Friday, May 14, 2010

Repost: The "Good Guys" of YA Literature

This is a "repost", similar to a "retweet" on Twitter (follow me @rebf). Emily's Reading Room had an inspiring post recognizing the "good guys" of young adult fiction, as opposed to those moody, smoldering, dangerous "bad boys" everyone seems to fall for.

Some of Emily's top favorites included Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Laurie from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and Peeta from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games.

Obviously this made me question who my own top "good guys" of YA lit are, and these are a few names I came up with:

1. Philip Ammon from Gene Stratton-Porter's A Girl of the Limberlost, one of my top 5, all-time, desert island, favorite books. He's engaged to Edith, but he tries so hard to be a good guy and do the right thing to be worthy of loving Elnora. And of course, if I'm thinking of Philip, I have to put in Freckles, the title character from GSP's Freckles, and the Harvester, the title character from GSP's The Harvester. Really, all of her men are worthy "good guys".

2. Bookish Mac over fast and lose Charlie in Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom finally wins Rose's much-deserved love. And yes, I have a soft spot, in part, due to his bookish nature.

3. T. C. Keller from My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kruger. He loves baseball, has a great relationship with his dad, recites a standing address at the high school talent show to impress the girl, and he's cute to boot.

4. Poor Arthur Dent in A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He didn't know what hit him when his planet was blown up, and he's dragged back and forth between one end of the universe to the other. What a relief when he finds a love interest. He deserves it after being such a good sport.

Who are your favorite good guys?


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Thursday, May 13, 2010

"The Old Country" by Mordicai Gerstein

Book JacketI just finished this fable, fairy tale, 20th c history, and loved the language, and Gerstein's ability to weave so many worlds. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Middle grade, but adults would love it too. I think the picture book, called A BOOK that he created in 2009, has a bit of this flavor too.....

The Old Country
Mordicai Gerstein
Roaring Brook Press
Grades 4 - 12
Starred review in April 18, 2005 issue of Publishers Weekly
*Gerstein (The Man Who Walked Between the Towers) skillfully shapes a story by turns disturbing and comforting. His hybrid of fantasy and fable explores such themes as human nature, war, magic and music.

The tale within a tale opens as Gisella visits her great granddaughter, gives her a present and shares a story of her childhood in The Old Country, where, she says, "I was a little girl and where I was a fox." Gisella builds on this note of intrigue , as she describes her wise great-aunt warning her that in the woods "things may not be what they seem.

Things change; now it's this, then it's that. Look closely, be careful, and never look too long into the eyes of a fox." Indeed, danger befalls the young Gisella when her brother is drafted into the army, and it's up to her to kill the fox who's been stealing the family chickens. Deep in the woods, strange things occur--talking animals and "small people."

The girl finds herself gazing intently into the fox's eyes, and the two mysteriously exchange bodies. Meanwhile, war breaks out ("Air that had been full of springtime now had a new odor, bitter and jagged. It was the smell of pain, and it was everywhere"), sending Gisella on a labyrinthine journey with a forest sprite as her guide.

Gerstein brilliantly ties the war's escalations with the dwindling of magic, and caps off this vividly descriptive narrative with an unexpected ending.
Ages 11-14. (May)