Tuesday, July 17, 2007

YA/Middle-Year Highlights.

Work is absolutely, positively kicking my butt. I can't even read on the bus ride home anymore, I'm so mentally exhausted from the days. I just stick my ipod earphones in my ears and stare blankly at the dirty back of the seat in front of me. I'm so antsy, I skip through every single song after approximately 20 seconds. With the exception of the Matt Costa and Iron & Wine songs I'm currently obsessed with.

But anyway. I will stop whining.

I'm here because I decided I wanted to start a new series of posts dedicated to children's/YA books that I love(d). Harry Potter really inspired me. There's so much great children's/YA literature out there, and so many of the books really made an impact on me when I was growing up. Reading as a kid somehow is so different than reading as an adult. We give ourselves into falling into the world of books completely as a child, without the skepticism and critical eye that we do as adults. We take things as it is. No "there were too many cliches" or "that seemed unrealistic" or "how childish" or whatever. We like something because we do, and we can't really articulate why, at least not the way we can deconstruct books now. We like the plot, or we like the characters, or someone reminds us of ourselves or we just like the creativity. I can think of SO MANY books I loved as a child, in a way I love few books I come across these days now. And I think maybe that has more to do with who I was as a child than the quality of literature.

I also think that children's/YA books carry a big burden on the author. These are impressionable minds here. Not only are you having a say in whether or not this kid decides he LOVES to read or decides that maybe he never wants to pick up a book again, but you're also shaping world truths through story. A child so shielded from the real world will readily pick up cues on morals, ideals, empathy, humanity through the lens of an imaginary world. There are books from my childhood that I know have shaped how I think of the world and the people around me. So I think good literature for children is almost more important in their impact than good adult fiction.

Anyway, I have so many on my mind that I want to start with that I'm not sure where to begin. I'll highlight a book I remember from childhood (or even one I've read recently, because, owing to my 13 year old sister, I still pick up an occasional middle-year or YA book), and I might even do a re-read for these purposes. Oh, and obviously, as much as I love books like Goodnight Moon, Paddington Goes to the Circus and Love You Forever (my #1 favorite picture book), I will be focusing on, well, books with chapters and mostly a lack of pictures.

Also, if anyone has suggestions on must-reads from their childhood that I might not have gotten the opportunity to read as a kid (I only read Bridge to Terabithia my junior year of college), please feel free to share!

2 drops:

Frank said...

I come at it from a slightly different perspective, having taught seventh and eighth grade English for ten years. The books that seemed to knock the kids out were ones that didn't insult their intelligence -- ones that invited them into the adult world or into a world they were usually held back from in literature. THE GIVER, by Lois Lowry; THE EAR, THE EYE, AND THE ARM, by Nancy Farmer; I HADN'T MEANT TO TELL YOU THIS, by Jacqueline Woodson; and IRONMAN, by Chris Crutcher.

P.S. My educational nonprofit, Word Street is giving away 20 copies of the new Potter on Saturday morning...Care to make the trip to the Berkshires?

angelle said...

Oh no, definitely. I didn't mean to insinuate that children like books that dumb down the world for them. I guess what I meant was that kids (for the most part, not all, but many) haven't had the experience of the real world yet, and books offer them a lot of this "real world-ness" whether it be the setting or the situations characters are placed in. I loved books fantastical and realistic alike. I'm intrigued to hear what else you've taught in your class! What a great age to teach.

And, I've pre-ordered my copy of Harry Potter, though, by the way, your non-profit also interests me. I would love to be a part of something like that. Alas, Berkshires are a bit far for me...

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