Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Steps Up the Chimney

I'm certainly no expert on young adult novels.  I read several each year largely because my children have read them and talk about them and so I get interested in them.  I've also played with the idea of trying to write one some day and therefore ought to read them.  And, I will say, that I keep reading them because I flat out enjoy them.  But while reading The Steps Up the Chimney by William Corlett I began to ponder just what makes a novel a "young adult" novel.  It's not that they're simplified for a less sophisticated audience (at least they shouldn't be and I don't think the better ones are).  The main characters are usually young people and perhaps that is the only criteria.  I suppose they should have a "PG" type rating, not "R" but is that the only criteria?

Anyway, I enjoyed this book pretty well.  It's the first of a four part series revolving around the adventures of three siblings, ages 7-12, who are staying with their Uncle and his girlfriend (who's pregnant).  Their house is in the rural English countryside and is intriguing in a mysterious sort of way, with secret staircases, a secret room, and a magician.  The children find they can inhabit the bodies of various animals around the house, able to run with a fox or see through the eyes of an owl, etc.  There is adventure, mystery, and fantasy as well as some frightening situations.  I felt the plot was well thought out and executed but I did have an issue with the way the children simply accepted the fantasy elements with very little question.  For example, when the kids first meet the magician they take him at his word and simply believe he can perform magical acts.  I would think there should have been more of a "prove it to me" attitude.  They are children so may be a tad more accepting than a jaded adult but not quite that much.  As a reader, I can easily overlook that problem though and I do look forward to the rest of the series.  The author has won quite a few writing awards and not all for young adult literature so I should be able to learn from him.

During my lunch break (way too short today I must add; maybe I should be glad I get to take one at all), I completed the next short story in the Jeffrey Archer collection, Cat O'Nine Tales.  "Is it October Already?" is another cute story but this time is written in a more tradtional mode than the previous entries; i.e. like most published fiction with dialogue, etc.  It's about a rather simple-minded fellow in London who each October finds a way to break the law so that he can be sentenced to 6 months in jail.  This keeps him in a warm place with food and shelter during the cold winter months.  Each October he does it again and if he only gets sentenced to 3 months he either aggravates the judge and thereby gets more or else he commits some minor infraction in jail to get his sentence lengthened.  This is a true story as told to the author, who was his cell mate briefly, and is a fine example of "you couldn't make this stuff up."

I'll be going TDY to Washinton DC next week so I'll take a couple of books with me including my next read: Dragon by Clive Cussler.

1 comment:

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire