“Before you can be anything, you have to be yourself. That’s the hardest thing to find.” -E.L. Konigsburg
E.L. Konigsburg passed away April 20, 2013. She was remarkable. The first person in her family to go to college, she studied chemistry and went on to pursue a masters degree, then realized she had “the mind for chemistry but not the temperament.” So she went on to teach science at a girl’s school in Florida, take art classes while her children were in school, and write stories that reflect their experiences growing up.
I have never run away from home to hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but as a young reader, I felt that Konigsburg was writing to me and for me. She understood the excitement and distinction of having a secret of your very own, and the charm of swimming after-hours in a fountain for coins. She captured that conflicting sense of wanting to belong and longing to be accepted as an individual. And she offered us reassurance that outsiders like Noah, Ethan, Fiona, and Julian can find friendship without relinquishing their sense of self. It’s been a privilege to have Konigsburg’s voice influence my childhood. Her sage words still resonate today.
“The adventure is over. Everything gets over, and nothing is ever enough. Except the part you carry with you. It’s the same as going on a vacation. Some people spend all their time on a vacation taking pictures so that when they get home they can show their friends evidence that they had a good time. They don’t pause to let the vacation enter inside of them and take that home.”
― E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Posted in Kids books-general | Tagged inklings, news | 1 Comment »
When confronted with an unmanageable TBR pile, my first instinct is to start in on multiple books. It somehow makes me feel better to see bookmarks in 3 or 4 books, as long as they’re sufficiently different to avoid confusion. Most of the time, my reading breaks down like this:
1 middle grade book (currently The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech)
1 YA (just finished Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox. Must find the sequel Dreamquake)
1 adult book, usually nonfiction (Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson)
1 French book to keep up my language skills (Le Miroir D’Ambre, literally “The Amber Mirror”–French translation of Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass)
I like alternating between the books, though the really good ones I read much more quickly (Le Miroir D’Ambre has been languishing for months, but it’s my fault for reading slowly in French, not the book’s content!)
What about you? Are you a fan of reading one book at a time, or starting simultaneously on multiple books?
Posted in Books-general, Kids books-general | Tagged inklings | 2 Comments »
The first writing assignment my eighth grade English teacher gave us was a prompt from one of her favorite songs: Barenaked Ladies’ “If I had a million dollars…” My eighth grade self was neither financially savvy, far-sighted, nor inspired. I wrote that I’d finally get a pet dog, as if enough money could convince my parents I’d magically become responsible enough to take care of one. It didn’t occur to me I could have also added that I’d just hire a dog sitter to cover the less glamorous aspects of having a pet. After listing all the cool tricks I’d teach my dog and all the long walks we’d take, I had trouble deciding what to do with the remaining $980,000 (assuming the old girl lived ten-odd years.)
In Millions, Frank Cottrell Boyce poses the same question my English teacher did, but his take is far more interesting than mine. Less than three weeks before Euro Day, when the old pound becomes obsolete, a big bag of cash–229,370 pounds in bank notes, to be exact–falls out of the sky and into Damian’s lap (or to be literal, at his feet.) Damian idolizes patron saints the way most boys follow footballers. He also tries to emulate their ways (for example, mortification of the flesh by holly) and receives regular visitations from them (he is anxious to know if they’ve met a St. Maureen yet), so naturally, he assumes the money is a gift from God meant to be used for good works.
Damian’s older brother Anthony, a Wall Street financial guru in the making, believes a house would be a better investment. He’s also a lot shrewder than Damian, whether it’s at telling credible lies or leveraging the fact their mum’s dead to their advantage. At first it’s great to feel so rich, but it turns out it’s difficult for two minors to spend so much money, whether it’s on real estate or charity, without arousing suspicion and unwanted attention. Especially since that money didn’t just fall from the sky, but was pitched off the side of a train… Continue Reading »
Posted in MG books (ages 8-12) | Tagged doodles, reviews | 5 Comments »
I was traveling when Battle of the Kids’ Books announced the Big Kahuna Winner, so I’m just absorbing the news now, and feeling very behind.
I’m going to join the mass chorus of those who are sad that Code Name Verity lost–even though I like No Crystal Stair quite a lot.
Still, CNV reminds me of last year’s Okay for Now–a zombie and a popular book that missed out on the golden sticker–so I thought CNV had a lock on the Big Kahuna Round.
But enough complaining. To the Battle Commanders–thank you for organizing another fantastic year of dueling books. BoB always introduces me to at least one great book I wouldn’t have read otherwise. Last year it was The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. This time it’s Moonbird and Temple Grandin.
And finally: through most of March, I managed to avoid the snooze button by checking the latest BoB results on my phone in the morning. Reading the judges’ comments always woke me up. Now that it’s over, I’m back to my lazy old ways…until next year, of course.
Posted in MG books (ages 8-12), Nonfiction, YA books | Tagged inklings | Leave a Comment »
A Greyhound of a Girl, by Roddy Doyle, is a deceptively simple tale that spans and links four generations of women. The telling is not always linear, but in present day Dublin, twelve-year-old Mary’s beloved grandmother, Emer, is dying. She and her mother, Scarlett, go every day to visit her granny in the hospital. One day, Mary meets an unfamiliar young woman with an old-fashioned name, Tansey. Somehow, Tansey knows Emer isn’t well and she has a strange request: Tell your granny it’ll all be grand.
Just like that, Tansey’s message and a kiss on the chin evoke memories of the past–in particular, the pivotal day when Emer, age three, dropped an egg, played on her mammy’s lap, and lost her mammy to the flu. Emer’s mammy was–is–also called Tansey, and would it be stereotyping if I said the Irish have a knack for telling ghost stories?
“It was only an hegg.”
To echo what Mary says to her mom: “So what, like? Your granny is a ghost and mine is dying. And that’s the only thing that isn’t stupid.”
So what is that Emer is afraid of dying, and even if she doesn’t know it yet, she needs her mammy to reassure her in a way no one else can. What follows is a quirky family reunion and a remarkable impromptu road trip that cements the ties between mothers and daughters, and makes Emer’s final journey more bearable for all of them. Continue Reading »
Posted in MG books (ages 8-12) | Tagged doodles, reviews | 5 Comments »