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Saturday, February 27, 2010

There are many different ways to present a story to children. I sometimes take the first person approach where the protagonist tells her own story to the reader. That works well sometimes. But many times I like the onmiscient narrator who tells the story to the reader. One style of writing is the diary. It's risky to me to try and write as a child think as a child react the way a child would realistically react. So I leave that style to others, such as Candie Moonshower in her award-winning story, "The Legent of Zoey". Besides being a diary of two different girls, they live in two different times! That's a monumental undertaking. But Candie did a fantastic job. I tried it once...that's all I have to say. It just didn't work for me. But, when you think of it, if a writer can realistically write and think the way the reader does, the story becomes more compelling, more real. Great work, Candie.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I often hear people say that sometimes there is a great difference between a book for children they've read and the subsequent movie. In some cases the reason for this is that the books are just too long; and including everything from the book in a movie would make it hours too long. Also, movies are a different medium. They're visual. Anything created in a movie has to be based around that fact. They must be visually stimulating, or they won't be successful. So, many times, things just get lost in the translation between the print version and the movie.

One such book that became a bit more fantastic on screen was Katherine Patterson's "Bridge to Terabithia". The movie's scenes of imaginary creatures in Jess and Leslie's magical woods were, I think, not expected. But the movie creators took what they thought was inside the heads of Jess and Leslie and made them larger - brought them out of the print medium of books into the visual medium of movieland.

Another book, Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are", was a vast departure from the book. The reason is simple. The book can be read in under five minutes (depending on how long one wants to sit and imagine what's going on). No one would pay $8.00 or more to see a five minute movie. But Sendak knew that and agreed to have his story-line expanded for the film.

The purists will scoff when books are changed when made into movies. I just look at it as a different medium and enjoy the show.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Speaking of humor, Gary Paulsen's "Harris and Me" is full of it, from beginning to end. Even though the reason the main character comes to be with his cousin Harris is because of his parents' alcoholism (who have gone into rehab), Paulsen has the reader feeling sorry in the end that his main character has to leave and go back to his parents.

At one point in the book the two boys are left alone at the farm. "Sometimes even the grown-ups could make mistakes. ...on several occasions...they took leave of their senses and left us completely alone."

Harris gets it into his head that he wants to be like the cowboys in the movies and jump out of the second floor of the barn onto the back of their horse Bill. So he jumped. But..."He missed Bill's front end and came down squarely on the horse's enormous rump, which was, unfortunately, actually as wide as a kitchen table. Harris's legs shot out sideways and his groin crunched with a sound I could hear from where I hung."

"Harris and Me" is a book I enjoyed greatly as an adult. It's that way with some children's books. If well written, they transcend age.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Humor is important in kids' books...very important. I've read some books that dealt with very serious subject matter (brain injury), yet, somewhere among all the seriousness there was some humor. Why? Humor is a very human reaction when dealing with difficult situations. And, kids love to laugh. It breaks up the tension.

One writer who writes one joke after another in his books, and quite successfully, is Bruce Hale in his Chet Gecko Mystery series. Here's an example from his book "From Russia With Lunch": "I never could resist a mystery. Any mystery. Like, if Number 2 pencils are the most popular, why are they still Number 2? If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled? And if bedbugs live in beds and tree frogs live in trees, shouldn't box turtles come in boxes?"

I'm still trying to add a little humor to my stories. And maybe my writing is too serious, but I do keep in mind that kids need a bit of humor in everything they read. So don't we all.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

There are some writers who just blow me away with their ability to put ideas and emotions on paper. One writer who does this better than most in his books for children is Gary Paulsen. I love most of the books he's written, e.g. "Harris and Me", "Hatchet"; but one book that I keep going back to time after time is "Dogsong". This is the story of a young Eskimo boy who probes the memory of an elder of his village to find out what it was like in the past. The boy, Russell, has a deep-rooted curiosity about and love for the old ways. He takes the dogs and dogsled of the village elder and makes his way across the frozen wasteland to find himself, his past, and his song. Paulsen's language is remarkable, and would be in any genre, not just children's literature.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 11, "The Dream": "The man was no longer in the settlement on the edge of the sea, fat with walrus and seal oil, among fat puppies and round dogs and found faces. Now there was not a fog, but a slashing gray storm that took everything."

There are many more wonderful, verse-like chapters that are truly inspiring for any writer.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I've said previously that poetry has helped me be a better writer. One of the poets I've tried to emulate is Mary Oliver. She has the ability to say in a few well-chosen words what most of us cannot in twice as many.

Here's an excerpt from her book "Dream Work" and her poem "The Journey".

"But little by little,/as you left their voices behind,/the stars began to burn/through the sheets of clouds,/and there was a new voice,/which you slowly/recognized as your own,/that kept you company/as you strode deeper and deeper/into the world,/determined to do/the only thing you could do -/determined to save/the only life you could save."

I recommend "Dream Work" highly, for inspiration and hope.