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Falling in love (again) with anthropomorphism

One of the things I like best about the One and Only Ivan  was the animal perspective, as I’ve expressed in a previous blog. Each and every one of us grew up with children’s books that connected us to animals, either through anthropomorphism (quick vocab lesson: animals with human feelings) or through a child’s relationship with a pet or farm animal. Having worked with veterinarians and vet techs over the last couple years in the publishing biz, I realize that this connection never changes for them, and that for some of us, our humanity is connected and clarified through our relationships with animals and our conception of their feelings. Disney is one of the best purveyors of anthropomorphism. Movies like Bambi made certain I’ll never go hunting. Dumbo made me suspicious of circus animal treatment. Dozens of Disney sidekicks (Flounder, Abu, Pascal, Mushu, etc.) have me pondering what talking-animal sidekick might work best for my life. But of course, children’s literature is where it all started. Three favorite classics utilizing anthropomorphism include The Jungle Book, Charlotte’s Web, and Stuart Little. You’ve probably heard of them all (or at least watched the movies), but when you really start digging, anthropomorphism in kid lit isn’t quite...
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The Newbery Medal

  In the same month I read the 2017 Newbery Medal recipient: The Girl Who Drank the Moon along with the 2013 Newbery Medal winner: The One and Only Ivan. And I couldn’t wait to share these great books.   Newbery Medal winners are considered the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. That means that kids have to actually enjoy these books and they do. I was a fourth grader who fell in love with Katherine Patterson’s The Bridge to Terabithia.  I believe young readers enjoy them because the powerful messages these books have are not preached. The authors tend to present difficult issues, but never talk down (The Bridge to Terabithia deals with death). Readers are allowed to think their own big questions as they escape into the words of the pages. Katherine Applegate captures her readers’ imaginations with Ivan’s unique gorilla voice.  She shows differences in the way he thinks and how humans think. His thoughts come at their own pace. She uses appropriate descriptions and verse to allow the reader to imagine a gorilla’s world view. This allows kids a chance to think about the way they look at animals and reflect inward. It gives them experience in a world...
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What Hooked Me? —The One And Only Ivan (Author Katherine Applegate)

  This month WWAT looks at Katherin Applegate’s wonderful The One and Only Ivan. Jess: I was hooked by the John Newbery Medal on the front cover. My childhood favorite, The Bridge to Terabithia was awarded The Newbery Medal in 1978. Because of my favorite book and many others, it is hard for me to walk past a Newbery Medal or Newbery Honor without flipping through. Some of my recent favorite Newbery Award winners are Wolf Hollow, Roller Girl, Echo, Doll Bones, Three Times Lucky, The Wednesday Wars, The Graveyard Book, and this year’s winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon.   The Newbery is given by the Association For Library Service to Children (ALSC). The recipient is considered the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children from the previous year.  In 2013, when The One and Only Ivan won, the committee chair, Steven Engelfried said, “Katherine Applegate gives readers a unique and unforgettable gorilla’s-eye-view of the world that challenges the way we look at animals and at ourselves.” John: What hooked me was the poetry of language. Now, of course, The One and Only Ivan is not a novel in verse. But the beauty in the prose truly does border on poetry....
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The Benefit of Judging a Book by its Cover

Wrapping up our reading of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I wanted to expound on the point I made in the group post earlier in the month. That cover! As mentioned in that post, Miss Peregrine’s was first pitched as a picture book to be filled with the wonderful photos found throughout the narrative. Also mentioned in that post was how so many readers commented on how drawn in they were by the photos. I have to admit, they got me too. This is one of those books that does a remarkable job of combining an image with a title in a way that absolutely reaches out and grabs the reader by the collar. It is that cover and the title that attracted many to the book. I will admit, I thought the book started a little slow, but there was no way I was going to quit reading–not with the promise of a school of people with wondrous abilities. The reader’s patience is rewarded when we are introduced to Emma, Olive, Millard, and the others (and not much of a spoiler alert, they get their own photos as well). I found this to be a great example for our writer friends as evidenced by...
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What’s so Peculiar? Nailing the “Novel Idea”

Recently, I had the misfortune to discover that my completed work-in-progress had some startling similarities to a recently released novel. Further digging proved that the similarities ended at the logline, but it was enough for me to put the project on hold. I threw up my hands, and for a few weeks, I allowed myself to feel greatly uninspired. Then, one day, I’m walking past my five-year-old’s stack of library books. He loves the shelf that features the bizarre and unusual, and when I looked at the cover of one, I almost fell over, a new idea struck me so fast. This time, I scoured Amazon, Goodreads, and the AR reading list for similar titles. At the end of it, I had a pretty big grin. My idea looked to be somewhat unique. But that begs the question: What exactly is a “fresh idea”? We see rehashed movies all the time, and we’ve come to expect regurgitations of our favorites. But editors in the book world, while wanting something intriguing and marketable, are always looking for something a little different. But what’s different? Well, here are a few ideas. Using a gimmick. No, this is not a dirty word. It’s great to be inspired...
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Welcome to WWAT!
What's WWAT? What's Write About This is a blog dedicated to examining what works in kidlit. By tackling various themes and topics, we'll break down passages, examine sentences, and explore concepts that make-up the components of successful writing. We welcome you back each week with a new post. Thanks for stopping by!
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