A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
Here I am, writing this blog post at 4:23 AM on a Tuesday morning because I got distracted by everyone else’s blogs yesterday and fell asleep around 2 in the afternoon and didn’t wake up until 2 this morning. Overnights will do that to you. I also am too lazy to leave my bed to get the cord to upload more photos of my cat, but he hasn’t really done anything fascinating or hilarious, so this is probably just as well.
This was me yesterday.
Last week, I read Rules by Cynthia Lord and I really enjoyed it. I thought that perhaps the main character was a little too perceptive for a twelve year old. At twelve, there was no way I would have had a rule that said “Sometimes people laugh because they like you. Sometimes people laugh to hurt you.” That seems very deep, too deep, for a twelve year old. I absolutely loved her developing relationship with Jason and her struggle with her embarrassment of her brother and her friend. (I have even started going around thinking about the words I would add to a book like that. I came up with bloodshed in my comparative politics class and then I started thinking about words like freedom, etc because if we’re going to talk about bloodshed, we’re going to need more words than stinks a big one.)
The only really acceptable toy in a fishtank is Aquaman.
Kristi could have been a little more developed in my opinion. I couldn’t quite tell if she was supposed to be the mean, popular girl or if she was supposed to be an ordinary girl with a boy obsession. I felt she was both, but without ever really committing to the mean girl part. It was a strange teeter-totter of character traits. Catherine’s obsession with having a friend next door was really well developed I thought. I remember having neighbors my age and I would always be over at their house, though my reasons were different from Catherine’s. I think she uses Kristi as a form of escapism from her life with her brother. Her struggle seemed very real to me.
Catherine’s major question, meanwhile everyone else is asking Kristi who she’s supposed to be.
I found it interesting that this book is classified as middle grade fiction. Of course, I come up with an immediate working definition in my own mind. It’s fiction for middle schoolers. But how is their fiction any different from high school fiction? In a lot of ways actually. Laura Backes writes about the difference in her article aptly named “The Difference Between Middle Grade and Young Adult.” Middle grade is that intermediate step for readers. Yes, middle school bookaholics can probably read the classics and young adult literature and probably do, but the rest of them are going to identify more with characters that are beginning to define themselves within the outside world. Children’s literature seems to be focused on an internal development, the who are you question. Middle grade begins to move beyond the self and into the world and defining your character in a world you cannot control. It tends to deal especially with developing friendships, as we can see in Rules. Young adult literature moves beyond that into more complicated themes of romantic love in a realistic sense-ish, poverty, etc.
What my blog post would have been if I had done it Monday.
My search for middle grade fiction on wordpress took me to this absolutely amazing blog by Christa Kinde, http://christakinde.wordpress.com/. She posts these really short chapters to fun stories she writes and she’s a published author. I was intrigued by the shortness of the chapters, but it actually makes sense since many middle schoolers lose their love of reading at this point in their life. Her stories are very engaging as well and written specifically for that audience.
Awesome illustrations too.
The website fromthemixedupfiles.com is another great middle grade literature resource. I am particularly fond of the side bar that puts up quotes from authors and teachers on what being middle grade means. It means everything from being an intrepid explorer to being stuck in limbo wondering if you’re old enough, to feeling everything passionately and being unafraid of exploring the world around them. This seeming collection of blogs and articles is kind of a wonderful immersion into the world of the middle school lit writer, student, and teacher.
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankwhiler, when we all learned what the word inconspicuous meant.
As for my future reading this week, I am still reading Delirium and quite enjoying it, though I might have to set it aside for a little while and power through Borderlands for my Theories and Practices of Teaching Writing class. If anyone finds a spare bit of will power, send it my way please. It’s hard to go from ‘fluf’ to reading a highly technical work in Spanish and English. Especially when I don’t speak Spanish.
Time to go for my morning run though, so I will be back tomorrow.
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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New York City based photographer STEFAN FALKE visits artists who live and work on both sides of the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region for his ongoing project. All photos and texts © Stefan Falke (No use without written permission by the author)