Editorial May 2005: Big Names Writing YA By Hilary Williamson
Lately, I've been noticing more and more big name authors trying their hand at writing for middle school and teen readers. Whether it's being done in the hope of emulating J. K. Rowling's success, or it's simply a change of pace for them, the trend is encouraging. Though authors like Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones, Lloyd Alexander and Peter Dickinson have kept the YA market supplied with excellent reads over the years, an injection of talent is always welcome.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is hugely successful, and he's recently released several wonderful Discworld stories for the younger crowd. My favorite so far is The Wee Free Men, which introduced young Tiffany Aching and the delightful Nac Mac Feegle (famous for 'Stealin' an' drinkin' an' fightin''). Isabel Allende, one of Latin America's most popular female writers, wrote The House of the Spirits. She's also turned her hand to teen reads with a trilogy - City of the Beasts, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon, and Forest of the Pygmies - of fantastic adventures all over the world.
Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson teamed up to produce Peter and the Starcatchers, an imaginative pirate tale that answers questions about how the various residents of Neverland came to be. Carl Hiaasen applied his inimitable style to his hilarious Hoot, that mixes the mystery of a barefoot boy with an environmental threat to burrowing owls. And James Patterson, whose Alex Cross and Women's Murder Club chillers have an enormous following, has taken his avian children novels (When the Wind Blows and The Lake House) into a new direction with his Maximum Ride series - valiant young Max guides her flock through constant attacks from half-wolf Erasers in the first, fast-paced Angel Experiment.
Well-known mystery author Walter Mosley takes a more serious tack with 47, a historical fantasy that explores the evils of slavery - Tall John comes from another world to enlist slave #47 in a battle for the universe, telling him 'Neither nigger nor master be'. And, for chapter book readers, thriller writer David Baldacci must have had his tongue firmly in cheek while penning Fries Alive!. In this first in a new Freddy and the French Fries series, Freddy Funkhouser's plan to save the Burger Castle family business goes hilariously awry.
Having watched my kids come home with some incredibly boring school reading assignments over the years, I'm thrilled to see authors with a well-proven ability to entertain, turning to the teen and middle school market, and showing young adult readers that books can be for fun as well as for education.
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