Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Raining: Shelf Discovery

Dear Readers,

Well the rain is here, which makes me happy. Not only will I no longer feel guilty for just wanting to stay home and read, but I am finally motivated to sit down and type out a log of what I've been reading these past few months. A recent library hold came in last week for Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by blogger Lizzie Skurnick. There are some other writers listed as well and it says A Reading Memoir underneath the title. I didn't realize this initially, but the book appears to be a collection of reviews that first appeared as a regular blog feature on Jezebel. You can read more about it on the author's own website here.

I am more than thrilled about this book because I read so many wonderful young adult novels in the 70's/80's and I have forgotten most of them. I remember some of them well, such as From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg --who could forgot Claudia Kincaid's scheme to run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art! But I don't remember whole, wonderful sentences that are quoted here, like this one:

She didn't like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes.

When I read that sentence, I was back in 5th grade again. I remembered the visual I had of this book. I read it several times and thought it was totally great.

One I had totally forgotten but was pretty into, is called Happy Endings Are All Alike. The plot centers around two teenage lesbians who are in a relationship. The mom is a feminist and there is a realistic rape scene. Of course an adolescent girl would be intrigued by this book. I had forgotten it even existed.

What I did not realize, even at the time, is that this book was written by the same author who wrote Suzuki Beane, my favorite childhood picture book. Suzuki Beane haunted me for years. One day I was a kid who didn't read picture books anymore and I went to look for it and it was gone. I tried to ask my parents where it went but they didn't remember. I would search for it but after awhile I forgot what it was called and I don't think I ever knew the author's name, Sandra Scoppettone.

What's also really cool is that lately I've been reading a lot of hard-boiled detective novels and enjoying them a lot except for their sexism. I was wondering if there was any feminist noir...well it turns out Scoppettone writes detective novels that just might fit that description! How exciting and weird, right?

A few other books I remember reading and am enjoying revisiting through this book:

A Wrinkle in Time -totally my favorite series of young adult novels
Harriet the Spy -more on this later, a HUGE influence on me in every way, also this author, Louise Fitzhugh, illustrated Suzuki Beane. another weird connection I hadn't realized!
Farmer Boy -the Little House book about the little boy Laura marries in the end
Danny the Champion of the World -by the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author, Roald Dahl
Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself -my favorite Judy Blume novel

I really recommend this if you read this stuff as a kid--or if you have kids yourself. Each book has a synopsis and an analysis and the criticism is pretty cool so far.


Cathy said...

Tobi, this sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing!!


Tobi Vail said...

hi cathy--I think you commented before I had a chance to find some of the links--I realize now that this book started out as a regular feature on called "Fine Lines" not sure if they are still doing it or not, but I linked to their initial review of Happy Endings Are All Alike. It's here:

Bridget I. said...

That family photo is so sweet!

Thanks for the list and suggestions - I'm reading two different young adult sagas at the moment, but didn't read a lot of the young adult classics when younger - I was really into folk and fairy tales from around the world, always bugging our school librarian (Reeves Middle School) when we might get more tales in. I also read a lot of sci-fi (Ray Bradbury), horror (Stephen King) and prep school/boy relationship stories such as A Separate Peace (John Knowles), and The Chocolate War (Robert Cormier) - oh! and Parsival or A Knight's Tale (by Richard Monaco) was one of my favorites - only later did I realize the mature content running throughout the book. Ha, and I was just telling a friend the other day about the time I accidentally discovered a copy of Looking for Mr. Goodbar (by Judith Rossner) at my grandparents' house when I was 11 or 12... yikes!

Tobi Vail said...

this books is actually so cool, that I think I'm going to have to order a copy of it for's like a reference book as well as just being really well done and interesting in it's own right.