I named this blog Teaching Transition because I am fascinated by the process in which children somehow become teens. And just like children become teens physically, socially, and emotionally through some tremendous process none of us care to remember, their reading lives follow strange patterns, too.
I can “level up” kids who are interested in realistic fiction, suspense, and sci fi into challenging yet appropriate (I mean that in all ways) books pretty easily, because it’s such a large share of my reading life and my observations of other readers. But where I continue to struggle is for readers who like fantasy.
It dawned on me recently that not all fantasy stories are alike: what is alike is my tendency towards disdain for them. When I do pick up a fantasy book, it’s usually because I’m attracted to something cerebral about the story (Bone Gap by Laura Ruby) or because I have an established relationship towards the book.
So when a reader asked me for a challenging fantasy story …. I drew a blank. This reader was looking beyond heroes and dragons and quests and the sort of bread and butter of middle school fantasy fare. But I wasn’t really sure which books to recommend — yes, specific titles came to mind, but nothing jumped out at me in the usual way it does when I do Readers Advisory and can translate student language into book recommendations.
I don’t understand the pleasure of the genre or the joy of series reading well enough to know what a reader of the genre might want to read next. Maybe it’s track-every-detail Lord of the Rings? Would Philip Pullman’s series be another joy? Or is it historically inspired The Blackthorn Key? Or conceptually sophisticated The Lie Tree?
I have to learn this genre better!