Sunday, December 5, 2010

SLIS 5420 - Module 14 - Thirteen

Module 14 - Thirteen edited by James Howe

Howe, James (ed). Thirteen:  Thirteen Stories that Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003. ISBN 978-0689828638

This short story collection of 12 stories and 1 poem (to make thirteen entries in all) all center around the theme of being thirteen and how each author felt about their own experiences. While the stories are made up, the authors reveal that the feelings captured in each are very real in afterwords to each story. There are also pictures of the writers from when they are thirteen, which is a nice touch.  It's interesting how "grown up" some authors look at thirteen, while others look so young still.

What I Thought
I did not expect to enjoy this collection so much. My last experience in reading short stories was when we read them in high school and college. They weren't my choice and I started to feel resentful to short story collections (unfairly) because of that. However, reading Thirteen reminded me that short stories are fun! My favorites out the book were the first two. I've enjoyed other books by Bruce Coville (The Monsters of Morley Manor being my favorite) and was delighted at the same sense of fun and action that took place in this first story in the series, "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" At the end of the story, Coville talks about what inspired him to write that story and about how he felt when he was thirteen.  My other favorites were the next story by Meg Cabot, "Kate the Great" and the strange, unsettling story by Stephen Roos, "Picky Eater." Both of those stories dealt with youthful relationships in a very interesting way.

Outside Reviews

"The authors of these 13 original entries (12 stories and one poem) have one thing in common: each understands what it is like to stand in that murky bog between childhood and adulthood. Their writings, all of which feature a 13-year-old protagonist, poignantly and often humorously capture the excitement, angst and uncertainty that mark the experience of growing up. Lori Aurelia Williams's impoverished and taunted hero Malik considers joining a reputedly violent gang because they will give him the high-status shoes he covets; and Ellen Wittlinger's heroine, Maggie, a budding writer, tries out a new identity under a pen name. Others tentatively test the waters of romance or plunge into infatuations. For example, Murphy Murphy ("Yeah, you read it right.... It's like a family curse," he says of his name), the blinded-by-love star of Bruce Coville's "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" agrees to act in a skit despite his terrible stage fright, in order to impress his beloved Tiffany; several embarrassments, one Heimlich maneuver and an accident later, he lands in the hospital with a broken leg. Howe (who previously edited The Color of Absence: 12 Stories About Loss and Hope) orchestrates a lively assortment of voices; what readers may enjoy most, however, are the authors' comments on their own adolescences--accompanied by photos of themselves at age 13."

Roback, D., Brown, J., Bean, J., & Zaleski, J. (2003). 13: Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen (Book). Publishers Weekly, 250(46), 65. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

"Just as 13 is an age with agonies and ecstasies, this collection ranges from the trivial to the powerful. The stories cover bar mitzvahs and brand names, emerging sexuality and death. Conflicts between growing desire for popularity and emerging moral and social consciousness dominate the collection. Howe's own "Jeremy Goldblatt Is So Not Moses" is a hilarious and moving tale of homelessness and social conventions. Conformity conflicts with eco-awareness in Todd Strasser's funny "Squid Girl." Stephen Roos's poignant and powerful "Picky Eater" explores the darker side of fitting in. Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin provide the weakest contribution, a trite paean to adolescence. Each contribution closes with a painfully awkward photograph of the author at 13, a wonderful reminder that the authors, too, shared the pain. Focus on change and growth gives strength to this offering."

(2003). 13: Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen (Book). Kirkus Reviews, 71(18), 1176. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

Using this book in the library
This book is excellent for giving library staff and professionals a taste of the writing style of many YA and Juvenile fiction writers. Some library staff are excellent at diving in and reading these authors' works and books, but others are reluctant. A short story collection like Thirteen is a great place to give someone a taste of what each author is like and show them some good writing in bite-sized portions.

For fun:
Think about your own life when you were thirteen. It took me a while to remember since I'm pretty sure I'm suppressing most of the memories, LOL. But I remember walking home one day from school (a long walk) and I took the back way along the Metroparks. Everything was gold and leafy. Wet leaves were on the sidewalk and I was thinking as I walked. I was wondering if I was gay or not. I couldn't decide! I didn't make a decision that day, either. I guess I just figured it would resolve itself on its own.

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