Wednesday 15 September 2010

Web muster (YA edition)

Imogen Russell-Williams in the Guardian on swearing in children's books: thank goodness soemthing else found the faux-cussing in Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan brought it down from a near 5 star to a 4

Another favourite of mine, Scott Westerfeld, whose ear for invented language is usually sound, grated on me a bit with Leviathan, a steampunk alternate history of events leading into the first world war. "Clart" is a good coinage for "shit" – it sounds appropriately dirty – but "bum-rag" just gets overused by the heroine-posing-as-hero in her attempts to swagger convincingly, and "Barking spiders!" is frankly rubbish. There are loads of better authentic early 20th century swear-words. Even "damn" would do nicely for a bit of variation.

Two of my favourites for children's book swearing (not, on reflection, that I should have such a category): Melvin Burgess's Bloodtide and Michael de Larrabeiti's Borribles series.

A new biography of Roald Dahl is out: (heartrending) extract here; Guardian review here; Telegraph review here.

And the last book in Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay series has hit the shelves. In a New York Times review Katie Roiphe observes:

THE 17-year-old girl at the center of the revolution is a great character without being exactly likable. Katniss is bossy, moody, bratty, demanding, prickly. She treats the world with an explosive aggression that is a little out of the ordinary, to say the least. ... In short, she belongs to a recent tribe of popular heroines: the small, difficult teenage girl who manifests enormous physical and moral strength. She is both murderer and victim, somehow representing female strength and female vulnerability all mingled and entwined, dangerously, ambiguously, into one. She is Pippi Longstocking. She is the girl with the dragon tattoo. She is mesmerizing in her way of defying authority, antisocial, courageous, angry, self-involved and yet somehow sweepingly sympathetic.

So, not exactly Matilda or Tiffany Aching or - as Laura Miller observes on Salon - Bella Swan. (Although if you were going to make comparisons between the eminently infuriating Bella Swan and another YA character, I'm be picking Grace Brisbane in Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls soon-to-be trilogy).

I just picked up Miller's The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia yesterday, and am thoroughly enjoying it; I'd really recommend the bibliography on her site for reminders and recommendations of great YA fantasy (you can't link directly, so just hit the Books for Kids link in the left-hand side navigation).

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