Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rediscovering Some Faves

The Fictionistas were commenting yesterday about how our blog tends to be a mixture of fluff and substance (which, in turn, prompted Chrissy to joke that we should introduce a 7th 'Nista named Fluffy Substance, but I digress).

Fluff and substance...personally, I think it's a good combo. You don't want too much substance or you run the risk of boring your readers. But you don't want too much fluff or you become completely irrelevant.

Anyway, it looks like we're well on our way to a week all about YA books, which surprisingly, might just be a first for us here. Kinda funny, when we're ostensibly a blog about YA boooks. :)

I could ruin the trend and blog about the crappy week I'm having, but I don't want to be a buzzkill. So since the three 'Nistas who've blogged this week have all started on a theme, I'm going to continue.

There's a book that was released last week from Avon A (not exactly a YA publisher, but still) called "Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading." The primary author is Lizzie Skurnick, who used to write the "Fine Lines" column for in which she reread and reviewed her fave books from her own girlhood. The book consists of Skurnick's Jezebel essays, along with a few reviews by such best-selling fiction giants as Meg Cabot, Laura Lippman, Cecily von Zeigesar, and Jennifer Wiener.

"Shelf Discovery" is based on a simple premise...revisiting your fave books from your childhood and teen years and then exploring what made it so. As one would assume in any list of '70/'80s vintage MG/YA, there's a ton of Judy Blume in here. But there are also some classics from the 19th and early 20th centuries as well.

Check out the list of books reviewed:
"A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle
"From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" by E.L. Konigsburg
"Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself" by Judy Blume
"Harriet the Spy" by Louise Fitzhugh
"Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder
"Danny, the Champion of the World" by Roald Dahl
"Ludell" by Brenda Scott Wilkinson
"The Great Brain" by John D. Fitzgerald and Mercer Mayer
"Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume
"Sister of the Bride" by Beverly Cleary
"Blubber" by Judy Blume
"The Cat Ate My Gymsuit" by Paula Danziger
"A Ring of Endless Light" by Madeleine L'Engle
"Tiger Eyes" by Judy Blume
"The Long Secret" by Louise Fitzhugh
"Then Again, Maybe I Won't" by Judy Blume
"And You Give Me a Pain, Elaine" by Stella Pevsner
"To Take a Dare" by Crescent Dragonwagon
"The Westing Game" by Ellen Raskins
"Daughters of Eve" by Lois Duncan
"The Grounding of Group 6" by Julian F. Thompson
"Summer of Fear" by Lois Duncan
"I am the Cheese" by Robert Cornier
"The Arm of the Starfish" by Madeleine L'Engle
"Secret Lives" by Berthe Amoss
"Jacob Have I Loved" by Katherine Paterson
"Summer of My German Soldier" by Bette Green
"The Pigman" by Paul Zindel
"Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson
"Tell Me if Lovers are Losers" by Cynthia Voigt
"A Day No Pigs Would Die" by Robert Newton Peck
"Beat the Turtle Drum" by Constance C. Greene
"The Gift of the Pirate Queen" by Patricia Reilly Giff
"Deenie" by Judy Blume
"Don't Hurt Laurie!" by Willo Davis Roberts and Ruth Sanderson
"Are You in the House Alone?" by Richard Peck
"Go Ask Alice" by Anonymous
"It's Not the End of the World" by Judy Blume
"Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell
"Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder
"The Witch of Blackbird Pond" by Elizabeth George Speare
"Homecoming" by Cynthia Voigt
"The Endless Steppe: A Girl in Exile" by Esther Hautzig
"Julie of the Wolves" by Jean Craighead Geroge
"Understood Betsy" by Doroth Canfield
"Ghosts I Have Been" by Richard Peck
"A Gift of Magic" by Lois Duncan
"The Girl with the Silver Eyes" by Willo Davis Roberts
"Stranger with My Face" by Lois Duncan
"Hangin' Out with Cici" by Francine Pascal
"Jane-Emily" by Patrica Clapp
"Down a Dark Hall" by Lois Duncan
"Forever" by Judy Blume
"Happy Endings Are All Alike" by Sandra Soppettone
"Fifteen" by Beverly Cleary
"My Darling, My Hamburger" by Paul Zindel
"In Summer Light" by Zibby O'Neal
"The Moon by Night" by Madeleine L'Engle
"To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie" by Ellen Conford
"An Old-Fashioned Girl" by Louisa May Alcott
"The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" by Joan Aiken
"The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"Cheaper by the Dozen" by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
"Belles on Their Toes" Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
"A Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"All of a Kind Family" by Sydney Taylor
"My Sweet Audrina" by V. C. Andrews
"The Clan of the Cave Bear" by Jean M. Auel
"Wifey" by Judy Blume
"Flowers in the Attic" by V.C. Andrews
"Domestic Arrangements" by Norma Klein

Although I haven't read all of the books on this list (and don't even recognize some of them!), a few are my all-time faves.

If you were asked to contribute an essay, what book from your childhood or teen years would you write about? Alternatively, if a second edition is released thirty years from now, which of today's YA books would you include?


  1. Jennifer Russell11:09 AM

    Of the books I read while in school, I would choose either Alcott's Little Women or Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. As far as newer books, there are several options but I would probably select Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone.

  2. Jennifer, I swear, we have the same reading habits (at least for classic lit...I won't get started about how I couldn't get past the first 3 pages of Harry Potter, but I know, I'm weird), but you already knew that. :)

    Little Women and To Kill a Mockingbird are tops of my list of books not on Skurnick's list (and would actually top any of the ones she listed). I was shocked they weren't on there!

    I'd also add Pride & Prejudice, even though it's not a YA novel. But most people are exposed to it for the first time in high school English. And it only gets better with each successive read as an adult!

  3. I've read quite a few of the books on this list, but Little Women would also be on my personal list. I can't tell you how many times I've read it.

    A couple of books that didn't make the list, possibly because they're more recent, are ones that I read because my kids were reading them in school, and my DD (now age 21) wanted me to read them so she could talk to me about them.

    Holes by Louis Sarchar.
    The Giver by Lois Lowry.
    Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry.

  4. To me, a lot of things on that list are middle-grade, not YA...but the lines are always so vague, I guess!

    I might write about the Oz books, or about something by Louisa May Alcott or Noel many books! (Though if I were actually to stick with YA, unlike the folks on that list, I guess I'd go with Paula Danziger! Because I think she was the only real YA author I read as a YA...)

    (BTW, their list is wrong to say that Wolves of Willoughby Chase was co-written; Aiken was the only one who wrote it.)

  5. Cara, I think that was my typing mistake when typing up the list, actually, so I've amended it on the original post.

    Thanks for catching that!

  6. Oh, and Wifey and Forever were definitely YA, not MG, even if they're by Judy Blume, who mostly wrote MG.

    But I agree that sometimes the line between MG and YA can be tenuous at best, particularly in years past.

  7. Wow, that list totally makes me want to go the library and check out some old faves! Man, those bring back memories.

  8. OMG I have to go reread some of these classics. It's been SO long, and there are some fantastic ones on there!!

  9. Anonymous2:12 PM

    Oh, what memories. I have to pick Little House on the Prairie. I loved that book, even the first one, which was titled (I think) Little House in the Big Woods??? Something like that.

    This blog is too cute!!! You guys did an amazing job!

  10. Amanda:

    What a great topic and personally, very timely! A few weeks ago I went back and re-read ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume.

    Not only was it as wonderful as I remembered it, but it brought back such great memories. I also, as an adult, now understand why Judy dedicated it to her Mom. After finishing it up, I gave my mom a call - just because!


  11. When did WIFEY become MG or YA? Dude. No.

  12. Amanda Brice4:31 PM

    My bad. I misspoke. I meant to say it's a definitely an adult book, NOT a MG.

    It's been a long day. But thinking about it now, it DOES seem like the odd one out on that list. LOL. I guess it got included in the book because it's Judy Blume?

  13. Oh I remember reading it as a kid--but we passed it around in secret so no grown ups would know we'd found a dirty book.

  14. I will say that I think THE HANDMAIDEN'S TALE is not written as a YA, but important for older teens to read if you can get them too. It made me really look at my role in society and shaped my feminist views.

  15. Amanda Brice4:43 PM

    Jennifer's the only one willing to say which modern-day YAs they'd include on their list 30 years from now?

    I mean, other than BITE ME! by Melissa Francis and STUPID CUPID by Rhonda Stapleton, of course? ;)

  16. Amanda Brice4:44 PM

    OK, I'll play. I'd vote for SPEAK by Laurie Halse Andersen.

  17. You know, if you take a good look at that list and think about the plots... YA books have changed a LOT.

    I might re-read the Harper Hall trilogy this weekend.

  18. Oh yeah, Chrissy, I *loved* the Harper Hall books. Amazing. (I still like them better than her adult dragon books.)

    FWIW, of the original list, I would recategorize some of the books, including:

    ADULT: Wifey, Clan of the Cave Bear
    MIDDLE-GRADE: A Wrinkle in Time, Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, Harriet the Spy, The Great Brain, The Westing Game, Understood Betsy, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, All-of-a-Kind Family

    If I were writing about today's YA books in thirty years, I'd include:
    FEED by M.T. Anderson
    The ATTOLIA books by Megan Whalen Turner
    HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne Jones
    THE PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER by Ellen Emerson White

    And I'm sure there are tons more that could be on my list that I'm not thinking of!

  19. Two books I didn't see on the list, but that were my favorites when I was that age:

    The Pistachio Prescription - Paula Danziger
    Unchosen - Nan Gilbert

  20. Amanda Brice9:17 AM

    THE PRINCESS DIARIES is a definite, Cara. Absolutely.

    I think I might also add Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy (A GREAT & TERRIBLE BEAUTY, REBEL ANGELS, THE SWEET FAR THING).

    And I definitely agree with your assessment of what's adult, middle grade, and young adult. But I think the point was just the nostalgia factor. Getting writers togehter to reminesce about their fave books from when they were younger, and some of those will be adult books that they snuck and read.

  21. I see your point, Amanda! I guess for me, along those lines, The Lord of the Rings was huge from the time I first read it (at age 11, I think.) So even though it was an adult novel, it had the same affect on me as Little Women, which was written for younger readers...