M.T. Anderson Defends Teen Intelligence

Today’s Washington Post has a wonderful profile of YA author M.T. Anderson.  As I was reading the article I found myself (mentally) cheering, “Hoo-rah!”.  

“It’s insulting to believe that teens should have a different kind of book than an adult should,” says the author of “Feed” and, most recently, “The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation.” Teens like challenges, he says. They know the world is complicated, and “they can tell when a book is simplifying life.”

Thank you, M.T. Anderson!  While he is specifically speaking about teens, in my experience this quote applies to all young readers, tween and teen alike.  Kids hate to be talked down to, preached at, and treated like babies.  All too often, publishers choose to market books that do all of these things.  My 6th graders want to think, they want to argue, and they want to learn.  They just don’t want to feel like they are being explicitly taught in a fiction book.  And to be honest, the same goes for me.  And I would assume most adults feel the same way.  We want a great story, awesome characters, and ideas we would not have thought of on our own.  Why do so many publishers and authors think that kids should  be treated any differently?  

So Mr. Anderson?  Please keep writing.  And keep treating kids like the intelligent beings that they are!  My 6th graders will someday graduate to your books, and I can’t wait until they do.  

 

Oh, and the best part of this article?  It finally pushed me to order The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves .

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

I have been a huge fan of Wendy Mass since I first read A Mango-Shaped Space a few years ago.  When I saw that Mass’ newest middle grade novel was nominated for a Cybil, I was looking forward to reading it.  While November is always a hectic month as a teacher (convention, report cards, Thanksgiving, conferences, Election Day, and too many days off), I made sure that Cybil reading didn’t fall by the wayside.  Boy am I glad I picked this one up!

Every Soul A Star is about three very different tweens.  Ally, Bree, and Jack are brought together by one of nature’s most phenomenal acts- a total solar eclipse.  RIght off the bat, I love that Mass has written this story from three different points of view in first person.  More importantly, she succeeded in making each kid’s voice distinct and realistic – a tall order for any author!

The three main characters are very different but realistic.  I felt like I knew all three, like that could be in my class.  Ally has lived at the Moon Shadow campground for almost her whole life and is a science geek (and proud of it!).  She is passionate about nature and space, but her life at Moon Shadow is sheltered and she is naive in the ways of the tween world. Bree is beautiful, popular,  and wants to be a model when she grows up. She reminded me a bit of the main characters in the oh-so-popular The Clique novels.   Jack is a bit overweight, a loner, and loves drawing and reading science fiction, when he isn’t practicing lucid dreaming as an escape from his life. The book alternates between these three points-of-view.  I loved having the chance to view a gorgeous location like the Moon Shadow through three completely different sets of eyes, each with their own bias and perspective.  And Mass’ descriptions of the campground and the eclipse are stunning and breathtaking.

This is a book that will make kids think, but without being preachy or heavy-handed.  I think every kid will identify in some way with one of the three main characters and will enjoy the transformation each one goes through.  And if anyone can read this book without becoming fascinated by solar eclipses, I would love to meet them!  What a fascinating topic that very few tweens ever have a chance to think about and even fewer get to experience!  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Mass has turned more than a few reluctant citizen scientists into amateur astronomers!

Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite books of the year.  I can’t wait to booktalk this and see how my kids react. Mass has crafted a fascinating story that will resonate with tweens.  

 

*This review reflects my opinion and not those of the Cybils Middle Grade panel as a whole.

Poetry Friday

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I am still recovering from a wonderful meal with family and plenty of shopping today.  A quick poem for Poetry Friday is definitely in order, especially one for the season.

 

The Harvest Moon  
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It is the Harvest Moon!  On gilded vanes
  And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
  And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
  Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
  And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
  Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
  With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!
All things are symbols: the external shows
  Of Nature have their image in the mind,
  As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;
The song-birds leave us at the summer's close,
  Only the empty nests are left behind,
  And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.
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