Friday, July 8, 2011

Playing Catch Up

Books I’ve read this year but have not written up:

Mother Poems

Hope Anita Smith

Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company

New York, 2009

Torn paper illustrations

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs

Ron Koertge



at least as good as the first one—I love these stories, told in poems, about a 14 year old baseball player/poet.

I Never told and Other Poems

Myra Cohn Livingston

Blackberry Ink

Eve Merriam

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

Candace Fleming

Ill. by G. Brian Karas

Atheneum Books for Young readers


The Old Woman Who Named Things

Cynthia Rylant

Ill. by Kathryn Brown

Harcourt brace & Company


wc on Waterford paper

Just finished reading:

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

By Helen Simonson

Random House trade paperback

Copyright 2010, 355 pp., 25 chapters + Epilogue

I loved reading this book, and it fit very well with our recent SCBWI Oak Park network discussion on Reading Like A Writer, Francine Prose. Simonson obviously loves sentences. She writes really fun and beautiful ones. She has a great sense of humor which is totally in the repartee and unspoken thoughts, not in slapstick or coincidence. I have been rereading some of the book and am a bit more critical the second time around. Certain phrases are perhaps over-used, such as “acid tone to the voice.” And the word “Humpbacked” occurs at least twice in the 355 pp. as an adjective not referring to whales. I did not notice the repetition when reading the book for the first time. It is only because I made note of (what I think is) the second mention—a beautiful sentence describing the gibbous moon rising—that I was struck on rereading by an earlier occurrence of the word. This does not significantly detract from the book, but I think it is something to be aware of, especially when writing a longer book—we authors fall in love with certain turns of phrase and can repeat ourselves unwittingly. I know my vocabulary and sentence structure, just in writing this, have been influenced by the book.

And something I’m curious about—the main characters are 68 and 51. Does this mean that twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings will not respond to the characters and the story the same way I did? I remember having trouble engaging with characters who seemed so much removed from me in age, when I was younger. But I may have been a shallower reader. And certain books have reeled me in even against my will and made me care deeply about characters with whom I felt I had little connection—Color Purple, Beloved, She’s Come Undone, and Shipping News all come to mind as books with characters I felt had little in common with myself and yet I came to love them. And the reason is they were so well-written that I could not stop reading.

Also just finished:

I Am The Messenger

by Markus Zusak

Alfred A. Knopf

copyright 2002

Zusak also wrote The Book Thief, which is one of my favorite books of the last 10 years. I Am The Messanger is not up to The Book Thief, and it was written earlier. I felt I could see Zusak learning to use language in innovative ways, developing his unusual and appealing characters--he was learning a lot in writing this book that came together in an amazing way in The Book Thief. His themes include the power of small acts and the goodness of ordinary people. I have read The Book Thief twice. I feel that I Am The Messenger, while I'm glad I read it, is not a keeper for my over-crowded bookshelves.

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