No Wrong Way to be a Girl

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The other day a link came up on Holly Black’s Twitter feed, and, because Holly Black has yet to steer me wrong, I clicked it.

I am so glad I clicked it.

Black linked to a blog by Claudia Gray, who, as my Google-Fu tells me, is a young adult author mostly known for her Evernight series.  If you’re writing for teenage girls, if you know teenage girls, if you are a teenage girl, go read this post now.  But if you don’t have the time, let me get to the gist of it:

There are as many ways to be “girly” as there are girls in this world. There are always going to be people out there telling you that if you like things pop culture tells you are girly, you’re stupid, and that if you claim to like things pop culture tells you are guy stuff, you’re lying. And what I’m saying is that all these people are full of crap.

Love what you love. Be proud of it. Anybody who tells you what you “should” or “should not” like, because you’re a girl, is a big fat liar. You ARE like the other girls, like we all are, in that none of us came off some Female Assembly Line. We’re all individuals. We should all get to express it without being judged – either by pop culture or by ourselves.

It’s simple and it’s true and I have to admit that it makes me excited to be writing what I’m writing when I’m writing it.

Now I’m off to write about my girly main character who has crushes and listens to David Bowie and swears and kicks ass with a sword.

Mason Introduces Me to Graphic Novels.

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What are the best graphic novels out there?

I like Disney graphic novels, Big Nate graphic novels, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

There’s probably [other] really good ones. I just haven’t read them yet.

Tell me why they are the best you’ve read?

Well, because Big Nate and the Diary of a Wimpy Kids are books, they’re kind of picture books but they’re also graphic novels. Then the Disney ones. They’re full graphic novels but they’re also good because they’re secret agent stuff.

Can you name the Disney books?

Mickey Mouse. Scrooge McDuck. The Duck Tales.

Tell me, Mason, what is the appeal of the graphic novel for kids?

The appeal of a graphic novel…it’s kind of it’s not so much of the heavy content as you would have in a regular chapter book. You have the feel of a picture book but it’s not a picture book, because if you read a picture book at this age, you feel like a little kid, but these are not full picture books but they’re also not full novels.

I prefer to read graphic novels over novels and chapter books because you can see the character talking and you can see the setting and stuff and what he’s doing. Because I’ve always, like, wondered in some chapter books, there’s a character but what does the character really look like?

[I love this answer, so I ask…]So what do the pictures add in a graphic novel?

They add…knowing what the character looks like. You kind of feel good.

What makes one graphic novel better than another?

Probably, maybe some of the content. Some graphic novels are just like there’s a character and he’s like, “Oh I’m gonna go to the store and such and such.” [That’s] not as interesting. The story doesn’t pull you in.

Why do these stories in Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid pull you in?

They’re like…[In] DWK he goes to school and he gets picked on and then he comes home and he plays video games. It talks more about the characters.

So you feel like you know the character more?

Yeah.

What makes a story really enjoyable?

I like action and I kind of like biographies. They’re not really biographies but they just talk about a random made up character. I like to wonder about characters.

Tell me about good pictures and bad pictures.

Well, I wouldn’t say Diary of a Wimpy Kid has the best illustrations, or Big Nate. I would say Disney has a really good illustration, and the Adventures of Tintin. Because in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, they kind of look like stick figures and stuff. But Disney and Tintin, they spent time and drew it to make it look like a real person. That probably makes you more attentive to it. [A well drawn picture] makes you read it more. But in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid the content makes you want to read it more.

Do you think the person/illustrator in Diary of a Wimpy Kid didn’t know how to draw or he did that intentionally?

I think they probably did that intentionally because [in] this book Diary of a Wimpy Kid they kind of want to make it like a kid’s drawing it. [it’s] on purpose. But I still like the more real pictures. They’re great pictures and I like the great pictures.

Jacob Tate Explains the Appeal of The Hunger Games. It’s More than the Plot.

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This is my interview with twelve-year-old Jacob Tate, a 7th grade student at Pin Oak Middle School.

I understand that you’re an author.

Yes, I am. I’ve always wanted to be an author. I just want to send a message, you know. I just think words are so great. You can get so much from them. You can take people to a whole another world. I just really enjoyed reading early on, which is probably why I want to be an author.

What do you write?

Well, I started a book on Norse mythology, sort of like the Percy Jackson series but Norse. I’ve always been fascinated by that series because it’s different from everything else. I have a ton of ideas, so I’ve done something which is sort of soft sci fi. It’s about a colony on different world. One of the states of the colony has been shut off from the outside world and has to defend itself.

And right now I’m working on a non-fiction book that’s just about life at school mostly.

What kinds of books do you read?

All over the map, mostly. But I should really read more non-fiction, to tell you the truth. I really enjoy Sci Fi, but occasionally I’ll read realistic fiction and fantasy.

I like Sci Fi because it’s so different. Sometimes you want to get out of this world and go into a different one. Plus, it’s so imaginative.  Especially some of that hard Sci Fi stuff. You’re just like “how did they think of it” because they’re actually giving descriptions and details about everything. Well, I liked the Roar by Emma Clayton was a really good book because it all seemed Sci Fi at the beginning. It’s about a society that’s trapped behind a cement world, but as the plot goes on it’s all about lies and deception and it makes you realize even in these Sci Fi books technology is different but humans remain the same. I think that technology changes us on the outside, but not on the inside. We’re still creatures of instinct in the end.

Why do you like Sci Fi more than fantasy?

It’s just so much more imaginative. Fantasy is a realm of Sci Fi. It’s imaginative but not….when you read a Sci Fi, you think this could happen maybe. Sometime in the future, it’s possible. With fantasy, sometimes fantasy is set in the past. Sci Fi, it’s almost realistic sometimes.

Can you give some examples?

Ender’s Game. That’s definitely Sci Fi. The Hunger Games is obviously a Sci Fi.

A fantasy has to do with supernatural. Sci Fi is all about the future and technology or of technology. Like a dystopian future. Almost every book that’s set in the future is Sci Fi.

Name a fantasy book that you would compare it to.

The whole Kristin Cashore series, like Graceling and The Demon King. Those are all fantasies. Harry Potter is fantasy. So is Percy Jackson. Well, they’re not bad books. They’re just different from Sci Fi because there’s no explanation why Harry can do magic. There’s no explanation [in Percy Jackson] if the gods exist why no one even knows that right now. There’s no explanation for why they have graces…it’s like a special ability… in Graceling. A lot of times you feel in fantasy [that] it’s blind faith.

A lot of times, like Isaac Asimov, that’s hard Sci Fi, I tried to understand it, but I couldn’t. Some parts…like he was explaining how weapons in the arsenal worked…and it didn’t make sense.

A lot of times Sci Fi and fantasy are mixed. You could argue that soft sci fi and fantasy are mixed. But fantasy is such a broad topic. It practically covers everything that’s not realistic.

Everybody gets something different out of a book. Tell me what you really enjoy about books?

Now that I’m older, I enjoy how authors create settings, how they create people. It’s almost like I’m noting this for my own books. I really enjoy good plot, though. But I really admire a good author, someone who knows how to create thoughts in the reader. A book is a thought creator. It’s one reason I resent turning books into movies because a movie ruins your imagination. A good author knows how to harness your imagination.  There’ve been plenty of good plot books. A good plot can make a book good, but a good author takes a book to another level. A good author will make it great, or even amazing.

A classic example is James Patterson, his Maximum Ride, Witch and Wizard, and Daniel X series. Mainly, those books are plot. It’s because when I think of the books I think of the plot. I don’t think of characters. His characters can seem bland at points. It just seems to move from scene to scene with no description. Amazing books have great plot and great thoughts.

Can you give an example of a great book that has both?

The Hunger Games. It made us think about all our beliefs. It weaseled its way into your thoughts. Sometimes I thought about Katniss or Peeta and the games themselves, but that book was about human society mostly. It’s hard to believe that we would send children to kill each other but it’s a perfect way for a regime to control people. It just shows us that people can be ruthless to do what they need to do. I’ve sat and had hour long discussions about the book.  Especially in the third book [spoiler alert], there’s a sense that Katniss is useless to the cause of the rebellion, but somehow she’s helping. In the third book, you never get the big battle that you expected. But instead they’re battling for airwaves, just trying to figure out how to put on PR reports. In the end, it shows regimes aren’t controlled by leaders. They’re controlled by people. People decide when to end the regime. Look at all the battles across the Middle East and North Africa right now.

Do you think it’s important to know about the world and read non-fiction to get the message in a book like The Hunger Games, though?

Non-fiction is definitely important, but I don’t read it nearly enough. It gives you views about the world. You need to know about the world we live in now. It’s great that you can put non-fiction themes in fiction because kids love to read fiction.

If a kid doesn’t know about the Middle East or North Africa, though, would they think about the books as you do?

Yes, they can because The Hunger Games is all about society. You have to be looking for this. It almost helps to read multiple times. First time, you just read it for the plot. Second time you are looking for more.

Do kids read a single book lots of times?

If your plot is good enough, they’ll read it again. But the second time they’ll be thinking that they’re going to read it for plot, but they’re not going to end up reading for plot. I’ve had people spoil the endings of books but still I don’t care. I actually enjoyed Mocking Jay better after I reread it.

The first time I read, Katniss is cooped up for the first two thirds of the book. You’re just like I just want someone to go out there and get a bow out there and start fighting. Peeta’s been hijacked. Then you finally get the battle, but it seems that they’re more just dodging tracks than actually fighting people. Then a ton of people end up dead. The ending doesn’t even seem conclusive. And you’re just sitting there thinking, “What the hell just happened in whole book?” When you look around, though, you start to realize that Katniss can’t help the revolution. It’s not a revolution of guns and steel. It’s a revolution of television and words. You realize, it’s the people that need to be swayed. Regimes stand on top of people, but if no one’s there to hold them there they fail. Katniss only serve as a symbol for people to rally around and not actually fight. And then all they need is to get rid of the people who are loyal to the capital’s thoughts. But what’s really important is the people. You’re fighting to control their emotions and thoughts. That’s why the hunger games were in place. That hunger games were meant to control the people.

 

Do you think, as an older kid now you like older books?

Some books when I liked that when I was young I don’t like anymore. Percy Jackson…great fun to book…it really got me into reading. But in the end, there is no reread value. There is no interesting deeper message. Well, some books are meant to entertain and some meant are to send a message. Like The Hunger Games, was definitely meant to. The author felt something she wanted to share with other people. Authors send out a message because they want to make a point …and that’s the easiest way to do it…through writing.

Can authors really reach people through their books, do you think?

[Talking about his friends}I can’t say that everyone got changed, you cannot assume anything ,but some people got it, and that’s what matters. They are all thinking about it.

What about all the copiers of The Hunger Games?

None of them work because the message has already been sent by the Hunger Games. I think that in plot they’ll never be as good as The Hunger Games [because] they’ll never have the Hunger Games message. And if you copy the The Hunger Games message, it’s already been sent.Image

Research vs. Not Research

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So.  My current project is a Young Adult novel that’s heavy on mythology.  Norse, Egyptian, Irish – I’ve stolen it all for my own silly purposes.  I have a stack of books that I use for my research, but every now and then I to turn to the internet for supplemental information.

A character I’ve appropriated, Loki, happens to be prominently featured in a movie that came out a month ago, oh-I-don’t-know-if-you’ve-heard-of-it-wait-of-course-you-have, THE AVENGERS.

This presents something of a problem.

For example:

Looking up the Poetic Edda to remember how Loki has been portrayed historically?

Completely legitimate research.

Giggling over some Avengers memes and then searching for more when one isn’t enough?

Not so much.

5th Grader Cooper Enjoys Books about Sports.

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Hello, Cooper. What activities are you doing this summer?

Sports. Lots of sports. I’m going to a lot of sports camps this summer. Also, I read. Reading!!!

Tell us about a book that you have read multiple times.

Six innings. It’s a book about these kids in a championship baseball game for their baseball league, and the book essentially just plays through, and changes the point of view many times.

How many times have you read it? What draws you to it?

I’ve read it about 5-6 times, I think 6. What draws me to it is that I play baseball, and it’s pretty much about two teams playing baseball. I also like to read it because after a game, I sometimes get upset about a play I missed or when I struck out. In the book, it happens plenty of times.

There is a story about a baseball game in this book and there is a story about the friendship between two boys. Which story is essential to make the book enjoyable? Would you read a story about friendship without a baseball game in it?

I think the story is so enjoyable because it has a mix of the friends being one person playing, one not because of a sort of injury (not giving spoilers, you can read the book if you like) and the injured guy is the person announcing/scoring the game. I also like how it mixes true competition with friendship and humor. It’s a good book.

What are the common elements of books you find yourself liking? If you read about a book on the back cover, what topics would you get excited about?

I usually get excited about sports and emotion combined, or lots of action-packed books.

Apart from a good story, what else is important to you to make you like a book? Is the writing important? Humor?

I just like how there is lots of baseball, or any sport in any book. I usually don’t care about other stuff, unless it’s this: Bobby hit the ball 5 yards. He walked to the base. He was happy!

Sometimes I find myself putting a book down halfway through because it isn’t interesting enough to me. Have you ever done that? Do kids do that too?

I do this sometimes, because I either get bored with the story or because I find another book that’s better.

What would really turn off a book and make you put it down?

It’s hard to describe. It’s different every time.

What book or series are you reading right now?

Well, I just finished the last book in Witch & Wizard, so I’m working on finding a new series.

I have a really big question. It seems that every kid I know is reading James Patterson. What is the attraction of his books? Can you talk about those Maximum Ride books first that I see everywhere? What are they about and what’s so good about them?

I think that the attraction of his books are how there is always action, and if there isn’t action there’s drama or getting away from the bad guys. As for Maximum Ride, I haven’t read them.

Can you talk about the series you are reading now? What is it about? Is it different from the Maximum Ride series? What’s the most exciting thing about it?

I am not reading a series right now because I have just finally finished the third book of Witch & Wizard. It is about a boy and girl who have magical powers and are wanted by a new government. I don’t know if it’s different from Maximum Ride, because I haven’t read it. The most exciting thing about Witch & Wizard is probably all the fighting.

Which book are you reading in the series? Tell us what happens. Do you think that the books in this series (the sequels) are just as exciting as the first book, or are you just reading along to know what happens next?  

I just finished the third one, The Fire. In it, they finally defeat the main antagonist and live happily ever after. I think I just read for what happens next. I don’t know.

If you read a book in a series that’s not so good, would you read the next one?

Probably not.

The Maximum Ride books seem to be about half-human and half-bird characters, but Whit and Wisty in Witch and Wizard seem to be normal people. Which kind of story do you find more interesting? Are you interested in supernatural fantasies about werewolves, half human half bird creatures, and vampires, and so on?

I think I like stories where you don’t know someone has ‘powers’ until a bit later, so there’s an element of surprise.

Do you ask your parents or friends to read the books you like? Do they? Is there an added excitement when other people are reading a book you enjoyed, or are you fine just reading and enjoying a book by yourself?

I think it is a mix of who finds the books. It’s usually me or my parents. I am also just fine reading a book by myself.

Which kind of book do you enjoy more, a book like Six Innings or a book like the James Patterson series books? And why?

A book like Six Innings, because I can relate more to them playing baseball.

Compared to swimming, biking, hanging out with friends, or any other activities that you enjoy (tell us first which three are your top favorite activities), what is the pleasure of reading like? Can you describe what you enjoy about reading?

1. Baseball. 2. Swimming. 3. Reading. The pleasure of reading is probably knowing that if it’s a sad story it usually didn’t happen (If it’s not non-fiction or historical fiction) or if it’s a happy story you can believe it did happen. I like that kind of mix, where it almost always ends up happy.

What are kids on the other side of the pond reading? Shafin writes from England to tell us why a very sad novel is his favourite book.

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How old are you? What school do you go to? What is your favourite book?

I am 13 years old. I go to Britton’s Academy in Essex, England. My favourite book is Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo.

Why do you like this book?

I think it’s because of the history of World War One and how it is written by Michael Morpurgo. He did a good job in writing the book.  I like history and so I like this writer’s clever use of history in his story. I like Thomas Peaceful looking back at his life as he explains his life in the trenches of WW1. It is well told, in past tense until it was caught up by the present which is very interesting.

There are lots of grown up themes in the book — war, dying, getting married, and babies. Did these seem too grown up for you? Were you scared, uninterested, or shocked? Why do you think the book is appropriate for a young audience?

First of all, although it says it’s a children’s book, I would actually put it between the ages of 11 and 14. I wasn’t shocked or uninterested. I felt trusted, if you know what I mean, by the content of the book. Like I said before, it’s not for a young audience but yes, it was quite appropriate for the target audience. It was written in such a manner, the parts of adult themes were slowly introduced and they were not given that much of detail, as less detail as Morpurgo can go — his work is always detailed. I, personally, would have liked more detail in those parts. It would have made it even more interesting.

The book has lots of sadness and a sad ending. Do you think this worked for you? Why? Can there be sad endings in kids’ books?

Yes, you can say that it has worked for me. I wouldn’t mind any sad parts or sad endings in the end. It does finish with a cliff hanger. It would be nice to find out what happened in the end.

I heard there was a sequel for it or something. There is no rule in the world that there can’t be sad endings in children’s books. So, yes, there can be sad endings in children’s books!

 

So there is a love triangle in the book. I know that girls like to read about romance in their books. What did you make of the romantic element here? Did it make you go bleh? Or what?

Well, I actually just went on with it. It made the story just as interesting. I didn’t mind it either.

Tell us what essential elements Private Peaceful has that makes it appealing to a young boy reader like you.

Well, essential elements that I need are that there needs to be history, an adventure, it needs to be interesting, and a few more but these are just the usual stuff everybody needs in a story.

And your other favourite books are?

I have a few others by Michael Morpurgo, Alone in The Wild Wild Sea and Kensuky’s Kingdom. A few others like the Diary of the Wimpy Kid books.

Fifth Grader Owen Talks about the Brixton Brothers and the Appeal of the Mystery Novel.

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What are the books about?

It’s a series and it’s about a kid who’s about, like, 11, 12, or 13 and he has this best friend. He makes his own detective agency where he has 25 friends or so. It reflects life in a normal way, but in a mysterious, interesting way.

Each book is about one big mystery. The Case of The Case of the Mistaken Identity was about someone who was trying to be someone else, but the person that was trying to be the other person was committing crimes and was blaming it on the other person and was trying to make it look like the other person did it…but eventually they caught him.

Why is this one of your favorite series?

Basically, the mysteries he does are believable. It’s really interesting because mysteries always give you thoughts in your head about who did it and how it happened and how it could have happened and why and all these things. He makes notes on what he thinks on the way and I really like to compare [the notes] to what I think. Well, it’s one of my favorite books because it’s interesting because I get to think about a lot of things and at the same time be entertained by the mystery and how it unravels.

Usually in mysteries [in kids’ books] the mystery is not big, but here a car gets stolen! I think, also, it explains it a lot better [than most kids’ mysteries]… it’s a lot more than “there’s a 10 ten year old at a school who stole a book.” The only place it’s [the usual kids’ mystery] based on is either the school or a playground. Between those two settings it kind of gets a little boring. But in the Brixton Brothers series they go all over and the clues make you think about something. And [then] they find a clue about it and they match it up and you were probably wrong and it’s really interesting to know what the real answer is and it’s really different and it all makes sense.

Do a lot of your friends like this book?

Actually I found this book in a library and I haven’t really shared it. I don’t know if any of my friends read it. I never mentioned.

That is really interesting how you found the book! How do you come upon the books you read?

After I’m done with the current book I am reading, a mystery or action, a realistic mystery or realistic action for older age groups, I scan the shelves in the category I like. I read the back cover and if that seems interesting to me, than I probably get it.

Is that a good way to discover good books? Do you often find good books that way?

Yes, it’s a good way.  If I can’t find them there, my mom knows the books I like. She tries to find some for me.

How many books are in this series?

I think 3, but maybe 4. Well, I usually like books with a series because…if I read the book and I like it, then I want the next book in the series. But if I read a book and I didn’t like it as much then I don’t really want the series.

Why is the title The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity? Is that a mistake?

Well, if you look at it in a different way, then it’s kind of like, the first “case” is representing the book itself and the second case is the actual case in the book.

Oh, I see! What kinds of books do you like?

I usually like realistic action or realistic mystery, and realistic adventure.

Why realistic?

Because I don’t like when books kinda …let’s say someone throws a ball at you. Somehow the wind turns it away before it hits the water! I don’t like unrealistic things. I don’t believe that and I really don’t want that.

(I love this answer, so I ask the next question.) Can you compare it to other mystery books for kids? Like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and the ABC Mysteries? Is it better? Is this your favorite mystery book? Why is it better than the others? Why does this book appeal to boys?

I think those books are fine, but just not for me. I don’t think they’re bad books. But in Nancy Drew, for example, the mysteries are not really crimes. The bad guy didn’t really commit any crime. In the Brixton Brothers books, the realistic part is [that] those mysteries are really crimes.

What is your favorite thing about the books?

My favorite thing about the series is probably that the cases they’re solving actually have a variety. There is a stolen identity and a diamond theft. It’s still under a mystery crime thing, but it’s a variety of types.

Do you think the book would appeal to girls?

Both boys and girls. I think it’d be a bit more appealing to boys, but I can imagine some girls would like this book.

Do you think girls and boy like the same kinds of books?

Well, what I think about that is, kinda more adventure, action books would appeal to boys, but thought provoking and more interesting books would appeal to girls. Lots of girls can like action adventure ones and most of them do and boys can like thought provoking and interesting and often they do. Mostly, if you do a percentage, it [mystery, action, and adventure] would be my first choice, but lots of boys and most of girls do like the same kinds of books.

Tell us about Steve Brixton. What kind of guy is he?  

Well, he likes to solve mysteries. If he didn’t have his partner, he would still do a good job but he wouldn’t try as hard. Also, he really likes to make it look like he has brothers…he doesn’t really have any siblings…that’s why it’s called Brixton Brother. He really is close to his best friend, and they do a lot of things together, especially the detective cases. He really is the better one [detective], but the friend is kind of like a helping hand, kind of there with him.

Because he really likes his friend and his friend also likes mystery but he’s not as into into it as the main character. Without his friend, Steve could still do it definitely [solve the case], but he would be sad or dazed in his thoughts and stuff.

 

Do you think friends are important?

Sticking together, as in being good friends to each other. If you say you’ll do something with them, say if you say you’ll do something on Thursday but if you really want to do something else on that day you would still keep that promise.

Sticking together?

Because one of them really wants to do the stuff and the other one agrees with it [or the other way around]. Sticking together in a friendship way means [you don’t lose a friend over anything], not over one little argument or one disagreeable little thing. If you disagree, that doesn’t mean that you’re not friends. It just means you don’t agree over that thing.

It’s described as a perfect combination of action, adventure, and humor. It’s also described as dangerous, mysterious, and full of laughter and fun. Do you agree? Can you give us a sense of how it is funny or adventurous?

Well, it is dangerous mystery and all. Sometimes it can be a little funny. I’d put in adventure, action, mystery, and like a little laughter now and then. Yeah, I think it releases the tension the reader has at the moment.

There are librarians in this book, I understand. What are the librarians up to? Do you think a librarian would like the way librarians are portrayed in this book?

Oh, no, I think they’ll be fine with it, but the librarians in this book are kinda specific…it’s just one group…they’re not really librarians but they’re something else.

If you were to try to convince me to read this book, what would you say about it?

I’d say that…to read this book, “if you read this book it’d really…if you read the first few chapters It’d really …because of the storyline and the introduction and the introduction kind of gives the first thing to the case they’re going to solve. After that you really get into the case. Your mind thinks of what you think is going to happen…and it’s really interesting to compare to what happens next. And it’s also believable.

In the book, Steve is smarter than all the adults. Do you think this is true in real life?

Well, I don’t really think …it kind of depends. Some kids are smart and some adults aren’t as smart. So it could be. But it’s usually not the case. You know the adults have gone through a lot more schooling and stuff.

What other book would you recommend?

I’d also recommend Cosmic. Well, because it is about this tall kid and everyone thinks he’s an adult, like twenty-one or something. At first he really doesn’t like it… and then he gets chosen to go to this kind of adventures park and only a few people in the world get chosen for the ride there and you actually go into space and then you come back down. And he poses as a parent for a girl and he eventually goes into space and in the end they find out. And the hostess says if the mission fails and you crash there, she won’t go and get them. She’s going to leave them out there.

The Cynical Cyrus and the Avaricious Avery clue us in on 6th graders’ post-apocalyptic tastes.

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What is your favorite book? What kinds of books do you like?

My favorite book is Ender’s Game. It’s science fiction but it’s not post-apocalyptic exactly. It’s like pre-apocalyptic. Well, pre-apocalyptic is not really a genre. If you think about it… it’s like what happens before the sun explodes. Everyone thinks the sun is going to explode and it’ll wipe out the earth…what happens right before? That’s pre-apocalyptic. Tension!

What would be a post-apocalyptic book?

Oh. Maze Runner. So, it’s all these teenagers…in the first one they are put in a maze for experiments… they are like monitored in a maze with these reavers–these slug monsters–and they get out eventually. [It’s post-apocalyptic] because when they get out they see that the world is actually a burnt husk because of solar fires. There is a disease and it’s consuming the people, except most of the kids are immune to the virus.

Oh, so that’s why it’s post-apocalyptic. And pre-apocalyptic?

The calm before the storm. What are they trying to do to stop this post-apocalyptic world? It’s not really calm, because everyone’s frantic. So it’s this kid and he shows this great intelligence in all these different statistics. And they want to put him in battle school.

Who are they?

The government. IF – international forces, they are the funders of earth. To fight the buggers. They’re aliens. And then they move him to command school. It’s another school, it’s the second school, like high school. He’s very smart so he skips a lot of things and he gets in fights. It’s a high school story except [that] it’s very different because it’s science fiction. They’re in a floating command school where the battles mean everything. It’s the game … all the kids are divided up into armies, and battles mean everything.

They’re not real battles? Just school?

They’re like lasers…and when you shoot someone with a laser it freezes up their suit. It’s all in zero gravity. It’s like school…it’s how they teach them to be better commanders…of starships and such. Because they want to fight the buggers. There were two invasions before the books take place and both times the human race almost got obliterated.

So why is it such a good book?

It’s mostly only me that I like it. It’s not critically acclaimed. It is critically acclaimed. But… Everyone I know who’s read it likes it…but it’s not the rage.

It’s just great writing. He knows how to make it seem real. Some parts are really slow but there’s always A LOT OF ACTION. It’s great writing. It’s the best writing I’ve ever seen.

So can you compare it to a book that is popular and show how it compares?

Harry Potter is a rage. It’s different and better than Harry Potter.

Oh?

Harry Potter is childish now that I look back. It’s not realistic in a way to have these teenagers acting. It’s not how they would act. Of course, if you did write how they would act kids wouldn’t read it. But this [Ender’s Game] is more realistic. It’s also [got kids acting unrealistically]. He kills this bully accidentally when he’s six. That was implausible…it’s kind of shifty.

But Ender’s Game is implausible in a different way? It’s implausible in a way that you like but Harry Potter is implausible in a way that you don’t like?

Well, Harry Potter is just wrong information, Maybe adults think real tweens act that way…but that’s not true. Like, Harry Potter is never, ever afraid. At the end of the book Ender’s Game, Ender goes insane and that makes sense. And Harry Potter — he never gets afraid. He’s always like a hero. Even when he’s twelve, he’s not afraid. And he’s really curious and really adventurous. No twelve year old going into Hogwarts would ever be like that.

I want to ask you one last question. Do you think in 6th grade there is a real difference between girls’ books and boys’ books?

No. Except for books like Twilight. Because girls are just like boys…[girl in my class]she has hair that’s shorter than mine. Her parting gift for the summer was a deep scratch on my arm and her friend punches like a boy. Their reading tastes are like boys. Just any book…action, fantasy, or sci fi. Historical fiction. Except steampunk [which is not really historical].

Name one book you would like to read. If you could order someone to write it.

A sci-fi post-apocalyptic or during-apocalyptic about teens making their way through it. Or aliens. Aliens watching from above. It’s the aliens’ book about survival.. all these aliens are always attacking humans. What if the humans had surperior technology and they were to attack aliens? And the aliens were like. “Oh,no!”

[At this point Cyrus and Avery excitedly work out this scenario. Cyrus’s mom says: That’s Avatar, isn’t it?]

Yeah…but that’s not a book. I like military strategy. History. But I don’t see many books about it. The top one would be Band of Brother’s, but it’s not real strategy. It’s just memoir.