During February I spent the month revising workshops and resources about structure as well as beginning a quest to re-read some of my favourite childhood books. I also began to locate more contemporary books for middle grades and youth to unravel for their structure and best features.
I am putting enormous amounts of efforts into outlining, researching, and structuring prior to beginning my full write ups of the first draft of middle grade novels. Furthermore, I am seeking to support this by my study of the books I love and admire. They are my friends as I make my journey through the first drafts.
I especially enjoyed revisiting the Worst Witch, and examining the length of the book, chapters, scenes, and how black line illustrations were distributed throughout. It is so well balanced, with just enough of description, dialogue and humour to appeal to the young reader. This book still makes me giggle!
Structurally there are small cliffhangers, a gradual raising of the stakes, foreshadowing, and scenes which make the story come alive. It is extremely well done. I paid close attention to the things that could help improve my own writing. Although of course I do want to foster my own voice and style.
As for Pippi Longstocking, what a character – super strong, generous, creative, brave and so true to herself always. There was perhaps a chapter I didn’t enjoy so much, the section about Maids, and that’s partly because of all the studies of literary representation I have done, which make some aspects of this a little outdated, although I do think Lingrid is very tongue in cheek and having a go at the way the tea party goers discuss their maids. This article from the Guardian is well worth a read Pippi Longstocking, Books Charged with Racism.
“”It is not that the figure of Pippi Longstocking is racist, but that all three in the trilogy of books have colonial racist stereotypes,” said Wollrad. “I would certainly not condemn the book completely – on the contrary, there are many very positive aspects to the book, as well as being very funny, it is instructive for children as it not only has a strong female character, she is against adultism, grown-ups being in charge, and she is fiercely opposed to violence against animals – there is a very strong critique of authority in the book,” she told the Local.”
Pippi Longstocking has some subversive elements to it though, which made it well ahead of its time and so it is still despite sections that might not read well to modern audiences a book worth reading. The inspiration surely of movies like Home Alone.
Both Worst Witch and Pippi Longstocking are heart warming representations of friendship that avoid the sickly sweet, as well as being about overcoming prejudices others may have against you.
So it’s back to working on my novels.
Now I must get back to finishing touches of my plan, and begin the writing of the first chapter of one of them.
all the best, I’m a little busy!
Articles that may be of interest https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/nov/09/pippi-longstocking-books-racism