I adore this very literary, intertexual-heavy, Printz-award-winning novel. Seriously. The alternating historical 1st person memoir with various other memorial snippets along with the 3rd person narrative of 2 generations later, is deliciously written. Poetic language, fluid philosophies on life, and a very Dutch timbre. I highly recommend this pseudo-Holocaust/WWII love story and generational self-identity.
Tag Archives: Printz Award
Rosoff, Meg (2004). How I Live Now. New York: Random House. 194 pages.
A title both recommended to me by about 5 different children’s literature students, as well as a suggested read on NoveList for White Darkness, and being a Printz Award winner, it seems about time that I actually read How I Live Now. Daisy is sent to England to live with her aunt and cousins after her father remarries. Daisy’s new step-mother prefers life without her . In England, Daisy meets her deceased mother’s sister and her children, all who willingly welcome her into their home, their farm and their life. At the same time as the world threatens to go to War, Daisy finds herself falling in love with her cousin Edmond. ( I know, I know. I couldn’t help but drawing parallels to Edward either, though only slight ones; Edmond is after all fourteen years old, British, and most importantly, not undead.) After Aunt Penn is stranded away from the children and the farm due to the outbreak of war, Daisy and her cousins are left to themselves to survive.
Breathless. That is the word that best describes this novel. Daisy narrative–it is in first person–is breathless. She tells her story in long-winded, run-on sentences, that feel almost stream-of-consciousness. She relays her story in language that a fifteen-year-old would use when telling a long story. A random example of this breathless narrative:
“Anyway there were lots of potatoes because in order to get to the barn you had to walk along an entire field planted with potatoes and though the army guys living at our house had obviously noticed this too, there are still only so many potatoes a small platoon of hungry sequesters can eat in a month especially without any of the essential ingredients for mashed, French fried or potato salad. In other words, we still had a bout nine-tenths of a field left to eat” (pg. 156).
Daisy’s voice is so distinct; you can almost hear her explaining her reasoning, following her train of thought and steering herself back to the point of the narrative.
The voice and narration add levity to a rather dire situation. Five children and teenagers are left alone in a war torn country, separated from their guardian, and each other. Daisy’s and Edmond’s taboo love affair, that includes teenage sex, is woven into the narration and often takes on more importance than the reality of the war. Indeed in the first few weeks of the war, the children feel invigorated; they are alloted a freedom that dis-includes adults. Their microcosm allows them to feel detached from the greater problems of their country and the world. Through Daisy’s eyes, we can see into the adolescent’s world: the immediate, the controllable and the relationships.
There is one passage that I find particularly poignant on pages 103 to 105. It details, in Daisy’s breathless voice, the careless murder of a fellow worker at the hands of the Enemy. This section would be ideal to read dramatically to gain young readers’ interest in this novel.
McCaughrean, Geraldine (2005). The White Darkness. New York: Harpercollins. 384 pages.
A social outcast, deaf, with an imagined relationship with the deceased explorer Titus Oates, Sym is not an ordinary teenager. Living with her mother and uncle after her father’s death, Sym idolizes her Uncle and absorbs his obsession with the Antarctic. When Sym’s mother’s passport mysteriously disappears before she, Sym and Uncle Victor are able to board the train for a vacation to Paris, Sym is launched into her Uncle’s obsession with discovering an opening into the inner layers of the Earth that he believes houses another species. After becoming stranded in Antarctica, Sym is comforted by her “relationship” with Titus as her previous unshakable trust in her uncle is dismantled as she unravels the truth about their journey, her past and herself.
As a coming-of-age novel, Sym’s development from an uncle-idolizing, self-doubting, somewhat delusional teenager is expedited by her trip to the Antarctic with her Uncle Victor. This is one of the most unexpected and unique narratives that has come across my reading. Sym’s uncle reroutes the trip from Paris, and Sym is more than happy to accompany him to the South Pole. What starts off as a vacation exploration turns into a journey of discoveries. Sym’s narration and internal dialogue with Titus Oates provides insight into Sym’s growth as she realizes the truth about her past and about her uncle. Her relationship with the imaginary Titus changes from a comfort to her realization that he IS actually imaginary. Luckily her knowledge of the Antarctic is vast since she submerged herself into her uncle’s obsession, learning as much about the explorers, the geography and the perils of the continent. Her knowledge, coupled with the necessity to be covered from head to foot by bulky warm clothing gives her confidence to be herself. The great part about this novel is not the shiny Printz medal on the front cover, but Sym’s transformation in the Antarctic desert. Before the trip, Sym seems to be capable of descending into a state of mental darkness–lonely, imaginary explorers, without friends or a father–but it is her excursion to a land of nothing, a land of silence that awakens the confidence dormant in herself. The novel seems hopeless, but evolves into one of hope. The hints of sensuality and sexuality of Sym’s character would be a fantastic case study.
I think the best hook for this novel would be to provide visuals. There are a couple of self-made book trailers available for this book, though I did not find them very compelling. I would most likely attempt to create my own book trailer showing images of complete darkness in contrast with the blinding white of the Antarctic desert. I would also show images of the imaginary crevice for which Uncle Victor is searching. If lacking skills or the technology, a simple Power Point presentation with various images would also be quite effective. A dramatic sentence for each slide would be a fantastic way to introduce Sym’s adventure and self-discovery.