After Harry Potter – The Movies

 

Warner Brothers is going to make the magical Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage into a series of films.  Her books are Magyk, Flyte and Physik.  I read the first and really enjoyed it.  I loved its charm and quirks.

Does anyone know if the second and third were just as good?

Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.

Holling Hoodhood starts 7th grade in 1967 and quickly realizes that his teacher, Mrs. Baker doesn’t like him at all.  Because he is the only Presbyterian in his class, he finds himself alone with her on Wednesday afternoons.  At first, Mrs. Baker has him doing menial classroom tasks, but after a mishap, they move on to Shakespeare.  Breaking thoroughly with the strong tradition of teens disliking the Bard, Holling enjoys the great stories, learns new curses, and becomes a fan.  He even manages to turn his knowledge of Shakespeare into a way to get enough creampuffs for his class.  Though it will mean appearing on stage in tights and feathers. 

This book offers hysterically funny scenes filled with mishaps, embarrassment, great costumes, and lots of wonderful cursing.  But it also offers a look at a young man who discovers that being the odd one out doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with him.  I really enjoyed this smart-mouthed, intelligent teen protagonist and equally loved the character of Mrs. Baker who is anything but cardboard.

There is a depth to this novel, that really takes it a step beyond other teen novels.  It may be the Shakespeare, but I believe it is also the fact that a complicated time and relationship is portrayed in such a vibrant way.  Holling’s reactions to situations ring completely true as do those of other characters.  There is no need to suspend belief here, just enjoy the romp.

Right now this is my vote for the Newbery or Printz Awards.  I think that Gary D. Schmidt has created a real winner of a novel that will be welcomed by not only teens but also by middle school English teachers.  Recommend this one to any smart-mouthed, intelligent teens or tweens you know.  They will relate immediately.

Mock Newbery

Get in on the first discussion at Sharon’s Mock Newbery blog.  Post your thoughts on what the best books to consider for the Mock Newbery would be.  Wednesday Wars is one of my favorites of the year, but Richie already suggested that.  Which makes a certain amount of sense, because I read it thanks to his recommendation.  Anyone else happily making a list of the nominated titles?

Harry Potter and the Bitter Pill

Sigh.  The Washington Post has quite a bitter article about Harry Potter and adults reading children’s fiction.  Here are some of the worst of Ron Charles’ piece:

Speaking of adults reading Harry Potter, he says, “I’d like to think that this is a romantic return to youth, but it looks like a bad case of cultural infantilism.” 

He does go on to talk about the fact that over half of the adults in the US don’t read any books at all, but why the venom about reading children’s books?  It seems to me, as an adult who enjoyed children’s literature, that it offers not a simplified and infantile look at the world, but a purity of language, clarity of voice and a vision that relies on good storytelling rather than violence and sexuality to sell itself to readers.

He goes on to write about the fact that Harry Potter has not created more young readers after all:  “Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t encourage much optimism. Data from
the NEA point to a dramatic and accelerating decline in the number of
young people reading fiction. Despite their enthusiasm for books in
grade school, by high school, most kids are not reading for pleasure at
all.”

But isn’t the question WHY?!  Why aren’t adults reading?  Why aren’t teens reading?  I think it is simplistic to place all of the blame on the Internet, where frankly there is a lot of reading happening.  Could it be that they can’t find books that they enjoy?  Isn’t that where librarians should step in and recommend great reads that suit that particular reader?  One of my favorite things to do is to connect the right person with the right book and watch the magic happen.  I love people who are able to voice their likes, and especially their dislikes.  So many people though see not only reading but intellectualism as something foreign and offputting.  Where do we go from here?  How do we inspire reading?  How do we make it hip? 

These are questions that keep librarians like me up at night.  How do I encourage people to take a risk on a new author?  To invest the time and energy even with it being free of actual cost?  How do we offer access to that Long Tail of libraries where the Harry Potter books bring them in the door but we are ready and waiting with other books they will enjoy?

Let us not despair yet!  We still do have readers in this country.  We will inspire more.  And we can do it with great books, whether classics or new releases, for children or adults.