In Joan Aiken’s _The Way to Write for Children_, she makes this observation: “Children may be fiends in all kinds of ways, but they are not hypocrites” (8). What she means is that if children don’t like a book because it’s too boring with too many transition paragraphs or too complicated in narrative structure, then they won’t read it because, for them, the story’s lost. They won’t pretend that they like it or give it a benefit of a doubt because it’s “literature” (the literary equivalent of “it’s good for you”). They’ll close the book in disgust and go do something — *anything* — else than read this Waste of My Time.
It’s because of that that I like reading fantasy books traditionally marketed as “Children’s/Juvenile/YA” books. So much of “adult” or “mainstream” fantasy is clogged with dreck and my “leisure” time has become shorter and shorter every day, what with my job as a teacher, my dissertation research and writing, and my rather time-consuming avocation (savate). I really don’t have time nor the attention span nowadays to give new, more bloated fantasy books a benefit of a doubt. I find myself falling back to old stand-bys — and those stand-bys (like brand loyalties) are:
1) Ursula LeGuin (which I discovered by reading her _Earthsea_ series)
2) J. K. Rowling (can hardly wait for the sixth HP book, _Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince_ to come out — she’s more than halfway finished writing the darn thing, according to her web site)
3) Madeleine L’Engle (her _Time Quartet_ series, that is — _A Wrinkle in Time_ and the rest)
4) Margaret Mahy (only her one novel, _The Changeover_, where I learned more things beyond ordinary ken that prepared me for many things later in life. The rest are realistic “problem” novel stuff, which don’t really survive the test of time, as I get older.)
Now that I list them, I realize that all of these authors are women, which is unintentional on my part. But when I think of characters and stories that are true to how the human heart works, crossing time and space and culture and history, these four authors and their books arise, fully formed like Athena from Zeus’ head, from my memories, and, in their simplicity (since they have written for children), their novels have the economy and the preciseness of language as the clearest, sharpest poetry.
Well, the trytophan has kicked in — let’s see if the Lizard Queen can have a good night’s sleep this time…