Summer Reading: The Definitive YA List

Summer is a time for reading—not to mention rereading. I’ve met readers who don’t reread books—they are of a different species than me. I love rereading my favourites.
In July I revisited the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud. These books—five in total—feature Lucy Carlyle, an agent with Lockwood and Co, who narrates her adventures in an alternative London, where the nightly appearance of ghosts and dangerous visitors has become the “Problem.” Only children and teens can see ghosts, so they are the ones to battle the Problem.
Jonathan Stroud has more skill as a writer than many current young adult writers, including such big names as J. K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, and Sarah J. Maas. His prose is careful, Well-paced, and lively. The Lockwood books also scared the daylights out of me the first time I read them—and I don’t like reading scary books. I’ve read the series now four times.
If you are looking for a young adult read this summer, Book Riot has what seems the definitive list for summer, 2019. Check it out; you are bound to find something you will fall in love with. And if you are one of those who loves to revisit old friends, then enjoy your favourites, but check out the list, anyway. Happy reading!

Anne, Continued

When I posted the link to Eastern Iowa Review’s call for Anne submissions last week, I thought that would be it. Apparently not. August is going to contain more Anne than I expected.
Eastern Iowa Review is already publishing pieces on Anne. Here are two samples:
Lily MacKenzie’s short story, “The Dollhouse,”
And
Marilyn Kriete’s essay, “Anne Shirley Revisited.”
These are two examples of ways to write about Anne. However, and as always, I would encourage #AnneFans to explore their love for this character in as many ways as possible: how you met her, why you love her. I’m one of those people who discovered Anne as an adult, which you can read more about here.
As a reader and a teacher, I never grow tired of hearing stories from students who encounter particular books or characters for the first time. Especially as a young reader, such encounters can be overwhelming. It’s like discovering a whole world just outside your window you didn’t know was there. C. S. Lewis understood this experience more than most:
“This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. “I wonder is that more moth-balls?” she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hands. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold, “This is very queer,” she said, and went on a step or two further.
Next moment she found that what was rubbing against her face and hands was no longer soft fur but something hard and rough and even prickly. “Why, it is just like branches of trees!” exclaimed Lucy. And then she saw that there was a light ahead of her; not a few inches away where the back of the wardrobe ought to have been, but a long way off. Something cold and soft was falling on her. A moment later she found that she was standing in the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snowflakes falling through the air.
(Lewis, C. S. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. “Lucy Looks into a Wardrobe.”)
Lucy’s first encounter with Narnia captures for me the experience of discovering a new character or book for the first time. And there have been many over the years: Anne, Bilbo, Ged, Meg Murray, Will Stanton, Marlo, Ishmael, Emma Woodhouse, Pip, and the Wart, all characters who have enriched my life more than I can measure.

A Call for Anne Submissions

Gilbert reached across the aisle, picked up the end of Anne’s long red braid, held it out at arm’s length and said in a piercing whisper:
“Carrots! Carrots!”
Then Anne looked at him with a vengeance! She did more than look. She sprang to her feet, her bright fancies fallen into cureless ruin. She flashed one indignant glance at Gilbert from eyes whose angry sparkle was swiftly quenched in equally angry tears.
“You mean, hateful boy!” she exclaimed passionately. “How dare you!”
And then thwack! Anne had brought her slate down on Gilbert’s head and cracked it slate not head clear across.
Avonlea school always enjoyed a scene. This was an especially enjoyable one. Everybody said “Oh” in horrified delight. Diana gasped. Ruby Gillis, who was inclined to be hysterical, began to Cry.
(Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables. Chapter XV, “A Tempest in the School Teapot.”)

This iconic scene in which Anne Shirley smashes her slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head is burned into the minds of Anne fans everywhere. I love Anne, and I’m attached to the books—just not in quite the same way as I’m attached to other books or other authors.
However, I was interested and delighted to see a call for submissions to the summer edition of Eastern Iowa Review: All Things Anne.
For Anne fans everywhere, this is your chance to indulge in fan fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or anything else related to Anne. You will have to visit the site for more details, but you have until September 30 to submit.
I’ve never written fan fiction, but I’ve thought about it. If I were to write about Anne, I might do something like Anne and robots, or Anne of Green Gables on Mars. But I probably won’t—maybe—I don’t know.
I’ve visited Prince Edward Island many times—it’s a lovely, picturesque place, full of friendly, interesting people. And I can’t overstate the friendliness of PEI. People there go far out of their way to help me when I visit. I once had a guy abandon his lunch and car—keys in the ignition and music playing—to walk me more than a block to the bank. He even came inside to make sure I found the ATM.
Last time I visited, one of the hotel staff walked me several blocks to the place where I caught the Hippo, an amphibious vehicle that tours downtown Charlottetown and the Charlottetown harbour. The only other time I encountered someone from a hotel who was that helpful was in Portland, Oregon, another fabulous place to visit.
So if I were to write about Anne, I might write about how the island itself has become a place of pilgrimage for Anne fans, of how you can visit those places Lucy Maud lived as a child and woman before her marriage that took her away to Ontario; or of how the people of the island have something of a love/hate relationship with Anne Shirley, as she has become inextricably part of the island economy. Regardless of what I do or don’t do, such a call is an excuse to revisit the books once again and think about Anne Shirley and the island with the generous heart.

Challenged Books of the 1990s

Recently, I came across the American Library Association’s (ALA) list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of the 1990s. The list is worth perusing, even if you’re only scanning for the kids’ books.
Here’s a few challenged books I find noteworthy, all of which I’ve read and many of which I’ve taught:
• Katherine Paterson—one of my favourite young adult authors—has two spots: Bridge to Terabithia at #8, and The Great Gilly Hopkins at #20.
• Lois Lowry’s the Giver—not a great surprise—sits at #11.
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George appears at #32—this one I find particularly mystifying.
Harry Potter—no real surprise—sits at #48.
Judy Blume has four spots on the list and Mark Twain has two, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
And in case you don’t look through the entire list, these children’s and young adult books share a spot on the same list with books such as Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies, by Nancy Friday, and The Dead Zone, by Stephen King. This isn’t a comment on either Friday or King—just some additional perspective.
The point, people challenge books for many reasons, many of which are petty, unthinking, homophobic, or racist. If anything, a list of challenge books will provide you with some interesting summer reading.

Halloween, Scarey Books, and Something from the Blog Archive

It’s Halloween. No snow is in the forecast, and that’s a win for where I live.
Here’s something from the blog archive to get you in the mood for the day. And here are three young adult series with enough ghosts and monsters to satisfy any pallet. Enjoy! By the way, my favourite would have to be Jonathan Stroud.

1. Lockwood and Co., by Jonathan Stroud
2. Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull
And
3. The Last Apprentice, by Joseph Delaney.

A New Beginning, The Perilous Realm Online

In 2013, Thomas Wharton published The Tree of Story, the third book in his Perilous Realm series. This book brought the adventures of Will and Rowen to a close—or just about. In an interesting return to his series, Tom has decided to republish a new version of the trilogy on his website, ThomasWharton.ca.
The Perilous Realm Online begins with the retitled first book, The Endless Road, and Will, still the main character, finding himself alone in a mysterious wood.
Tom has dispensed with the prologue, which I always loved, and some of the back story of Will’s family. The book now launches right into a motorcycle crash and a boy fleeing into a forest. The tone is darker and the pace faster.
Tom will be publishing the series a chapter at a time, so be sure to follow along. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with this new Perilous Realm.