Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What YA novel influenced you the most?

So, a few weeks ago, when I received my "author's questionnaire" from my publisher, it asked, among many other things, what novels affected me most as a YA writer. I named a few of my favorites, The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton), anything Judy Blume, and the glorious A Wrinkle in Time (if you're a tween or a teen and you saw the made for TV movie a few years ago, forget it, READ THE BOOK!).

Which is all well and good except that I forgot the one book that influence me the most, both as a an early reader and directly in terms of plot in The Pull of Gravity!

Don't Take Teddy, by Babbis Friis-Baastad (winner of the 1969 Mildred L. Batchelder Award, although I didn't know this then)! Oh good lord how I loved that book! I actually read this when I was around 8 or 9, but it is the first book I remember reading in one sitting, not being able to put down, literally, until I found out what happened. The book was about two brothers who escape to the Norweigan countryside when one of the brothers who is mentally handicapped (yep, we still called it that then, or maybe even the dreaded "R" word) accidentally throws a rock back onto a field instead of a baseball and hits a kid in the head.

The book is so old, this is the only photo I can find of it on the web at this point, though I believe the version I read had a bland white cover with a black and white (and maybe muted red?) illustration. Wow, how far book covers have come!

There is actually an entire plot-line in The Pull of Gravity that is (hopefully) an honorary nod to a plot line in Don't Take Teddy.

What Children's/YA fiction has influenced you the most as a reader and/or a writer?


  1. This is a tough question, that I find pretty much impossible to answer like you I devoured The Outsiders and A Wrinkle in Time at a young age as well as everything else S.E. Hinton and Madeleine L'Engle ever published. Ellen Raskin was one of my personal gods and I read most of Paul Zindel's books as well. When I was in eighth grade Gordon Korman visited my school, and it was great to meet a real author and afterwards to fall in love with his hilarious novels. As for which book influenced me the most, I would like to think that it is the sum total of all the great books I read when I was younger.

  2. It's so funny--I didn't really LIKE YA when I was a Youth. I thought I was 'all that' and had to read books with sex & stuff, so I was sneaking Harold Robbins from my mom's room (though I DID love Where The Red Fern Grows and the Diary of Anne Frank). My biggest YA influence came MUCH later... Harry Potter--you heard me. I have read them more times than any other books EVER and got pulled back into writing after a MANY year hiatus--they finally taught me how to THINK like a writer, and how to FINISH a darned book (erm, finish writing, that is... there are other books I've finished reading).

  3. The first book that I can recall ever made me cry was "Yankee Traitor, Rebel Spy," by Elinor Case, published in 1961. And I hate historical fiction! But there's a devastating death scene in there that has remained with me ever since.

  4. I had James read your blog for feedback (he is still home on break this week - oh the joys of private school). While he read and "kinda" enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time last year in Project Extra, an enrichment program for gifted students, he said he really likes both historical fiction and non-fiction. Right now he is engrossed in "Chasing Lincoln's Killer".

  5. The Little Prince. Wait, is that YA?

  6. A couple of books I fondly remember reading when I was a youngster at Meadow Glen are "Homer Price" and "Flowers for Algernon." I was never much of a reader, though, and I regret it.

  7. Alissa and Hart, Oh yes, Paul Zindel and the Diary of Anne Frank (i acted as a kid and did endless monologues from that!) and, Anonymous (jeff?), I loved Flowers for Algernon. I must have read that ten times.

    Little Prince was a weird thing, JBT, it was a picture book, but for older kids. Peter Sis' The Wall is like that. A picture book, but clearly geared toward an older audience. I'm a fan of those, especially any picture book by Maira Kalman.