As promised, today I have a guest poster. I "met" Alex at The Literary Lab in December when she wrote a fabulous paragraph using only words with one syllable, alluding to many of the information about the three Labbers. She very generously agreed to write a post on my blog. Here's a little bit about her:
Alexandra ("Alex") MacKenzie is an author and illustrator from
Seattle, WA. She illustrated "In My Nature: A Birder's Year at the
Montlake Fill" (www.constancypress.com), published in November 2009,
and she wrote the fantasy novel "Immortal Quest: The Trouble with
Mages" (www.edgewebsite.com), published by Edge SF (Canada) in
September 2010. She supports herself as an academic counselor at the
University of Washington, where she works down the hall from her
friend Scott Bailey of The Literary Lab
Kids These Days
I love children’s fiction, especially middle-grade. I’d love to write
a MG novel. Yet I feel out of touch with today’s youth, being a bit
of a middle-aged fuddy-duddy who grew up at a time when kids could be
out playing all day (and away from the home) without adult
supervision, when the TV had three channels, and “extracurricular
activities” meant whacking a baseball around the front yard while the
“outfielders” stood in the street watching for cars.
My reading in the MG arena tends towards fantasy, mystery, or
historical – I think because books set in contemporary times have
themes and situations to which I can’t relate. When I try to write
something in the MG line, it veers away from Here and Now. I did try
it once, but had trouble coming up with a believable protagonist.
It’s been a long time since I was ten, and I do vaguely remember what
the world was like then, but is it anything like the worldview of a
ten-year-old today? How does one tap into a contemporary child’s
experience? (I don’t have kids or grandkids, and there aren’t even
any in my neighborhood!) Or should a writer simply assume that the
things one worried about the most as a child haven’t changed all that
much? Peer pressure, fitting in socially, awkward moments, sports,
girls/boys, good teachers, bad teachers, family trips, sibling
rivalry…perhaps these are standards that transcend time?
Those of you out there who are writing (or reading) a lot of
children’s fiction these days, what attracts you about your favorite
books, your favorite protagonists? As a reader, do you prefer works
that reflect contemporary reality and issues, or do you favor books
that take you away to a land of fantasy? If you’re writing, do you
have problems figuring out what Kids These Days are feeling and doing
I think one author who has handled this well, combining a sense of
today’s kids with a sense of the old-fashioned, is Jeanne Birdsall in
her books “The Penderwicks” and “The Penderwicks on Gardam Street”.
Agree? Disagree? Do tell!
And now the CONTEST part of this post: leave a comment about who your favorite young protagonist is. You may do so till next Wednesday at which time I will pick a winner for one of the following books of the winner's choice:
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Solving Zoe / This is Me From Now On by Barbara Dee
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z / Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner
The Higher Power of Lucky / Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron
How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart
Bobby vs Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee
Hoot/Scat by Carl Hiaasaen
Room by Emma Donoghue,
Drop us a comment!
Added later: Alex is guest-posting over at the Lit Lab today! Go read what she has to say about being a two trick pony.
Also, I am adding another book to the list: Room by Emma Donoghue, which is not a kidlit but the protagonist is a 5-year old with an amazing story to tell.