Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why do books "appeal" to different readers?

I just finished my third book from my holiday reading stash. I purposefully chose books that were not at all similar to help me think about what makes a really good book. The books I began my break with were Gary Paulsen's Notes from the Dog, Frances Hardinge's Fly by Night, and Leslie Bulion's The Trouble with Rules. Still waiting in the wings are Enrique Flores-Galbis' 90 miles to Havana, and James Patterson's sequel to Witch and Wizard, The Gift.

Back in November I wrote about two very dissimilar books that were both about mermaids. I have continued to think about and apply the "Appeal terms" discussed by Olga Nesi. Most recently I have used her ideas in building online book review forms that I have posted on my web site.

Reading these three books back-to-back once again pointed out that the sophistication (grown-upness?)of a topic is not a predictor of the style of a book. I expended the least effort in reading Paulsen's gentle, character-centered Notes from the Dog. Finn, the fourteen-year-old narrator is completely realistic and believable. Both he and his family grow positively through their friendship with Johanna, their new neighbor and breast-cancer "survivor." Although the plot seems to center around Johanna, her chemotherapy and activities to raise money for the cause, what I took away from the story was a feeling of connection to and between the characters.

The polar opposite of Gary Paulsen's book was Frances Hardinge's Fly by Night. The story is less about Mosca, the central character, than about the evolution she witnesses in her society. The complex plot demands that the reader keep track of layers of history while lush descriptions help paint pictures of the geography. The importance of reading and of freedom of thought and religion are the issues behind the story. I was left with a lot to think about.

I began my holiday reading with The Trouble with Rules, but I put it down half-way through, took a break and finished it today. The feelings evoked by Nadie, the first person narrator of this book and her struggles with the social scene in her school and her fourth-grade class were so vivid I literally couldn't stand it. The complications of fitting in without giving up things you really care about is something many children can empathize with.

I'm really glad that I read all three of these books. I suspect that I will find more opportunities to recommend Notes from the Dog and The Trouble with Rules than I will find readers for Fly by Night, but I am proud to have all three in my library.

No comments:

Post a Comment