Sarah Ellis is in a Flap

My friend and former VCFA colleague Sarah Ellis is in a flap about words. That is to say, a BookFlap mini-masterclass, BookFlap being a new collaborative site launched by four Canadian writers and authors of books for young readers–Vicki Grant, Teresa Toten, Marthe Jocelyn, and Kathy Kacer.

In Sarah’s brief video, titled The Power of a Word, we’re invited to pay close attention to three words. Just three, from the pages of these three books:

No introduction needed to this one nor to the two words it has contributed to children’s literature.

And Feed by M.T. Anderson could serve as a master class in making a futuristic dystopian language utterly clear without a smidgeon of translation needed.

And is Thomas King’s brilliant spoof a retelling or a comical unraveling of the Columbus discovery myth? That’s a conversation for another time. For now, I’ll just note that the word from this book is “relations.”

Sarah takes us on a cheerful little guided tour of those three words, as they’re used in these three books. She turns them over, tosses them around, unpacks them for their sound, sense, and a quality that she calls “charge.”

This, I must admit, is the kind of thing that I would happily spend a day doing–pulling books off the shelf and finding myself a small universe of something friendly and absorbing to consider. It’s the kind of comfort that Pooh finds in honey pots. If there’s one thing I would like to pass along to young readers, it is this sense that Sarah conveys so well, that words can be your friends.

She concludes with an incitement to rebellion:

Push back against the conservative forces that would have you privilege sense over sound, the point of view that the young reader needs everything spelled out as simply as possible, in bland words they’ve already encountered. Don’t stand for this. Choose your words with authenticity, care, and joy, and then be their ally.

A flap worth getting into!

Interview With Karen Rivers

Karen Rivers is a friend and colleague, a neighbor, and a fellow writer who teaches. She is the author of The Girl in the Well is Me, which Kirkus, in a starred review, called “a brilliantly revealed, sometimes even funny, exploration of courage, the will to live, and the importance of being true to oneself.”

Here she is talking to me about her new YA novel from FSG, Before We Go Extinct. In praise of the book, the National Reading Campaign says:

Before We Go Extinct has no easy answers. Rivers’ characters are complex – sometimes cruel, and other times child-like in their innocence – and she does not condescend with a tidy conclusion that ties up all the plot threads.

Here’s Karen talking about the main character’s journey and the process of writing the novel.