I have long been of the opinion that children’s authors and basically everyone involved in the production of a successful children’s book do not, and will not ever, get enough credit.
Case in point: we can all name at least one successful children’s author, can’t we?
That’s right, Dr. Seuss.
For those of us who had parents who read to us regularly and as a result are rather “healthy” readers we could probably name at least one more, right?
That’s right, it’s Maurice Sendak (aka the guy who penned Where The Wild Things Are).
And that’s about as far down the rabbit-hole that anybody can go. Sure you can cite celebrities who have dabbled in this medium but they don’t count! Why? Because I said so and that’s as good enough reason for anybody.
So why should they get more credit, or credit at all? On the surface I’m sure that it looks like a cake job. All you have to do is write (not a whole hell of a lot) buddy up with an illustrator with whom you can get along with (or you can just draw the damn thing yourself, right?) and the rest is in the hands of the publisher, right?
Not so fast: there’s one main thing missing from that. All of the creators involved have to create something that the parent will want to read to their child. Sure it’s pretty shallow but it’s the truth.
When I was a young father, The Cat in the Hat was the go-to story. It was a fun read. I enjoyed bumbling through it my first couple of times and feeling like an idiot. It wasn’t before long ad naseum was breached and I could recite the damn thing by rote. A couple of times I tried to make a go of it without the book and I got yelled at by whatever kid I was reading to at the time.
So why the sudden interest in children’s literature? The past week I have been helping my son in his Language Arts Class with a book by the title of Owl at Home. It was penned by Arnold Lobel and it is probably one of the greater books that I have read to any of my children.
What will follow is not a diss to anyone associated with this book, especially Mr. Lobel. What follows is my opinion on this particular work of his and how I have viewed it and how I think parents should view kids books should they find themselves in the unenviable position of having to read something that makes their skin crawl.
Owl at Home is about an Owl, named Owl. He lives in a house by himself and appears (SPOILERS) mentally unsound. While this may be a harsh assessment, I would like to point out that the owl (named Owl) tries to behave like a human (living in a house and not a nest, dressing like a human and engaging in rather mundane human activities) regardless of the fact that (SPOILERS) he:
has no concept of how blankets work (e.g. When you are under a blanket, your body does not simply disappear, it merely resides under the blanket).
- makes tea out of his own tears. For what reason? I have absolutely no clue. And I keep re-reading this chapter in an effort to see the point that I might have missed.
- is apparently schizophrenic. In one chapter, Owl tries to be in two places at once by running back and forth as fast as he can and then, when reaching said destination, he tries to ask himself a question only to be disappointed when he doesn’t hear himself answer.
Based on this alone, I hope that you can see why I FRIGGIN’ LOVE THIS BOOK! Additionally, it is my hope that you can see why children’s authors don’t get nearly enough credit: creating something that is enjoyable for everyone, adult and child alike, is a rare feat.
To conclude Terry Pratchett week, we have “The 5th Elephant”.
Sure, some of his stuff starts off a little too silly and sure, most British humor would go right of most Yanks heads, but there’s just something about his style and his ability to take fantastical elements and apply them to current day issues that is positively unparalleled.
The 5th Elephant, a “Night Watch” novel, finds Sir Samuel Vimes and his faithful Watchmen in the thick of things once more. As Ankh Morpork jogs to keep up with the times (the installation of a traffic imp, female dwarves declaring that they are in fact, female) crime is still a common place activity.
On the eve of the coronation of a new dwarf king, dissent becomes more voluminous in the dwarf community as this “new king” is deemed too progressive. In a nefarious attempt to sabotage said coronation, a key component in the ceremony has been stolen. As such, Sir Vimes has been (reluctantly) appointed diplomat for Ankh Morpork (aka he has to go to the the coronation in Uberwald, land of the Fifth Elephant, to find out what in the hell is going on).
The story goes that in the beginning, there were five elephants. The fifth lost it’s footing and fell to the Disc landing in Uberwald.
By all accounts this is another Discworld title that is irreverant, topical and action packed. What makes things better (aside from the plot twist) is the fact that this book is another reason on top of a mountain of reasons that demonstrate that Pratchett is a true master of his craft.
In The Wintersmith, Sir Pratchett reacquaints us to young Tiffany Aching, a new witch who has been “making her bones” on her side of Discworld.
Tiffany while under the care of the witch Miss Treason, has found herself in the middle of certain Goddesses and Elementals. The main elemental being the Wintersmith and as a result of Tiffany’s interference, she has gained the affections of said Elemental. This further results in your usual slew of Discworld shenanigans.
While I have only been introduced to Ms. Aching through this book (her previous books being A Hat Full of Sky and I Shall Wear Midnight) I still enjoyed the hell out of this book.
Terry Pratchett had that rare gift that most fantasy writers lack: He was able to write a book series that you can drop down right in the middle of and still be able to figure out what’s what and who’s who without having to consult Wikipedia. Suffice it to say, I didn’t know who half these “regular” characters were and I was still able to catch as catch can.
An added bonus of this book (at least for people who are new to Sir Pratchett and who either don’t like the mythology behind Discworld or else they just don’t get it) is that there is very little Discworld geography included in this book at all. In the previous books of his that I have read, I have found it a bit hard to understand all of the places and turn’s of phrases that he has created because they were originally brought up in other books of his that I haven’t read yet.
This isn’t the case with The Wintersmith. Pratchett doesn’t disappoint. If you are new or if you are a regular reader, do yourself a favor and go out and pick this up.
I am a Terry Pratchett fan. This is not uncommon knowledge. How can you not be a fan of an author who kicked out two novels a year AND had motherfucking Alzheimer’s disease? That alone ought to peek your interest.
A brief word on Sir Terry: Pratchett is typically referred to as a science fiction writer. That is a bit of a misnomer. Way back in the day, Sir Terry got the idea to create Discworld (this is where the sci-fi piece comes in) a flat planet that exists on the backs of some elephants that are in turn, on the back of a turtle. It’s heady, I know. But it’s one of those things that pay off when you hang in there.
Discworld is the main “setting” of the majority of his novels. There, vampires, werewolves, humans, trolls, dwarves, golems… They all exist amongst each other. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but given the caliber of Pratchett’s writing as well as the scope of his stories, there is something for everybody.
The story begins with a couple of murders that have happened in Discworld’s capital city, Ankh-Morpork. Given the normal operating state of Discworld, this really isn’t news. That is, until its discovered that the murders are at the hand of a golem. A golem who was created to be the King of the Golems. From there, Pratchett very ably shows us that things are much more tangled than that.
As with all of Pratchett’s work, there’s so much more waiting for you beneath the surface. Do yourself a favor and pick Feet of Clay up!
I have yet to find something of Sir Pratchett’s that I just can’t read. He’s the type of writer that has that uncanny ability to make anything sound interesting as long as he’s the person doing the writing.
Regardless, The Wee Free Men really isn’t really about The Wee Free Men. Rather it’s about a certain Ms. Tiffany Aching, young witch to be. I first came across Ms. Aching and The Wee Free Men by way of the book, The Wintersmith. My only problem with that was that that book (The Wintersmith) should have been the next book to read, not this one. At any rate, I wanted to learn more about the Wee Free Men so I picked this book up at my library and the rest is history.
If there was one thing that I truly don’t like about Terry Pratchett and his Discworld books is the fact that there is indeed so many of them that it’s hard to tell which one came first.Some of them are a part of a series, like the Tiffany Aching stories. Others, are indeed a new(er) story but they feature return characters (like any of the titles that have to do with The Watch). Book stores should have a separate Discworld directory to satisfy the shoppers.
The Wee Free Men is the first book in which Tiffany Aching appears. A nine-year-old farm girl who has always had a keen sense of herself, Tiffany finds herself in the position of being the only person in her village who can rescue her toddler brother from The Queen of the Elves. Along the way, Tiffany discovers a clan of fairies that go by the name Nac Mac Feegles (aka The Wee Free Men). Together, they join forces in order to rescue Tiffany’s young brother and bring everyone home safely.
This book, like all of Pratchett’s books are well worth your time and investment. Go now, and find yourself lost in another well written story, ya wee scunner!
***At the time of this writing, Sir Pratchett had announced that he will be handing over Discworld to his daughter, Rhianna Pratchett.***
Admittedly, and I’m not ashamed of throwing this out there, the only reason I picked up Reaper Man was due to the fact that it was blurbed on the front cover by The Cleveland Plain Dealer (I am from Cleveland). At any rate, I had reached a literary impasse between two books and I needed something that would initiate a tie breaker and that was it.
In Reaper Man, the Grim Reaper finally gets a little time in the spotlight.
In this story, Death is essentially retired by the Auditors of Reality because he was beginning to develop a personality. However, since Death’s “untimely” dismissal from his superiors, Death realizes that he finally gets a chance to enjoy the thing that he has taken people away from for long: that’s right Death enjoy’s life.
There’s a problem though, the Auditors completely lack imagination and as such, they are unable to replace Death with a “new death”. Only the given species can do that. So while humankind drags it’s heels creating a new death, the collected spirits of the recently deceased build up because they don’t have anyone to usher them to the great beyond.
Nonetheless, this like any other book by Pratchett, is well worth the read.
My son turned 9 years old Saturday.
Not a monumental occasion. At least not for most of you. Kids turn 9 everyday of the week.
For me, his birthday has served as a reminder, like all of the other birthdays before it that fatherhood is quite a mind-blowing adventure.
Truth be told I had never thought that I would be a father, let alone be any good as one. I don’t have any specific data to back that claim up, it’s just the way that I always felt about the subject.
I remember when The Wife was told me she was pregnant. I always thought it was strange what your mind let’s you remember about a specific event that happened in your life. I can still remember what the weather was like on that day. I remember exactly where I was at when I found out. And I remember knocking back a bag of Doritos when I came home from work like some absent-minded stoner.
I remember the day he was born. The weather was shit. I remember how every muscle in my body froze when the Mid-Wife told me that I would be helping with the delivery, acting as one half of a human stirrups (I held one of the wife’s legs up while a nurse held up the other). All through out the pregnancy, I made a point of politely mentioning that I didn’t want to be anywhere near Wife’s nether regions during the actual delivery. I saw a vagina do things that day that a lifetime of watching porno will never prepare you for.
For me the highlight of the whole event was watching the Mid-Wife extract my son from my Wife. One minute, I’m watching Wife’s face turn all shades of red. I turn my head and I see my son, mid-air (in the capable hands of the Mid-Wife) pissing and shitting at the same time. The look on his face almost said ‘Heeeeeeyyyy! What the FUCK?!!?’
I remember the day that I gave him his first train. As anyone who knows him at all, trains were his bread and butter.
Yes, it’s a train whistle. That’s how hardcore he was about them. He fell asleep with it in his mouth.
We were living in Tremont at the time. It was a Saturday and we were all going somewhere. Where exactly, I can’t remember. Before we all got in the car, I grabbed the mail and took it with me. One of the things that I got that day was a package from Toys R’ Us. For some reason they sent me a complimentary Thomas the Tank Engine. It was just a small wooden train. I still remember rolling my eyes at the wife when she brought up that his older sister might have liked it.
I remember the time that he made me go ass-over-tea-kettle whilst trying to ride a two-wheeler bike. Despite The Wife’s protestations that I was ‘doing it wrong’, I had finally gotten him to the point where I could give him a running start and he could kind of do it on his own. This particular time, he jerked the handlebars and we both went down. He managed to land on his feet (like a good bike rider). I was a rolling ball of arms and legs. I came up laughing because I thought it was awesome. He, however, was not laughing. He was rather bummed that he had hurt me (even though I was fine and I had told him so).
I remember the numerous times that his penchant for being naked got him huge laughs.One time I was doing the dishes. The wife had just finished giving him a bath and he was horsing around with his oldest sister. The next thing that I know, Finn comes barreling into the kitchen, butt-naked and upends the old duffle bag I used to hold all of our plastic shopping bags. Before I can turn the water off and say ‘What the Hell?’, Finn’s flopping into the gigantic pile of blue bags, ass first, trying to get a good tail of them stuck in his butt cheeks. He succeeds and proceeds to run all through the apartment. Hands down one of the funniest things I have seen in my life.
Those are just some of the things that I remember. While there are many more of him and the rest of my family that make fatherhood just as grand of an adventure, these are the ones that come to mind when I think of who my son is and who he might turn out to be.
Happy Birthday, Juicebox.