Saturday, March 17, 2018

Book Blogger Hop March 16th - March 22nd: My Copy of "Last and First Men" by Olaf Stapledon Is 246 Pages Long

Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Who is your favorite children's books author and why?

Andre Norton

Though there are a number of other science fiction and fantasy authors who have written books aimed at younger readers who I have enjoyed quite a bit - Lloyd Alexander, John Bellairs, Susan Cooper, and so on - there really is no choice other than Andre Norton for me. The only real caveat here is that Norton's books may or may not be properly classified as "children's books", as most of her writing was published before the defined market categories of "young adult", "middle grade", and "children's book" had really solidified. I do know that I started reading her books as a child, specifically starting when I was in third or fourth grade, so I'm going to go with that experience and say she qualifies as a valid answer to this question.

Norton holds a special place for me due in large part to her ubiquity in school libraries when I was a kid. My family moved around a lot when I was younger: My father was in the foreign service, and being the child of a foreign service officer is kind of like being the child of someone in the armed services, except that instead of moving from military base to military base every few years, you move from the capitol city of one country to the capitol city of another every few years. When I was young, my family moved to (among other places) Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Kinshasa in what was then Zaire (but is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Lagos in Nigeria. When I graduated from Woodberry Forest School, the three years I spent as a student there was the longest period of time that I had ever attended the same school.

Norton features in the story of my childhood because one of the first stops I always made when starting at a new school was the school library. There weren't public libraries (or at least not public libraries that were accessible to me) in many of the places my family lived when I was younger, and bookstores were few and far between, so the school library was my only real source for new reading material. My parents had a reasonably well-stocked home library, with copies of a couple of Abrashkin and Williams' Danny Dunn books, quirky books like Brinks' Pink Motel and Nash's Mrs. Coverlet's Magicians, and a collection of classic books that was theoretically at younger readers that included Treasure Island, Gulliver's Travels, Toby Tyler, Swiss Family Robinson, and others, but I burned through those at a pretty rapid clip.

Maybe I just got lucky, or maybe Andre Norton's books were just a common feature of school libraries when I was younger, but I could always count on there being several books that she had written available. Given that Norton was quite prolific as an author, there were usually some books of hers that I had not already read, although I did end up reading some of her books more than once although in some cases it was unintentional as there were several of her books that were published with multiple covers, and a few that were published under alternate titles. I read so many Andre Norton books as a kid that as an adult I am often uncertain if I have read a particular story of hers or not. There are a number of her stories that I am certain I have read, including Judgment on Janus, Victory on Janus, Witch World, The Zero Stone, Moon of Three Rings, Star Man's Son, Quag Keep, and Star Guard, but there are others where I remember something of the plot and characters, but the title has completely slipped from my memory.

There were other authors who I enjoyed a lot, but none really offered the range that Norton did. Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain is a magnificent series, but once you get past that, his books are mostly light fantasy and not much more. Tolkien is a giant in the fantasy fiction genre, but after one had read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and then waded through The Silmarillion, there wasn't much else of his available in the late 1970s and early 1980s. When one picks up a Norton story, on the other hand, one can find a fantasy, or a space opera, or a time travel adventure, or a post-apocalyptic tale, or even a western or a story based on a role-playing game. What I could be certain of, is that a Norton book contained a story that I would enjoy reading.

I had a weird path into being a science fiction fan. Although I had read some short science fiction before then, my first science fiction novel was Samuel R. Delany's Nova, which is an unusual entry point. But after that, my reading in the genre was dominated by Andre Norton's work. Before I turned ten I had read dozens of her books, and before I entered high school I had read dozens more. In a sense, Norton shaped my view of what science fiction, and to a lesser extent fantasy, are as genres. More than that, Norton gave me (and continues to give me) literally hundreds of hours of enjoyment via her writing, and that's why she is my favorite children's author.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: 247 A.D. Was Marked as the Millenium of Rome

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  1. The beauty of Andre Norton is that if you enjoy her work, there is a lot of it! I discovered her as an adult and still haven’t got through anywhere near all of it. You’re right that she wrote a big range of stuff.

    Susan Cooper hasn’t written anywhere near as much, but she is still writing and after reading her Dark Is Rising series I was pleasantly surprised to find that the books she wrote after were still wonderful, though that is her greatest work. I don’t think she will ever write as much as Andre Norton, though.

    As a teacher librarian I think I would have loved to welcome the young you to my library. You seem a bit like one of my students, Thando - not your background, she was an African refugee who had no idea where her father was, suspected he was dead. But read! The minute she arrived at my school, she signed up for the library and in the end, I just let her borrow as many books as she wanted, which might be as many as twenty. And she read them all, about one book every two days, and borrowed some more. I got her to do a guest review on my blog and interview Juliet Marillier. Amazing kid!

    1. @Sue: I've probably read sixty or seventy of Norton's books, and I still have a pile I haven't gotten to yet.

      I've read Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising series, and I have reviewed them on this blog.