Where's the Colorado connection in One Book, One Denver? Maybe a Bear Ate It!

Denver has a long and not-proud tradition of selecting works that have nothing to do with Colorado for its One Book, One Denver program. In the past we've seen such Oprah-baiting tomes as The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Help make the list; this year's installment is likely to be more of the same.

Of course, free-thinking teens and adults can choose to read another book. Not so with kids. On Monday night, Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia was at the Denver Children's Museum kicking off the state's One Book 4 Colorado program that pushes Maybe a Bear Ate It!, written by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Michael Emberley (neither of whom is from Colorado). The goal of the program "is to provide every four-year-old in Colorado with the same book, helping to instill a love of reading in Colorado youngsters," according to the website; 70,000 free copies of Maybe a Bear Ate It! will be distributed to children across Colorado this month.

The book begins with the central character, a catlike creature, losing his/her book while the plot develops around this thematic question: "Where — is — my book?" Good question. Although the reader in this case finds satisfactory closure (after suffering through several traumatizing possibilities and plot twists along the way), Colorado readers haven't been so lucky. "Where — is — MY book?" is a question they might soon start asking of One Book officials.


One Book, One Denver

Where is my book by a Colorado author, or one with some tie to this state or even to the West? Where is a book that touches on issues that are special to Colorado, to our history, to our way of living? Perhaps, as the central character fears in Maybe a Bear Ate It!, a bear ate it.

Beauty and the beast: The story seemed too crazy to be true — a DIA shuttle driver conspiring to blow up New York's subway system with bombs made from components found in Aurora beauty-supply stores? But after days of questioning by the FBI in September 2009, 26-year-old Najibullah Zazi was indicted and shipped off to New York, where he ultimately confessed to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

That was in February 2010. And last week, Zazi was in a New York courtroom for the federal trial of Adis Medunjanin, who'd been his high-school pal in Flushing, New York, when they decided to go fight the Taliban. "My view was that 9/11, who was behind it, was America itself," Zazi testified. "We decided we were not doing our jobs. We shouldn't just point fingers." Along with fellow classmate Zarein Ahmedzay, they traveled to Pakistan in 2008 and were recruited by al-Qaeda operatives, who gave them training and turned them into would-be suicide bombers.

"We started the conversation on such targets as Walmart, the stock exchange, Times Square, movie theaters and buses," Zazi told the court, adding that he argued with Medunjanin about his personal and religious habits. But they got along well enough to return to the United States, where Zazi continued making plans while driving a shuttle in Aurora — before the conspiracy was derailed and they were all arrested.

Medunjanin, a Bosnian-born Muslim and naturalized U.S. citizen, pleaded not guilty. Like Zazi, Ahmedzay pleaded guilty and also testified against his former classmate last week. Sentencing for both — they're facing life sentences — had been postponed until the Medunjanin trial.

Zazi's father, Mohammed Zazi, an Afghan native who moved to Aurora and became a United States citizen in October 2007, ultimately went to trial himself on charges of conspiracy. In February, he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for lying to protect his son. "He believed his son was innocent," says Michael Dowling, the criminal defense attorney who was brought in to represent Najibullah Zazi when his first lawyer, Art Folsom — picked at random when an attorney the younger Zazi went to see was not in the building — wasn't licensed to practice in New York. Folsom was also overwhelmed by the media attention, which made it difficult to exit his office each day. Dowling, however, handled it just fine; a New York reporter referred to him as a "charmball."

And Folsom's life didn't improve after the most high-profile client of his career pleaded guilty. He recently passed away.


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