As promised, I’m posting the books I mentioned at Chautauqua that I think capture a distinctive point of view –also, voice. There are so many more, of course, but here’s a small sampling of some books I consider to be truly outstanding, with a little explanatory blurb:
Classic kid point of view:
THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, 1963, Christopher Paul Curtis
Because of Kenny, the main character. He was SO real, SO believable, SUCH a kid — the voice was spot on. His perspective on everything was so true — the way he views his older brother, his parents, his friends, his little sister, how he can relate the horrifying event of the church bombing, be RIGHT THERE, and see it all as a kid sees it.
Check out his other books, too, he’s a master. If you write for older kids, BUCKING THE SARGE is a classic — LOL on quiet car of the train to NYC
For very young kids, read the CLEMENTINE series by Sara Pennypacker. Even her language is kid-like: “Spectacularful ideas are always sproinging up in my brain.” Can’t you just hear a young girl saying that?
For other great kid points of view:
JOSIAS, HOLD THE BOOK, Jennifer Elvgren — here’s a thoughtful, serious boy, who wants something for himself and for his family and is determined to figure out a solution. Beautifully done, and by Boyds Mills Press. It even won the Americas Award a couple of years ago.
ALFIE THE APOSTROPHE and PENNY AND THE PUNCTUATION BEE, both by Moira Donohue — funny, spunky, characters with attitude. You have the sweet Alfie who stands up for himself and succeeds, and then you’ve got bossy PENNY whose mouth is as smart as her brain.
MOUSE WAS MAD, Linda Urban — a very frustrated mouse who doesn’t seem to be good at anything, just like how little kids get frustrated because bigger kids and adults all seem so much more capable.
Early Readers, I mentioned CLEMENTINE, there’s also JUDY MOODY and KATIE KAZOO SWITCHEROO — funny and fun.
For Middle Grade, I already mentioned THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, but here are some others:
ONE CRAZY SUMMER, Rita Williams-Garcia — great voice, we are really inside her head
LEAVING GEE’S BEND, Irene Latham — really spunky girl who goes on an adventure
WILD THINGS, Clay Carmichael — this girl has voice AND spunk
Another important element in order to identify with a kid character is some failing or something that makes us sympathetic. So, for example:
THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z., Kate Messner — the main character is likable but has ADD and keeps forgetting things and messing things up
Similarly in the JOEY PIGZA books, Jack Gantos — that kids is ADHD wild — lovable, and we feel for him because his Dad is wacko
OUT OF MY MIND, Sharon Draper — the main character has cerebral palsy and can’t speak, so we HAVE to be inside her head, and we feel her frustration when she’s trying to get her point across and from her perspective — and, therefore, the reader’s perspective — it seems so obvious what she’s trying to communicate and so frustrating when nobody understands
Now for some YA books:
MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD, Francisco Stork — great quirky character, and Francisco Stork lived and worked with characters like this so he knows what he’s talking about
THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, Sherman Alexie — right inside that kids head, also from his own experience, the voice is very funny
CONVERTING KATE, Beckie Weinheimer — this is a quiet girl, someone who has come from a rigid religion — something Beckie Weinheimer knows about since she fled a very rigid religion
FEED, M.T. Anderson — I read the first paragraph to my teenage son who refuses to read fiction, and even HE said, “Now that’s a good book.”
WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, John Green –all John Green books are about high school, and usually people who are a little awkward or don’t fit in, along with a confident, colorful character — it’s like being back in high school, only funnier
And I’m sure you have your own collection of favorite books and characters — maybe Harry Potter? Go read and enjoy!