Friday, March 9, 2012

Are Your (Book) Roots Showing?

This is not me.

Hi, everyone! Another new Mayhemer here. Long time middle grade book lover, though. In fact, in a way, that’s what my post is about today. I was all set to write on a different topic for my inaugural Project Mayhem entry, then I went to the bookstore last Saturday. And I came across THIS:

This is the cover on the copy I bought, but I find it puzzling--the mice look like cats, don't they? And the original art was by Garth Williams. (See above ^.) Replacing Garth Williams!?

THE RESCUERS by Margery Sharp! Have you read this book? (Not to be confused with the also fun, but so-different-you-can-hardly-recognize-it movie.) Oh, so good.

THE RESCUERS was one of those books for me when I was a kid. A book I came back to visit, time after time, in my tiny school library. So much so, that when I saw this in the bookstore last weekend, it reminded me of how much my upcoming novel, MALCOLM AT MIDNIGHT, is rooted in the humor and heart of THE RESCUERS.

Which got me thinking. And that made me change my post topic. And now--ta-dum!--you're going to be treated to an extended metaphor. (I know! I hope I don’t get kicked out of the group after my first post.)

I started wondering . . . what other books were my roots? Ones that influenced who I grew up to be? That became a part of me? That changed my world and caused me to sprout in a different direction?

What books are my own stories grounded in?


In the branch of me that wrote MALCOLM, I can see roots that go way down deep, like THE RESCUERS'. There's also a little bit of RAMONA (I named the teacher Mr. Binney). Some RATS OF NIMH--those rats were so clever! More heart from THE SUMMER OF THE MONKEYS. Goofiness from BUNNICULA. Maybe even the re-purposing of household items from THE BORROWERS. But there are newer roots for MALCOLM, too. Like THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX. The mysteries in HARRY POTTER. And Andrew Clements’ classroom banter.

I love digging around and seeing how these book roots of mine grew together into something new. But it's also a scary thought as author who has a first book coming out this year. Will my book cause ideas and feelings to germinate in someone else . . . years later? Author Sid Fleischman said, "The books we enjoy as children stay with us forever--they have a special impact." Eep. That's a big responsibility!

Now, granted, I probably have more or deeper book roots than the average person. I grew up to be both a children’s librarian and a children’s author, after all. My book roots probably look like those plants you get from the garden center that have been in their pots too long—all twisted and tangled and wrapped around and around themselves. I sometimes have a hard time talking about non-book-related things.

But I’ll bet you have book roots, too. If you’re a writer, what stories did your books grow from? And if you don’t write, well, I’ll bet if you dig down deep enough, your book roots are there, too.

I’d love to hear about them. After all, I’m still leafing out new branches.

*~W.H. Beck~*

21 comments:

  1. Some of the bigger book roots for me are The Secret Garden(I'm convinced this is why I love gardening so much.)and Danny the Champion of the World and frankly any other title by Roald Dahl as well. I love Harry Potter as well. I read the first book the summer before I started high school and followed them ever since. In a picture book root, my sister and I loved Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile by Tommie dePaola. There was a time when we begged our dad to read it and "do the voices" nearly every night.

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    1. Oh, I love THE SECRET GARDEN, too. But I don't know BILL AND PETE GO DOWN THE NILE. Have to go check it out . . .

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    2. "Ooo, said all the little crocodiles!" We still say that around here, and my boys haven't read this book for ages.

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  2. We are CLEARLY kindred spirits!!! :) RATS RULE!

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    1. Yay rats! And I can't wait for your shark book, too.

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  3. Welcome to the Project!

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  4. NIMH! Ramona! The Borrowers! You are already a friend! I'll forgive you The Summer of the Monkeys, the only book for school I never finished. ;)

    I'm embarrassed to say I never knew The Rescuers was a book. Must find now.
    Welcome!!

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    1. Thanks Caroline. But you didn't care for SUMMER OF THE MONKEYS?! Maybe it was how my sixth grade teacher read it aloud...I love that book.

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    2. Something is clearly wrong with me. ;)

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  5. Wonderful first post, W.H. I'm so glad you've joined the team.

    Not sure what roots show in my novel, probably because I do pretty much everything with my head in the clouds. (Like forgetting to give my son lunch money today as he goes out of town for a band concert. Hopefully he will scrounge successfully.)

    Welcome aboard!

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    1. Thanks for the welcome, Michael. Yes, I spend much of my time in the clouds, too. I think it's only later that I can see how books I have read have filtered through.

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  6. I love the idea behind this post, and I love your "roots"! Welcome to the team! I'd say the roots of my story lie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with a touch of Dennis the Menace and a dash of Henry Neff's Tapestry series. :-)

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    1. Thanks Shannon. I haven't read the TAPESTRY series, but my 12-year-old has and I know he liked it. Sounds interesting!

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  7. Very interesting! I love The Rescuers and this blog!

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    1. Glad to find another RESCUERS fan! :-)

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  8. Oooh, great post! And now I'll have to check out THE RESCUERS.

    As a fantasy, I've got the traditional roots in the quest adventures of Middle Earth and many summer afternoons pouring over Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan's epic sagas. But I think there are also pieces of Anne of Green Gables (of course!), Tailchaser's Song, and Watership Down.

    I LOVE that you mentioned Ramona. I just read the first book to my young sons, and they were enthralled. Glad you're joining Team Mayhem!

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  9. Thanks Marissa. I used to (well, still do) love poring over the maps in those epic fantasies. And WATERSHIP DOWN is another all-time fav.

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  10. Great post, W.H. And welcome to the Mayhem. I guess my roots would consist of MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN and LOTR along with NARNIA. The adventurous feel of my writing is there, but I don't really write (so far) with the fantastical flair of LOTR and NARNIA. By the way, I love the synopsis of your book (saw it on your website). Sounds crazy fun.

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  11. Welcome! When I think back to childhood books, the first that come to mind are The Secret Garden, Little House on the Prairie, anything by Lloyd Alexander or Marguerite Henry. Guess I was a sucker for the classics!

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  12. Another Secret Garden fan here. In fact, I'm in the midst of trying to turn my backyard into a midwest version of a secret garden. It won't be as cool, but I'm making an effort.

    I loved A WRINKLE IN TIME, the start of my fascination with sci fi, FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER (wonder who thought up that title?) and HARRIET THE SPY.

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!