Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal, Toys Go Out

Author Julianna Baggott posted a link on the child_lit listserv I'm on, to a recent article she did for NPR: "Hooray for YA: Teen Novels for Readers of All Ages." I, of course, immediately put all of them (there's only five) on hold at the library. So far I've only read Ten Miles Past Normal, by Frances O'Roark Dowell. This was partly because of Baggott's review, partly because of the inside cover text, largely because of the cover.

This is one of those nicely balanced books that good YA and every kind of good book has to be: about much more than just living in the country, about much more than just being fourteen, about much more than learning to play bass, about much more than realizing that your best friend since elementary school is actually kind of annoying and maybe you don't have so much in common anymore. All of these elements--and much more--make up this funny sweet completely accurate little book about one experience of being a fourteen-year-old girl--very specific to Janie's life, but also universal, of course.

And I love that in fourth-grade, she went on a field trip to an organic farm, came home and told her parents they should "move to an organic farm and raise goats." She has presented other ideas to her parents in the past: "Let's keep a horse in the backyard! Let's adopt a homeless person!" and her parents always reject them, so she doesn't expect her mother to get "...very quiet. She looked at my father, her eyes sort of glimmering, a dreamy expression on her face."

"Eight months later, we were farmers." And when she starts high school four years later, living on a farm is cramping her social life: "And suddenly I realized that living on a farm was weird. Milking goats and pushing a chickenmobile around the yard every morning, dumping eggshells and coffee grounds into the composter every night after the dishes were done. Knowing way too much about manure and fertilizers and the organic way to grow bok choy. What kind of normal teenage girl lived this way?"


Then this morning I read Toys Go Out; Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, A Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic, by Emily Jenkins--illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky! It's a short chapter book; six stories presenting the adventures of three of the beloved friends of the Little Girl, two stuffed animals and Plastic, who discovers what he is over the course of the story. I loved it. Yay anthropomorphism and becoming friends with the scary washing machine in the basement and going to the beach.

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