Wednesday, December 31, 1997

Out of the Dust: The Importance of Research

image from childrensbookalmanac.com

Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust (Scholastic Press, 1997)is my most recent read in my quest to conquer all the Newbery-award-winning books. At the onset, I was pretty certain I wasn't going to enjoy it. The book is written in verse and I'm not big on reading poetry. However, I quickly became engrossed in the story. It helped that there wasn't a rhyming, sing-songy pattern to the writing and I was able to read it mostly as prose.

The story is set in the Dust Bowl during the depression. As is often true of a good story, this one worked for me because it did such an excellent job transporting me to a particular time and place. I still have to point out that in the well-established Newbery tradition, this book focuses on an orphaned coming-of-age girl. At least this book makes the loss of Billie Jo's mother a part of the story.

For my own writing, the lesson I take away is the importance of research. Hesse wasn't even alive during the depression or the Dust Bowl era. For this book to work, though, she clearly had to do a phenomenal amount of research so that it felt authentic.

With my latest project, Abigail's Atlantis, research becomes pivotal on two fronts. 12-year-old Abigail learns all about sea turtles while visiting her grandparents at Topsail Island for the summer. That brings about its own amount of research, but on top of that I am learning about Atlantis because of the parallel Atlantis-set storyline which will mirror Abigail's.

When researched properly a story - like Out of the Dust - becomes intriguing because the setting feels completely natural and real in the context of its story. In fact, while an author should have the basic story in mind from the onset, the writer should welcome whatever twists and turns the research may add to the story. It will make the journey more authentic.


Thursday, June 26, 1997

First Harry Potter book published

Updated 1/7/2020.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (aka Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

J.K. Rowling

First Publication: June 26, 1997


Category: youth fantasy novel


Sales: 120 million


Accolades:

About the Book:

With “the first in a series of tales about a young wizard in training, an international craze was born. Not since C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia has a children’s tale of magic and mystery so enthralled the reading public. And it’s easy to see why. Eleven-year-old Harry Potter, the plucky yet nerdy hero of this series, is the embodiment of every uncool kid’s fantasy. Unpopular in school, picked on by bullies, and persecuted by his adoptive family,” BN he’d “never even heard of Hogwarts.” AZ But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed.” BN It turns out “Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!” AZ

“He receives training in some magic basics, masters riding a broomstick, and discovers his incredible talent for a game called Quidditch, which is played in the air on flying brooms…But all is not rosy when Harry discovers his true destiny and finds he must…face the evil one who killed his parents. His survival will depend upon the help of his newfound friends, as well as his own wit and powers.” BN

“It's easy to see why Harry Potter has caught the reading public’s fancy. Not only are his adventures an entertaining mix of fright, fantasy, and fun, his triumphs over everyday adversities offer a heartening lesson to kids everywhere.” BN


Resources and Related Links:

In July 2018, I became the organizer of the Mission Classic Novels Book Club. Check out the Book Club tab here or Meetup for more information. This is our book for January 2020.