This summer looks to be the summer of beloved childrens books being turned into good movies. With Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, and now Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox set for cinematic release one can only speculate what will be next. Personally, I’d like to see Willard Price’s Adventure series get a turn. Anyway, here is the trailer for Fantastic Mr. Fox, starring George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and directed by Wes Anderson.
A sequel to J. D. Salinger’s classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye, has been written and is about to be published. It is called 60 Years Later (it’s set 60 years later), and Holden Caulfield, now an elderly man, escapes from a retirement home to travel through New York. Permission from Salinger wasn’t given, but as he’s so famously reclusive it was unlikely to happen anyway.
What would Holden say about it?
In theatres October 16 is where. Nearly everyones favourite picture book Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is getting a big screen adaptation and somebody just emailed me this link where you can watch a very cool trailer. I know I’ll be off to see it when it comes out!
Last month I discovered (thanks to Paula) the name of the sequel to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (being Catching Fire) and reported that we’d be ordering it soon (it’s due for publication in September this year). Well, it’s now been ordered and I suggest you reserve it, because it is going to be good, I’m very sure. In the interest of not having a Stephenie Meyer happen the publishers are being quite tight lipped about what will actually happen in Catching Fire; their blurb for the new book doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know (basically):
“Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.” (Amazon.com)
I was going to find ten books with strong female lead characters in them, but happily there were so many it was very difficult to choose, so I thought I’d settle for ten examples, and subcategorise (which is perhaps even more satisfying than listing). There will be ten books in here (basically).
A) The Kats:
Katsa, Graceling, Kristin Cashore.
Katniss, The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins.
These are both fantasy titles, Graceling going the traditional route of a medieval alternate world, while The Hunger Games opts for the (also traditional) futuristic dystopia. Katsa and Katniss both know how to keep themselves alive and that killing and surviving often go together. Both do-ers rather than ponder-ers, they’re a bit out of touch when it comes to romance and boys and that. “I push the whole thing out of my mind because for some reason Gale and Peeta do not coexist well together in my thoughts,” thinks Katniss. Well, der. I quite like how similar these books are (in other words, if you liked The Hunger Games you might like Graceling too).
B) Daughters of disappeared fathers:
Laura Hame, Dreamhunter, Elizabeth Knox.
If you haven’t read Dreamhunter (and Dreamquake directly after) then I suggest you do (particularly good for say year 11 and up). It’s a slow starter, but when it winds itself up it’s quite spectacular and an incredibly unique fantasy world. Laura Hame is determined to find out why her father Tziga disappeared, doesn’t believe he’s dead like the authorities declare, and is willing to tell the truth, however nightmarish it may be.
Lyra, His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman.
Lyra is roguish and feisty, a well-written tomboy who, although she is briefly dazzled by the feminine wiles of Mrs Coulter, has the presence of mind and gumption to reach her own, accurate, conclusions.
Sabriel, The Old Kingdom Trilogy: Sabriel, Garth Nix.
Sabriel’s life has been quite sheltered until the disappearance of her father forces her to expand her horizons. She’s more than up to the challenge though I’m sure.
C) A classic (in a classic book):
Elizabeth Bennett, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
Elizabeth Bennett is actually a tough cookie in the Regency context. Even though she doesn’t have the greatest of prospects, she still turns down a single man in possession of a good fortune who ardently loves and admires her, because as it stands he’s, well, just too proud and his behaviour is a little odious at times. She’s in sharp contrast to her collection of sisters, all of whom are more easily swayed by the desires of parents, society, and men.
D) Two female antiheroes of high calibre chicklit (as in, female interest fiction):
Yay, I found a couple of female antiheroes (in reference to my antihero post).
Jessica Darling, Sloppy Firsts, Megan McCafferty.
She’s called Jessica Notso Darling by her father, who thinks it’s hilarious; she thinks it’s notso. Fuelled by sarcastic wit and Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal, Jessica’s brain scythes through her class at school and you wonder will anyone stand up under her scrutiny? Well…
Frankie Landau Banks, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E Lockhart.
Frankie wants to be taken seriously by her boyfriend and his friends, but they’re just not going to (she’s a girl), so she shows them… the results are satisfying in many ways, but also carry some serious implications; victory might be bitter sweet.
Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.
Scout’s another feisty tomboy (except of course she came before Lyra): one of the most memorable characters in 20th century literature.
Matilda, Matilda, Roald Dahl.
Another memorable literary child. Don’t mess with Matilda.
Coraline, Coraline, Neil Gaiman.
It’s Cora-line, like Caroline, but with the first two vowels switched. Coraline’s got enough gumption to correct adults when they mis-say her name, so that’s a good start. In a war of wits between Coraline and the mother with the button eyes ultimately there can be only one winner, but who?
And we could go on. Let me know if you’ve got a favourite strong female character.
People who have read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and really enjoyed it will be very pleased to find out that the sequel, Catching Fire, will be published at the beginning of September this year. I read this article in Publisher’s Weekly about it and am now rather intrigued. David Levithan (Nick and Norah etc author) makes it sound really interesting and secretive. Everyone else is ooing and ahing over the cover, so we shall as well: very nice.
We will be ordering Catching Fire next month, so in the mean time you should read The Hunger Games to find out what all the fuss is about (read our review post here which includes a link to a great review by Stephen King).
Ever feel like you’ve read every good book there is (that interests you)? If you’re looking for something new to read I’d like to commend the children’s fiction collection to you (remember children’s fiction?), after all, it is the home of Harry Potter. Here are some titles you may or may not have noticed.
Airman, by Eoin Colfer (the person responsible for Artemis Fowl). Airman has echoes of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Conor Broekhart was born in a hot air balloon and he’s got flying in his blood. This comes in useful when, through a series of really unfortunate events, he’s imprisoned in an island jail and must escape to clear his name and bring to light a dangerous political conspiracy. Set in the 1890s on the Saltee Islands (off the southern coast of Ireland).
Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville. Two girls (Zanna and Deeba) stumble across UnLondon (if that isn’t a name for a dystopic alternate world I don’t know what is), where everything (and everyone) is like a broken version of London. UnLondon is under siege from a dangerous, toxic Smog (isn’t normal London too?) and Zanna and Deeba must help the UnLondoners defeat the Smog, but this is complicated by the small matter of what might happen to Deeba if everyone in London forgets she exists. At 520 pages this is a rather large tome.
The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud. Again, set aside some time: these are doorstop books. Bartimaeus, the titular character, is a 5,000 year old djinni (a sort of spirit). The books (being The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate) are set in an alternate world that, like other fantasy worlds (Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials world, Un Lun Dun, for example), draws on and resembles reality (past and present). Feeling tired just thinking about summarising more than 1,000 pages, I’ll let Wikipedia do it for me:
“As the books progress, three cycles become evident. The first and largest from the overarching plot line standpoint is the rise and fall of London as a world power. The second and third are more personal; the boy changing from the pitiful, yet noble, Nathaniel, to the power-hungry, arrogant John Mandrake and back again to the boy he was, and the third, involving Kitty and Bartimaeus, who restore each other’s faith in their races.”
House of Many Ways, Diana Wynne Jones. If you’ve had the pleasure of reading Howl’s Moving Castle then this might interest you. It’s dubbed “sequel to…” in the same way as Castle in the Air was, but it isn’t really (a sequel), well not in the way that Howl fans might wish. But if you’re a Sophie fan, you’ll enjoy reading this; Charmain is much like Sophie, in that she’s quite plucky and forceful, and takes strange houses (with many ways, see) very much in her stride. Howl’s there, but in a twinkly sort of way (I don’t want to give too much away); he and Sophie have a couple of domestics which made me laugh.
Fly By Night, Frances Hardinge. Another novel set in a parallel world, this time 18th century England. Mandelion (a city) is ruled by Guilds, who are locked in a tense power struggle. Mosca Mye, an orphan, together with Eponymous Clent, a conman (an interesting pair), becomes involved in the dangerous machinations of the city. Frances Hardinge’s website explains:
“A born liar, Mosca lives by her wits in a world of highwaymen and smugglers, dangerously insane rulers in ludicrous wigs, secret agents and radical plotters. She is recruited as a spy by the fanatical Mabwick Toke, leader of the Guild of Stationers, who fears losing his control over the publication of every book in the state. Mosca’s activities reveal a plot to force a rule of terror on the Realm, and merry mayhem soon leads to murder…”
‘I am a rock, I am an island,’ sang Simon or was it Garfunkle in the 1970s. This is true of many literary characters (and writers) too. It’s an attractive ready-made plot: loner meets world; conflict ensues, or outsider rubs up against society; conflict ensues and outsider learns to fit in/society learns to accept outsider. It’s difficult to write a story about a character who is truly alone (and maintain interest, at any rate); even Robinson Crusoe ended up with Man Friday, and Tom Hanks gets rescued in Castaway (by people).
Librarians, teachers and other brains of note have awarded Neil Gaiman the Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book. So what is the Newbery Medal? Well, it’s the most prestigious children’s fiction award given in the United States. That is to say that The Graveyard Book is top dog in the USA in 2009. Mr Gaiman was suitably delighted, as he recounts in his blog. If you’re interested in details and stuff you could visit the unexciting Newbery Medal home page, otherwise reserve The Graveyard Book so you can sample some quality writing.
And the Printz** goes to:
Melina Marchetta (of Looking for Alibrandi fame), for On the Jellicoe Road, which I haven’t stuck in any lists or said anything nice about, for shame. For punishment I shall read and review it. Aussie aussie aussie, oi oi oi.
*see the tags on his blog post for verification.
** The Printz Award, like the Newbery Medal, is given by the American Library Association, this time for Young Adult Literature.