RAIN by Robert Kalan
IT LOOKED LIKE SPILT MILK by Charles G. Shaw
RED RUBBER BOOT DAY by Mary Lyn Ray
RAIN by Manya Stojic
THE WIND BLEW by Pat Hutchins
THE RAIN CAME DOWNby David Shannon
Would you give your readers no sense of how old your character is, or what part of the country they live in, or how they feel about any of their relationships? Then why aren’t you giving any clue about their relationship with God (even if that relationship is nonbelief)? Or with their aunt who’s a nun? Or their next-door neighbor who is an observant Jew? Why are we not exploring religious questions? Or if we are, why in a diffuse May-The-Force-Be-With-You way that’s unconnected to practicing religion?
I think as writers we neglect religion because we’re afraid. Okay, being honest here, I’ll revise that to say that I’m afraid, so I’m wondering if other people are too. I’m mostly afraid I’ll do it wrong, or be cliché, or take shortcuts, or offend somebody, or be labeled, or have the religion be gratuitous. (Anybody else notice that you could easily substitute the word “sex” for religion here? Not a coincidence methinks.)
But I think we lose something when we make an end-run around religion. And that goes for whether you’re writing something with high stakes or issues, or a fun read. If we want characters with some depth and complexity, we might think about exploring just about the most complex subject there is.
Two quick hurrahs: Fellow Rt. 19 blogger Judy Press has a work-in-progress about an elementary-aged kid, Pinky, who is a detective. Pinky is hilarious with dead-on boy humor. He’s also Jewish, and that’s a big part of what makes him hilarious—not because the book is about being Jewish, but because it makes Pinky so real-life and specific. You feel like you really know Pinky. You’ll have to wait to read about Pinky’s exploits until a brilliant editor acquires it, but it will be worth the wait.
Another book you can read right now is Tyger, Tyger by Kersten Hamilton. The story is a fast-paced urban fantasy using Irish mythology and the Christian faith with a nice dose of romance. And great, quirky characters. The main characters are practicing Catholics, and not only does their faith make the characters more interesting, it is key to certain turning points. Given Irish history, it often astounds me when writers have Irish-based stories that completely ignore Catholicism. Tyger, Tyger is so much richer because the author embraced religion. A couple of interviews with the author: Uma Krishnaswami's blog and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations Blog.
Have a Blessed Passover.
Have a Blessed Triduum.
Have a Joyous Easter.
Margaret, in the Kidlit department at my local bookstore, tells me it didn't start with Harry Potter. "That series was like a spatter of raindrops. Hopeful, but you wonder whether you'll actually need the windshield wipers," she says. "It was Rick Riordan who really opened the floodgates."
She waves at the shelves labeled "Favorite Series, Ages 9 to 12." --216 linear feet of books, not counting end caps and islands. I see the familiar medal winners, scattered single volumes. But right now, Rick Riordan's three "mythological" series—and a host of imitators—reign supreme.
With series luring them on, are kids reading more? Margaret swears they are.
I have mixed feelings about series. As I kid, they often frustrated me. Loved them--but could never get enough, literally. Family economics meant never, absolutely never, browsing bookstores. I depended entirely on occasional gifts and the Cleveland Public Library.
But it's hard to read a sequential series when you're competing for a handful of library copies. To this day, I favor series (or collections) that can be read in random order.
In theory, a sequential series compressed into fewer, longer volumes should help solve that problem. But many of the new thick-volume series (especially the fantasy/quest variety) strike me as rambling, repetitive, rushed into print, carelessly crafted. Or the first book is great, and the rest—not so much. (I won't name names.)
So which longer fantasies quench my thirst for something both juicy and well-written? Megan Whalen Turner's ATTOLIA stories and Shannon Hale's BOOKS OF BAYERN (you don't have to read the latter in order, either).
But historical series are my passion. And my newest favorites sit face out on the shelf: Laurie Halse Anderson's thrilling CHAINS and FORGE.
Now let's talk quick reads. Many series offer a multitude of short-short variations on some admittedly interesting hook. I did, and still do, gobble such "shorties" down. But some of them are so ... style-free. I'd love to see more shorter series books that are also "literary"--like Gary Blackwood's SHAKESPEARE books (SCRIBE, SPY, and STEALER) and Nancy Springer's ENOLA HOLMES mysteries. I didn't see any of those on the shelves this month. They're in libraries, of course, and it looks like you can get them in e-editions. But how do you find out about them? (While I'm thinking about terrific short historicals, here's a note to Scholastic: please publish e-versions of Ann Rinaldi's wonderful QUILT TRILOGY.)
To its credit, Scholastic hired several "literary" authors to write the short, clever books in the 39 CLUES series. But readers who can't afford to buy all the books and clue cards can't fully participate in the puzzles and competitions. (Computer code numbers make sharing the books, even among siblings, impossible. Bah, humbug.)
|Comparison of book version and ipad version of spreads from The Three Little Pigs illustrated by L. Leslie Brooke|
|Image on Color Nook from Go Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman|
|Screen shot of the cover of Green Eggs and Ham ipad app|