The mountain range of books on our coffee table is a constantly shifting pile of bait for my boys. I bring books home from the library every day that I work - sometimes they place requests, but more often I just snag books that I think they'll like or that I am interested in looking at for this blog. The "leave it out casually and they will pick it up" strategy has been praised by many parents, and even endorsed by Judy Blume, and I can vouch for it as well.
Not so say there haven't been some hiccups, as when I found ten-year-old Milo reading Railsea by China Miéville, which I had pretty much brought home for myself. He is also a big David Macinnis Gill fan now, thanks to this practice.
Aaaaand... now it looks like I have to pause for a brief rant: There is nothing wrong with kids reading books that are "too old" for them (Daniel Handler's excruciatingly lengthy reading of an incredibly explicit erotic passage from Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love at the Guys Write panel at ALA notwithstanding). We all remember reading books that were vastly beyond our comprehension as children. I read my mom's copy of Fear of Flying when I was about Milo's age. I remember that I found the book boring, and the main character a total whiner.
My point is that kids self-level, by and large. Milo only read about 25 pages of Railsea (which is more than I have, unfortunately: see previous post about other reading obligations) before putting it down because he thought it was boring. I love China Miéville myself, but The New Weird gets a little abstract even for me sometimes.
Let me say something about Milo's assessment that the book is "a bit slow." Except for this one, I have read all of Nate Wilson's books: I read Leepike Ridge to myself, the 100 Cupboards trilogy out loud to the boys, and we listened to The Dragon's Tooth on CD, family-style. I am acutely aware of the pace of these books, and I have thought about it kind of a lot.
Nate Wilson writes exciting action, appealing, realistic characters, and imaginative worlds. But he also writes marvelous prose. The scene in 100 Cupboards during which the two kids lie on their backs in the yard looking at the stars is one of the most beautiful things I have read in children's literature.
So if he occasionally slows down to describe a scene, or a character's feelings... well, I think it's a good thing. It certainly didn't put Milo off the book. Kids like Milo, who like action and adventure, also get a dose of what we think of as "writing," for lack of a better word, in Nate Wilson's books. I think it lays a groundwork for more sophisticated appreciation of prose later on.
NEXT! Ezra reviews Tom Angleberger's Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O'Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind, and he needs no introduction:
Not all of Tom's non-origami books hit with the same kind of splash as The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. Eoin Colfer has the same thing going on, I think: lots of people don't even know he writes non-Artemis Fowl books, but they are some of his best and funniest. Fake Mustache I hope bucks this trend and reaches lots of kids, because it is A-DORABLE.
And let's not forget that when choosing books, some kids very much pay attention to a book's physical characteristics - specifically, its thickness. Ezra is reading The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson, but he almost didn't because it looked too fat:
NB: I used the covers of the first two Familiars books in this video, but he is talking about The Familiars #3: Circle of Heroes. Which explains his observation that there are a lot of characters - he's dipping in midstream.
The Familiars, by the way, seems to have been optioned for the cinema already. There were apparently a fair number of cinema types slinking around the Anaheim Convention Center at the ALA conference, which led to at least one semi-embarrassing situation: during the Abrams Book Buzz panel, Nathan Hale made a joke about the new Abraham Lincoln movie. As a history buff, Nathan was kind of mock-miffed that the only way Hollywood seems to think they can make one of the greatest men in American history interesting or relevant is to have him fight vampires. He certainly has a point. After the panel, though, some of the other participants - Michael Buckley, Dan Santat, Tom Angleberger, and Barry Deutsch - told him that a producer from Paramount (the studio that produced Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) had been in the audience.
When Nate told me this, I pooh-poohed it, knowing that at least a couple of those guys would not be above pulling a teasing prank, and one of them might have to be wearing some kind of ankle monitor in order to not do so (HI, DAN!). However, I heard later that the place was indeed crawling with people looking for the next Wimpy Kid, the next Hunger Games, the next next thing. Why didn't they just ask YA Librarian to the Stars? Hmph. Gonna have to set those people straight.
I am still looking for the time to write a few reviews myself. Meantime, check out the work I'm doing for YALSA: I'm on this year's Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults committee. We're still looking for candidates for the list - go on over and nominate your favorites!