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Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, November 17, 2002

Typically "Adult" Authors Reaching Out to Young Set

Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket, both phenomenal commercial successes, have inspired a number of mainstream authors to write novels for the children's and young adult market.

Abarat by Clive Barker (Joanna Cotler Books, 2002).

This book from horror master Barker is packed with 130 impressive and colorful illustrations that enhance the story.

This is the first in a planned quartet set in the complex mythical world of Abarat, the location of an ongoing battle between the Light and the Dark. Each of the twenty-four Abarat islands (along with a mysterious twenty-fifth island) occupies a particular hour on the clock and has a unique identity.

When Candy Quackenbush, who is alienated from both her home and school in Chickentown, Minnesota, rescues Abaratian Tom Mischief (and his seven brothers named Tom, each of whose heads sprout from his antlers) from hideous Mendelson Shape, she seizes the opportunity to explore a different world.

Disney Corporation has paid Barker eight million dollars for the rights to the Abarat Quartet. Expect movies, TV series, amusement park and video-game tie-ins, and merchandise.

City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende (Harper Collins, 2002).

Allende, the award-winning Chilean author of House of the Spirits and Daughter of Fortune, wrote this eco-novel for her three grandchildren. The first of a planned trilogy, "Beasts" follows fifteen-year-old Alexander, twelve-year-old Nadia, and a motley mix of anthropologists, writers, soldiers, and Indians on a quest to find a Yeti-like creature that is terrorizing developers in the Amazon jungle.

Filled with some of the same mysticism and wonder that fill her adult novels, but hindered by a stilted translation from the original Spanish, this might appeal to teen female fantasy fans.

Big Mouth & Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates (Harper Collins, 2002).

One of my favorite authors has written a novel inspired by Colorado's Columbine High School incident and similar shootings.

Popular high school junior Matt Donaghy (Big Mouth) is shocked when his lunchtime jokes about the potential dire consequences of a play not being chosen for an arts festival lead to his being called out of class and questioned by police detectives.

Someone has alleged that he made serious threats. Only basketball player and outsider Ursula Riggs (Ugly Girl), who witnessed the incident, comes forward to defend Matt. Other friends and acquaintances are too afraid of guilt through association.

Oates applies her considerable literary abilities to dealing with typical teen issues.

Simon Says by Elaine Marie Alphin (Harcourt, 2002).

Alphin, who currently lives in Madison, Indiana, grew up in San Francisco and New York City, and graduated from Rice College in Houston, Texas. She has won numerous awards, including the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Mystery for Counterfeit Son.

After paying her dues in children's fiction and non-fiction, Alphin now seems to be concentrating on the young adult market. She actually wrote Simon Says in college and has been fine-tuning it for publication for years.

Sixteen-year-old Charles Weston has decided that everyone, including him, is caught up in an ongoing game of "Simon Says," where we all try to give other people what they want, even if it means perpetually acting.

A prodigiously gifted artist, Simon feels like he just doesn't fit in with those around him, and he expects to find some answers when he wins a scholarship to an elite arts academy.

Though the next school year isn't easy, he eventually learns to stand on his own two feet.

Pam Locker is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.