Saturday, May 03, 2008
Fiction Set in Vermont, For Kids and Teens: Ann McKinstry Micou's Marvelous Guide
The Vermont Humanities Council just brought out its second comprehensive guidebook by Ann McKinstry Micou, A GUIDE TO FICTION SET IN VERMONT FOR CHILDREN & YOUNG ADULTS. It's a marvel of Micou's comprehensive gaze over the wide range of such books, from Rose Lucia (a Montpelier school principal who wrote "readers" set in East St. Johnsbury around 1910), to Katherine Paterson (award-winning author of BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA and many other beloved books, several of which are indeed set here), to Robert Newton Peck's classic A DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE.
Particularly enchanting is the way the book can be read and plumbed from so many directions: from the initial listing by age of audience (first picturebooks and easy readers, then children's and young adult fiction); or by genre (science fiction or historical fiction or humorous or realistic or romance); by author name; by year of publication; even by "real location" (a great way to find fiction that's set near a child's own home). And collectors will appreciate the listings by award, too.
Micou's most scarce gift is her masaterfully honed ability to give a single long paragraph for each book, revealing plot and characters, rich with colorful detail, and narrated so well that reading through these summaries is almost as enjoyable as reading -- well, fiction! The book also spins an enchantment in its positioning of authors: The picturebooks section, for instance, begins with Jim Arnosky, Jay Avery, and Mary Azarian; if you've raised kids in Vermont (as I have), just the names tripping from the tongue bring back hours of fun and exploration and thoughtful pondering with children.
I did find a couple of items that raised questions in the Bibliography near the end, where author details are quickly brushed in. There are also some authors missing who have places of honor on my shelves (some of which just may not fit Micou's final criteria for inclusion). However, these are small flaws in such a comprehensive resource, and knowing already the kind of writer and reviser that Micou is, I expect she'll welcome any corrections and of course additions in the second edition, as she is already doing for her first volume from the Humanities Council, A GUIDE TO FICTION SET IN VERMONT.
And the best, most wondrous aspect of this two-volume set is exactly what Humanities Council executive director Peter Gilbert says in his Preface: "Both books encourage reading and life-long learning, and, by encouraging pride and connectedness with one's community and state, they also promote civic engagement."
In other words, there are so many books, so little time -- and Micou's guides to fiction set in Vermont provide the tools for choosing among them, broadening one's choices, and appreciating the riches she describes.
Posted by Beth Kanell at 9:46 PM