Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tuesday kid lit

Note: though my bachelor's thesis was about children's literature, my major was actually human development with an emphasis on brain and language development.

Anyhow, I've loved children's and young adult literature since I started reading at about age 3. The story goes that I taught myself to read with simple picture books that had "listen along and when the chime rings, turn the page" cassettes to go with them. I know I had Lady and the Tramp, Pinocchio, and Bambi, and may have had some others as well. I still remember the theme music for the Lady and the Tramp and Bambi taped stories (it's my useless superpower, remembering tunes and jingles and commercials from childhood). I started reading chapter books at about age 4 or 5 and was reading adult stuff by 8 or 9.

But I loved kids' books meant for a variety of ages. I still do, and have quite a substantial collection of YA, picture books, and anthologies of Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, and Mother Goose. Every time we go into a used bookstore I check out their kids' section and sometimes find things that I loved as a kid. I've always been one to reread books I liked and read over and over books I loved, and have enjoyed the ability to get YA and teen lit at the library, which can be difficult to find in the used bookstore near our house. That way I can reread stuff I remember liking and decide if I like it enough (still) to buy it if I find it.

Three suggestions for YA/teen lit for the 3 of you that read my blog and don't live with me follow. These are three of my favorites and I've just reread two of them within the last couple of weeks.

1. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher. Published when I was in high school (1993), I found it at my local library my freshman year and just loved it to pieces. So many books written for teen/YA have a female protagonist ("because boys don't read!") that this brought a fresh and interesting perspective. I loved the relationship between the main characters and the dialogue was realistic for the ages of the characters. I always wished my high school had offered the kind of class the characters in this book get to take, a current events/issues/debate type class where we all got to talk about the issues about which we felt strongly. This book also rides on the tail end of the "issues" trend in kid/YA lit that began in the '70s, as it brings up things that happen in real families (abuse, divorce, image issues (the two main characters are badly scarred and overweight, respectively)etc.) without treating them as though they are the End of the World (as was big in the '70s).

2. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I've read this book at least 5 times now (and now I own it, yay!) and the funny bits are still funny, the characters are still interesting, and the puzzle/mystery is still well-crafted. It was one of my most favorite books when I was 10ish and remains in my top 10 for YA lit. I love reading books in which the authors respect the intelligence of the reader, particularly when the book is aimed at a young audience. You know it's a good book when an adult can enjoy it as much as a kid.

3. Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. I just found this at the library on Sunday. Published in 1996, I read it some time in college when my mom recommended it to me (she teaches 8th grade English). I'd only read it the once and couldn't really remember much of the plot, so reading it this weekend was like reading it for the first time. And it was good! Funny, believable (though a little dated with the references - who was still into Mudhoney in 1996, dude?), respectful of the intelligence of the reader - everything I like about a YA/teen lit novel. Every teenaged protagonist has problems - but then every teenager has problems, because isn't that what being a teenager is kind of about? Anyhow, two thumbs up.

And that's my Tuesday YA Lit recommendations. I'm looking forward to getting the second book in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series once the library calls me to tell me it's in. Maybe I'll review that series next week.


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I liked the Phillip Pullman series except to the extent that it was beating me over the head with its Atheist message. I feel the same way about the Chronic-WHAT-cles of Narnia.

I loved the Westinghouse Game! Another one I remember adoring was From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

I'm finishing up Banner of Heaven (1 chapter + bonus chapter added in response to the LDS Church's reponse to the book), probably by the end of my train ride today.


Yank In Texas said...

I was and still am an Anne of Green Gables girl and pretty much any other book by LM Montgomery. The Emily series was much better than the Anne series IMO but the Anne reached more people. I still reread those books.
Meg Cabot has some decent books- both YA and regular.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Emily of New Moon is darker and more ambiguous than Anne, I think, which is why Anne turned out more popular. I agree that Emily of New Moon is a better series overall.

Yank you should go to PEI sometime. It's like Cape Code for the Maritimes.

Leah said...

I used to be quite the kids book junkie myself. I found The Westing Game a few years ago and made Simon read it. He wasn't as enthralled as I was, but then he's 31 (old!), so that might have something to do with it.

I'm tempted to leave a list of my favorite kids books, but I'd never be able to stop.

EEK! said...

Count me in as another Emily over Anne fan. Maybe because Emily was a writer, and because Anne's friendship with Diana creeped me out - it seemed to me that Anne was only friends with her because she was pretty. I much preferred the Emily relationships, both with family and friends. They were more nuanced and realistic, which made them much more satisfying to me. Plus, there were always these lurid secrets whispered about, like what happened to everyone's missing parent(s) and who dropped whom down a well. Exciting stuff!

MLE, you should check out my friend Gwenda Bond's blog. She's a YA writer who also reads and works in spec/scifi/fantasyish realms. She's aces, and always on top of the YA and spec fic scenes.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Yeah, the Emily books had loads of scandal, like adultery, incest, murder and spirits. It was way cooler.

MLE said...

Hm. I never read the Emily series. I think I just read the first two Anne books and then got distracted by something else. Maybe I'll read them later this summer.

-qir said...

There's only 3 of us?

MLE said...

Oh, I guess there are 5. :)

EEK! said...

Say, I just read The Perks of Being a Wallflower ... not bad. Loved Patrick. Got a bit tired of Charlie, though, pity. Probably would have loved it at 15, though.