The word on the street is that some kids don’t like to be encouraged to read books. I never had that problem, or if I did, I don’t remember it. Betsy Hoke told me to read this book, if I remember correctly. She made me read Bridge to Terabithia, too. That’s the first book I remember crying to.
Anyway, The Castle in the Attic. It has been a long time since I read this book, but here’s my recollection: This book starts out with a slightly whiny protagonist. He’s borderline annoying. A person very important to him is moving away, and he’s being left with a toy castle.
But then, as is common to great books, the toy castle is not what it seemed. Adventure ensues. If you have a boy aged 7 – 11, this is a great read. They will have fun. I remember reading this book and immediately handing it off to my little brother, who also loved it. It’s a fun read.
I’ve always enjoyed using the word Catastrophe.
Pathfinder is a fairly recent (2011) release from Orson Scott Card. I’m surprised to find myself struggling to describe it, but I think it’s because there’s so much setup early in the book that I can’t come up with anything that isn’t a spoiler.
Here’s what works about this book: there is both a system by which the world works that is intriguingly fun and characters who feel worth following. It’s very much an ensemble cast of characters, so even if you dislike the protagonist (and I’ll admit, at times I found myself annoyed with him,) there’s enough about the other characters to carry you through.
Pathfinder is an excellent example of sci fi that crosses over into fantasy and then comes back. Or maybe it’s fantasy that crosses into sci fi and then comes back. I’m not really sure. I know this: I couldn’t wait for my wife to finish reading it so we could talk about it. Pathfinder definitely qualifies as a fun read.
Sometimes books you remember as a child or adolescent disappear from shelves. Walt Morey is one of those authors. Some publisher had, cleverly, published a set of seven or eight of his stories in the 90s as the Walt Morey Adventure library. My parents bought them for us boys at Christmas one year, if memory serves.
They are almost impossible to find now.
Walt Morey is best known for writing Gentle Ben (his first children’s novel, proving that sometimes the first one is the best?). I’ve actually never read Gentle Ben. Walt Morey will forever be in my head for writing the best “boy” books of my early teens. His stories were transitional — the stakes were no longer non-existent. There was tragedy and drama.
He was a master of setting — his books are mostly set either in Alaska or in the Pacific Northwest. He loved those landscapes, and he writes them compellingly.
I wish I could say I had a favorite, but I don’t. I loved them all — Deep Trouble, Angry Waters, Scrub – Dog of Alaska, Runaway Stallion, Home is the North, Run Far, Run Fast, Year of the Black Pony, and Gloomy Gus.
I was telling Rebecca this morning that I need to go ahead and buy used versions of them all. They’re delightful. Especially if you have boys, these books are worth having around. I lost myself for hours in Walt Morey’s adventures. They’re a fun read.
(Boom… use of Title in Post… +10 bonus points!)
I’ve always wanted to be a publisher of books. That’s a little different than my day job. There, I help other people become the publisher of their own books. While I enjoy that work, I want to publish books. I want to see an author’s vision and help them take it further. It’s something I’m really passionate about.
As we’ve gone about launching Brightener Books, one of the things I’ve had to figure out is what I think makes a book worth publishing. What kind of books do I want to get behind?
A few things have risen to the top:
– Technically sound
The writing can’t be technically bad. I’m not looking for perfect, but if the manuscript is rife with run-on sentences, misspellings, bad grammar and the like, I’m going to miss the good stuff for all the bad writing. Study the craft. It’s a must.
I like manuscripts that move. I don’t mean action on every page, but I want to feel like something is happening. Keep the story moving. Keep the characters developing. It’s important.
I have to want to come back for more. It needs to be fun. That doesn’t necessarily mean silly or funny. It can mean those things. But more than that, it has to be an experience that I think, ooh… I enjoyed that. It was fun.
Writers trade in the execution of ideas. There’s nothing new under the sun, I know, but your execution of your ideas should feel fresh. Be creative. It’s a wonderful way to reflect our Creator.
– Great dialogue
Good dialogue isn’t exactly “Characters who talk the way real people do.” It’s better than that. It’s crisp. It’s exact. It’s not wasteful. The characters need to exist for their own reasons and interact like they are not just moving a plot point along.
– A “cheer for them” / “make me cry” moment somewhere
At some point in the manuscript, I need to want to either cheer for the protagonist or cry for them. If you can accomplish both, even better.
If a manuscript has those elements, I’m going to want to read it. If it fits into the kind of stuff I want to publish at Brightener Books, I’m likely to want to help other readers find it to. At the end of the day, that’s the true job of a publisher. I can’t wait.