Thursday, October 2, 2008

what makes a good book?

Over on Cindy Pon’s blog, she asked what makes a good book. This was my answer:

“I think what makes a book good is that it is exactly what a reader needs at that time. Sometimes the best book for me is a light and speedy read that I won't remember that much about later, and sometimes I need something with more depth, that really makes me think, even days later. Other times I need laughter, or darkness, or both. I can be captured by a character in a not so good story and an amazing story with only so-so characters. 

For me, they are all good books. It's just which one is right for me at the time. Other people might define good books differently.”

In the comments, other people did define good books differently. So, what do you all think? What makes a good book?

Some of the things that shaped my answer to this question are:

I like to read many different kinds of books. As long as there’s something that draws me in, voice, character, story, or writing, then I’ll probably like the book. It may not be the best book I’ve ever read, but it could still be a good book.

An article about light, happy books, instead of dark and serious books. The author confronted why she writes one and why they are both valid. It was an amazing article and I am so bummed that I can’t find it. I think it was in the NY Times Magazine, maybe last year.

Being a part of the children’s book writing community.
I have writer friends that write all different types of books, from stuff that I’ve always liked, to things I didn’t know I liked until I read their work.

While reading the slush pile, I saw that there truly was a book for every type of reader. Just because it wasn’t something the publisher I worked for wanted to publish, or wasn’t my personal taste didn’t mean it wasn’t a good book.

The books I read as a kid helped shape who I am today. Would the books I loved so long ago strike me as good books today? I don’t know. I’m generally not a re-reader (too many books, too little time). But it doesn’t matter what I would think of those books now. What matters, is that they were exactly what I needed to read at that time. Even books I didn’t like, that scared me, or bored me, count. They helped me to be a more discerning reader and more wise about my reading choices.

I have re-read a few of my picture book favorites, because I can’t help myself and I love looking at the art. Even if there are slight flaws, my memories of the book and how it affected me make it a good book, even if it wouldn’t win awards or capture another person’s imagination.

** What do you think makes a good book? Would your childhood favorites stand the test of time? **

Book Pick: Susie Mariar by Lois Lenski
I loved this book as a child. The first lines read, “Susie Mariar Fell in the fire. The fire was so hot she jumped in the pot. The pot was so little, she jumped in the kittle.” I think kittle would have been kettle, if it didn’t have to rhyme, but that’s ok. As a kid, the rhyming helped me to figure out what the next words would be, and the amazing illustrations helped back that up, while showing Susie’s expression as she jumped from one disaster to the next. I still love this book.

* It’s October 2, only 29 more days until Halloween!!!

* The House of Representatives is back in session Thursday. To find out what you can do to stop the House from passing the Orphan Works Bill/H.R. 5889, click here. Thanks!