by Giselle Renarde
God help me, I love children's books. I'm not talking Young Adult fiction. I'm not talking picture books. I'm talking that slice in between. I think it's called Middle Grade fiction?
I just finished one such novel that I won't even name because it was so terrible. I guess you might classify it as a supernatural/paranormal or horror? It was a traditionally published book, but the writing was awful and it was full of typos. This book is 20 years old (can you believe 1996 was 20 years ago?!?), but the tone didn't feel contemporary enough. Sounded like it was written by some old lady who hadn't been around a child in 40 years.
AND YET... I couldn't put this book down. It was bad on so many levels, but I loved it. Maybe I loved it because it was bad. The story wasn't really compelling, but I still wanted to know what would happen next.
Maybe there's something consoling about reading a traditionally-published book and thinking... ‘another author just like me obviously whipped this thing up on a deadline.’ I suspect it was ghostwritten because the writer it's copyrighted to isn't the name on the cover. Somebody wrote this awful book to pay the bills. I can respect that.
But I actually want to tell you about the children's book I read before this one, because it was compelling and well-written and ticked so many boxes for me:
The Sky Is Falling by Kit Pearson is a WWII-era novel about a young girl and her brother who are sent to Canada from England as War Guests.
I'm a sucker for war stories, particularly non-battlefield ones. Give me Wartime Farm and Foyle's War, anything about the many people who joined he war effort without fighting on the front lines.
Before I picked up this book, I had no idea my country played host to English children. I knew kids from London were evacuated to the countryside, but being put on a ship without their parents and transported to another country to live out the war? I didn't learn that in school.
And, because the Canadian portion of the book was set in Toronto, I got the satisfaction of recognizing landmarks of my hometown. That's especially pleasing through the eyes of a child who's just arrived here from a small town and isn't used to big cities or our weird Canadian ways.
The Sky Is Falling is the first book in a trilogy and I enjoyed it enough that I'd be interested in seeking out the next two. The edition I had in hand was clearly children's fiction, but when I looked this book up on Amazon I noticed the cover looks like literary fiction. That’s… an interesting choice. I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as litfic, but I definitely enjoyed it as an adult reader.