Google reminded me that Langston Hughes said: “My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind.” Google’s short biography on the anniversary of his birth reminds us that “[h]e hoped to inspire black writers to be objective about their race and embrace it, though felt the young writers of the Black Power movement of the 1960s were too angry.” He was born on Feb. 1, 1902. Not only an inspiration to African Americans, all writers and readers can reflect on his heart-felt comments. My posts about “Characters You Want to Know: Parts 1 & 2” try to illuminate for all readers some memorable children in contemporary literature who will help us to understand humans who have foibles and troubles as we all do or “all human kind” as Hughes reminded us.
If you enjoyed the Characters You Want to Know in Part 1’s post, here are more amazing characters which will add to your list of great books ones that teach us all empathy for children and any humans.
Another complex character I recommend is featured in What To Do About Alice?(with a long subtitle) by Barbara Kerley. (She is also the author of The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins). We adults may remember Alice Roosevelt Longworth anecdotes from when her father was president, but this book takes a fun approach with imaginative illustrations to help us understand the point of view of a young daughter living in the White House. Some reviewers on Amazon say that this book will help to introduce a “character” children will want to read more about. I agree especially when I read that Alice was an unhappy adult so her early life leads to her complexity.
As well as reading, I love to knit and cook. All my hobbies require good eyesight, so I was inspired to read about the life of Laura Bridgman who held on to only two of her senses after a childhood illness. Laura could only taste some food and could use her remarkable sense of touch after losing her sight, hearing, and sense of smell. She could knit and tat and she learned to read and write before Helen Keller at the Perkins Institute in Boston. What an inspirational story Sally Hobart Alexander wrote in She Touched the World: Deaf-Blind Pioneer ! This ambiguous true “character” intrigued me because she was not Helen Keller, the delightful deaf/mute writer who was loved by all who met her. Laura was an impatient, jealous, demanding child who helped Samuel Howe become famous in the late 1880’s. I think Sally Alexander, a blind author and teacher, aptly named her book which is written for older elementary children.
How can Mia Winchell compete in school and in this character-loving post? She is the synesthetic narrator of A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Moss. Thank you to my niece Gretchen Schmelzer for recommending this fascinating book to me. We writers can only wish we shared Mia’s “gift,” for she can see sounds, smell colors and taste shapes. Wouldn’t those extraordinary powers be helpful to us writers? Since this section is about MEATY characters, I guess Mia would be uncomfortable with my language. I cannot describe the taste of this book, nor the smell of this “Meaty” child. Mia’s “oddness” is not easy for her family to understand, but Wendy Moss shares this character’s feelings with the reader. You will be amazed when you read about this medical condition which is rare, misunderstood, and real!
Another title with an Exceptional Setting I chose is An Unlikely Friendship by Ann Rinaldi, which takes place in the White House during the 1860’s. Ann Rinaldi’s book about this unusual attachment is a historical novel about Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Keckley. There have been many books written about these two women, but I maintain that Rinaldi gets it just right. You may have seen the movie “Lincoln,” in which Lizzie has a minor role. Read An Unlikely Friendship and you will see her character revealed in the U. S Capital during this tumultuous time.
What is the special language of The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman? The chapter titles are so intriguing! Meg Wolitzer, the author of the adult novel The Interestings, writes for children in a language they will love. For Example, Chapter 1, “Lunch Meat and the Chinaman” and Chapter 3 “The So-Called Power is Revealed” will resonate with young readers. Duncan Dorfman is not a typical elementary child nor are his new friends who are Scrabble geniuses at age twelve. Her writing has been called “Juicy, perceptive and vividly written.”—NPR.org
What characters have you read recently which should be shared as “Characters You Want to Know”? The theme of empathy is one that should resonate with many readers like you. Happy Reading in 2015 as you find more characters you want to know and share with others!