In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

9th grade revisited, and a little more Wolf

Dear Annie,

I always love hearing about books that made an impression on your students.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing and its sequel are amazingly written books.  Hard to believe that the person who invented a futuristic slang for Feed could immerse so thoroughly in 18th century language.   The books also show the confusion many colonists felt about which side of the Revolution to support, especially when the British were actively anti-slavery.

In the days when Bob was covering the publishing industry for the Washington Post, he managed a trip to Boston to interview M. T. Anderson, and of course to visit Lizzie on the side.  The resulting article is quite lovely.

Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

And then there's the Nicholas Flamel series, by the Irish author Michael Scott.  It's one of our biggest-selling series.  When older kids have blasted through all of Rick Riordan's Greek, Roman and Egyptian books, this is what we offer next.  It's a six-book series about fictional present-day teenage twins caught in a struggle over control of the earth and beyond. They become both allies and puppets of magical and mythical forces who want to take it over.  All the other characters in the books -- and there are many -- are either real people from history (Machiavelli, Billy the Kid, Shakespeare, Joan of Arc, and on and on...) or characters from many different mythological traditions (Gilgamesh, Mars, Prometheus, Odin, the Aztec goddess  Coatlicue and many more...).  Part of me likes books which toss in many real names, because some information is bound to be retained.  But most of the historical figures aren't very much in character -- they all are extremely skilled at hand-to-hand combat, which they indulge in frequently -- and the constant battling can get tiring.  The racing plot and the constant suspense keep folks reading, though.

And a postscript on Wolf Story, which I wrote about in my last post.  It turns out that Michael, the character in the book who's creating the story with his dad, is the actual son of the author -- a sort of American Christopher Robin Milne.  NPR tracked down the now-72 year-old, and Scott Simon did an engaging little interview

There's a poignant note in the back-story.  The book has a few cheery references to Michael's mother, who doesn't participate in the storytelling, but is liberated from having to make lunches at one point (and makes them at another) and generally seems grateful for getting some mom-alone weekend time.  Michael explained that his father wrote the story during the six weeks that he and his mother were in Reno where she was getting a divorce -- which his father did not want.  "This is the father pricking the son's memory with the sweetest stories that he can tell, or that he can remember," said the younger McCleery.  "I don't think you would discern that just from reading it, but once you know it's there, I think you'll know what I mean." 



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