Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book-Crush Wednesday (12)

Back in August, I attended SCBWI-LA. And during one of the keynote presentations, I was fortunate enough to witness this:


Later in the conference, I attended a workshop on literary experimentation in children's literature by the very singer featured in that video - the venerable M.T. Anderson. It was like a crash course in AWESOME, mostly because I loved hearing someone speak so intelligently about children's literature.

One of the things Anderson touched on in the lecture was metafiction, or when an element in the story addresses the fact that the story itself is a fictional work. Anderson said that it was hard to pull off metafiction in novel lengths, but that picture books were often great examples of metafictional works. And he discussed a little (I mean really a little - he didn't brag or anything) about how he included metaficitonal elements in some of his books.

So that, combined with the awesome Delaware state song, and I knew I had to try Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware. I'd read other works by Anderson, but never anything in his Pals in Peril series. I knew the books featured humor, but more "smart kid" humor than slapstick or gross-out humor. And I was ready for it.

Jasper Dash was unlike anything I've ever read. The characters were quirky, the story was insanely original, and the narrator was kind of stoic but still somehow funny. And I loved it. I loved how the humor was unapologetically  weird, and how the narrator totally broke the wall and encouraged readers to participate in the narrative. I loved the metafiction parts, where the narrator straight up said, "These characters have been in other books before, you should go down to your local bookstore and buy them!" or "The author has never been to Delaware, so all the descriptions of mountains and monsters had to be made up. If you're not happy, here's the address for the governor of Delaware. Let him know!" (Clearly, not direct quotes. It could not be more obvious that mess is not M.T. Anderson prose.) I loved the mystery, the adventure, the smooth way that M.T. Anderson tells a story. At SCBWI, Anderson mentioned that, though he'd never been to Delaware, he did Google Map it, and saw that there was a Dragon Creek (which was obviously infested with dragons) and a town called Sandtown (clearly, in the middle of the desert), so he felt that was as much as he needed.

Also, Jasper Dash has an amazing external, interactive website - the Tourist's Guide to Delaware. On it, you can view a map of Delaware, view a letter from the governor, sing along to the state song, and more.

So, yeah. This book is fun. And (bonus!) it's especially fun for boys. But I think anyone who's interested in seeing some really different things you can do with writing and novels should check this book out (I'm giving Whales on Stilts a try next - can't wait!) I feel especially lucky that Anderson is going to be at VCFA in January giving a guest lecture...wootwoot! I'm so stoked for it I can't even stand it.

Trailer for Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware:

1 comment:

Loved it? Hated it? Either way, I want to hear what you thought!

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