Thursday, July 12, 2007

Worthy Literature

I read Holes by Louis Sachar today. After the first few chapters, I was concerned because it is obviously written for middle school kids and I wasn't sure if I would have a lot to say about it.

Books like The Secret Garden and Alice in Wonderland were written for children too, but, upon rereading them, I see now how very different such books are from our modern children's literature.

Part of me wonders if we are dumbing down literature for young people because obviously 12-year-olds used to love Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie, but not many average kids pick up such books today. What's changed? Obviously, children's past times are a little different now and that certainly has an effect on what they are willing to read. I recently read an article that talked about how some schools are putting YA fiction on their summer reading lists so kids might actually read the books. Apparently, if the books aren't quick reads then they don't get read.

But after finishing Holes, I have a completely different perspective. Holes is about a curse and an outcast and someone loving himself for the first time, but it's also a masterpiece of storytelling. Because Sachar isn't just writing about someone digging holes in the desert. His narrative structure is constantly filling in the holes in the story. So Stanley survives the yellow -spotted lizards all over his body. A previous chapter has told us that he should be dead. But in the chapter after Stanley's brush with death, we find out that these lizards don't like people who have a high concentration of onion in his/her system. Well, Stanley has been eating only onions for the week he has spent in the desert with Zero. Lucky, sure. But it's amazing how Sachar weaves all these plots together into something that makes complete sense to the reader and even leaves you with a few things to think about when you're done.

So to those who say children's literature has gone to pot (I'm talking to you, Harold Bloom), I say take a second look.

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