Cape Cod Weather Today: Overcast, with ominous dark clouds rolling in from the west... the weather channel is calling for rain today, even though yesterday they swore it would hold off until Monday...
I went shopping yesterday, with my arms firmly crossed against my stomach, determined just to window shop and not spend any money. I held out for the first two hours... and then ended up in the Barnes and Noble... and cha-ching! Of course I had to spend money.
To be fair, one of my missions was to buy the next boxed set of Junie B. Jones books, by Barbara Park, for my 8 year old. Always a reluctant reader, I finally hooked her this summer with Junie B.'s over the top antics and trouble-maker ways... and a Littlest Pet Shop figurine for each chapter book she finishes. I'm not above bribery when it comes to changing a habit or forming a new one.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of drivel being printed, even in hard cover. Tons of witches, wizards and dragons still trying to capitalize on the Harry Potter phenomenon, but books where the writing seems to be rushed and not as carefully crafted as it could have been... just because these are books aimed at kids doesn't mean you can skimp on the writing.
I consider myself an educated reader of middle grade/young adult fiction, and while I enjoy Carl Hiasson, Judy Blume, Louis Sachar, and Lois Lowrey, I really enjoy books with an element of fantasy mixed in. I love J.K. Rowling's style, and all of her books. I've really enjoyed Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series - and actually was sucked in by a huge display for his latest Artemis book in the series, just out in hard cover. I enjoyed Christopher Paolino's first book, Eragon, and dutifully read through the second book Eldest, although I didn't enjoy the second as much as my nine year old did. I was able to resist the huge display for Brisingr... we can wait until it comes out in soft cover, or until the spring book fair at school, where I'm sure it will be featured heavily.
I enjoyed the Magic Treehouse books with my first son when he was a reluctant reader in second grade - those and the Time Warp Trio series, by Jon Szeska, are the books that turned him around and made him into the fantastic reader he is today. The switch from able reader to eager reader comes with discovering the other worlds that books can offer.
I also bought a copy of the Dragon Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima, third in a series that began with the Wizard Heir, and continued with the Warrior Heir. My twelve year old devoured the first two, and made his younger brother read them. I read the first two when I had the flu last winter - engaging writing that makes you need to keep going.
And I shouldn't even have to mention how much I loved reading Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, although they are more YA or teen fiction than middle grade reading. I'm enjoying it for the third time since discovering the series over the summer. The first book was my favorite in terms of writing, even though I've read them all and enjoyed the storyline and plot twists. I didn't like much of the last book, and found myself grimacing my way through it, hoping for redemption or resolution. I also enjoyed The Host, Meyer's adult fiction, although my twelve year old couldn't get past the first "boring" chapter. He also devoured the Twilight series and has passed them along to the neighbor's reluctant reader boys, 13 and 16, who are now happily engaged with Meyer's world.
The book I am currently working on is middle grade fiction, set on Cape Cod. I like the ones with some basis in this world, something to grab onto and relate to, with the fantasy tightly woven into the reality. A book which makes the younger reader wonder if magic really does exist right alongside backpacks, homework, and soccer practice.
Because we could all use a little more magic in our lives.
My goal is to finish it in the next six weeks (in between editing my upcoming suspense novel) and start looking for an agent who specializes in middle grade fiction. Wish me luck... and a little magic!