Breaking News: Robin Hobb & Helen Lowe in Conversation—Plus an “Easter Egg” for “…on Anything, Really”
I woke up this morning to very exciting news.
To check it out, click Here.
But there is more. The full, indepth conversation—where Robin and I talk world building, characters, magic, the writing life, and more—appears on both the Harper Voyager website and on Robin’s own blog.
To read on the Harper Voyager website, click Here.
To read on Robin Hobb’s blog, click Here.
Plus: An “Easter Egg”—of Robin Hobb & Helen Lowe in Conversation
But as promised in the title, here is more again just for ‘…on Anything, Really‘—an extra “easter egg” (Faberge style) of conversation between Robin and myself:
Robin: So in terms of your obvious love of books and storytelling, most of us come to fantasy writing after years of fantasy reading. So, if you were selecting a set of fantasy books for a child of 11, boy or girl, to put them on the path to enjoying fantasy the rest of their lives, what books would you select? Are they ones you read at that age? And how would that compare to the recent SF Signal Mind Meld list you put together on books for teenage girls who read at an advanced level?
Helen: Because the Mind Meld brief was “young teen girls” I did tend to select more on the basis of books with female protagonist, although I noted that I didn’t think it was strictly necessary. I do feel “good genre” and “good storytelling” are most important and some of my choices reflected that, especially in the “almost” list that didn’t make the Top 10 (and even then there were probably at least another twenty or so really good books I could have put in!) I also think a list for “advanced” readers would differ quite a lot than one for a kid, whether boy or girl, who was having reading difficulties.
But given a list for both boys and girls at around age eleven—which to me still essentially means a child, much more so than even a 13 or 14 year old—I would look for books that are primarily “good genre” and should have universal appeal. Possibly partly influenced by my belief that good Fantasy doesn’t comes with a “blue” or “pink” identity card.
Books that were both my and my brothers’ favorites at a similar age include CS Lewis—particularly The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe or The Horse and His Boy (the story I loved best in that series,) Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time—and just about anything from Andre Norton or Diana Wynne Jones. I’ve always particularly loved Eight Days of Luke. which like many of both Norton and Wynne Jones’ books has a boy protagonist. Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea has to be there, as well, as does Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and Tamora Pierce’s LIONESS series. I might have hesitated over the LIONESS series as appealing to both boys and girls, except that I recently had to loan the whole set to a boy in exactly that age group who began reading the first one and then had to read them all!
I would also add more recent works, written for younger readers but which I have still enjoyed as an adult reader—and which I know both boys and girls in the age group have also liked. Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass stands out, as does Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. And I can’t leave out the great Harry Potter: at least the first three books are just right for the age group. If allowed to step outside Fantasy I would also add in Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker and a novel by a new New Zealand author, Jane Higgins, called The Bridge. Both are fine examples of dystopian SF, in my view.
How does this compare with your own list? And would you have a different take on more gender oriented lists?
Robin: Well, you’ve named a lot of my favorites, but my experience via kids and grandkids has been that boys do read a different set of books from girls at that age. That’s not to say there is no overlap, but I do feel that in many cases boys are not offered as good a selection at that reading level as girls are. I think the wild success of Harry Potter was a pretty clear indication that given SF/ fantasy that appeals to them, boys can be as voracious readers as girls are. At one time, there were a lot of book series slanted to boys, such as The Hardy Boy Mysteries and the adventures of Tom Swift. And of course, Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter series, not to mention Tarzan. But I’m not seeing many books that target boys as much as the publishers used to.
Helen: I loved Tarzan when I was a young teen, although it did take me some time to figure out exactly what was meant by a “dusky” maiden… But other, recent books I might specifically suggest for boys include the Percy Jackson series, starting with The Lightning Thief, Philip Reeves’, Immortal Engines and Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan.