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Random thoughts - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Random thoughts
Oh, blech. I sent off Chapter 18 to SQ last night, and this morning woke up knowing how I could fix the sequence of events that's been bugging me (remembering about Peter's father's mistress before going to Mrs. Pettigrew's really made her information kind of superfluous, and since I'm not trickling the chapter out by days, there's no reason to have that info in there in the scene where it is). Why couldn't I have thought of that before sending it? I beta myself fairly hard (I have a NEWT), plus I use all the comments that people made here, but stuff slips through anyway. Sigh.

For a live show, SNL seems to have a whole lot of repeats. It's quite annoying. I think half of every season is repeats. The news is a lot less fun when it's not, you know, news.

I was just thinking about that book meme. kizmet pointed out how many seemed depressing and dull and whatnot, and the truth is, a lot of the time, I agree with that assessment. What's with the angsty books? Things get challenged because someone is requiring them--otherwise, they more or less slip under the radar--so why all of this depressing-ass stuff on the required lists. Doesn't life suck enough without escaping into a depressing book? If I want to live in a dull, depressing world, I'll just close the book or turn off the computer and take up residence in the Mundane world, thanks. I read to get the hell out of there and get some perspective so I can come back a little more awake.

I'd also add that, as a librarian, I'd love to see more books that are cheerful and funny--there just aren't enough of them for the people who come in looking for them, especially in the non-fantasy part of the collection. It's really easy to find some issue book or something weepy and teary, but when a kid comes in saying, "Hey, I want a good, funny book," there's just not that much of a selection (Louise Rennison and her various imitators, maybe some Harry Potter if the person can tolerate fantasy, Douglas Adams if he can really go for the bizarre). And I've been getting that request a lot. Anyone know of good, full-length novels that are funny and good for teens?
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prplhez8 From: prplhez8 Date: February 27th, 2005 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Rec for teens

I'm sure as a librarian you've heard of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Trilogy by Ann Brashares. But if not, they're grand. My step-daughter (14 year old) and I have both read them and adore them! And that is all I currently have read involving the YA genre'. Hope that helped some :)

-prplhez8
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 27th, 2005 05:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Rec for teens

Oh, yeah. I haven't read them, but I know them. I'd heard they were a little depressing--someone said something about crying over them. I've also had a little trouble selling them to boys. Not fair, but something about little flowers around the pants on the front that maks them go, "Er, maybe not."
sonetka From: sonetka Date: February 27th, 2005 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I would recommend P.G. Wodehouse for any age :).
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: February 27th, 2005 01:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Seconded really hard!
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krabapple From: krabapple Date: February 27th, 2005 05:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure you know this already, but I'm willing to plug him whenever possible. :) I'd recommend Louis Sachar's work for late elementary/middle school students to read on their own--his books for middle readers like Holes, There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom, and Wayside School is Falling Down, which is a whole series. While he often has a larger point to make (especially with Holes, for example), his work is also funny and charming, and very, very relatable. The Wayside books are often just silliness--shorter chapter stories about funny things that happen at a funny school. And while I'm not usually one to make the boy/girl distinction about readers, his books most often have male protagonists, and Holes very much features male bonding between middle school age/young high school boys. Again, very easy for kids, especially boys, to relate to.

For the younger set, I also love his Marvin Redpost series, which is how I found Sachar's work. I don't know the kind of school you are in, but mostly these books are late first grade/second grade material. Maybe third--my third graders struggled with them, but I also had, well, interesting third graders.

I read Holes aloud to my third grade class and it became the center of our classroom experience for a long, long time. They loved it.

Also, for younger readers (first, second, third grade), there's the whole Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne. They are not nearly as well written as Sachar, but my kids loved them all the same. There's both a boy and a girl protagonist, and while they're adventure books (not humor), they're a lot of fun. The kids travel back and forth through time, and there's a series of non-fiction books that go with some of the fictional books, so that kids can learn more about the time period the story takes place in, whether it's the middle ages or ancient Egypt or dinosaurs. There's some fantasy, too, as the magic treehouse was created by Morgan Le Fay, and the kids sometimes go on special missions for Merlin.
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: February 27th, 2005 05:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Louis Sachar is terrific - I loved Holes, and though it's a middle-grade novel, it's just edgy enough that it may appeal to teenagers.
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: February 27th, 2005 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)
The Grounding of Group Six
A Question of Survival (both by Julian Thompson)

Coming Back Alive (by Dennis Reader)

Thompson's include sexual references and violence
Reader's include implied violence

In all three, these are in context.

But Thompson is FUNNY. I laughed so hard.
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: February 27th, 2005 05:18 am (UTC) (Link)
oh, forgot the childhood classic:

The Mad Scientist's Club by Bertrand Brinley
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sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: February 27th, 2005 05:25 am (UTC) (Link)
but when a kid comes in saying, "Hey, I want a good, funny book," there's just not that much of a selection

I know, and it's true with a lot of adult stuff too. I think this is why Little Women and Anne of Green Gables remain such favorites - they're funny and upbeat.

You might suggest Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine for teenage girls. It's a retelling of Cinderella, and Ella is a very funny character. It's a middle-grade novel, which may seem too young, but I read it when I was in my twenties, and gave it to my sister, who passed it around her college dorm. It's set in a make-believe kingdom, but because it's a fairy tale and a romance, it may snag girls who wouldn't normally consider fantasy.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 27th, 2005 05:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know about teenagers, but I loved any Robert Newton Peck book I could get my hands on. Quite witty. Mary
From: anatomiste Date: February 27th, 2005 05:32 am (UTC) (Link)
In my experience older writers (that is, the ones who've been dead at least a hundred years) had fewer silly ideas1 about books needing to be serious-tending-to-depression in order to be Good. So for those high-school students who don't mind working a bit at the beginning getting into the flow of old diction, I recommend

Lawrence Sterne (Tristram Shandy: you can reassure would-be readers that it absolutely doesn't matter if they can finish it before it's due, because Sterne didn't finish it either. There's also A Sentimental Journey which is way shorter, but oh Shandy).

Dickens, of course. The light ones, not the melodramatic ones.

Jane Austen, also of course.

Voltaire's Candide--been ages since I read that, but it's short and amusing.

Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel. A romp. There's a lot to wade through but it's fun. Misbehaving giants! I believe Rabelais was trying to make some kind of higher point with it, but when I read it at 15 or so, that mostly passed over me, but I sure enjoyed it.

I also find old Gothic novels (the kind Austen makes fun of in Northanger Abbey) very funny, mostly due to the author's plain intent to the contrary. Walpole's Castle of Otranto, for example.

I can't really think of any modern teen novels that you wouldn't already be perfectly familiar with. Sorry if my list is only good for budding English majors...


1-- it's amazing, how so many respected assumptions of modern scholarship seem pompous and wishy-washy when you read the scholars of past centuries. I've been reading a bit of Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets and it is breathtaking how he cuts Milton down to size. Same for all the usual stuff about being inclusive and real lately, which so often bogs down good storytelling.
ashtur From: ashtur Date: February 27th, 2005 05:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Hm, it's yet more Fantasy, but the Belgariad/Mallorean books by David Eddings are have an excellent humorous undertone. (His later books less so, they have their moments, but also tend towards the darker)

Hm, blanking at the moment, my collection tends towards thudding tomes... not dark or depressing, but not exactly light and gay either.
velvetmouse From: velvetmouse Date: February 27th, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll second the Eddings reccomendation. His dialogue can be truely funny.
My mom hooked me on reading fantasy when I was about 12 by reading me parts of Eddings aloud, as she was reading them - they made me giggle so much that I had to go see what it was all about.

And since the main character is male, as are many of his closest companions, boys will generally read them. My brother (who is NOT a bookworm) read them when he was about 14 and still will go back to them.

Hmm, not sure what else... I'll try to remember to ask my 8th graders tomorrow what *they're* reading.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: February 27th, 2005 05:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Gordon Korman - I read the Bruno & Boots books and Don't Care High, but he's written lots more. The B&B series (aka the MacDonald Hall series, probably) is set at a boys' boarding school - high school, I'm pretty sure, although the books are probably geared more towards late elementary-school readers. They rank amongst the few books which can still make me laugh out loud, even after multiple readings... and it occurs to me that I have no idea if anyone outside of Canada has ever even heard of them. If they're not known south of the border, they should be. (Trivia: Korman wrote the first Bruno & Boots book, This Can't Be Happening at MacDonald Hall, as his seventh-grade writing assignment. The second book in the series was written when he was in grade eight.)
veryshortlist From: veryshortlist Date: February 27th, 2005 06:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Aha! Finally someone's mentioned Gordon Korman. He's one of my favorite authors to this day, because he has an uncanny knack of being truly funny, and depicting teenage boys accurately, lovingly and with a lot of humor.

I have to say that I love the girl's boarding school across the road, and the interesting characters there too.


I second the recommendations of Bloody Jack, and The Sisterhood of the Travelling pants. Other good authors for kids would be Bruce Coville, Eoin Colfer for his Artemis Fowl trilogy, and pretty much anything Jerry Spinelli has written. Gloria Whelan's book Homeless Bird, about a young Indian widow who is left by herself in the city of Widows, and how she survives is good for tweens and teenagers.

There's also a fun quartet called Dealing With Dragons that's about a princess who does not want to be a vapid brainless wife-to-be like her sisters who runs away from home, and volunteers to be a dragon's princess. She has many adventures. What I like about the series is the egalitarian relationship the princess has first with her dragon, and eventually with the man she marries.
darreldoomvomit From: darreldoomvomit Date: February 27th, 2005 05:48 am (UTC) (Link)
i have bipassed this problem personally by heading for the young teenager section of my chapters. or even the middle-er grade books. I'm 17 and really am having trouble finding books that are like, in between adult and teenager, because i want to bypass angst. but speaking of angst, "teen angst, naah" by Ned Vizzini is a truly hilarious memoir of a nerdy new york teen. another awesome series that I find hilarious is the thursday next books, starting with the eyre affair. they allude to just about every great work of literature, and some not so great onesand are written by some welsh dude named Jasper Fforde. yes, two f's. anyway, i hope that helps.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 27th, 2005 05:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooo, Jasper Fforde, good call. I got an intro to that not long ago. I don't know how well they'll go down with the kids who don't want any fantasy or sf, but definitely worth a try.
duncatra From: duncatra Date: February 27th, 2005 05:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't do well with funny fiction. Can't get into Adams, Prachett, and such.

I do a little better with the non-fiction - David Sedaris writes hilarious essays about his life and family. Holidays on Ice or Me Talk Pretty One Day are great to start - he has four or five collections. In that vein, I also enjoyed Laurie Notaro's The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club... She seems to have a few more books out, too.
duncatra From: duncatra Date: February 27th, 2005 06:01 am (UTC) (Link)
...Although those probably aren't kid/teen material.
angua9 From: angua9 Date: February 27th, 2005 06:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Agreeing with a lot already recommended, plus the two Diaries (Princess and Bridget Jones), Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, Series of Unfortunate Events, Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels, Amelia Peabody series, Horatio Hornblower series (definitely has its funny moments), Cheaper by the Dozen, and that fabulous book Our Hearts Were Young and Gay.
angua9 From: angua9 Date: February 27th, 2005 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)
When I was a teenager, I died laughing at James Herriot's books -- All Creatures Great and Small, etc.

And Mark Twain -- Letters from the Earth. And, for religious counterbalance, C.S. Lewis -- The Screwtape Letters.

Watership Down has some very funny moments, too.

And there's always Dave Barry.
From: hobviously Date: February 27th, 2005 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)

mmm, YA

Let's see. When I was a kid my favourite book was A Royal Pain by Ellen Conford - never failed to make me laugh hysterically at great length, and as I recall she has several other funny YA books and story collections. Also loved Lois Lowry's Anastasia books, though her other work is a great deal more somber. Judy Blume occasionally delves into the depressing, but has a lot of light fare. I also, as a preteen, adored Piers Anthony's Xanth books (the middle trilogy, around Isle of View is the best) although as an adult I've grown to despise them. Edward Eager is great for younger readers. Generally I read a lot of old children's lit as a kid - Baum, Montgomery, Lewis, Carroll, etc., and you really can't go wrong with any of that.
purple_ladybug1 From: purple_ladybug1 Date: February 27th, 2005 06:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Meg Cabot's books like The Princess Diaries, All-American Girl, and Teen Idol (iffy about title of last one)

A Series of Unfortunate Events (more middle school oriented, but a fun and easy read for high schoolers, including myself!)

Bloody Jack (maybe more action and adventure than humor, though- would appeal to girls and boys)
purple_ladybug1 From: purple_ladybug1 Date: February 27th, 2005 06:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and I also enjoyed The Great Brain series as a 5th/6th grader.

Um, The Switching Well, The Egypt Game, Caddie Woodlawn, The Baby-sitter's Club (hey, it's fluff but I loved it!) and Sweet Valley (again, lovable fluff), Shakespeare Stealer, Romiette and Julio, Diane Mott Davidson's culinary mysteries.

Hope all this helps!
story645 From: story645 Date: February 27th, 2005 06:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm a total fangirl of Lloyd Alexander's stuff. It's definitly for the younger set, but funny, intelligent, and great lessons. I just read this really cute book, Dragon's Breath, a sequel to another adorable told over tale, the Frog Princess. Both are cute and funny.

Um, Jane Austen is always good for teenage girls, and Shakespearean comedies are great for a laugh, if you want to put in the effort of reading them. Just Ella by Margeret Haddix is good for younger teenage girls, same vein as Ella Enchanted, no magic. Oscar Wilde is fun. My brother, also seventeen, is more of a nonfiction buff, so maybe steer them towards Bill Maher's and Michael Moore's stuff. That's what I read for laughs, mostly. I have a male friend who swears by Vonnegut, and some of his stuff is worth looking into. Old historical romance, called "The Ramsey Scallop", great for girls, sweet and funny. The Sabriel, Lireal, Abohorsen books by Garth Nix also have some humor thrown in. Tamore Pierce's stuff also isn't bad for girls, if a little thin on characterization and plot. Another fall back is Meg Cabot's Princess Series. Maus is also an insane mix of laughs and heartbreak, and always worth a read. What about the Redwall books? Never read them, but keep hearing great things.

Actually, I stick to kids books because there isn't anything really anything happy in the teen or adult section.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: February 27th, 2005 06:45 am (UTC) (Link)
The Redwall books look as though they're geared towards younger readers, but I discovered them the summer I turned eighteen and loved them. I thought I'd find them difficult to get into as I don't generally like talking animal books but the characters are wonderful. The problem is that the Redwall series is kind of a perfect example of a series that should have ended after maybe seven or eight books. The first several (published, I mean, not chronologically) are full of adventure, original characters, plot twists, fascinating history, exciting battles, etc., but after awhile they just got really formulaic. I could probably write a whole essay on the inconsistencies and plot holes which turned up throughout the series, and I've stopped reading the newer ones as they come out now, but I would definitely recommend the first few to anybody.
darreldoomvomit From: darreldoomvomit Date: February 27th, 2005 06:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh! Forgot one staple of humour, kurt vonegut. He is especially good because he is such a legend that people who have nenver read his stuff might think you are advanced and sophisticated for doing so. what with all the aliens and incest. And The Vinyl Cafe, books of short stories by one of the most hilarious canadians ever, Stuart McLean. Those books (and recordings of the actual radio shows) and great for all ages.
gryfny From: gryfny Date: February 27th, 2005 06:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Fernwithy, why don't you send in the new version telling them to post that one and not the earlier one. Since they didn't put it up yet.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 27th, 2005 06:58 am (UTC) (Link)
'Cause I've kind of done that on four chapters and I feel embarrassed about it. ;)
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 27th, 2005 06:45 am (UTC) (Link)

recommended books for teens

I always recommend Austen, Dickens and Twain for non fantasy/sci fi. Also Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (this one is hilarious and optimistic) I did used to read the Xanth books mentioned above, as well as the David Eddings books. Also the Myth Inc. series. All these may seem dated though. Douglas Adams is a classic. I like the Archangel series by Sharon Shinn. Oh, and Bram Stoker's Dracula and Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde are good. I also recommend some Stephen King , like his short story collection that includes Stand by Me and Shawshank redemption. The Green Mile and one called something like Through the Eye of the Dragon are quite nice as well. superpan
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: February 27th, 2005 06:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I know you asked specifically about teens but I've just remembered another Uniquely Canadian Series(TM) of books that made me laugh when I read them (again, as an older teen... I was big on raiding my little sister's bookshelf): the Stevie Diamond Mysteries, by Linda Bailey. They're about a sixth-grade girl detective and her nerdy vegetarian boy sidekick living in Vancouver and they all have really long titles like "How Come The Best Clues Are Always In The Garbage?" and "What's A Daring Detective Like Me Doing In The Doghouse?" I've read six of them; I don't know if there are more. They're fast-paced, well-written, and the endings always surprised me.
dudley_doright From: dudley_doright Date: February 27th, 2005 07:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Douglas Adams was my main reading material all through middle and high school, wonderful stuff.

I've always been rather fond of Tom Jones, I know theres a heck of a bunch of sex in there, but if you don't mind that, it's great.

I've just finished Anne of Green Gables, and it's positively lovely, but you already knew that.

Midsummer Night's Dream and Much Ado About Nothing are a lot of fun

I'm basically trying to remember all the stuff I took out of the library in middle and high school...

If your kids like sci-fi, there's always Asimov, and if they like his fiction, you might pass them along to some of his essays - I'm a second year Physics major at UCI and I got my start reading Asimov in Jr. High.

Might be a tad heavy, but the Chronicles of Narnia are always good fun (and the Horse and His Boy is the reason I've been shipping R/H since book 1).

Indian in the Cupboard

I know you mentioned (and so did I) Douglas Adams - have you read Last Chance to See? Part travelogue, part popular zoology, Douglas and a couple friends spend a year trekking about the globe trying to see severely endangered animals before they go extinct for good. His writings about the Kakapo in particular are absolutely priceless.

Dave Barry - I know he's not directed at kids or anything, but he could always make me bust up laughing all through HS. I'm gonna miss his column a lot.

OK, I think I'm about out of steam for now.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: February 27th, 2005 01:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you're looking for pure comedy, I second Dave Barry, especially Big Trouble.

And only the first Xanth novel is worth reading.
musamea From: musamea Date: February 27th, 2005 07:46 am (UTC) (Link)
Robin McKinley. I cannot recommend her books (which have girls-who-do-things *GASP*) enough. She's one author I really regret not having known about earlier in my life. The one caveat is that her Deerskin and Sunshine are definitely NOT geared towards YA.

Garth Nix is also a wonderful writer. I've only read his Abhorsen trilogy, but quite a few people I know recommend his Keys to the Kingdom set (incomplete right now... I think there are 3 books out, with more to come).

Orson Scott Card's Ender series and Enchantment, anything Tolkien, anything Jane Austen (of course), Dave Duncan's Tales of the King's Blades, William Goldman's The Princess Bride, Arthur Conan Doyle... and I found Melville's Moby Dick hilarious. :D
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gryffin23 From: gryffin23 Date: February 27th, 2005 10:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with the recs of Ellen Conford and Lois Lowry's Anastasia series but I should like to add one extra sort of fantasy and that is the Dealing with Dragons series by Patricia C. Wrede. She uses and satirizes common fairy tale conventions and a thumping good story.
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