Friday, September 28, 2012

Middle School/Eighth Grade

I've been pondering something lately. Why are we so set on
divorcing word from image--insisting that "adult" books be totally
bereft of pictures unless they're non fiction. Maybe well done
illustration of some sort makes words more meaningful for the visual
learner and the reading experience richer for all. I know that Leah's
graphics take my poems to a whole new level.
I had a totally no holds barred, out and out fun reading
experience recently. Writer Jennifer Holm and illustrator Elisha
Castaldi have collaborated on two scrapbook style books: Middle
School Is Worse Than Meatloaf and Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick.
Each tells of a school year in the life of Ginny Davis through the
medium of her stuff. These books are the ultimate in show, don't
tell--the writer's mandate--pulled off brilliantly.
Ginny starts seventh grade as the middle child of a single
parent. Her mom is dating, and she's hopeful. Her older brother,
Henry, gets in serious (as in police involvement) trouble. Little
brother, Timmy, starting in kindergarten, is in need of sisterly
protection and babysitting. Finally her mom gets married. In eighth
grade her step dad loses his job, causing the family to move, Henry
has not yet reformed, and a new baby arrives--a boy, of course.
All is told through pages of realistically drawn stuff. Beyond
what you'd expect (notes passed in class, report cards, greeting
cards) there's some pretty creative stuff. A tray of cafeteria food
doesn't look that much more appetizing than a lab page featuring an
about to be dissected worm. A collage of a five ways to look cool
clipping, a hair color box, nail polish, and a drug store receipt is
followed by hefty bills for undoing damage to Ginny's hair and the
plumbing. A cast list shows that Ginny did not get a ballet role she
had her heart set on while her former best friend did.
Ginny starts each year with a to do list. Life has a way of
creating, shall we say, complications: many amusing, some poignant,
all interesting. Through her stuff, you get to know her a lot more
intimately than the protagonists of many more verbose novels.
On a personal note, I let Leah see the books. They might give us some
inspiration for when we finish our first poetry book.
A great big shout out goes out to Leah, whose images pair up perfectly
with my words.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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