Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting to know you

One of the cool things about this whole process of preparing to go to Chautauqua has been their process of getting to know us. They sent us a two page questionnaire a couple of months ago. It had the basics of where we went to school and stuff like that, but also a few great questions to help them get to know who we are. They then used that to match us with our faculty mentors, and to create a brief bio of each of the attendees, so we can get to know each other and identify folks we share common interests with.

My favorite question they asked was who is our favorite character in children's literature and why. I hadn't considered this before, but it's very telling. We all want to create characters that readers will relate to, but it's the characters we've read that inspire us, and likely brought us to this place to begin with.

I came to my answer pretty quickly. I chose Claudia Kincaid, the heroine of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. She's practical. She's a planner. She wants to be appreciated, and she's willing to go the distance to earn that. She wants to run away from home, but she's not willing to give up comfort to do so, and finds a way to make that work for her. She also wants to make a difference. And perhaps most importantly, she immediately recognizes that she can't do it all herself. She knows where her own weaknesses lie, and enlists her brother Jamie to help her with the aspects of her plan she can't handle herself, mainly money.

Do you have a favorite character in children's literature? Who and why?


Steena Holmes said...

Oh I do! Now I just need to remember her! LOL ... It's an older book, one I was given as a child and I devored that book often. The character was an orphan in England who ended up being a kitchen servant, who became a playmate for a rich girl, who ended up going to Canada ... I'll have to go grab the book and read it again - even share it with my daughters ... thanks for the reminder!

Michelle said...

Steena, now I want to know what book that is! It doesn't sound familiar.

Kristi Tuck Austin said...

The first two characters who spring to mind are Kit in The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Karana from Island of the Blue Dolphins. Karana sacrifices safety for her little brother, perseveres through grief and hazards, and is completely self sufficient. I still cannot think of her without getting tingles along my skin and behind my eyes. Kit gives me hope that people can grow. The rash, spoiled girl grows into a woman who will see beyond fear and will love an undesirable person, overcome blindness to injustice, defy a community in order to do what she knows is right, and tempt fate to teach a girl to read. Though she ends up engaged, she also learns that she can take control of her life.

Michelle said...

Kristi, I haven't read either of those books! You know how everyone has a few classics they somehow missed along the way? Those are two of mine.

Sarah said...

Steena, I hope you let us know the title of that book when you remember it.

Krisit, I loved Kit! I remember reading that book when I was about 10 and she was such an amazing character.

I put down Sara Crewe and Anne. I loved Sara's valor and Anne's eye for beauty. I felt like I grew up with those two girls. : )

Michelle said...

I just remembered the other reason I love Claudia. She's a grammar geek. "Break up, not bust up. Indecent, not undecent."

Kristi Tuck Austin said...


I'm glad someone else loved that book. I can't exactly say why, but I loved it and it put me on an Elizabeth George Speare reading kick for a while. I reread it almost every year, and Adam and I stopped by the 17th century house that inspired Speare when we were in Connecticut. Because I love the book and am a museum geek, I asked so many questions that the docent let us into all the off the tour rooms, closets, and the attic.