Oh my sweet Westley it's hot. North of a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, they say, too hot to turn pages, almost too hot to think.
Too hot to use a computer. I'm going to the pool. I'll finish this later.
Hi, it's tomorrow! Yep, I did that. Left the house at noon, got back from the pool EIGHT HOURS later, and then overnight the Magic Husband Fairy put in all of our window units, sealed up the house, and now it's cool! Ish. Cool-esque. Cool enough to do ONE load of laundry, vacuum the downstairs if I take it slow, and write this post about a couple of trends I've noticed lately in children's and YA books.
TREND #1 MOCK ME NOT!
Mockingbird. Mockingjay. The Mockingbirds (forthcoming). There's even a "Mockingbird" song, by Rob Thomas, whose website bio describes him as "Arguably the most accomplished singer/songwriter of his generation". Wow. I think I kind of hate that guy, and I've never heard him sing/songwrite a note. Now, that Rob Thomas is not the same as the Rob Thomas who created the TV show Veronica Mars. Let me say this: if there were ever a televised antidote to hot and humid, it is that cool, dry show. We've been watching the first season on DVD, and if I ever write a TV show (doubtful), I too, will manage to wrangle the phrase "obligatory psychotic jackass" into my first episode.
That Rob Thomas (the talented TV writer, not the arguably most accomplished singer/songwriter of his generation) has also written YA books, among them Rats Saw God, which I keep meaning to read. He's done his time in front of a classroom, which is something I always respect in a YA author. But while I am sure that there's plenty of mocking in Rob Thomas's YA books (see above "obligatory psychotic jackass" line), there is no mocking on the cover.
All I can guess about the proliferation of titular mockingbirds, who, by the way, are the obligatory psychotic jackasses of the bird world, is that a whole bunch of people have been reminded of that original Beacon of Moral Clarity, To Kill a Mockingbird, because of its anniversary this year, and, in addition to naming their books after it, have named characters (and dogs) after that book's strong and righteous and beautifully written protagonists.
However. talk of The Talented Rob Thomas (vs. The Arguably Most Accomplished Rob Thomas, and yes I am not ever going to let that die) leads me to...
TREND #2: What, there isn't enough work to do in TV?
Actually, I'm guessing there isn't. Maybe there's plenty of time sitting by the pool waiting for something to be - what, "greenlighted"? I don't even know what they call it - out in L.A. Anyway, I have been noticing how many TV writers have tried their hand at books for kids and young adults. And I'm not talking 'Oh, look how popular Scooby Doo is, let's make books out of it too,' no, I'm talking interesting and funny children's and YA literature.
It makes sense once you think about it. Naturally Paul Feig, the creator of Freaks and Geeks, is also a person who can write a believable middle grade comedy. Anthony Horowitz is successful in both mediums. By some (disputed) accounts, working on The Daily Show practically is high school, so it's no surprise that one of Stewart's minions, Josh Leib, wrote a book called I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President. Mike Rubens, author of The Sheriff of Yrnameer, presumably knows where to get a drink around Columbus Circle because of his stint writing for Stewart. Larry Doyle, working on The Simpsons, naturally gained insights into humiliation and smartmouthedness that he applied to I Love You, Beth Cooper and his new book, Go, Mutants!.
Hey and animated Sesame Street shorts are practically picture books already. See?
No wonder Mo Willems can put out a book a week, seemingly - he used to have to draw a jillion frames instead of 32 pages! (I kid. I'm sure books are just as labor-intensive as animation.)
TREND #3: Twiney vines
This one was noticed by Zoe the Supertween, who accompanied me to NYPL's Carnival of Teen Authors prior to Book Expo this year. ZtS was rather adorably atwitter at the stack of YA ARCs that I ended up with at the end of that event, eyeing them with a greedy gaze I recall from the days before I realized that every book I take is a book I have to carry. Back at her family's apartment, I recapped the evening's discussions to her parents, flipping pages and reading back cover copy. I mentioned that a number of the books we'd heard about featured good sister/bad sister pairings. Zoe added, "Yeah, and they all have little viney doodads on the page numbers or chapter heads. Her dad and I looked at her, and then bent over the books again. Sure enough:
TREND #4: The Megatrend: KIDNAPPING
Holy hell. Do NOT try to be a young person in a realistic YA novel these days. You are sure to be kidnapped. You may be kidnapped and buried alive, or taken to the Australian desert. Or the California desert. You could be kidnapped for a long long long time. Or you could be a boy and be kidnapped for just a couple days, but be ruined forever because of it.You might be kidnapped by mistake, kidnapped by a possible family member, or by a perfect stranger, or by doctory scientist types who know what's best for you. And it's not just the kids: Babies are kidnapped. Dads are kidnapped. Moms. Both parents.
At ALA last week I started interpreting all titles as having to do with kidnapping. It's rough out there for a character these days.