Wednesday, January 18, 2006

interview question II

In prep for an interview for a position in Children's Services I checked out a handful of books. The interview was today. Last week I was on an interview panel myself and on this blog talked about the answers candidates gave to the What've-you-read-lately question.

The question came up today, too. How did I answer?

The books I checked out were ones I'd picked from the lists of recommended books the librarians have drawn up. Bunnicula by James & Deborah Howe, My Father's Dragon by Ruth Gannett, Two Bad Bears in the Big City by Daniel Pinkwater (actually this is a sequel to the one the librarians had listed), The Not-Just-Anybody Family by Betsy Byars, and poet Donald Hall's Ox-Cart Man.

I read none of these as a child -- but then only two were available when I could have read them "as a child". Besides, there being so many interesting books I haven't read, I didn't consider rereading any (even if it's been decades since the first time).

I often find Hall's poetry dull but liked Ox-Cart Man for its simple details and slightly stiff (old fashioned?) structure. Hall wasn't in pronouncements mode the way so many a contemporary poet goes wrong; he was just saying, this is what the farmer & his family did and this is the order they did those things.

I enjoyed Betsy Byars' Not-Just-Anybody Family, though in a short book swinging back & forth between the distinct points of view of five characters in five different places I got a twinge of whiplash. I think the story only takes place over two days, but the boy whose legs got broken seems to wake up & fall asleep enough for three or four days.

Bunnicula was cute and a bit overly joshy. Still, gotta give 'em points for a vegetarian vampire.

I read a Daniel Pinkwater book every few years, just to keep up. He's a funny guy.

In the interview I only talked about My Father's Dragon, having taken it from the shelf partly because of the striking stripes on the dragon. I liked the folktale (hero's journey) structure of the tale. It's told as something that happened to someone else (the narrator's father), in a (relatively) distant time, the hero goes on a quest, taking with him a bundle of objects that only prove their utility in unexpected circumstances (as when lollipop-loving alligators make a bridge across a river when the boy attaches a lollipop to each alligator tail, the boy able to cross on the alligaors' backs as each 'gator licks the lollipop tied to the tail of the next), the boy is clever without being obnoxiously brilliant, and the dangers seem real (the wild animals have a taste for boys). I thought it would read aloud well. I recommended the book to children 6 to 11. It has a great beat, you can dance to it.


Anonymous said...

When you get around to checking out the series fiction, take a look at the Dragon Slayers Academy series. Kate McMullan I think.

It's sort of Harry Potter light; difference being that instead of training to be wizards, they're training to Dragon Slayers.



Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot to say that the reason I recommend DSA is my sons love it.