Monday, May 02, 2005

Another List of Notables

I've never heard of the Children's Literature Assembly, but it has put out a list of Notable Children's Books in the English Language Arts, which was mentioned at both Child-Lit and Kids Lit. I haven't read a single book on the list. Which means I can't complain about them.

Gail's Lizard Motel Reading Journal

Welcome to my thoughts as I read Welcome to Lizard Motel by Barbara Feinberg. Many critics of Feinberg's book bring up the fact that she has an objection to Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. But Feinberg's objection is interesting because, the way I read it, she's not just claiming Terabithia is a downer and unsuitable for that reason. What Feinberg says is:

Why in the world did you (Paterson) kill off your character? To make a point? I berate her: You didn't set the death up right. You didn't prepare us. On some level we have to be prepared. I wasn't aware, even subliminally, of a dark forewarning: no haunting undertone. This was a complete shock. Even a shock should reverberate somehow. An ending should be a manifestation, should have a feeling of necessity to it. Your book posed no question, even unconsciously, that this death answers. Random and artificially constructed. (Page 17)

It seems to me that what Feinberg is doing here is not complaining that the book has a sad ending. She's talking about the quality of the writing. She's talking about construction, foreshadowing, and plot. That is a totally different thing than just ranting about sad books, which is what she's often criticized for doing.

I have never read Bridge to Terabithia, though I've known of teenagers who loved it. I have no reason to think the book is poorly written. But the questions Feinberg raises about the book are legitimate questions to raise about any book. Personally, I've read a number of problem books with one-dimensional characters, stereotypical antagonists, contrived plots, and cliched, politically correct situations. (I have no objection to political correctness; cliches, however, are a totally different thing.) And I've often wondered, are these books allowed to slip through the cracks because critics and editors are so taken with the problem at their cores?

Feinberg doesn't pursue the question of writing quality with Bridge to Terabithia. At least, she hasn't so far. I'll be interested to see if she'll have more to say about the quality issue later in her book.


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