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Inspired by . . . Book-Loving Books

Posted by Sherry on 12/26/2009 in 2009, Children's Fiction, Cybil Awards, General |

I’m seeing lots of novels for adults and children that have been inspired by or at least informed by classics and childhood favorites. The Jane Austen spinoffs are ubiquitous. Daphne du Maurier and Josephine Tey are each featured as detectives in their own recent mystery series. And this year’s children’s fiction authors are also being influenced by and paying homage to their favorite books and authors of the past.

Laurel Snyder’s Any Which Wall obviously draws on Edward Eager (Half Magic, Knight’s Castle, etc.), even though Mr. Eager’s books are barely mentioned in the book. In fact, Ms. Snyder says in a book blurb at her website, “This tribute to Edward Eager follows four kids on a magical summer journey that includes pirates, wizards, dastardly villains, and just about everything else that Common Magic can summon up.”

When You Reach Me by Rebeccca Stead is heavily influenced by Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time right down to the the time wrinkles, or tessaracts, themselves. The main character, Miranda, carries around a tattered copy of A Wrinkle in Time and reads and rereads it as almost a sort of talisman. In Road to Tater Hill by Edith Hemingway Annabel reads the same book, A Wrinkle in Time, in nearly the same obsessive way, although the stroy’s plot doesn’t owe as much to Wrinkle as does When You Reach Me.

And in Callie’s Rules by Naomi Zucker, Callie identifies strongly with Jane Eyre. She rereads Jane Eyre instead of the book assigned by her English teacher. Callie searches Jane Eyre for clues to resolving her middle school problems. Callie’s Rules, in fact, reminds me strongly of my favorite Jane Eyre quotation:

“Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be.”

The poverty-stricken family in Also Known As Harper by Ann Haywood Leal fixates on To Kill a Mockingbird, and Atticus Finch in particular, to feed their fantasies of a better life.

The Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick is obviously and quite intentionally channeling classic children’s books. The first book in the series was The Mother-Daughter Book Club, about a group of four sixth grade girls and their mothers who form a book club and read Little Women. In the second book, the girls are now in seventh grade and reading Anne of Green Gables, hence the title Much Ado About Anne. And in the third book of the series, the one I read for the Cybils judging, girls and moms are bonding over Jean Webster’s classic Daddy Long-Legs. This third book, Dear Pen Pal, covers the girls in their eighth grade year, and although the characters tend toward stereotypes (The Soccer Jock, The Fashion Queen, the Boy Crazy Popularity Seeker, the Natural Farm Girl, the Reader), I’m considering it for the book club I’m leading in the spring for some intermediate age girls at our homeschool co-op.

And now I read that Hilary Mckay (she of the wonderful Casson family books) has written a sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess. It’s not about Sara Crewe, but rather about her friends left behind in Mrs. Minchin’s Boarding School.

Semicolon review of Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
Semicolon review of Road to Tater Hill.
Semicolon post on Jane Eyre.
Semicolon review of Callie’s Rules.
Semicolon review of Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal.

1 Comment

  • Lazygal says:

    The Magicians (Lev Grossman) is for slightly older children (say, 14+) and has very obvious references to C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling.

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