Thursday, July 5, 2012

The smart-alec troublemaker in middle grade lit

"Rhonda Zymler, will you please take your seat?"

This sort of warning comes at sixth-grader Rhonda many times during my tween paranormal mystery novel, Ebenezer's Locker. Rhonda always seems to be teetering on the edge of trouble, and often lands squarely in it. As I've been preparing this book for publication, I've been thinking about the appeal of troublemaker characters.

There is something appealing about troublemakers in fiction that is quite different from dealing with them in real life. As a teacher, I expect discipline, respect, and hard work from my students. But as an author, I am very happy to let my student-age characters disrupt the classroom and question authority.

A classic example of lovable hellions in children's literature is Pippi Longstocking. In Astrid Lindgren's enchanting books, the main character is the ultimate iconoclast. She simply can't behave the way people expect her to. She's not mean-spirited, just free-thinking. Adults in the story are appalled or baffled, but readers of all ages are completely charmed.

And it's significant that Pippi Longstocking is a girl. Boys who misbehave (like Huck Finn) are considered normal, but even today, rambunctiously clever girls are an exceptional breed.

Maybe that's why I made Rhonda Zymler into a troublemaker. I was a perfectly-behaved child, and I think part of me longed to be Pippi Longstocking.

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Purchase Ebenezer's Locker in all e-book formats at MuseItUp Publishing and Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. So true, Anne. In real life we want well behaved children, but how boring our stories would be without the troublemakers.

    BTW I've given you an award on my blog today =)