Saturday, August 27, 2011

Andrew Clements

The Report Card Lost and FoundLunch Money

My little sisters went on an Andrew Clements binge, so I re-read some books and caught up on the newer ones as well. It was a nice trip down memory lane, and a pleasant dip back into childhood! At the same time, I was able to think critically about the books and analyze them as an adult, in addition to simply enjoying them the way a child does, the way I did when I first read books like Frindle, The School Story, and The Report Card. So now, I was thinking about what makes these books so appealing to young kids, and also why adults like them so much.

What it comes down to, I think, is that Clements portrays young kids actually going out and doing things. They're powerful in that way, and that appeals to kids who feel like they have no power in an adult world. And the books overtly address this feeling of powerlessness that most kids have, so the answer is clear and straightforward.

What adults like about these books is that the kids in them learn lessons, and even when they do crazy things that get them in loads of trouble, they get to take away a really important message. And the adults in the books never defer to the kids, so that while the kids are empowered, the structure of the world, of adult-child relations, stays stable.

What I really like about these books is that they are borderline un-real - the kids do things that probably would never happen in real life - but there's that tiny bit of realism to what they do, the way everything is logically worked out so that it could happen in real life, that makes the books so compelling - and, I think, what keeps these books on the best-seller list!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

Dash & Lily's Book of DaresAuthors: Rachel Cohn &David Levithan
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Released: October 26, 2010
Genre: YA

Browsing the shelves in the Strand, relishing the freedom he has this holiday season, Dash comes across a Moleskine notebook - with a dare inside of it. Dash accepts the dare and so begins an exchange between strangers, all over New York City. Lily, the girl on the other end of the dares, enjoys the unexpected results of the dare as she prepares to spend Christmas alone as well, only she's not at all happy about this situation. But when they finally meet in person, will they find each other to have lived up to their literary selves?

I love the concept of the book, and it's really well-executed. Apparently the authors each wrote one character's chapters and passed them back and forth, and that's how the plot developed. Well, whatever the case, it works! The two protagonists are fully rounded, thoroughly interesting characters, and the passing back and forth of the notebook lets the reader really see each one's personality.

But it's not only the notebook that shows personality - the events surrounding the dares lend insight into the characters, and there, I think, lies the real point of the book. (I'm not pretending that the authors wrote with this goal in mind. I actually think they didn't, but this is what I got from the book.) Because Dash and Lily only know about each other through a notebook, they miss out on key details about the other. Most notably, Dash is right from the start very cynical and hates the holidays. Lily, on the other hand, is very obviously enamored of the holidays and thinks they're magical. But when they send each other to places connected to the holidays, Lily interprets Dash's intentions as sincere and Dash interprets Lily's intentions as cynical. That's an interesting thing, and it leads to their first face-to-face meeting, where again the impressions they get of each other are based on misinterpretations.

It actually surprised me that at the end (spoiler here!) they become such good friends, because they are so completely different. But when I thought about it, I realized that this is the perfect ending to a book that deals so much - inadvertently or not - with differences in people. Because they do share some interests, and what finally brings them fully together is one of these shared interests, and their differences fall by the wayside.

So whether the authors intended it or not, I think this book is a great model of miscommunication as well as friendship. A thoroughly enjoyable book!