random stuff & Loose Associations

13May10

I posted yesterday about Lois Lowry’s The Birthday Ball and forgot to link to my post on The Giver, so here it is.

The BSBSD (bedside book stack of doom) does tend to foretell the future of these posts, and currently includes (and I’m editing out the non-kid books) Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson, The Missing Girl by Norma Fox Mazer, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (a re-read), The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, The Shining Company by Rosemary Sutcliff and Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman. Karen asked me to read The Silence by Nathaniel Ewert-Krocker and Kyla Vanderklugt and I have a request to post on the ending of The Giver, which means I should read it yet again. And writing this down I notice I’ve neglected picture books . . . No promises on when I’ll post on what.

Finally, a loose association to Wimpy Kid . . .

About a decade or so ago I went to a wonderful writer’s conference in the Carolina hills, deep enough in forest and hills that to see the night sky you would walk down to the crossroads and play speed-bump, lying in the middle of the road to look up at the stars. Often, lying there, we’d tell stories.

We had communal meals, and I sometimes ate with a guy about my own age who was also interested in children’s books. His ambition, he said, was to “just write good stories for kids–nothing with deeper meanings they’d have to think about–just good stories.”

Borders.com

He missed the point, but missing the point could make his writing even better. Not that I mean to say anything negative about Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is wonderful. Wimpy Kid isn’t preachy and it does what it does effortlessly, and that’s the point. Any story that kids love as much as Diary of a Wimpy Kid has to have “deeper meaning” or it wouldn’t engage kids . . . they’d listen and forget just as we forgot everything about the Dick and Jane abominations of our first grades.

What my friend wants to write and Jeff Kinney has succeeded in writing is a good story, one that doesn’t preach or talk down to kids. Of course Wimpy Kid has a lot of emotional content and “deeper meaning” that engages kids on an unconscious level as well. The moral of my story is that you don’t have to beat kids over the head with it (the way I am with this).

Yann Martell’s symbolism in The Life of Pi was done on a conscious level and wouldn’t work for seven year olds. The emotional contact of Wimpy Kid does.

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