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What Hooked Me: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Megan: So, Lauren Ruby has written this incredibly complex, lovely, funny book that takes place far from more popular settings. (OMG, if one more YA novel is set in the Northeast, I’m going to blow a gasket…there are other locales, people! Not that I mind these novels–in fact, I have some favorites set in NYC and New England–but…). Anyway, I think what I loved about this book, even more than the beautifully constructed writing, was the weaving together of the farm town location, with the sprinkling in of the international. What do I mean by that? Well, I’ve been to Poland. Actually, I am Polish. And I think it was so incredibly clever to make the beautiful girl a foreigner in this story. The culture barrier was perfectly imperfect, and I wish more authors would be comfortable with a more global approach, because I think teens (and yes, us grownups) can really benefit from trying to look at our world through the eyes of those who grow up in a different cultural experience. So I loved the Polish aspect, as much as I loved the corn being a character. It just struck the right balance between what we think we know, and what we...
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Feeding the Monster in Your Story

Our writing group just completed a read through of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (get more thoughts here http://whatswriteaboutthis.com/what-hooked-me-a-monster-calls-by-patrick-ness-story-inspired-by-siobhan-dowd-who-passed-before-the-completion-of-the-book/. In this award-winning upper middle grade novel, a monster visits a boy in his dreams (or is it?) to deal with a profound problem. Whether a novel features real monsters (aka…the villain) or a conflict that functions as a monster to the protagonist, it’s important to understand some of the most complex monsters in literature, and how your own writing or reading group can benefit from understanding what drives them. Dracula – The sophisticated monster We all have enjoyed a good James Bond villain. No matter how evil, how sociopathic, there is always something just a little bit charming and erudite that makes this type of “monster” worthy of our heroic opponent. In children and young adult literature, this might qualify as the President Snow (Hunger Games) or other such villains who stay one step of the protagonist, forcing our hero to move out of his or her comfort zone and rise to a higher level. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – The misunderstood monster Some of the best villains are those for whom we feel a certain empathy. People in bad circumstances can either become...
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A Monster Calls: Fairytale or Truth

A Monster Calls cover was a little misleading. It wasn’t the typical fantasy or horror I had expected to read. Instead, it was an unexpected fairytale, that was also not a fairytale. An original for its time, I wanted to explore its elements of folklore. Many say that fairytales use groups of three. Three objects, events, characters. I attended an SCBWI conference in Birmingham this past fall. Bruce Coville, the keynote speaker, said that wasn’t exactly true.  He claimed there was groups of four: three things and a twist. Like three bears and goldilocks or three pigs and a wolf. In A Monster Calls, the monster comes to Connor. He promises to tell 3 stories and then Connor must tell his own. In true fairytale fashion, there are lessons to each of the Monster Yew’s stories. The values of action over thoughts are highlighted. But they are also atypical. Usually in fairy tales there are clear good and evil characters. In the monster’s stories, there is an evil witch worth saving and a prince that is both a murder and a savior (witches/royalty/monsters/mentors are all motifs of fairy tales). I appreciated the contradictions in the Monster’s stories’ characters. It made it feel less far,...
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What Hooked Me–A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Story inspired by Siobhan Dowd who passed before the completion of the book)

  Megan: Loss is such a difficult subject. It’s hard to handle it in a book in a way that doesn’t make it feel too light, but also doesn’t destroy the experience for the reader or the sense of hope we need from stories. That’s why The Monster Calls drew me right in. For those who’ve lost family, it deals with loss in a very specific, expert way. By using an metaphor larger than life. That’s why I love metaphors in stories, especially in this instance. I love books that know how to use them, how to grow them into something so monstrous and wonderful, that we can’t barely deal with the emotions that come from being exposed to them. I think sometimes, it’s really hard to use metaphor in a way that’s compelling for a young reader. But in dealing with the loss of someone you love, this book showed us that monsters have all sorts of names. John: When the Monster comes calling, young Connor O’Malley expects a nightmare, instead he gets stories. The Monster plans to tell Connor three of them, and not unlike Scrooge’s ghosts, they will be delivered on three separate visits. Hearing that his intentions do not frighten...
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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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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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