whalesister's Reviews > The Whispering Mountain

The Whispering Mountain by Joan Aiken
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's review
Jan 05, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: middle-grade
Read in January, 2009

Joan Aiken was always one of my favorites. Her stories are mysterious and a little dark, though not too scary, but exciting and funny, too. The perfect combo for a great middle-grade read. I love her vivid characters and the way they change and the surprising twists and turns of plot.
After reading:
This is a little book, and occasionally more brief than I wanted it to be, but Joan Aiken is a fabulous author with valuable insights into what makes a book for children work. Her knowledge of the history of children's lit impressed me and she fills her book with great little quotes and examples. The most helpful sections to me were the chapters on writing for specific age-groups, though I only skimmed the part on writing for younger children, since I'm less interested in that category; the one on plotting and story-planning; and the sections on fantasy and myth.

Some of my favorite tidbits:

"Really good writing for children should come out with the force of Niagara. It ought to be concentrated; it needs to have everything that is in adult writing, but squeezed into smaller compass, in a form adapted to children's capacities and at shorter length."

"Adult readers can be masochistic. Adults...have learned to overcome their repugnance and to eat oysters, snails, tripe...; with the same perversity some in their reading may be prepared to struggle with almost unintelligible obscurity, ponderous length, hair-raising obscenity, bloodcurdling violence, harrowing despair, or sheer stunning boredom....But children won't eat oysters or snails."

"Since each child reads only about 600 books in the course of childhood, each book should nourish them in some way--with new ideas, insight, humour, or vocabulary."
(I personally think this number is way too big. Some children read this much--I know a few--but I doubt most video-game playing/TV-watching American children read anywhere near that number. But all the more punch to her point.)

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