This week, I’ve been most intrigued with things children’s authors have said. Some of the quotes are included below, but there are many more gems at the links. Image by flickr user Tim Geers, used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
ONE. Children’s books are never just for children. A Guardian article that brilliantly shows just how important getting children’s books right is: so why aren’t they considered for awards? Neil Gaiman has some beautiful words, below, to say about kids’ stories. (As do many other authors.)
When I’m writing for kids, I’m always assuming that a story, if it is loved, is going to be re-read. So I try and be much more conscious of it than I am with adults, just in terms of word choices. I once said that while I could not justify every word in American Gods, I can justify every single word in Coraline.
TWO. John Green is often attributed quotes that he has never written. This is probably the biggest mistaken attribution yet. But I love the honesty in this video; I don’t watch every video, but I do love it when I come across one that is memorable. This is a memorable vlog.
I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ll never meet.
Not John Green
THREE. Garth Nix gave a super interesting interview with The Hub. He talks about his younger self and a little about infusing his writing with his morals (dangerous ground). A little fact you might not have known about Nix: he grew up in Canberra and…
From about fourteen, I thought I would become an officer in the Australian Army. I planned to go to our military college and get my degree there and have a career in the army.
The defining characteristic of YA literature is emotional truth. Even if we’re not the same as the characters we read, they are all dealing with things—issues of who they are, who they should be, what they should and shouldn’t do—that we all deal with, in their own ways. With The Hunger Games, even if we will never be in Katniss’s shoes, the decisions she makes make emotional sense to us—even when she makes the wrong ones.
Note: I’ve been sitting on this post for a while, and I’m still not sure where I stand. But I really can’t sit on it forever. So excuse the very open-ended-ness of this post, but I feel like I should post it now or I never will.
…the word soon took on a more celebratory, inclusive cast. Nerdfighters weren’t against anything; they were simply proud to immerse themselves in interests that others might find geeky or arcane. Indeed, the nerdfighter community is strikingly civil and constructive for an Internet subculture.
I’m not a rabid John and/or Hank Green fan. I’m in awe of them. They have been able to build a life doing things they love. Not a lot of people are able to do this, no matter how hard they try. (I’m still trying … as I probably should be in my mid-twenties.)
But I find that I don’t really accept the nerdfighter label. At least, I don’t feel I can label myself with it. For starters, I had no idea what the label meant. Are these people super-Green brothers fans? Are they indie? Are they part of an actual community? Do they meet up? Do they have shared experiences? Do they all create YouTube videos? Are they people who buy merch/put money into the Green Brothers various companies/endeavours? I wasn’t watching the vlogbrothers when they started the channel, so I have not evolved with the channel.
I filled out the nerdfighter census this year too. I like filling out forms, even though I don’t identify myself as a nerdfighter.
It wasn’t until the article quoted above that a real definition was revealed to me. I like this definition; this definition is very inclusive and really, for the majority of the Green Brothers’ fans, that’s exactly what they’re looking for in their mid-teens: to be included. Maybe that’s why the brothers are able to resonate with so many people–they’re inclusive.
But I still don’t like the term nerdfighter. And that makes me wonder why.
Am I not their audience? I like these brothers, and I like what they do, but I don’t watch their videos religiously nor do I ‘accept’ what they say as fact. They don’t influence me like they probably influence a younger age group. I honestly feel I’m more like a peer than a follower. Maybe that’s the problem–I can’t accept a ‘follower’ label, even if the ‘founders’ use it, because I’m not a follower. I’m not a fan. They’re inspirational in a different way to me.
The Fault in Our Stars (John Green, Penguin). This one can’t be ignored, especially since the movie is making women and their daughters everywhere sob out loud in cinemas. Two teenagers fall in love and they just happen to have cancer – a lovely, heartbreaking book that shows all the beautiful and ugly emotions associated with grief. Recommended for 14+
Saving Francesca and On the Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta, Penguin). Melina is definitely one of my favourite Australian authors; she captures the teenage soul so well. Saving Francesca is about a girl whose mother suddenly won’t get out of bed while trying to navigate her new school as part of the first class of girls in an all-boys school. The pop culture references are to die for (and are particularly relevant to me as this book was published when I was sixteen.) On the Jellicoe Road begins the day Hannah disappears. Taylor was left at the 7Eleven in Jellicoe by her mother when she was 11. Hannah, the woman who picked her up, is the closest thing she has to a mother–and one day she’s just gone. But Taylor doesn’t have time to be mad at Hannah (although she makes time)–the Cadets are arriving in Jellicoe and that means the territory wars are on again. I have so many emotions about these books that I could never do them justice in one or two sentences. Recommended for 13+
Everyday (David Levithan, Random House). I don’t read much David Levithan. I’m not entirely sure why, I should–I really like his work. I also really like that he’s a publisher at Scholastic and STILL has time to write meaningful books. Everyday is a book that should be on every single school’s senior curriculum. It challenges sexuality and gender in a very open, very real way, and that just makes the book all the more endearing. Recommended for 12+
Stardust (Neil Gaiman, Harper). A true modern-day fairytale. Stardust is beautifully written that makes the reader feel like they’re floating and softly landing in a magical land. It is nothing like the movie, so don’t expect the lightning pirates to turn up, sorry. Both movie and book are individually brilliant. I particularly like Stardust because it was written as if it’s meant to be read out loud. Start reading this at bedtime! Recommended for all ages.
Tithe and Doll Bones (Holly Black, Simon & Schuster). Tithe, as I’ve said many many times before, is the book that made me want to become an author–specifically a children’s and young adult author. Tithe follows Kaye as she discovers the fae world through the intriguing and slightly off-putting Roiben–the Unseelie Court’s knight. Doll Bones is Black’s latest children’s book and is seriously creeepy. Three kids on the brink of ‘growing up’ make one last ditch effort at being real kids playing with their dolls–only the queen of their dolls’ world (an antique piece made with real human hair) suddenly starts sending them messages trying to be buried with her bones. Tithe is recommended for 12+, Doll Bones is recommended for 8+
The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern, Random House). Like Stardust, this is a gorgeously written book. It wants to be illustrated! The book follows the Night Circus and the character’s the interact with the moving exhibition. What the patrons and artists don’t know is that the Night Circus is a battle between two apprentices of frenemy magicians, and that their magic is the only thing holding it together. Recommended for 12+
Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver, Hachette). My favourite book in 2012, and probably the last great book I read until I found a bunch of fabulous ones in the last three months. The best way to describe this book is to let another review do it for me! (You can’t blame me, there are SO many books on this list.) Kat says: “This book is about a teenager, Sam, who is a Mean Girl who trips into Groundhog Day world and is set on a path to redemption.” Before I Fall shows just how much of an impact your actions can have on the world around you, and that you never ever want to be like Sam (you don’t even like her at the beginning of the book!). Recommended for 12+
Ice Station and Contest (Matthew Reilly, Pan Macmillan). I don’t know if there’s anything I can say about Matthew Reilly’s books that hasn’t already been said. Do you have reluctant readers around you? Start them on Ice Station–lots of action, a bunch of swearing. I read these books because my Dad (he’s a manual arts teacher) told me that the year ten boys at his school were studying Ice Station in English. Most of his books are page turners and I’m partial to the action-orientated ones. Yes, Ice Station is part of a series, but it stands alone. Contest was his first ever book that he self-published before being picked up by Pan Macmillan. Recommended for 14+
Attachments (Rainbow Rowell, Hachette). Better than any rom-com I’ve ever seen! (This is a slight exaggerations as I’ve seen a lot of rom-coms and I love a lot of them.) Lincoln is brought on as a security supervisor–what this really means is that he gets to read the company’s flagged emails and send warnings to their writers. Except, he never sends a warning to Beth and Jennifer, best friends who ignore the company’s email policy, and suddenly becomes utterly involved in their life story to the point of falling in love with one of them. Sounds creepy, but is actually pretty adorable. Recommended for 14+
My friend Andrew (his awesome blog!) and I were talking about blogging last Wednesday, and I suspect he was trying to help me blog again, so we can up with the idea where we take a book we own, but haven’t read, and make up what the book should be based on the cover. A bit like the Huff Post article with the 6-year-old girl describing Animal Farm as “I think it’s about a donkey and a pig that do not like each other and they both live on a farm for animals. The same farm. It looks like it would be a funny book with a good really nice ending.”
My book this week is An Abundance of Katherines by the ever-talented John Green.
An Abundance of Katherines is based in the early 1920’s and starts with a group of women at a tea party. They wear fancy hats, large petticoat dresses and carry around umbrellas. Oh, and did I mention they are all named Katherine? Well, yes, it is the season for the name Katherine. As I was saying, the Katherines are drinking tea when suddenly, all the lights go out! They are plunged into darkness in the middle of the afternoon. It is very un-ladylike. But these Katherines do not lose their panties. Oh no, these Katherines decide to solve the mystery of the unnerving darkness. They get up to some hilarious hijinks including getting their bustles suck in window frames, losing their umbrellas and even having a very suitable, under-the-speed limit car chase. What will the Katherines get up to next? Will they solve the mystery of the daytime-night?
What An Abundance of Katherines is really about, as described on the blurb of the back cover…
19 Katherines and counting … When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact.
On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a blood-thirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun – but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl.
Earlier in the year, I read a book called “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green. It was about two kids who had cancer. It was really about the people that surround these kids and how they deal with cancer that is terminal.
I don’t make a habit of reading sad stories. In fact, I’m quite awful at it–I blubber and cry and feel a deep sadness for these people I don’t know.
The difference between reading a fiction story (“The Fault in our Stars”) compared to reading Matthew Reilly’s interview is simply that I feel a deeper loss by Reilly’s wife dying than reading about the loss of children in Green’s book. I feel more affected, to the core, by Reilly’s loss.
It could be that I’m compassionate (and I hope that I am). But I think it’s more to do with the fact that I feel like I ‘know’ Reilly. He is discussed in my household as “Matthew Reilly”. First and last name. But once we get into a good conversation, it’s just Matthew. I didn’t buy one of his original Contest books (it has to be noted that I was six when he published it), but I have some of the original Pan Macmillan covers that aren’t published anymore. I feel like I’ve been on this journey with him; as he writes his books, I buy them on the first day they’re released.
And now he has lost something. And I feel I have lost something with him.
I would argue that Peter Jackson has provided the best DVD experience ever. His Lord of the Rings films are cinematically amazing, but the DVDs with the extras just add to it. The Fellowship characters, after watching the extras several times, were friends. I felt like I had been on that journey with them as they created these beloved films. Elijah, Billy, Dom and Sean–household names and we know exactly who we’re talking about. (Although, now I have a cousin named Elijah, so we have needed to start clarifying.)
This is the problem with a ‘smaller’ world, thanks to technology. We “know” more people. Or at least we like to think that we do. Their achievements become our achievements–we praise them and boast for them and are generally happy. Their losses and sadnesses become our sadnesses and we grieve with them. We mourn with them and give condolences to complete strangers.
Why are those emotions more powerful for real life people than for the fictional characters we spend hours and hours with, getting to know and reading about?
Truth is stranger than fiction. Truth will always be a more compelling story because someone ‘real’ is attached to it. Truth encourages real emotions, not just emotions you feel while you’re in the fictionally story. It is more real because you know–even if you don’t consciously recognize it–that someone real is living this. This could actually happen to you.