Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Raiding My Kids' Bookshelves

Recently on a vacation back in New Hampshire, I happened across a book on my step-mother's bookshelf: Choose Your Own Adventure #5: The Mystery of Chimney Rock. I grabbed the book (with permission of course!) and threw it into my suitcase for later inspection -- you know, research. 

Mostly, I did so because as I move slowly toward finishing up the first Jute novel, I realize that I haven't read a ton of current "Middle Grade" stuff. Of course, this book is 30+ years old, but still, it's a start!

Reading it was 2-parts nostalgia and 1-part "Wha???" Not to spoil it too much, but the vast majority of the endings were negative, including death, broken limbs, and other evil fates. I don't recall the books being like that as a kid, but I have to say I enjoyed reading it today!

And that got me thinking. I wonder what kids books are like today. Ah, I can hear it already "What? You don't pre-read every book before your kids read them?"

Alas, I have a confession to make. The kids have hundreds of books and they're always adding more. Sure, we read some of them (anything on the "teen" side of pre-teen), but generally we let them have quite a bit of freedom when it comes to getting books from the appropriate section of the library or bookstore.

So I went into the kids' room and raided their bookshelf for some reading I can use to see how Jute stacks up. I mean, what if I'm using an overly mature vocabulary? What if I'm dumbing things down too much? I want to be sure I'm hitting my target of 8 - 12 year old girls. (My two daughters seem to agree that I've done so, but something tells me their opinion might be a bit biased...)

Today I started book one of "The Sisters Grimm." I got on the train platform in sunny San Carlos, California and opened my backpack. That's when I realized that I was almost hesitating to remove the book. What if someone sees me reading this little kids' book?

Shaking my head, I retrieved the book and started reading. At first, I paid strict attention to the pacing and the word choice and any minor plot hole (how did the little sister get home from kindergarten if her parents disappeared? Huh? Huh?) and then suddenly I realized that I was about to miss my stop. I had read the first 40 pages in the blink of an eye. That's a good book, folks. And there are, what, 8 of them in the series?

I suppose I should finish reading it... You know, for research purposes...

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