2.26.2010

Northward to the Moon by Polly Horvath, 256 pp, RL 5



Northward to the Moon, Polly Horvath's sequel to the amazing My 100 Adventures, finds main character Jane Fielding one summer later, one year older and one parent richer. The cover illustration by Matt Mahurin, who also created the cover art for Allison Croggon's YA fantasy quartet, The Books of Pellinor perfectly captures the movement of the book and the unifying metaphor of the book.


When Northward to the Moon begins, thirteen year old Jane and her siblings Maya, Max and Herschel, all of whom have different, unnamed fathers, have spent a year living in Saskatchewan, seemingly a world away from their house on the beach in Massachusetts. Their mother, Pulitzer-prize winning poet, Felicity Fielding, has married Ned and moved her family across the continent and to another country because he has found a job teaching French in an elementary school. It is May and Ned has just been fired from his job because he doesn't know how to speak French and he and Jane are ready for an adventure. An old friend of his, a member of the Carrier tribe of Native Americans, is dying and has asked to see Ned again. Unflappable and seemingly unfazed by any situation life presents her with, Felicity packs the house and the four children into the station wagon for what turns into a long road trip and an even longer journey into Ned's background.

Jane and her siblings have grown up with only their mother and themselves to rely on, making friends, some good, some not so good, with the townspeople. The visit to Mary reveals a whole family and a past of Ned's that they never knew about, one that leads them first to Las Vegas, then to a horse ranch outside of Elko, Nevada and finally back to their beach house again. In My 100 Adventures, it was summertime in a small town and Jane was free to roam as she liked and pursue her adventures. In Northward to the Moon, Jane is trapped, almost, much more at the mercy of the adults in her life and much less able to make her own way. Excited by the thought of an adventure and happy to have Ned in the lead, she makes the best of every situation they find themselves in. But, when she feels that Ned betrays her, she is alone amidst a sea of adults. Because (flawed) adult characters are always a part of Horvath's writing, there is bound to be content in her books that will concern some parents. In My 100 Adventures there is the fact that Jane and her three siblings all have different fathers, however the implications of this are left for the reader to untangle, or not. In Northward to the Moon, Jane develops a serious crush on Ben, a silent but muscular young ranch hand who seems to be pointedly ignoring her. Jane fantasizes about being thrown off a horse and having Ben rescue her and, at one point one of Ned's sisters refers to him as "sex-on-a-stick." That is about as racy as things get, though, and Jane's crush is crushed when, after concocting an elaborate plan to get Ben to teach her to ride, she overhears Ned saying to him, "Why don't you just give poor Jane a break already and take her riding? Anyone can see she's got a huge crush on you." Ben winces, Jane runs. It is when here mother takes her on what is meant to be a healing horse back ride, Jane realizes that Ned, "just wanted adventures to get away from things. I wanted adventures to get to things."

Early on in the book, as they are driving at night down a stretch of tree-lined highway, Jane notices that the "moon dangles tantalizingly at the end of the road as if it hangs just beyond the earth's edge." She imagines that there is a little known highway that leads right to the moon where very "daring and stylish" teenagers from the 1960s circle the landscape, trying to find their way back to earth. Polly Horvath has a poetically visual imagination that permeates her characters and their take on life, and Jane is no exception. She tries to get Maya to join in on this fantasy but Maya has become increasingly irritable and close-minded over the course of their year away from home. The negative effects that the choices of the adults have on the children in their lives are much more evident in Northward to the Moon than they were in My 100 Adventures, and, while Jane suffers a bruised heart, eight year old Maya seems at the greatest risk of being undone by the circumstances. In the first chapter of the book, in some of Horvath's most memorable writing, Jane talks about "place memory," and how her internal landscape is made up of the beach and marshes surrounding their house in Massachusetts. When noting how immediately Hershel, who is six, and Max, who is four, have taken to Saskatchewan, she realizes that, "if they grow up here they will be prairie boys. This will be their place memory of growing up. It will separate us in a fundamental way. As if we belong to different places, they to the prairies and me to the ocean. As if at some stage early in our development, out hearts take root in the landscape that surrounds us and remain rooted there all our lives, even when we're not." Maya's heart, it seems, has not taken root in a place yet. In fact, it seems that Maya's place memory may be rooted in people, not geography, if that is possible. For reasons that no one can fathom, Maya has become attached to Ned's mother, Dorothy, a woman who, after her husband walked out on her, packed up her eight children when they were little and moved them to a forsaken town for reasons they still wonder over. As Ned, Jane and Maya drive Dorothy home one night towards the end of their journey, Maya becomes excited about the moon. As at the start of their adventure, it hangs full and round over the road and looks like you could drive to it. Dorothy says to Maya, "I know exactly what you are talking about! I've seen that too! A moon you can drive to... I had all the kids in the car and we were headed north away from Edmonton and I didn't know where we were going, I just knew we weren't going back there, and I thought, That's where we'll go. I can drive all the way to the moon. We'll just keep going to the moon." Hearing this answer to the long unanswered question is what begins to heal things with Ned for Jane.


2.22.2010

My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath, 160 pp RL 5

I am so excited that this book is finally in paperback! Please read it and share it! It is an amazing book and the sequel, Northward to the Moon , is just on the shelves and will be reviewed here on Friday!


Reading My 100 Adventures is sometimes like reading a poem, which is appropriate since the narrator, twelve year old Jane is the daughter of the Pulitzer award winning poet, Felicity Fielding. As she did with the Newbery Honor winner Everything on a Waffle, Polly Horvath creates a beautiful, sometimes cozy, sometimes dangerous, but nevertheless complete world populated with eccentric, self-absorbed adults who aren't always doing their best to look out for the children in their care. Whereas Primrose Squarp, narrator in Everything on a Waffle is unwavering in her belief that her parents are not lost at sea forever, resigned to her merry-go-round foster care in their absence and frequently humorous, intentionally or otherwise, Jane Fielding is more mature in her tone and seemingly has more to lose, thus making her story somehow more harrowing, despite the fact that she never loses a parent and even ends up gaining one. While Primrose's innocence is never in question, Jane's often is. Yet, she manages to emerge from her summer of almost one hundred adventures (thirteen, to be exact) with the loving and appreciative outlook that she entered it with.


As Jane says in the first chapter, "As if itchy and outgrown, my soul is twisting about my body, wanting something more to do this summer than the usual...I want something I know not what, which is what adventures are about." So, with her newly learned ability to pray, Jane prays for one hundred adventures. She gets adventures, but, more than anything, she gets taken advantage of by self-absorbed adults, who themselves are often being taken advantage of or ill-used. At first, this was disturbing to me. My initial reaction was to compare these adults to the horrible grown-ups that litter the pages of all of Roald Dahl's works for children. However, as I read on and thought more about the events and characters of the book and recalled an incident from my own childhood that involved a self-centered adult, I was overwhelmed with admiration for Polly Horvath's skill at writing a virtual minefield of spirit crushing adults for her main character to navigate, coming out scathed, but whole and, in Jane's case, with a budding sense of compassion, acceptance and appreciation for the world around her.

Jane's mother has created a haven for herself and her four children on the beach in a coastal Massachusetts town where she is raising them alone on her limited poet's salary, living well off the land. It is clear that Jane deeply loves her mother and siblings and the life that they have, but, she is ready for something new to come her way. She is looking for signs. Perhaps this is why she is drawn in by the first of many selfish, manipulative adults to cross her path. As in Everything on a Waffle, there is a strange, funny, sometimes bizarre chain of events winding its way through this book. From the energy obsessed, new age-y preacher Nellie Phipps who sends Jane off in a high jacked hot air balloon to deliver bibles to the countryside, to the sour, slow witted Mrs. Gourd who tricks Jane into believing that one of those bibles hit her baby on the head and left him damaged and frightens her into providing free baby sitting service for her five unruly children lest she sue Ms Fielding and they lose their beloved beach house, Jane is never at a loss for adventures, if you could call it that. There is also the appearance of several possible fathers to Jane and her siblings, one of whom might have been capsized by a whale after saving Jane's brothers at sea, and the disruption to the Fielding's quiet life that they bring with them.

While Jane worries, plans, experiences her first disillusionment and disappointment with and adult she admires and discusses everything with her best friend Ginny, who's mother is actually quite like a Roald Dahl character, she is somehow always positive. As the awfulness and frightening nature of her adventures escalates, you know, like you know with Primrose, that Jane will come out on top in the end. Not only does she come out on top in the end, she realizes that it not what happens to you, but what you learn about yourself that matters. While unconventionality is a constant aspect of Horvath's writing, making her stories entertaining and compelling, the strength and clarity of her main characters that make her books complex and memorable. Jane Fielding, with her child's way of thinking and seeing the world, is a believable girl your daughter might want to be friends with, as well as one you would want to be friends with your daughter.

There are similarities and differences between My One Hundred Adventures and Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks that are worth noting, as they illustrate two different types of reality based novels for young adults. While The Penderwicks is slightly more than one hundred pages longer than My One Hundred Adventures, it is a more playful book with life lessons that are gently learned and only one or two truly ugly adult characters who are outnumbered by the raft of children characters, three of whom are the main characters of the book. Horvath's novel packs more vivid imagery and profound plot elements into its 160 pages and has a cast of adults that are intimately drawn and largely outnumbering the children in the story, which has only one main character. Although a shorter book, I think that My One Hundred Adventures has a more complex plot and assembly of characters and because of this I wouldn't recommend it to an eight, nine or ten year old, necessarily. The lighthearted nature of The Penderwicks, despite its length, makes it a much better candidate for younger readers, especially those who are reading well above their grade level. I enjoyed both books enthusiastically and equally, although for different reasons. The Penderwicks might appeal to a larger audience, but My One Hundred Adventures will leave you thinking long after you finish it and it should not be allowed to slip through the cracks. I wouldn't be surprised if it wins a Newbery Award next year.

If your reader liked My One Hundred Adventures and has read everything else by Polly Horvath, try:

Savvy by Ingrid Law
Olivia Kidney by Ellen Potter
Secret Letters From 0 to 10 by Susie Morgenstern

2.15.2010

Richard Hutchins' Diary, 100 Cupboards Bonus Content




Now that ND Wilson's blog tour for The Chestnut King is over, I thought it would be ideal to collect all of Richard's Hutchins' diary entries in one place. What follows are five entries with visits to Cupboards #31, #44, #72, #63 and #23, as well as links to the blogs where they first appeared. Enjoy!



(First published entry, posted at Mundie Moms on 2/8/2010)

This notebook belongs to Richard Hutchins. If you find it, please return to Richard Hutchins (currently living in the seaport of Hylfing). Even though it is old and belonged to someone else first, I discovered it beneath some floorboards, and it is mine now. Do not read it. If you took it out of my pocket because you found a dead boy and you were wondering who he was; now you know that my name was Richard Hutchins. I am the dead boy. Please notify Anastasia Willis, daughter of Francis and Dorothy Willis, (currently living in the seaport of Hylfing) that I have died. And give her this notebook. Especially please do not read this next part, just a little ways down, which begins with the word ANASTASIA and ends with the word DEAD.


(Extra Note: If you have never heard of the seaport of Hylfing, that is probably because I have died in the wrong world. To me, worlds are mere chalk squares in a scotch-hop. I now venture to hop them. Possibly to my demise. I’m sorry that my body should be a burden to you. A shallow grave and short prayer is all I ask.)


Anastasia: You were wrong about me. I can be brave. I have been brave many times. I have faced terrors and enemies and demeaning comments. I have been stabbed (and if my memory serves, you haven’t). Perhaps I seemed weak when we first met. I was weak then, especially compared to the likes of Henry York and Ezekiel Johnson. But I was also young. Now, I am thirteen. Nearly. Definitely (if I die) by the time you read this. And I am unafraid. I have returned to the lonely Kansas house. I have returned to the attic. I have faced the doors. I have faced death. I might even be dead. If I am, and you’re reading this, then you can have everything. Even my three best wool socks (I haven’t had time to finish knitting the fourth). They’re yours Anastasia. Just like I am. Or was. I did all this to show you my courage. Please don’t feel badly just because I’m dead.


Exploration #1

The first cupboard I have chosen to test is on the right side of the wall, four up from the floor. In this notebook (which I did not steal—I tried to give it to Henry, but he didn’t want it) there is a short description of the door. (Anastasia, I think your great-grandfather wrote it.)


#31. Collected 1902, Fourth Britannic Tour. Single-pull drawer, oak and sterling, lateral grain. First report: Drunkard in The Swallowed Hog (London Bridge) complaining of a drawer that held weeping, laughter, voices, and even torchlight. Confirmed and purchased. Further observation: drawer cycles in activity. Progression repeats nightly, but appears dormant in between. Activity begins with voices, the low rumblings of a crowd. Ends with distant shouting and applause.


Anastasia, I think your grandfather wrote this next part later. The handwriting is different. (And he put a combination in the margin, too.)


[Partition/Globe, H-let/True pas? Alt?]


I don't know what he meant by that, but no matter. The time has come for adventuring. I will now attempt to enter the cupboard. (Goodbye. Perhaps forever.)


(Second published entry, posted at books4yourkids.com on 2/9/2010)

Survival. Ha! I, Richard Hutchins, have done it. The compass knobs are a mess, and the door is half off its hinges, but the combination still had its effect. I crawled through the downstairs cupboard (not forgetting the rope!), and I didn’t die. At first, I thought I had crawled into dark emptiness, but no, not at all—my small doorway was hidden behind a heavy curtain. When I moved it aside, I was looking down upon (and smelling) a sea of gaping, unwashed people, pressed in tight, shoulder to shoulder, and completely filling a circular court open to the sky (with moonlight). And they were all looking at me. Or in my direction, for I was lying on my belly on a high stage (with my face peering out beneath the curtain). Also on stage, a man in black was talking to a skull in a very strange voice, and acting drunk . . . certainly mad. I could only just make out his words, when a hand caught me by the ear and I was dragged back beneath the curtain. Anastasia, did I scream? Did I squeal in fear? No. I am Richard Hutchins. I do not do these things. A hugely fat man spattered my face with a whisper.

“Ophelia,” he said (I think). “Into your dress before I carve your face and eat your ears.”

Clearly, he had mistaken me for someone else, but he was tearing at my shirt. I kicked him like a warrior (shin and groin!) and dove for my rope. And now I sit, writing safely, on the remains of your grandfather’s bed. A sun shines on the grassland beyond the empty windows. If possible, my courage has grown with this little adventure. It is time to choose another door.

#44. Collected 1903. Greek Isles. Long oval. Horizontal grain, pull knob. Upper hinges (hatch). First report: Sailors claimed a captain who possessed a hatch to Hades. Too small for men, large enough for small animals, poultry, etc. They had tested it themselves. Swore that it had swallowed living chickens, turtles, cats, and even a monkey. No chance for confirmation. Boarded the ship, drugged the captain, removed his hatch by crowbar.

[Lab/Knoss/Alt Pas. back 4M?]

I admit, Anastasia, my nerves are tingling like tin soldiers. But I will do it.


(Third published entry, posted at Becky's Book Review on 2/12/2010)


Tired and sore, I, Richard Hutchins, again face new journeys. Anastasia, your grandfather’s tattered and filthy bed invites me to rest my weary bones and nurse my wounds (I still have a pinch in my hip from yesterday’s dangling). But onward I intrepidly press. Cupboard #63 awaits—along with glory, discovery, and the possibility of a grisly and unnatural end. I have already set the combination in the attic.

After yesterday’s sudden drop, I have decided to investigate this cupboard with more of my traditional caution. On all fours, I approach the small door, pencil in hand, sliding this journal ahead of me.

Darkness. I see no sun. No harbor. But I can hear . . . splashing?

!!

I apologize. I had no time to write more in the suddenness of that moment. Sour, warm, sea foam just slopped through the cupboard and onto the carpet. I leapt backward, forced to scramble across the room or become moist. (And I would apologize for damaging the floor, if Henry and your sister, Henrietta, hadn’t already done enough to destroy it years ago when we first met—your father’s bloodstain is still visible).

Should I choose another cupboard? Water has never been my friend, particularly when connected to anything oceanic. No. Courage, Richard.

The wash has crept out again. Wherever the other side of the cupboard is, it is clearly within the reach of waves. When the next wave recedes, I shall make my move. . .

Perhaps after the next one . . . Or the next . . .

I don’t want to do this. But I can’t go home now. You’ll know. You’ll see it on my face. Forward. I’m leaving the journal on your grandfather’s bed. If that’s where you (or any other) find it, then Richard Hutchins has been lost at sea. Do not mourn me unless you mean it.

Never mind. I’m bringing the journal. I need something to hold.



This place is dark. And cold. And wet. Excuse my penmanship, I am writing by the light of a weak moon, perched on a damp rock with very wet feet and trousers clinging to my stinging ankles. In a moment, my eyes will surely to adjust.

The tide seems low by the sound of things. But there is also a clattering with each wave, I don’t know why. Perhaps it is the rattle of tumbling pebbles.

I appear to be in some kind of ruin. A long mound of rubble stretches away into the sea, and I am seated near what must have been the base of a great tower—I’d wager it’s the remains of the lighthouse noted by your grandfather. I can make out ships now, most without sails. Oared ships, but big. No engines. No smokestacks.

The clattering again. The foam is rising. Black objects are rolling around the foot of my pedestal.

Ah, there’s an engine, and a fast one, gauging from its roar. No! Wave!



Horror. Horrible. Anastasia, I shiver. The pages are ruined. Can you read this? Why am I even writing? The water swept me off of my seat, and it is only by luck that I dove for the cupboard—I and ten thousand crabs. They were the rattling pebbles, Anastasia. I have been pinched and snipped and covered with viciously clicking legs. The soaked carpet is swarming with them. I may not be able to leave the safety of this bed. Big crabs, little crabs, and sinister medium crabs. Side-walking villainy surrounds me. Black and green crabs—hungry, I’m sure. Smelling me, no doubt. They want my meat.

What would you expect of Richard Hutchins? Fear? Inaction? Well, I acted Anastasia, and the cannibal crabs can feast on each other tonight—not on me. I jumped from the bed and into the hall (and oh, the awful crunch beneath my feet). Upstairs, I reset the combination and again, I had to face the pinching hordes—this time on my knees. Crunching shells and crushing lives as I crawled, my soft hands easy targets for their revenge, but I overcame. I am home. The streets of Hylfing greet me, though I am afraid that your grandfather’s room will soon be a foul-smelling graveyard. It may be a week before I venture through the worlds again, but when I do, I have chosen my path:



#72. Collected 1907. White ash. Tarnished copper corners. First report: Collector in Constantinople dismayed at having lost items within a locked cabinet. Tested repeatedly, always confirmed. Invited examination. Acquired easily after a rich supper and at the cost of only one drugged bottle of whiskey.



(Fourth published entry, posted at Eva's Book Addiction)

There is a scrape four inches long on my right ankle. In all the madness of my journeys, I can’t even name the cause—perhaps a bone as I raced through the labyrinth. My ear is still red and slightly swollen from being pinched by the terrible man in the first cupboard. And, as I banged my face inside that same cupboard on my return, there is a small bruise on my right cheek (I’m sure it’s noticeable).

If you had taken the time to look, your opinion of me would have changed. Would you have felt sympathy? Admiration? Maybe. When lunging out of the labyrinth, I rug-burned my wrists on your grandfather’s carpet. Unhealed, they sting and stick to the paper as I write.

This morning, as I returned to this carcass of a farmhouse, I am even more committed to adventure, to danger. Perhaps, when we see each other again, there will be a gouge halving my eyebrow. Or maybe I will lose an eye entirely. If my half-blindness and a velvet eye patch is what is required to get you to see Richard Hutchins for what he is, so be it.

Disappointment. I will admit it. I have sworn not to lie to you. I was expecting treasure in this new cupboard. Ghosts of crusaders the journal said (though I haven’t any idea what a crusader is).

I got stuck. The cupboard connected to a hidden panel in a ceiling. As soon as I began to make my way through, I felt something pull me forward. But it wasn’t pulling me forward, it was pulling me down, and it wasn’t something, it was gravity (as your world calls it).

My head and shoulders and arms swung suddenly out of a ceiling, dangling awkwardly six or seven feet above the floor in an empty room. I just managed to spread my legs in time (still horizontal in the farmhouse cupboard), and I barely caught myself.

I couldn’t worm back in (my arms wouldn’t fit—the sides were too tight), and my head began to feel as if it would explode with blood. And my hands turned purple. Hours, yes, hours I dangled there, and I won’t tell you that I didn’t cry. Tears dotted the dusty floor beneath me.

To make matters worse, one small window let in the clattering sounds of danger. Men were shouting, horns were blowing, drums were beating. I could hear steel on steel, and horses screaming in rage and death and injury. The sounds rose and fell all day. They traveled. I was a misplaced and entirely vulnerable gargoyle, just waiting for someone with a sharp object to do me in.

You might think that I should have let myself fall the rest of the way through. But think of it, Anastasia, how could I have returned through a door in the ceiling? There were no chairs and no tables to boost me back up. Should I have run outside, into a massacre, and asked someone for a ladder? I made the wise choice. I dangled, and I waited.

I think I was asleep, or simply dazed, when the door opened. The scream is what roused me, and then the chattering of an angry old woman with rings in her wrinkled and pore-pocked nose. She beat me with a broom, Anastasia, like I was that brightly colored hollow donkey full of candied sugars at your last birthday celebration.

At the first, I covered my head with my arms and writhed and begged her to stop. But the blows stung, and the stinging woke my courage. I caught the broom (though it raked my knuckles), and I tore it from her. The tide had turned and I struck! Yelling like Fat Frank in one of his fits, I smacked that old woman in the ear, and she rushed back out the door.

Well, now I had a broom didn’t I? That was something. I looked around. The ceiling had beams (I had tried to reach them before). The broom handle was just long enough to slide above two of them. A brace! Something to push against! I slid upward, backward, just far enough to catch myself when the handle snapped.

I must hurry back to Hylfing now. Someone must have missed me, but my legs are still tortured with the prickles—the departing needles of numbness—and so I will rest on the floor and choose tomorrow’s cupboard (see, I am not deterred). Here is your great-grandfather’s description, and your grandfather’s odd addition at the end:

#63. Collected 1905. Small vertical rectangle. Six-pointed star keyhole. Petrified maple? Alder? First report: Egyptian merchant told the story of a small stone-wood box that sank his ship. First purchased from an Indian astrologer who claimed to see a younger sun through its keyhole. When opened, the box revealed an elevated perspective of a harbor. The box was lost at sea when huge quantities of shattered stone emptied from its mouth, rupturing the hull of the merchant’s small vessel, and sinking the craft entirely. Acquired at great expense. Retained merchant as guide and hired ten local sponge divers for twenty-six days before success.

[Lighthouse/Alex/Alt pres]

Goodnight, sweet A. I hobble back toward the world we share.


(Fifth published entry, published at Fireside Musings on 2/12/2010)

Richard,

First, I saw you sneaking out of my room. Don’t ever go into my room again, or Uncle Caleb’s dogs will snack on you in the night.


Second, I know you put this journal on my pillow. Stop being such a creep. The fact that you even touched my pillow means that I’ll have to burn it immediately. Did you think any of this would impress me? Sneaking around writing about yourself? Could you be weirder?


Third, I don’t believe any of it.


Fourth, if you want to impress me, change. Don’t be you anymore. Don’t be the Richard Hutchins who calls himself Richard Hutchins. I’ve seen you wear pink sweatpants, and I won’t ever forget it. But if you want me to try, start playing baseball. Be normal. Don’t notice if you get hurt. Never, ever, ever whine to me or anyone else about anything again. That would be a start.


Fifth, I don’t care that you’ve been stabbed and (if you’re not lying) hit with a broom and scratched on the ankle and bruised on the face and pinched by crabs. I just read your stupid journal and that was worse than anything you’ve ever gone through.


Sixth, you’re a chump and a sneak and a weasel and an annoying Math tutor. If you died, I probably would be a little sad for you. But I’m sure I wouldn’t notice for a very long time.


Don’t talk to me tomorrow.


Sincerely,


Anastasia


P.S. If you still feel like pretending to be brave, I picked out another cupboard for you from this journal:

#23. Collected 1900. Tin-plated drawer. Single pull. First report: Ireland. Local innkeeper with a sealed room. Cursed, he said, with vipers. Seven guests killed in a week. Locked up since. Wouldn’t let me into the room. After dark, broke in and located the drawer easily (noticeable hissing when opened). Pried it loose and bagged it quickly. Left before morning.


That one should be fun for you. And if I never see you again, at least I’ll know how you died.

2.05.2010

ND Wilson Reveals the Contents of an Unexplored Cupboard and Answers a Couple of Questions!

This is so exciting! I checked out ND Wilson's post at Mundie Moms yesterday and am thrilled to see that there seems to be a theme to the exploration of the cupboards, which is being done by one of my favorite minor characters from the 100 Cupboards Trilogy who I was really hoping to hear more from! It seems that, in an effort to impress Anastasia, his true love (you have to read The Chestnut King, review here Friday, to know the details...) Richard has decided to explore the cupboards and keep a diary of his exploits. So, peruse this wonderful map and then read Richard's entry. I do suggest you start at the blog Mundie Moms





From the Diary of Richard Hutchins, post:

Survival. Ha! I, Richard Hutchins, have done it. The compass knobs are a mess, and the door is half off its hinges, but the combination still had its effect. I crawled through the downstairs cupboard (not forgetting the rope!), and I didn’t die. At first, I thought I had crawled into dark emptiness, but no, not at all—my small doorway was hidden behind a heavy curtain. When I moved it aside, I was looking down upon (and smelling) a sea of gaping, unwashed people, pressed in tight, shoulder to shoulder, and completely filling a circular court open to the sky (with moonlight). And they were all looking at me. Or in my direction, for I was lying on my belly on a high stage (with my face peering out beneath the curtain). Also on stage, a man in black was talking to a skull in a very strange voice, and acting drunk . . . certainly mad. I could only just make out his words, when a hand caught me by the ear and I was dragged back beneath the curtain. Anastasia, did I scream? Did I squeal in fear? No. I am Richard Hutchins. I do not do these things. A hugely fat man spattered my face with a whisper. “Ophelia,” he said (I think). “Into your dress before I carve your face and eat your ears.” Clearly, he had mistaken me for someone else, but he was tearing at my shirt. I kicked him like a warrior (shin and groin!) and dove for my rope. And now I sit, writing safely, on the remains of your grandfather’s bed. A sun shines on the grassland beyond the empty windows. If possible, my courage has grown with this little adventure. It is time to choose another door.#44. Collected 1903. Greek Isles. Long oval. Horizontal grain, pull knob. Upper hinges (hatch). First report: Sailors claimed a captain who possessed a hatch to Hades. Too small for men, large enough for small animals, poultry, etc. They had tested it themselves. Swore that it had swallowed living chickens, turtles, cats, and even a monkey. No chance for confirmation. Boarded the ship, drugged the captain, removed his hatch by crowbar.

[Lab/Knoss/Alt Pas. back 4M?]

I admit, Anastasia, my nerves are tingling like tin soldiers. But I will do it.




And now, ND Wilson answers two of my pressing questions. For a more thorough interview, check out
Mundie Moms and A Fort Made of Books.


I've read a considerable amount of children's literature, fantasy especially, and there are so many unique qualities to your writing that I admire, however, one aspect that stands out in my mind are the very visual descriptions of the injuries and the physical suffering your young characters endure. This is something that I have not noticed, to this extent, in other fantasy books written for young adults. As a woman and a mom, I cringe and gasp for your characters but as someone who appreciates great literature, I think it makes your characters seem more real and the story seem more immediate. (I mean, really, when you go up against evil forces, someone is going to get hurt...)

Is this quality of your writing conscious on your part, or is it just the way your mind works? And, do you ever feel like you are being too graphic in your descriptions?



It is a conscious decision, but it is probably also how my mind works. The fiction I most enjoy engages with as many of the five senses (and a couple extra) as possible, and as much of the time as possible. Obviously, you can’t just go on and on about physical sensation, but when you do appeal to it in description, the story becomes far more real for the reader. It’s more absorbing, it’s more moving, and I think it’s more honest (and less dangerous). I had friends in school who actually jumped off the roof of their two-story house with pillow cases as parachutes. Why would they get hurt? Telling and teaching kids that they can do anything and overcome any evil without paying any physical price themselves (as a lot of stories do) doesn’t actually help them. My favorite heroes growing up were those who did the right thing (and overcame) regardless of the personal cost. But, I have to admit to a more superficial justification as well—it’s just more exciting that way.

Do I ever feel that I’ve been too graphic? Sure. But I deleted all those parts. Ha.



How did you choose the dandelion as the symbol of Henry's magical attributes, his power?



I wanted Henry’s strength to be something unexpected and not at all powerful (at first glance). I wanted him to be resilient, unquenchable not unbreakable. He can be crushed and beaten, but leave him nothing more than a sidewalk crack, and he’ll pop up again, just as golden as before. The dandelion is infuriatingly persistent—good luck getting rid of them—the perfect frustration to more intuitively powerful enemies. Symbolically, it also pictures a terrific resurrection. It doesn’t grow strong and then drop acorns. It dies in a frenzy. It burns up in its own fire and goes to ash. Out of its ash, its strength is multiplied in rebirth. Of course, it also helps that the dandelion is a weed. It’s lowly, but it’s still sweet and full fire. I like my lawn green and smooth, sure. But I have to admit, I love it when it’s full of bursting gold.




You can discover the contents of other cupboards or read other interviews with ND Wilson at these sites:



On 2/10/10 you can visit The Reading Zone for ND Wilson's thoughts on the life cylce of a writer.


On 2/11/10 you can visit Eva's Book Addiction


On 2/12/10 you can visit Fireside Musings and Becky's Book Blog