Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Guardian Children's Fiction Prize: Longlist

I'm not going to be commenting on children's book awards often on this blog (with the exception of The Cybils, of course), but if there's one children's book prize that favors the crossover novel, it is the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.

Here's this year's longlist of novels--a list populated by authors known for writing on more than one level to more than one audience.

Genesis by Bernard Beckett
Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd
The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner
Then by Morris Gleitzman
Rowan the Strange by Julie Hearn
Exposure by Mal Peet
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

I'm heading to the U.K. in a week, and I hope to read as many of these as possible, but I can promise you that I will definitely read and review the Dowd, Gardner, Hearn, Peet, and Sedgwick.

Have you read any of the list? Recommendations?

In Case You've Missed It...Mary Sues

Gail Gauthier (Original Content) and Liz B. (A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy) take up Mary Sues in teen fiction.
  • I love Gail's concluding remarks, which pertain, in a way, to the mission of this blog: "If I stay away from romance, will Mary Sue characters stay away from me? If I don't write about anyone over the age of thirteen will I be safe? What if I use male main characters? Will that work?"
  • Liz asks a very important question: "So my question is, how do you identify a Mary Sue in an original book, when he or she is not in a fanfic context?" Liz discusses the wikipedia article in this context--one I'd never read before.
Interesting stuff, and don't miss the comments.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Twilight Discussion

Hey, great discussion on Twilight and its crazy crossover domination yesterday.

Most of the talk, however, took place over on Facebook, so I'm going to summarize here.

David Elzey (The Excelsior File) wrote, "the romance, the heroic boy and the damsel in distress, the simplicity. it isn't the vampires, it isn't the quality of writing, it's all very basic and LCD. never underestimate the popularity and power of the simple in all its forms."

So then I wanted to know--what about all those crazy adults?

David tied the phenomenon to economic uncertainty and distress: "okay, simplicity and escape for adults. when things get rough with the economy, when wars overseas continue without end, when people find so much distressing and depressing financial news around them they turn to escape, either fantasy or comedy."

Obviously a good point, but then I noted that Twilight came out (and readers began going nuts) before the economy tanked. I asked, "Maybe readers feel the onset of bad times?"

David answered:
  • "Twilight is a very post 9/11 book, if you ask me. perhaps history and perspective will better support that notion. harry potter's popularity with adults in this country didn't click until the third book, which was in 1999 at the cusp of the internet bust.

    readers may, indeed, be ahead of zeitgeist in terms of defining popular culture.

    n.b. ... Read Morevampires in popular American culture: 1930s, 1970's, now – all periods of economic distress. rats and plague ships and blood-suckers. must be a connection in there somewhere...
Kimberly Hirsh (lectitans) moves on to the character of our damsel in distress--Bella Swann, writing, "she is so calculatedly nondescript. (When I read Twilight, I was like, "Hey! My boyfriend says nice things to me too! WHEE!" I ate it up. Afterwards, I was like... Wait. That wasn't, y'know, good, actually.)"

[Ed: Kimberly's last comment made me laugh.]

Sarah Stevenson (Finding Wonderland) adds two more possibilities for Twilight: 1) Always going to be readers who like vampire books; 2) protagonists are upper-YA, nearly adult

And Eisha Prather (7-Imp) concludes with a very important point: "All flaws aside, I think Meyer is great at capturing teenage sexual tension, particularly the kind that comes from not quite being ready to go all the way, but wanting to very badly. That had a lot of nostalgic appeal for me, as an adult reader - such vivid recall of a time when even holding hands was thrillingly erotic."

Okay, now from comments to the actual blog (which you can read in full on the previous post):

Michele Thornton agrees, in part, with Eisha: "My opinion is that it's lots of lust and longing, but no actual sex, which makes it safe AND titillating. To Teens? Perhaps it's the brooding and inwardly focused Bella. To adults? No clue. I did read the first book, and confess that while I often rolled my eyes at Meyer's less than "beautiful" prose, I did keep turning those pages until the end. Why? She made me want to know what happened next, which is really the first job any writer should accomplish."

SAM agrees with Michele and adds, "The reason why the parents are [reading], in my opinion, is because it is something that they can share with their kids who want to grow up so fast in this day and age. It is for some one of the last few things parents can do together with their children.

Kelly Fineman recommends the Twilight books as diet aids (for real!) and gives us new insight into the Bella character: "What makes them work is the very Mary Sue main character, Bella Swan, who is the reader's proxy in the books. She's clumsy and awkward and whiny, yet still manages to charm all the boys, including Edward Cullen. And once she vamps out midway through Book 4, she vampires better than anyone else. She's living the dream - ordinary girl who attracts extraordinary things, and ends up being the Very Best Vampire Ever with Extra-Special Powers. "

Liz B. (A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy) and Monica Edinger (Educating Alice) talk about the younger kids Lee Wind mentioned reading the books too early. Monica says, "For most I think it is about reading something they know is "important" and about older folks and the page turning quality."

Finally, writer P.J. Hoover says nostalgia played a big role in her reading of the first book: "Twilight had that power that made me want to be 17 again. "

Anyway, a good discussion with many interesting ideas. I'll leave you with Sarah Haskins' theory (the bad boy) in Target Women.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Elephant in the Room

Most of the time I'll be recommending or reviewing good crossover books to share with teens and adults on this blog.

But, I also want to understand the crossover phenomenon and how it happens--which books transcend age boundaries and why.

I'm not even sure we can begin discussing crossover unless we consider Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Now, I'll be honest. I haven't read these books and don't plan to. But I sure seem to know all about them. I know grown women type into Internet confession boards, admitting to "wanting my own Edward Cullen" on a daily basis. Lee Wind (I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I read?) wrote in this morning and says, "My daughter told me yesterday that on her school bus she saw a 3rd grader reading Twilight"

What makes Meyer's vampire novels appeal to third graders, to their intended teen audience, and to adult readers, too. All theories welcome.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mission Statement

is a new blog for my new life.

During this academic year I had to step back and just take care of the basics--my children, my courses, my students, my home. Blogging and all related activities (The Edge of the Forest, The Cybils, etc, etc...) had to take a backseat to real life.

But how I have missed blogging about books and my many real and true friends in the kidslitosphere. I am ready to return, but know I have to start small. So here are my plans:

1. This blog, Crossover, focuses on a rare breed of book--the adult book teens love, the teen book adults appreciate, and (very, very occasionally) that Middle Grade book adults read. I'm interested in reviewing books that transcend these age boundaries and understanding why these books are different.

2. Four times a year, a group of first-year college students will read and discuss just such a book for a post at Crossover. A written summary and a podcast will be provided.

3. Posts will include reviews of crossover books (or audiobooks) or considerations about the crossover phenomenon.

I can't wait for the conversation to begin!

Now...concerning Big A little a, my first love. It also will continue, with reviews of picture books and all other children's books I don't feel have crossover potential. I am discontinuing the weekend reviews (if anyone wants to take them up, please do!) and will only reference review articles on Crossover from now on if they concern a book with crossover appeal. I plan to participate in Poetry Friday on Crossover, as well.

Finally, I have to say that as of this moment I have declared an e-mail and reader bankruptcy. I am beginning with a clean slate, and I can't wait to talk books with you all again.