Tag Archives: A Wrinkle in Time

Fanmail Q&A: YA Recomendations

Hello, Pat!

Today, my 10-year-old daughter, Becca, came home from school with a book pressed to her nose. This is nothing unexpected; she’s been addicted to books for nearly as long as she’s been able to speak!

But today, I had a little smile when I noted the title that she’d selected from her school’s library: “A Wrinkle In Time.”

I recently read your blog post about your early experience with the book, and it gave me pause to think. I had one of those thoroughly “mom” moments, suddenly picturing my redheaded, freckle-faced, bespectacled, skinny 10 year old as a grown-up with a career!

I hope I don’t sound dreadfully stage-momish when I say that I’ve long guessed she would end up being a writer. She thinks differently from other kids. She’s never been afraid of spiders or robbers, instead, her real-life fears include the concept of infinity and people one day traveling at the speed of light. Many nightmares over the size of the universe. She’s bizarre, but pretty darned cute, so it balances. ;)

(Editor’s note: She is pretty cute.)

Writing all that down probably seals her fate as a future tax accountant!

So, here begins my question to you… She’s read all of the usual suspects for children at her age, including Harry Potter and the Narnia series. She also spent a whole month reading every BabySitter’s Club book she could scrounge up! (She is a little girl, after all!!)

But finding books that really challenge and appeal to her as a voracious reader has been a years-long sprint to stay ahead of her curiosity! She adores fantasy, but a LOT of fantasy novels are just too sexual, or too violent for her, at this age.

I’ve loved your recommendations of books over the years, and I wonder if you could think of a list of books that little budding geeks would adore? …a geekery primer, as it were.

Thank you so much for sharing your time and talent with the world.

-Carrie

Well Carrie, I won’t lie to you. You do sound slightly stage-mom. But at least you’re aware of it. Knowing is half the battle, after all.

I have a lot of control-freak tendencies myself. (I think some of it comes from being an author.) But so far I’ve managed to reign in those elements of my personality when it comes to planning Oot’s future.

Sarah constantly wants to speculate about what he’ll be like when he grows up. What job will he have? Will he be right handed? Will his hair be curly or wavy? Will he be gay or straight? What will his secondary mutation be?

I decided early on that I don’t care about any of that stuff. I only want two things from him when he grows up.

He must:

1. Make the world a better place.

2. Be happy.

That’s all I require of him. He can even do them in whatever order he likes. Concurrently or consecutively. Everything else is meaningless detail as far as I’m concerned. (Though it would be nice if he was a bit of a reader, too.)

But yeah, back to the point of your letter. Let me see if I can think of some good YA reads for you….

The first thing that leaps to mind is:

  • Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books.

I don’t really feel the need to sell these books to you. If you know anything about fantasy, you know who Terry Pratchett is. You know he’s great.

On the off chance that you don’t, I’ll simply say what I’ve said before: There may be authors as good as Terry Pratchett, but there are no authors better. And the Tiffany Aching books are as good as anything he’s ever written. I just pulled one down off the shelf and right now I’m having to actively fight my desire start reading it again.

In order, they are: Wee Free Men, Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith.

The fourth book in the series, I Shall Wear Midnight, is coming out in less than a month. I plan on reading it the day it’s released.

Side note: I’d probably recommend *any* of Pratchett’s books as a safe YA read. They’re all really good, and by opening that single door, you instantly add more than thirty exceptionally high-quality books to your reading list.

  • Neil Gaiman’s Coraline

Again, I don’t feel like I need to push you very hard about this book. It’s Neil Gaiman. You know how good he is.

Side note: The audiobook version of this is really excellent. I just listened to it for the third time about two weeks ago. Gaiman reads it himself, and does an absolutely brilliant job.

  • Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn.

Again. I rave about this book all the time, so I won’t go on and on. I didn’t read it when I was a kid, but I can’t help but feel that it would be a great YA read.

Secondary Recommendation: There’s a movie too.

  • The BFG by Roald Dahl.

I remember reading this one as a kid and loving it. Dahl has the rare gift that I’ve come to think of as The Divine Ridiculous.

You see, anybody can be goofy. Anybody can just make up some silly bullshit. But true inspired ridiculousness can’t be forced. You cannot strive for it, for in striving you fail. It’s like Nirvana. It’s like the eternal Tao.

Some authors manage to touch this odd piece of our Jungian collective consciousness, and when they do, they write things that are genuinely delightful and bizarre. Douglass Adams brushed up against it occasionally, as do the guys over at Penny Arcade.  Dahl kinda lived there. I remember reading his books as a kid and thinking the kid version of, “WTF?”

That’s a good thing for a kid to think, in my opinion.

Secondary recommendation: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is pretty good, too.

  • The Fledgling by Jane Langton.

Honestly. I can’t remember much about this book except that I read it when I was a kid and I loved it. When you asked this question it was one of the first books that sprung to mind, that says a lot, considering it’s probably been 25 years since I’ve read it, and usually I can barely remember to put on pants before I leave the house every day.

  • Zarah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor.

I’ve interviewed Nnedi Okorafor on the website before, and talked about some of her newer books. But this was her first book, which I read years and years ago. I really enjoyed it, and have given away many copies as gifts. Not only does it have some cool non-western worldbuiding in it, but the protagonist is a clever, capable young girl.

I could go on and on. (The Hobbit, The Princess Bride, Podkayne of Mars or other Heinlein juveniles, Peter Pan, The Little Prince…) but I think I’ll stop there.

Feel free to post some of your childhood favorites in the comments below. Discuss and disagree. That’s one of the joys of threaded comments.

However, I do expect things to remain civilized. If you you don’t think a book is appropriate for kids, feel free to say so. Feel free to explain why. But don’t be a dick about it. Typical internet asshattery will result in suspension of posting privileges, the scorn of your peers, and my terrible, terrible wrath.

pat

Posted in Neil Gaiman, Oot, recommendations, Sarah, Young Adult | By Pat486 Responses

The end of an era….

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But I just found out that Madeleine L’Engle died.

When I was a kid, I read A Wrinkle in Time and all the later books in the series. They were my favorites. I wanted to *be* Charles Wallace when I grew up.

(The newer versions have a different cover.
But this is the one I read as a kid.)

I even wrote her a letter. She was the first and only author I ever wrote to. I think I was in the fourth grade.

And she wrote back to me. Madeleine L’Engle hand wrote me a letter thanking me and telling me she was glad I liked her books. She also told me that she thought it was great that I wanted to be a writer, and that I should do it.

I always hoped that I’d get a chance to meet her, now that I was finally published. I wanted to give her a copy of my book and say, “Thanks for being nice to me when I was a kid. I really needed it back then. And by the way, I really did do it. See?”

Oh Madeleine. I’m sorry I never got the chance to meet you. Thank you for everything.

We’ll miss you.

pat

Posted in recommendations | By Pat2 Responses
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