The Bookfaire at the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts at Whittier College (3/23/13) was terrific, except for the part about not being able to be in three breakout sessions at the same time. Sometimes, physical laws are so limiting.
I was able to hear Tom and Laura McNeal separately. (See the post of 2/21/13, Predators, Hormones, and Slippery Slopes, for their young adult books.) Hearing the back stories of inspiration for these books and the McNeals’ process of co-writing added richness and even more depth to stories I already found highly satisfying. So I bought two that I hadn’t yet reread, THE DECODING OF LANA MORRIS, by both Laura and Tom, Alfred A. Knopf, 2007, DARK WATER, a National Book Award finalist by Laura, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010, and an adult novel, TO BE SUNG UNDERWATER, by Tom, from Back Bay Books, 2011.
Laura spoke about what makes a young adult book. Besides needing to have a protagonist of similar age, books for this age range need to be honest. They can provide a way for a young person to explore some paths in life that he or she doesn’t actually have to take with their resultant actual consequences. Tom and Laura’s books for young adults fulfill Gary Schmidt’s criteria for what children’s literature needs to do, namely provide tools for kids to become more human.
Besides being terrific writers, both separately and together, they are wonderful people. I felt so blessed to spend so much of Friday evening and Saturday with Laura. It was a great time. Thank you, Laura and Tom.
Although the other authors at the Bookfaire write for adult audiences, some of the books may appeal to YA readers. I just finished reading FINDING EMILIE, written by Laurel Corona and published by Gallery Books in 2011. In the eighteenth century, a French woman, Gabrielle-Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil, wrote a translation and commentary on Newton’s Principia Mathematica. The marquise died six days after the birth of her second daughter. The daughter died before turning two. Corona’s historical novel tells of the life she imagines the Marquise would have wanted for her daughter, Lili. We have few historical details of the lives of women, and Corona feels that historical novels are the best way for us to reclaim the lives of the women who have gone before us. I think young women who like Jane Austen may find this book a fascinating look at an aristocratic life that makes me grateful for the rights women have now.
Now we have to wait almost a whole year for the next Bookfaire.
I did promise DOGSONG the next time I posted. After reading THE QUILT, I decided it was time to read Gary Paulson again. THE QUILT told of Paulson’s emotional connections—a layer of meaning I’d hadn’t always found in his writing. Now when I picked up my copy of DOGSONG, published by Scholastic Inc. in 1985, I found a solitary boy facing nature story, but with strong human connections.
And I love his description of the human-to-animal/nature connection as the boy, Russell, bonds with his dog sled team. “He let them run and they seemed to want to head the same way he wanted to go . . . did the dogs know where they were going? . . . he let the dogs decide because that was the same as him deciding.” It’s one of the best pictures of creatures knowing and trusting each other that I think I’ve read. Anyway, I’m back to picking up Paulson’s books.