Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Friday, September 22, 2006

latest read

I just finished Terry Pratchett's Truckers, and I can't wait to find Diggers and whatever the third book in the Bromeliad Trilogy is. (Umm, Wings.) Pratchett, like Diana Wynne Jones, is ridiculously prolific, very funny, and English. Neither one is as well known in this country as either Philip Pullman or J.K. Rowling, and I'm a bit mystified by that fact--unless it's that they're too prolific? I certainly can't say, as I can of either of the latter two, that I've read all their books (or even all their books for kids...I think I've missed an early Pullman novel). But Pratchett is well worth the read. I think I tried to say so once before, but then got sidetracked.

The premise of the Bromeliad trilogy is that there are nomes (not gnomes)--four-inch-high humanoid creatures--living in spaces humans don't notice. In Truckers a small group of nomes leaves their home in a truckstop, where they are increasingly in danger from various predators, and moves into a department store where, to their surprise, they encounter an entire society of other nomes. These nomes have lived in the store--Arnold Bros (est. 1905)--for as long as they can remember. So long, in fact, that they don't really believe there's anything outside the store. So long that they have developed a religion based on this premise. Their sacred texts are signs and commentaries on signs in the store, thus:

III. And Arnold Bros (est. 1905) said, Let there be Signs, so that All within shall know the Proper Running of the Store.
IV. On the Moving Stairs, let the Sign Be: Dogs and Strollers Must be Carried;
V. And Arnold Bros (est. 1905) waxed wroth, for many carried neither dog nor stroller...

XXI. But Arnold Bros (est. 1905) said, This is the Sign I give you:
XXII. If You Do Not See What You Require, Please Ask. (99, 111)

But it's not just a satire of fundamentalism. The store nomes are sympathetic (if flawed) characters, and they know a lot of things the outside nomes can use. It's a funny but also thought-provoking tale, in fact, in which science and faith come to be very similar, and which seems to me to expand our notions of what it means to be human. (Something similar also happens in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.)

I've been looking for something to read next to Nick--we're about to finish the Bartimaeus Trilogy, about which I'll write another time--and this may be it. (Dad, I'm working on him for Beyond Beowulf, but he insists that he has to hear Beowulf first, and he and Mark haven't gotten there yet.)

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