Back now? Great! To date, we've explored three different Variations on the Overall Weirdo Theme, and thirteen different books. (Don't be nervous, triskaidekaphobes, we'll rectify that number shortly, by adding four new ones today.)
- Installment #12 was Odd Ducks
- Installment #13 was Outliers
- Installment #14 was Orphans in Odd Situations
Today's installment is:
Out of This World
These books have the total complement of weird – weird characters and weird situations, all taking place in weird and wonderful worlds:
Liesl and Po
Written by Lauren Oliver
Illustrated by Kei Acedera
Ages 8 and up
Three nights after the death of her father, Liesl is lying awake in her small attic room when she notices a shadow. It shifts, and suddenly a ghost is standing next to her desk. Its name, she learns, is Po. The ghost is neither boy nor girl, it insists. And it has a pet, Bundle, which is neither cat nor dog. As with Po, Bundle just...is. The three strike up a friendship, as well as a plan for Liesl to escape her attic prison and the stepmother who has locked her away.
The very same night, alchemist's assistant Will detours from his expected path to pause on the street and gaze up, as is his habit, at a small attic window of a house, hoping for a glimpse of the girl who lives there. When he does not see her, he continues, disappointed, to his expected destination. Once there, in his haste to make up for lost time and his exhaustion at being out at so late an hour, Will makes a mistake. Innocent though it is, this mistake incites the wrath of the alchemist, and Will is forced to run.
When the children's and ghosts' flight paths converge, they soon discover that Will's mistake has had great consequences not only for Liesl and Will on the side of the living, but also for Po and Bundle on the Other Side.
Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger
Written by Kevin Bolger
Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin
Ages 9 and up
Prince Harry is the only son of his father, King Reginald the Not Very Realistic. Though the king has dreams of Harry's someday life as a knight of the Kingdom of Armpit, Harry is far more interested in practical jokes and making such magic as may be done by sleight-of-hand. (Real magic, of course, can only be made by wizards and enchanters.)
Known about the castle as the Royal Pain, Harry has just angered yet another knight in the castle (Sir Bedwetter) with his not-very-squire-like behavior. With not many knights left who haven't already been subjected to Harry's pranks, Richard begins to despair of his son ever living the knightly life.
But then a famous knight comes calling at the castle. His name? Sir Fartsalot. He's on a quest to find the Foul West Wind – a smell most vile, which blows about the land whenever evil is near. When Sir Fartsalot announces his intention to continue his quest the next morning, the quick-thinking king seizes the opportunity: assigning Harry as the knight's squire.
Before they leave, the brave Sir Fartsalot saves a child from the moat monster. When the child points at the bewildered knight and blurts out, "Booger!", the quick-thinking prince seizes the opportunity: saving the child's mother from mortification, modifying the old knight's quest, and creating some fun for himself in the process – or so he thinks.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Written by Catherynne M. Valente
Illustrations by Ana Juan
Ages 10 and up
Twelve-year-old September is a young girl living an ordinary life in Nebraska, and she is quite tired of it. The Green Wind notices, and decides to swoop in through her kitchen window and offer her an escape. September jumps at the chance, joining the Green Wind on his Leopard of Little Breezes and trying her best to listen to the rules she must follow as they fly on to Fairyland. But the Green Wind can take her only to the border.
Once there, a surly gnome named Betsy Basilstalk pushes September through, but not before flinging some golden jelly in her eyes so she can see Fairyland as it actually is. Once in Fairyland, September encounters witches named Hello, Goodbye, and Manythanks (one of whom is a wairwulf – not to be confused with a werewolf). They send her on a quest to retrieve Goodbye's spoon, stolen from her nine years before by the Marquess – an individual quite young yet greatly feared by those in Fairyland. In return, September asks the witches for safe passage back to her home, as well as a favor as yet unnamed.
Bargain struck, September sets off. Along the way, she befriends a "wyverary" named A-Through-L (who believes he has a wyvern for a mother and a library for a father), a marid named Saturday, and a 112-year-old living paper lantern named Gleam, who all journey with her at one time or another. And it's a good thing she has them, because this quest that she hoped would be very straightforward? Turns out to be anything but.
A Hat Full of Sky
Written by Terry Pratchett
Ages 8 and up
Tiffany Aching, the "big wee hag" of the six-inch-tall, blue-tattoo-skinned, Nac Mac Feegle – fiercest of the fairy races, has just left the chalk hills of her ancestral home, off to learn to use magic. She is apprenticed to Miss Level, a witch with one mind but two bodies and not – as many mistakenly assume – a pair of twins.
As she travels, something sinister follows Tiffany – a creature without form, drawn by her power. She senses its ominous presence, though she doesn't know what it is, nor does she realize it's coming for her. Rob Anybody, Big Man of the Chalk Hill Feegle Clan, does, though. With the blessing of his Kelda, Rob sets off with his Nac Mac Feegle brothers to try and save Tiffany.
But the only one who can save Tiffany is herself. And this time, it will take a lot more than a frying pan and a fiery spirit.
* * *
That's all for this year! I hope you enjoyed reading about these wonderfully weird literary adventures. Better yet, I hope these posts sent you on a quest to find a few of the books and read them for yourselves.
If you know of any books for young people that you'd like to see featured in next year's celebration (the Fifth Annual!), please drop me a line and let me know about them: bugs and bunnies (at) verizon (dot) net.
Before you go, here's one final rumination on weirdness:
"Be weird. Be random. Be who you are, because you never know who would love the person you hide."