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How Lil Wayne Became a Big Name in Rap With a Voice All His Own

Also: A question from China about the Beijing Olympics. And ''The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,'' a book about dogs, family and a very smart boy. Transcript of radio broadcast:

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Barbara Klein.

Today, we listen to music by Lil Wayne …

Answer a question about the Olympics …

And tell about a book on many American summer reading lists.

"Edgar Sawtelle"

"The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" is an exciting book about dogs, family and a very smart young boy. This best selling novel by David Wroblewski (rub-LES-kee) has been receiving great critical praise. One New York Times critic called it "the most enchanting debut novel of the summer." Steve Ember has more.


David Wroblewski spent ten years writing his book while working as a computer program designer. He knew that he wanted to write a book about the place where he grew up in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin. And he knew he wanted to write a realistic book about dogs and their behavior.

The play "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare greatly influences the story of the book. It tells about Edgar Sawtelle, whose mother Trudy and father Gar raise a special kind of dog. Edgar grows up around these dogs and helps his parents run their business. Edgar was born without the ability to speak, so he must use sign language to communicate with his family and the dogs.

Soon, Edgar's uncle Claude returns after years away. Claude kills Edgar's father and Edgar flees with his dogs into the forest wilderness of Wisconsin.

Here Mister Wroblewski reads a part of his book. It tells the story from the point of view of Almondine, Edgar's dog and best friend. When Trudy is pregnant with Edgar, Almondine senses but cannot understand what event the Sawtelles seem to be waiting for.

DAVID WROBLEWSKY: "Eventually, she understood the house was keeping a secret from her. All that winter and all through the spring Almondine had known something was going to happen, but no matter where she looked she couldn't find it."

The book later describes the moment when Almondine first sees baby Edgar after he and his parents have returned from the hospital.

DAVID WROBLEWSKY: "Trudy sat in her chair in the living room, a white blanket in her arms. Doctor Papineaux was on the couch, hat on his lap. Almondine approached, quivering with curiosity. She slid her muzzle carefully along Trudy's shoulder stopping just inches from the blanket.

"She narrowed her eyes and inhaled a dozen short breaths. Faint huffing sounds emanated from the fabric and a delicate pink hand jerked out. Five fingers splayed and relaxed and so managed to express a yawn.

"That would be the first time Almondine saw Edgar's hands. In a way, that would be the first time she saw him make a sign."

"The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" is over five hundred fifty pages long. But it is so well written and striking in its observations about animals and people that you do not even notice the length. And, it has a very unexpected and dramatic ending.

The Olympics


Our listener question this week comes from China. Mister Miao wants to know about the Olympic summer games that open next month in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

Tens of thousands of international athletes, fans, heads of states and other officials will gather for the opening ceremonies August eighth. Chinese movie director Zhang Yimou designed the show. It will include a huge fireworks display, the parade of athletes and thousands of performers. The ceremony will also remember the millions of victims of the powerful earthquake in Sichuan province.

One of the most exciting opening ceremony moments, however, remains a secret. Runners have transported the flame for the Olympic torch from Olympia, Greece around the world to China. But Chinese officials have not said who will use the flame to light the Olympic torch in Beijing.

Which brings us to some Olympic history. The torch that marked the first Olympic games was lit more than two thousand seven hundred years ago. A fire burned in the ancient Greek city of Olympia during celebrations to honor the god Zeus. Men took part in foot races. More races and other sports were added later.

Greece held these Olympic games every four years for the next one thousand years. But the ancient Romans banned them in the fourth century.

The modern Olympic games began more than one hundred years ago. Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France proposed a world celebration of sports like the ancient games of Greece.

The first modern Olympics were held in the Greek capital, Athens, in eighteen ninety-six. Athletes from eight countries competed in ten sports. The purpose was to help athletes develop strength and values through competition. It also provided a way for athletes of all nations to become friends.

The Olympic symbol of five linked rings represents this friendship. The rings represent the linking of the major populated areas of the world—Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the two American continents, represented by one ring. The colors of the rings are blue, yellow, black, green and red. The flag of each nation competing in the games has at least one of these colors. Under the rings is the Olympic saying in Latin: "Citius, Altius, Fortius." The words mean "Swifter, Higher, Stronger."

You can hear more about the upcoming Olympics on the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS on Wednesday, July twenty-third.

Lil Wayne

Rap music artist Dwayne Carter Junior, better known as Lil Wayne, is breaking traditions in the rap music industry. With his unusual voice, he is different from rappers who are all beginning to sound similar. Faith Lapidus tells us more.


Lil Wayne has been called the best rapper alive. His latest album, "Tha Carter III," was released on June tenth. It sold more than one million copies in its first week. Here is "Lollipop" from that album.


Twenty-five-year-old Dwayne Carter was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He met the head of a record company when he was just eleven years old. Lil Wayne began working on a form of rap music called free-styling as a teenager. Over the next few years, he released music with his rap artist group Hot Boys. And he performed on other artists' albums.

By nineteen ninety-nine, he had left Hot Boys and was releasing his own music. But it was not until he released "Tha Carter" in two thousand four that he became famous. By this time, Lil Wayne had developed his own voice, which separated him from other top rappers.

Today, Lil Wayne is popular with more than just hip-hop fans. He is one of the most successful rap artists in America. We leave you with "A Milli" from the album "Tha Carter III."



I'm Barbara Klein. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Dana Demange, Elizabeth Stern and Caty Weaver, who was also the producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

Send your questions about American life to And please include your full name and where you are from. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.