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.
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+
Last week, I saw the delightful Neil Gaiman. In person. Reading his new work.
I’ll just wait a moment while you all shriek.
What I particularly liked was Gaiman reading his work. Not that he read a complete story or anything (likely as part of an evil plan to make me pre-order both The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Fortunately, the Milk), but listening to him read was amazing.
For the longest time, I believed that writers were writers, and readers were readers. Partly because I didn’t want to read my own work out loud, partly because the only audiobook I had ever heard was Stephen Fry’s rendition of Harry Potter. Writers were writers; readers were readers.
And then I listened to Gaiman last Friday night.
All writers need to be readers. People want to see the writers of their favourite works and they especially want to see them read their work. As fans, we want to hear how the story is meant to be told, read and said. We want to see the people we adore saying the words we adore.
I am immensely impressed that Gaiman is the voice on his audio books too. And you know what? Seeing Gaiman in real life, reading his stories, has made all the difference to how I read his work now. I’ve gone back and picked up American Gods again–the infernal book that I just could not get through. Now I hear Gaiman’s voice; now I understand how it should be read.
Writers need to read their work to their fans. New work, old work, unfinished work–it doesn’t matter. The point is that we want to hear our favourite authors speaking their stories out loud because we feel we have a closer connection to the book, the story and the author.