April 12, 2016

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Writing Exercise: Literary Allusions (Upper Elementary through Adult)

Name Dropping Is a Good Thing What was your favorite book when you were a kid? Mine was “Jacob Have I Loved,” by Katherine Paterson ( The story deals with an elder twin who resents her spirited & favored sister. Fill in “two wild brothers” for the sister and you’ll get why the novel spoke to me. (Okay, I was feeling sorry for myself. You would too if you had to share a bathroom with the “Mohawk Men.”) Kids are passionate about their favorite books. My son owns every book in the Warriors series ( A good friend’s sister loved the Anne of Green Gables novels so much, she wouldn’t watch the PBS adaptations in case they ruined her vision of Anne. Books & the characters in them are such an important and revealing part of kids’ lives. Why don’t we see more cross-referencing in kids’ lit? I’m guessing writers are afraid of intellectual rights, copyright infringement. But a few kid lit authors do it. Jeanne Birdsall ( in her Penderwicks books has literary Jane mention beloved characters and books constantly. Hilary McKay’s Indigo Casson ( is always reading Le Morte D’Arthur. J.K. Rowling dropped the name of an imaginary book in the Harry Potter series. How smart was that? HP may be complete, but “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” sent Harry fans back to the bookstore. Your writing exercise: throw caution to the wind! Do some name-dropping. Fiction Writers -- What is your kid/teen/YA character reading? Be a daredevil and mention the book by name. If your character has a favorite novel, you probably know what it is and why your character loves it. (You can read about one of my childhood favorites – Jane Eyre -- at my website: Poets – try a poem about a book you loved as a child. Let’s go sensory here – what did the book look, feel and smell like? What images did you see as you were reading it?

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