Today, I am honored to have a very special guest at Eating YA Books, Hélène Boudreau, the author of Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings, (read my review) a charming and funny look at a middle school girl who suddenly finds out that she is a mermaid. One of the many things I enjoyed about this book was the wonderful relationship Jade and her father had, and I asked Hélène to talk about fathers in books.
Dad’s the Word!
(A look at fathers in middle-grade and young adult literature)
by Hélène Boudreau and friends
Some of my favorite scenes to write in Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings were the ones between my main character, Jade, and her dad. Jade’s dad is a mixture of nerdy and affable; your all around adorable good guy who means well even though he sometimes may get things farcically wrong—especially where his puberty-addled/ newly-betailed daughter is concerned.
This got me thinking about some of my favorite dads in middle grade and young adult fiction. There’s the jovial Mr. Weasley in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the determined inventor, Mr. Yelnats, in Louis Sachar’s Holes. Flipping the coin, there’s Burl’s abusive father in Tim Wynne-Jones’ The Maestro and Jenna’s desperately misguided dad in Mary E. Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox.
What makes these particular characters memorable? Appealing? Distasteful? I asked these questions to several middle-grade and young adult writers and readers and these were their answers.
From Becky Levine: author of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide
* Myron Krupnik in Lois Lowry's Anastasia books: Myron--he just cracks me up. Anastasia emotes and he makes all the WRONG suggestions, and she emotes more. Probably just brilliant Lowry writing makes him real and layered, not perfect, with just a few words.
* Pop in Steve Kluger's My Most Excellent Year: Pop is the ultimate in supportive, with his own agenda, but listens and gives enough freedom. Plus Pop can't let a school project pass without overkill. Teachers flinch (with smiles) when they see him coming.
I guess for both, the authors hit ‘Love With Comedy’ right on the nail.
From Kristin Tubb: Author of Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different and Selling Hope (2010)
* Ramona's dad in Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona: He understands and appreciates the differences in his girls.
From Jennifer Joseph:
* Uncle Alec from Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins/ Rose in Bloom: Uncle Alec was a great influence on Rose. He helped her get healthy, encouraged studies at a time when it wasn't proper for girls to learn about things such as physiology and ensured she was not a silly girl who spoiled her fortunes.
* Pa from the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Pa was a kind man who worked a ton but still made time for his daughters. He's a good man and helps others.
* Mr. Weasley from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter: Mr. Weasley rocks, especially as a dad to so many kids. He welcomes Harry into the family, he is stern when he needs to be but is also one of those dads who can be your friend and joke around. He cares a great deal for his entire family.
From Miranda Kennealy: author of Score (fall 2011)
* Loved the dad in A. S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz: Dad tried hard to protect his daughter from his mistakes, and even though he was flawed, he loved Vera and grew along with her.
* Hated the dads in Revolution and A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly: Hated the dad in Revolution because he rarely listened and liked to ignore problems instead of confronting/helping with them.
* Northern Light: Dad didn't listen to MC. I can't stand parents who don't listen, because why would kids speak up when it really matters?
From James Alfred McCann : author of Rancour and Flying Feet
* The dad in Acceleration by Graham McNamee: The only dad I've ever thought was well-written was in Acceleration by McNamee. They were a lower class family, both mom and dad did shift work, *and yet* the dad was not abusive or on drugs. In fact, the relationship between the son, mom and dad was very healthy and yet the story still carried with suspense and drama.
From Melody Delgado Lorbeer:
* My favorite Dad in middle-grade fiction is Opal's Dad in Kate Dicamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie: He seems vulnerable and real.
From Michelle Hodkin: author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (fall 2011)
* Valentine Morgenstern of The Mortal Instruments by Cassie Clare for most memorable: He's completely three dimensional, a far cry from the cackling Disney villain. His actions are detestable but you can understand his motivations. And he's also very present in all three books in a very bad way. Impossible to forget.
Hélène Boudreau is the author of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings. She’s never spotted a real mermaid in the wild but the writer in her thinks they are just as plausible as seahorses, flying fish and electric eels.
In a fun promotion for the holidays, Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky is offering signed Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings bookplates with proof of purchase. More info HERE.
I want to thank Hélène for this amazing look at "fathers in the word", and I encourage everyone to check out Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toes Rings.
To help you do this, I am giving away a copy of the book. The giveaway is international (or wherever The Book Depository ships). All you have to do to enter is leave a comment answering the question above about fathers. Also make sure to leave your email in your comment so I can contact you. Giveaway ends 1/9.