This week, I discover that giving an author a second chance can make me a happy reader.
You know how you pick up a book by an author you haven't read before, read it, and don't really like it that much? And from then on, whenever you see that author's other books, you'd shrug and pass with a polite smile?
I read my first David Almond book few years ago. I hadn't heard of him then (oh, but he is well-known, very well-known and an award-winner) so I certainly didn't pick up that book because of him. I picked it up because the cover art was done by Oliver Jeffers. This was the book:
Didn't hate it. But didn't enjoy it either. And with so many, many other books to read, I wasn't ready to give his books another go.
So when I learned that David Almond had a new book out, I went, "Oh. Well, nice." That would've been it, except I read the blog reviews on it, too. (Yes, I take blog-reading seriously.)
First, the title got my attention for more than three seconds. (I muttered it and wished I'd thought of it first. Creature. Sea. Sort of my thing. And half a creature?)
Then came the understanding that this was a book of short stories inspired by Almond's childhood in Felling-on-Tyne, England. Eight strange stories (with the author's notes on how they came to be). These stories involved mysterious characters in this town: a woman rumored to have a monster chained in her house, a friend's dad who'd died coming back, a boy with a strange disease bullied (This is my favourite story by far.) ... Here, you don't get the usual monsters in children's books, but surreal creatures, with ghosts who came back as suspicious men, with ghosts born from guilt and so on.
Interesting ... In David Almond's voice, they are bliddy interesting.
I read my blogger-friends' opinions of it. Friends whose taste I trust. They gave enough thoughtful reviews to make me say yes. Yes, again, please.
I'm only halfway through, and I've decided to make this recommendation. Says something about the book, doesn't it?
I'll leave you with a passage from my (by far) favourite story: The Missing Link. Just a taste of the author's writing. Perhaps you'll pick this book up, perhaps you won't because it doesn't sound like your kind of read. It's all right. I'm just glad I did. Second chances can be wonderful.
We couldn't believe it when the lad arrived at school. The school was St Aidan's, a grammar school. We'd all passed the 11-plus. We were the bright ones, we were the chosen few. And now here came this ugly, stupid-looking thing. He was big and lumpy. Bulbous eyes. There was always dribble on his chin. He'd got a uniform from somewhere: crumpled trousers, worn-down shoes, a tight and tatty, worn-out blazer with the school badge peeling from the pocket. He stank, of course. And that voice! It was so weird and ugly he hardly dared to use it: stupid-sounding, thick and wet, half a grunt and half a whine, whistly and wobbly.
(* This collection of stories contains some violence. Suitable for readers around 13 & up.)
Have you given an author a second chance before? How did it turn out?
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Hey, I'm Claudine. Welcome!
Want to know what children's stories can inspire & lead to?
by Kate Hanney
Really enjoyed the honest voice of this narrator ~ a teenager let down by his mother and the foster care system, and almost-picked up through his involvement with a gang.