks remarkably like the hat used to sort students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry into the appropriate school houses.

The researchers, who told The Washington Post that they are Rowling fans particularly enamored with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” gave the arachnid a Potter-themed name: Eriovixia gryffindori.

In a paper published in the Indian Journal of Arachnology, the scientists who found the spider wrote that the name is “an ode from the authors for magic lost, and found, in an effort to draw attention to the fascinating but oft overlooked world of invertebrates and their secret lives.”

Javed Ahmed, the lead author of the paper, told the Earth Touch News Network the 7mm spider mimics dead leaves in the Western Ghats mountain range.

"Naming the spider after a beloved series icon has certainly made a lot of people take notice," Ahmed told the news site. "Once people realize just how fascinating, unique and essential these wonderful organisms are, the (unfounded) fear and loathing vanishes." 

The spider has gotten a great deal of attention online – including from Rowling herself.

On Twitter the author wrote that was "truly honored" by the name choice.

"Congratulations on discovering another 'fantastic beast!'" she wrote in a tweet to Ahmed.

Hatchimal horror: Author's plan to buy, sell popular toys backfires

An author who hatched a plan to buy, then sell thousands of dollars' worth of a popular holiday toy has learned that cashing in on a Christmas trend isn't as easy as you'd think.

According to a Philly Voice article published Monday, New York Times best-selling author Sara Gruen spent more than $23,000 on 156 Hatchimals, which she had hoped to sell to raise money for the defense of a man she believes was wrongfully convicted of murder. 

>> Can't find a Hatchimal or other hot toy? Here's what you can do

The coveted toys, which retail for $59.99, are interactive pets that hatch and can be raised "from baby to toddler to full-grown Hatchimal," learning to "walk, talk, play games and more," maker Spin Master Corp. said in a press release. As the critters sell out in stores across the country, parents everywhere are scrambling to find them.

"It never occurred to me that I'd have trouble getting rid of them," said Gruen, who ran into listing limits and other barriers while trying to sell the items on eBay and other auction sites. 

Gruen ended up listing the items, now available for $189-$219, on Shopify. Buyers also get a free copy of one of Gruen's books.

>> Hatchimals coming to Target this Sunday

According to the store's website, all of the proceeds will go toward the legal fees for the man, who was sentenced to life without parole 23 years ago.

“I have a fortune invested, only one venue to offload them, and in only three weeks they will magically transform into useless pumpkins that will take up space in my office forever, and have caused my financial ruin," she said, according to the Voice.

But Gruen has gotten some good news in the days since: In a follow-up story published Wednesday, the Voice reported that eBay gave her permission to sell "as many Hatchimals as I want." Another shopping site, Bonanza, followed suit. 

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"As of this morning, I've sold 40 percent of the critters and given away four to needy kids," Gruen wrote on Facebook early Wednesday. 

The bad news: She also has received negative feedback and even death threats, the Voice reported.

"I'm going to put my alarm on for a few nights, but I think it's all online bluster," Gruen told the Voice. "They're blowing off the wrongfully convicted man with the argument that their children 'need' these toys."

Read more here or here.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> Here's a follow-up piece by Brian Hickey (from Philly Voice). As of this morning, I've sold 40% of the critters and...Posted by Sara Gruen on Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Virginia schools ban 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' 'Huckleberry Finn' for racial slurs

A Virginia school has temporarily banned two American classics after a parent said her high school-age son was negatively impacted by the racial slurs they contain.

>> Read more trending stories 

The decision to remove "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain and "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee came after a parent filed a complaint, WAVY reported. The parent cited excessive racial slurs as the reason for wanting the books banned, Superintendent Warren Holland told the news station.

The parent, whose son is biracial, said that her concerns are "not even just a black and white thing."

"I keep hearing, 'This is a classic, This is a classic,' ... I understand this is a literature classic. But at some point, I feel that children will not -- or do not -- truly get the classic part -- the literature part, which I'm not disputing," she said at a Nov. 15 school board meeting. "This is great literature. But there (are so many) racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can't get past that."

The parent said her son, who was reading "Huckleberry Finn" for a high school assignment, couldn't get past a certain page in that story on which the N-word appeared seven times. 

A racial slur appears 219 times in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and 48 times in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"So what are we teaching our children? We're validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by (any) means," the parent said, also noting psychological effects language has on children. "There is other literature they can use."

The parent proposed a committee made up of parents and teachers of different cultural backgrounds come up with a list of books that are inclusive for all students. She also offered to donate books and raise funds in the case of budgetary concerns.

The complaint, which was "a request for reconsideration of learning resources," will go before a committee made up of a principal, librarian, teacher, parent and potentially others, according to WCMH. The committee will then make a recommendation to the superintendent.

Holland said that there is no set date for when the recommendation will be made.

Read more at WAVY.

Academy: Bob Dylan not coming to Stockholm to pick up Nobel Prize

UPDATE: Bob Dylan will not go to Stockholm to pick up his 2016 Nobel Prize for literature, according to The Associated Press.

Dylan told the Swedish Academy that "he wishes he could receive the prize personally, but other commitments make it unfortunately impossible," in a statement released Wednesday.

Read the original story below.

For an artist who has released 37 albums and written (or co-written) 522 songs, it would seem unusual for Bob Dylan to be at a loss for words.

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But the 75-year-old singer-songwriter said he was “speechless” when he was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature. Dylan said “of course” he would accept the prize, the Swedish Academy said.

The academy's permanent secretary, Sara Danius, told The Associated Press that Dylan contacted them to confirm he would accept the prize. Danius told Sweden's TT news agency that Dylan called her Tuesday evening and they spoke for about 15 minutes.

"The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless," Dylan told Danius, according to a statement posted Friday on the academy's website. "I appreciate the honor so much."

It is unclear whether Dylan will attend any Nobel events in Stockholm in December, Danius said.

Dylan at first was silent after the announcement, prompting a member of the Swedish Academy to call it “impolite and arrogant,” the AP reported.

Dylan has accepted many awards through the years, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for which he attended a White House ceremony in 2012. 

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