For the past several Saturdays I have been writing about kidlit and the YA novels that Lizzie Skurnick‘s Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading inspired me to re-read. (I love re-reading, but it’s sometimes hard to make time for it, without an excuse, when there are so many good books clamouring for a fresh read.)
I chose Saturdays because it hearkened back to the days when my weekends were stuffed with reading, and Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge has provided the perfect inspiration to continue this Saturday habit.
I chose The Journey for his challenge, which only required that I read a single book, but have ended up selecting more than just one book after all, which is fine — better-than-fine, actually — because my favourite kind of journey is that which takes unexpected turns.
To pull out an Ursula K. Le Guin quote (I like to keep one in my pocket for all occasions: she is a MRE author of mine): “It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.”
So I did stick with some of my original travelling plans; I’d been eyeing Alison Goodman’s Eon since I bought it last summer, and I’ve wanted a good excuse to sink into Hiromi Goto’s writing for ages.
But in browsing my shelves and the library’s, I’ve added three other titles. And, even taking into account that one of those Saturdays I’ll be reading for Persephone Reading Week instead, that still leaves one more Saturday before the challenge ends, so I might make another roadstop yet.
Still, here’s my Once Upon a Time plan so far:
Terry Griggs’ Cat’s Eye Corner (2000)
Hiromi Goto‘s The Water of Possibility (2001)
Hiromi Goto‘s Half World (2009)
Alison Goodman‘s Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (2009)
Nnedi Okorafor‘s The Shadow Speaker (2009)
Kenneth Oppel‘s Silverwing (1997)
I think they all fall under the wider umbrella of Fantasy, but I think some contain elements of folklore and mythology, and one of the titles that I’m tempted to add is a retelling of a fairy tale. (I admit to finding it hard to distinguish between folklore and mythic elements, so I wouldn’t have done very well with Quest the Second.
Still, this is my Journey list so far, although the likelihood of adding another title is even seems even higher when one considers that Kenneth Oppel’s book is the first in a series of four. And higher still when I consider that originally I was only going to read the first of Terry Griggs’ series and now find myself poised for the rest of the trilogy.
And why is that?
It’s just so much fun. Think of the delightful puzzle-ish-ness of Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game and the tremendous wordplay in Norman Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth: Cat’s Eye Corner is clever, engaging and playful.
When Olivier rides in the cab to his grandfather’s house and the driver realizes his destination, he offers to take him back to the station at no charge; the taxi driver is that alarmed at the idea of a boy confined to Cat’s Eye Corner. But Olivier perseveres and readers reap the rewards.
Some aspects of the story will feel familiar to long-time fantasy readers: Olivier’s step-grandmother is named Sylvia de Whosit of Whatsit (you can’t help but think of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time), drinks can change their nature and offer many different tastes from taster to taster and from mouthful to mouthful (and keep in mind this predates Harry Potter’s Every Flavour Beans), and buildings that are shack-sized outside are palace-sized indoors.
Other aspects of the story are unfamiliar to me, fresh and fun. Like the telephone that Holy Moley and Holy Hannah have in their tower room: “made completely of bones, of odd sizes, all stuck together. It reminded Olivier of the time he boiled a chicken carcass and built a dinosaur out of the remains for a science project.” When Olivier struggles with how to answer it, Hannah directs him, impatiently: “Pick up the tibia and say hello”.
But these are details and it’s really the steady and consistent accumulation of said morsels that combine and transform Cat’s Eye Corner into such a flavourful and satisfying plateful. (I’d say meal, except that I know there are two platefuls to follow and I know that I’ll be swallowing those sequels before long.) Terry Griggs’ love of language infuses every page and you’ll find yourself wanting to read sentences, then paragraphs, then chapters and, finally, whole books aloud.
If this first of my fantasy reads for the Once Upon a Time Challenge is any indication, I am in for a series of fantastical treats. Next Saturday, I’ll be Buried in Print for Persephone Week posts. But the Saturday after that, I’ll be Once-upon-a-time-ing about Hiromi Goto’s fiction: can’t wait!