Showing posts with label I'm So Going to Hell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label I'm So Going to Hell. Show all posts

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Enormous Can of Worms (Can Opener Included!)

As I've only been in this country a few years, I'm still discovering which books are considered quintessential American children’s books. Often I’ve heard about books on your blog, which I’ve then gone on to read. Since there’s only so much I can gather from your header pic and because I trust your opinion, I wonder if, at some point, you’d be interested in ‘gifting’ your readers with a list of books you consider essential reading? Perhaps separate lists for PB, MG, YA? I imagine there are many readers and authors out there who would appreciate that.
This is an impossible task. This is akin to trying to walk over every inch of a mountain and still make it to the top in a day. Two years later you could still be in the foothills.

And I know no matter how thoughtful and diligent I was about such a list, inevitably I would leave something obvious out like The Invention of Hugo Cabret or Where the Wild Things Are and when the omission was pointed out to me I would feel like an idiot.

And! Let it be remembered that it is impossible to read all the good books. It was only a few years ago that I finally read The Giver, and fine, I'll go on record and admit I've still never read The Bridge to Terabithia. So you can quickly get into the quicksand of the difference between "read this and understand it before you go any further" vs. "you ought to at least have heard of this one".

But hell, why not? Now's a good time for quicksand projects.

However, I will only attempt this if it can be a joint undertaking with my readers. And if my readers will understand that I'll add their suggested titles only if they fit my personal, subjective sense of "required reading". (Otherwise readers' suggestions, none of which will be bad, will stay in the comments-- so read those, too. Readers-- feel free to make a short argument for your recommendation.) There are, after all, piles of books that you and I can both agree are wonderful and important in some way, but which I may not choose to put on the required reading list.

Oh, heck. What have I gotten myself into?

PICTURE BOOKS
All the fairy tales (Grimm, Anderson, etc), and you wouldn't go wrong reading the works of the Opies.
Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day
Amelia Bedelia
The Big Orange Splot
Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See
The Cat in the Hat
Click Clack Moo
Curious George
Dr. De Soto
Fancy Nancy (I choke on this book, but you must know about it)
Frederick (or possibly Swimmy; something by Lionni)
Frog and Toad (Lobel)
The Giving Tree and Love You Forever (and may they both be a lesson to you)
Good Night Gorilla
Goodnight Moon
Harold and the Purple Crayon
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Knuffle Bunny (and frankly you wouldn't go wrong reading the whole Willems oeuvre)
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
Little Bear (Minarik)
The Little Engine That Could
Madeline
Make Way for Ducklings
Miss Nelson Is Missing
No, David!
The Polar Express (and maybe some more Van Allsburg)
The Seven Silly Eaters
Show Way
The Stinky Cheese Man (and Other Fairly Stupid Tales)
The Story of Babar
Strega Nona
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
The Three Pigs
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
We're Going on a Bear Hunt
Where the Wild Things Are
William's Doll
Winnie the Pooh

MIDDLE GRADE
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Alabama Moon
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Anne of Green Gables
Are You There God It's Me Margaret
The Bad Beginning
The Black Cauldron
The Bridge to Terabithia
Catherine Called Birdy
Charlotte's Web (and probably also The Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little)
Coraline
Danny Champion of the World (or maybe The Witches-- at least something by Dahl)
Ender's Game
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler
The Giver
Harry Potter
Hatchet
Holes
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Julie of the Wolves
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
Little House in the Big Woods
A Long Way From Chicago
Ordinary Jack
Out of the Dust
Over Sea, Under Stone
Penderwicks
The Phantom Tollbooth
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Saffy's Angel (or something by McKay, dammit)
The Search for Delicious (or maybe Tuck Everlasting)
The Tale of Despereaux (hurp!)
The Toys Go Out
The Watsons Go to Birmingham
The Wee Free Men
The White Mountains
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Westing Game

YOUNG ADULT
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
American Born Chinese
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing
The Book Thief
Catcher in the Rye
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Dreamhunter
The Ear The Eye and the Arm
The Golden Compass
The Hero and the Crown
Homecoming
I Am the Cheese
King Dork
The King of Attolia
Looking for Alaska
Lord of the Flies
The Lord of the Rings
Monster
A Northern Light
The Outsiders
The Rules of Survival
Sold
Speak
To Kill a Mockingbird
Ok, Twilight, but for reference purposes. Feel free to read half of it.
Watership Down
A Wrinkle in Time

Let us also say for the record that people who are interested in Children's Lit in a pure sense can concentrate on catching up on the classics.
But those people interested in being published now should read one book that's topping the charts now for every classic they read. (Which "chart" you use should vary. Read the bestsellers; read the Mocks; read the books that get four starred reviews and sell 3,000 copies; flip through the books that Target carries.)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The History of Rejection

Rejection has been with us since our very beginnings; it could be termed an innate human quality. I think it's high time we embraced rejection, rather than, you know, rejecting it.

Scientists theorize that the very earliest communities of homo-sapiens were non-verbal*, but as social structures and patterns developed, the use of rocks, fallen branches, and other blunt objects as modes of communication became, understandably, marginalized. So came the need for a new form of rejection; one that could hurt but not injure another member of the community. Thus, language was born.

So it is probable that mankind's first real word, as with many toddlers, was "No!".

No plays an important part in all of human culture, and is to be found as a pivotal element in the oldest stories and religions. What were God's first and second interactions with Adam and Eve (not to mention several more thereafter)? To forbid, and to punish. Both are versions of the Eternal No.

Once you start looking for it, you'll realize that No is everywhere. The ten commandments are all versions of No, with the exception of the fourth and fifth (keep the sabbath; honor your parents), which, as two of the things people are most likely to want to say no to, represents an implied no as well (ie, God gets to say no, not you.)

But in this, as in publishing, no amount of No seems to have the desired effect. One imagines Jesus talking to the angels and saying, "What the hell is wrong with these people? We post the guidelines, but do they read them? And don't even talk to me about conferences. The last time I was down there, every blasted 'disciple' had to write a frickin' book about it, and most of it rhymed! Practically made my ears bleed. Ah, frick, and here's another prayer from Pat Robertson. I hate agents who want to talk about every last line of the contract."



* I'm totally making this up.