Defined by Books

I’ve been spending a lot of time on character development for one of my current projects. Mix that with an interview and a discussion of books and reading I’ve got going this week, and I started to wonder . . .

Which books would my characters enjoy?

It’s something that I inadvertently touched on in various drafts of Demon’s Heart, though only a tiny bit of it made it in the end. Rustav is into the histories and wars. Dantzel is more of the mythology and folklore type. Cabel would be all over the great epics.

But with my other project being set in the real world, I started thinking about specific titles that my two protagonists would read. I suppose it’s somewhat limited, as I can only come up with the books that I’ve actually read and I don’t think either of these two would share all my literary tastes, but you make do with what you have.

Enoch’s the easier one. At twelve, I’m sure he’s already read the entire Harry Potter series. Chronicles of Narnia, of course. Percy Jackson. Joshua Dread. Lots of series. Oh, but he would love Wonder. And Al Capone Does My Shirts.

Tom’s a little harder. He’s not much of a reader, but he’d love Michael Crichton. He might enjoy The Hunger Games, but I’ve never read them, so I’m not sure. The Giver would resonate with him. Possibly Holes. He also likes some of the Shakespeare movies his mom watches, though he’d never admit it to anyone.

So this week’s writing challenge is less writing and more challenge. Tell me—what books would your characters read? Or what books would some of your favorite literary characters read?

The Children’s Door

“One may enter the literary parlor via just about any door, be it the prison door, the madhouse door, or the brothel door. There is but one door one may not enter it through, which is the nursery door. The critics will never forgive you such. The great Rudyard Kipling is one to have suffered this. I keep wondering to myself what this peculiar contempt towards anything related to childhood is all about.” Michael Ende

Have you ever gotten that look while you’re reading a children’s book? That slight smirk, almost a sneer, that says, “Haven’t you graduated to grown-up books yet?” I’ve gotten it enough that it’s become more entertaining than annoying, but there are still days that I have to roll my eyes.

To me, “children’s” books—and I’m including here YA, MG, and early chapter books—are where the magic happens. Those are the books that showed me that words are more than just letters. They’re ideas, adventures, history, feelings, anything a person wants them to be. I remember solving mysteries with the Boxcar Children, understanding and appreciating different cultures in Redwall Abbey and Mossflower Woods, and pondering whether the Giver should be the only one to bear the weight of history. I remember reading “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry and starting for the first time to grasp the horrors of the Holocaust.

Those are the books that shaped me and continue to shape me. Those books represent hope, the power to become whomever you want to be, to overcome whatever weights the world may place on your shoulders.

And that is why I write for younger readers—in the hopes that I can help them believe that they can be something great, something beyond the ordinary, as so many authors have done for me.

Have you ever gotten that “Look” when telling people what books you enjoy or what genre you write? Why do you write what you do?

An Entertaining Librito

Up until recently, Disney had me pretty well trained to believe that all Siamese cats were baby killers. But when I went to the library today in search of new bedtime stories, I remembered my sister reading her kids a book about a little Siamese kitten who thought he was a chihuahua. So I checked out Skippyjon Jones: Class Action, and I wish I’d checked out all the rest, too! It’s got a great rhythm, a delightfully goofy storyline, and an adorable little Skippito chi-wa-la. It’s also a treasure trove of Spanish vocabulary without ramming it down little throats Dora-style.

So if you’re looking for a good librito for your little Skippito, give Skippyjon a try!