Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting down with Paul Guggenheimer of Essential Pittsburgh to talk about Children’s Books. I’m a big fan of public radio, so this was a huge thrill. An excerpt from the transcript:
Dazzled by the bizarre and eccentric characters of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, children’s author Jonathan Auxier has always been fascinated by peculiar storytelling.
Auxier loves his job, but admits it can sometimes be difficult to write for children of different ages because their maturity and ability are so varied.
He says reading aloud is one of the best ways to connect with a child. Not only is the time great for bonding, but reading a more complicated story to a child can expose them to a reading and thought level above their norm. He tries to juxtapose fun plot lines and characters with interesting rhetorical styles in his own work.
“So in the instance of Peter Nimble, the book is actually fairly dense on a word level, it’s got very complicated language structure. I was working out of a tradition of 18th century neoclassical writers…but the story itself has a very childlike sensibility and I love mixing that.”
You can hear the whole interview (12 min) on the WESA website.
Many might disagree, but I would argue that this is perhaps one of the most important children’s books written in my lifetime. Here’s an excerpt in which I discuss how this book interacts with Peter Pan:
It has been observed that I am somewhat obsessive about JM Barrie’s Peter Pan. More than once, people have asked me what I think about Pan adaptations and sequels written by contemporary writers. My usual response is that I think those writers could better use their time creating their own characters to discuss similar themes. Spinelli has done just that. The fugitive shadow of Peter Pan skitters all throughout Hokey Pokey without ever once needing to be mentioned. To every person hoping to write an “updated” version of Oz, or Wonderland, or Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I would direct them to this book.
The best response to this post came from Tom Angleberger who objected that he didn’t actually think this was a book for kids (Betsy Bird wondered as much in her excellent review … which is what prompted me to pick up the book in the first place). It’s an interesting question, and one that I suspect I’ll be chewing on for a long time.
You can click here to read my full review … better yet, just read Spinelli’s book. Because it’s AWESOME.
I just spent a week at the AASL National Conference — a giant assembly of school librarians and authors. I had a fantastic time catching up with old friends and meeting a ton of new people. I was there to moderate a panel about Boys Reading Fantasy with Neal Shusterman, Tony Abbott, Adam Gidwitz, William Alexander, and Jon Scieszka! Here are pictures of them all dressed up as sci-fi/fantasy tropes:
It was a good time — it mainly consisted of the panelists making fun of me. As it turns out, these five authors had incredible insights into the creation and reading of fantasy. The highlight may have been when Gidwitz paraphrased some seriously brilliant Chesterton:
Up next — I’ll be signing books at NCTE in Boston! Hope to see you there!