April 12, 2016

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown)

Happy Poetry Friday, everyone!

Mary Lee and Franki are hosting
today's round-up
at A Year of Reading.
This is the fifth post in a series called Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse. Guest bloggers and I are pairing books we've read this summer with a poem that complements the novel.

So far, we've paired:

I'm not normally a vampire person.

Interview with the Vampire ... meh.

The Historian? It turns out historians are dull, even when they're on the trail of Nosferatu.

I read Twilight as a cautionary tale for teen girls: How to tell when your boyfriend is a controlling stalker.

Source: The Afictionado

However, I make an exception for two smart, strong, complicated teen girls -- one who is a vampire queen, the other who is infected with vampirism.

My first favorite vampire is Marceline the Vampire Queen from the TV show Adventure Time. The second is Tana from Holly Black's urban fantasy THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN.

I promised some geekiness today, and geekiness you shall have.

This weekend, I'll be going to Otakon with my teens. It's a celebration of anime, manga, and all-things Japanese pop culture. Even though Adventure Time isn't an anime, people still cosplay characters from the show.

People like me.

Marceline is an easy character to cosplay. Most of her outfits can be built from things you already have in your wardrobe. Add a long, dark wig -- gray stage make-up, fangs, and bite-marks if you're really into it -- and you're all set.

Then I started thinking, I'm going to have to carry a purse and it's going to look really dumb, carrying a purse dressed as Marceline the Vampire Queen. That is how I came up with a brilliant idea -- my best idea in many years of being crafty. I would make tote-bag shaped like axe-head Marceline's bass guitar.

Another time, I will write out directions, which started out simple and became totally lengthy and complicated. Here is the finished product:

Believe it or not, there is totally a normal-sized black tote bag inside this thing! With magnetics snaps and everything.

Before I swoon from craftiness, let's move on to Tana.

When my kids were little, we loved THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES. Since then, I've dipped into Holly Black's YA fantasies once in a while. I loved WHITE CAT from  her Curse Workers series, so this summer, I tried THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN on audio.

Tana and her ex-boyfriend are the only survivors of a vampire massacre. She escapes the scene with her ex, who's been infected with the virus for vampirism, and with a mysterious vampire-on-the-run named Gavriel. Together, they head to a quarantined "Coldtown." There, Tana gets caught up in the complicated personal and political relationships of ancient vampires. She learns that being a vampire isn't as glamorous as reality television makes it out to be. And she learns that she'll do anything to survive Coldtown with her humanity intact.

The poem I'm pairing with this novel is also suited for upper YA.

Grief Puppet
by Sarah Beasley

In the nearby plaza, musicians would often gather.
The eternal flame was fueled by propane tank.
An old man sold chive dumplings from a rolling cart,
while another grilled skewers of paprika beef.
Male turtledoves would puff their breasts, woo-ing,
and for a few coins, we each bought an hour with
the grief puppet. It had two eyes, enough teeth,
a black tangle of something like hair or fur,
a flexible spine that ran the length of your arm.
Flick your wrist, and at the end of long rods
it raised its hands as if conducting the weather.
Tilt the other wrist, and it nodded. No effort
was ever lost on its waiting face. It never
needed a nap or was too hungry to think straight.
You could have your conversation over and over,
past dusk when old men doused their charcoal,
into rising day when they warmed their skillets.
The puppet only asked what we could answer.

Read the rest of the poem at The Academy of American Poets.

Even though "Grief Puppet" is not a vampire poem, it caught my attention as a discussion partner for Tana's story. The two works share several images: street food, the puppet's lack of humanity (which reminded me of the vampire characters in the novel), the walled town, the coin (an important prop in the book is shaped like a coin).

It's the walled town at the end of the poem that wowed me, though. Until I read that line, I had not thought of Black's setting -- a quarantined, lawless town surrounded by high walls -- as a metaphor for grief. 

Tana *is* grieving -- for a mother turned vampire, for all of her friends killed in the massacre she survived, and for the "normal" childhood she did not have.

Because of the poem, I have a deeper understanding of Holly Black's novel. My hope with this series is that we'll continue to find novels and poems whose interplay deepens our experience of reading both.

I promise some middle grade novels next week (and some cosplay photos from Otakon)!

Do you have an idea for Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse? I'm still looking for guest bloggers! For more information, find a full explanation of the series and a sample Chapter & Verse pairing at this post.


Mary Lee said...

How have I missed this series?!? You've got my wheels turning...this is something I should do with EVERY read aloud...and challenge my students to do occasionally with their independent reading books. LOVE your catch-phrase! Look for a post from me soon!

Irene Latham said...

I am not much of a vampire fan either, but of course I've read a lot of vampire stories in the past decade! For some reason this particular challenge (Chapter & Verse) is particularly challenging for me. I think I've spent more time time to figure THAT out than actually trying to imagine a pairing. :) My kids loved SPIDERWICK, too. xo

Author Amok said...

Mary Lee -- I would love to have you here for a guest post or do a cross post. Send me an email!

Author Amok said...

Hi, Irene. Funny you say that about the challenge. I'm noticing many books in my summer reading that include mentions of poems or excerpts. Walk Two Moons, Delirium, The Great Gilly Hopkins -- such different novels but each shows a character encountering & responding to a poem.

Linda B said...

And I just read a review of a YA book where the main character was touched, maybe saved, by slam poetry. There are a number of books like that I think, Laura. "Coldest Girl" is still another I have but haven't read yet. In the poem, the telling line for me is that the puppet never needed a nap, and on. When teens need something, it doesn't work well to wait, does it? They move on, comfort lacking.

Linda said...

Hi, Laura- As a teen (decades ago!), I loved vampire stories, but I"m not much of a fan these days. I haven't even seen the Twilight movies! I have students who would enjoy THE COLDEST GIRL so thanks for letting us know about it. I'll have to check to see if our media owns a copy. I love the idea of pairing a novel and poem! : )

Tabatha said...

Can I tell you how much I love that tote bag you made? You are the best.

Anyway, how about "What the Heart Cannot Forget" by Joyce Sutphen or "Listen" by Barbara Crooker with Johanna, the main character of "The Book of the Maidservant" by Rebecca Barnhouse? Memory plays a big role in the book, and also Johanna has to remake herself, remake her life.

Diane Mayr said...

Funny, but the cataloger at my library was complaining today about processing yet another vampire book. "And zombies, too! Who wants to read about zombies?" Obviously, there are still people reading and enjoying the genre!

The pink tote is out of this world! Nice job, Ms. Handy-Lady!

GatheringBooks said...

I've read a lot of lovely things about The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - and I love the cosplay ideas and that bag is inspired. I've always been a fan of the supernatural and fantasy - wasn't too keen on Twilight, but I enjoyed my Anne Rice fix when I was younger. :)

Bridget Magee said...

That tote - wow! Just put "Coldest Girl" on my to be read list. + )