Thursday, 17 January 2008

Ranty McRanty #4 part 2 (another long one)

or... further confessions of a reader of 'crap'.
My history of reading popular, 'crap' fiction started early. Dr Seuss' Green eggs and ham, for example (now a classic and exemplar of beginner readers). Got sucked in to the Blyton thing - Famous Five (couldn't stand the Secret Seven) and Six cousins of Mistletoe Farm. Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. Trixie Belden (still hunting the elusive last book in the series - have up to #38. Used to buy one a week with our groceries, if I'd been good $1.99 at Three Guys). Couldn't stand Nancy Drew. Asterix (not Tintin).
Then secondary school... in came the romance novel. Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer, courtesy of my mum. Still re-read Georgette. Harlequin romances (big sister's collection) - not Mills & Boons (too tame). The Sweet Valley books started coming in around this time - but I'd already moved on to some other hefty tomes. Satanic rituals? Barbara Cartland's occasional dabble with the occult had nothing on the Dennis Wheatley novels I borrowed from mum's shelves.
Kids books I still have - The trolley car family by Clymer. The Little White Horse by Goudge (mentioned in my previous entry). This even won the Carnegie Medal. Boston's Green Knowe books - still have a boxed set.
On the subject of medals/awards... I'm with Robin McKinley, who has won a few and whose books I treasure and re-read... extracted from an online essay
Do you remember Newbery books from your childhood?
In fifth grade well-intentioned librarians tried to force me to read Newbery Medal books because they felt I had reread The Black Stallion quite often enough and my horizons needed broadening. My utter loathing of anything with a sticker on the cover dates from then. I grew up knowing that stickers on the cover meant Grown Ups Think This Book Is Good For You But It Will Bore You To Death. I still can't recall Hitty: Her First Hundred Years without blanching.
What was your response to learning you had won?
And therefore, my first reaction to being told that I'd won the Newbery was, Oh, no! No child in his or her right mind will ever pick up Hero again! (Or, for that matter, Sword, which was an honor book and so had a sticker too.) I have been told, severely, that the Newbery has changed since I was in fifth grade. I have read a lot of more recent Newbery winners and honor books and it's true, they have changed, but I'm sorry, I still approach anything with a sticker on the cover with caution.

I like reading children's and teens' books - and 'formulaic' genre fiction like romance and fantasy - because the authors aren't so tied up with showing off their writerly skills. A child review once said/wrote in a review for the library - enough will all the adjectives, just get on with the story. Yep, I agree. I read description, description, blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, YAY action! Story! Finally! No - more description.
It's all in how it's handled. Robin McKinley can go off on tangents - but they're not writely, showing off tangents - they're more stream-of-consciousness, written from the first person and giving a real insight into the inner workings of the character's mind.

1 comment:

  1. did you really win a newberry award? i hadn't heard that. was it for a book you wrote??


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