Daily Archives: January 26, 2015

Guest Post from THE STORY OF OWEN author, E. K. Johnson

As part of a blog tour celebrating this year’s Morris finalists, here is a guest post from E.K. Johnson whose The Story of Owen is not only a Morris finalist, but an SLJ Battle of the Kids’ Books contender and the recipient of many other accolades.  And without further ado, here’s E.K. Johnson:

Why does THE STORY OF OWEN appeal to younger readers?

I took a quick poll on Twitter to answer this question, and it was decided that the reason my book is appealing to younger readers is:


There’s one on the cover and everything!

Dragon stories are great. I started reading Anne McCaffery the summer I was ten, and have never looked back. In recent years, largely thanks to Toothless and Hiccup, dragon stories have become easier to access, from board books right through to epic fantasy. It’s a great time to be a dragon-reader.

But there’s something you should probably know about The Story of Owen:

Trap Akbar

It’s a trap because it’s not really a story about dragons. It’s not even really a story about dragon slaying. It’s the story of a dragon slayer, and of the town he has decided will be his home. I wrote The Story of Owen thinking that teenagers would read it, except I didn’t put in any kissing, so all of a sudden it became a book for younger teens, despite all of the politics and history I crammed into it.

There is something else you should know aboutThe Story of Owen:

Trap Parks and Rec

It’s a trap because it looks like it’s going to be the story of a boy. Even before I started to write the book, I had several people tell me, based on the title, that it was a great idea because boys need books about boys, or they…shrivel up, or something, delicate flowers that they are. Honestly by that point in the conversation, I was usually giggling quietly to myself and didn’t hear the end of it. Owen was always the protagonist, more or less, but he was never the main character.

So far, no one has really seemed to mind. I’ve had enthusiastic emails from 10-year-olds and septuagenarians. I’ve done classroom visits where the boys jostled amongst themselves to get into the front row, and writing seminars with girls who add swords to everything for much the same reason I do (because swords are cool).

The dragons help reel them in, I’m sure, but something else keeps them there. I think what it comes down to is that I, like others before me, wrote a book that takes kids seriously, and so kids like it.

Trap Gandalf

Though I am sure the practical tips about how to pass driver’s ed. don’t hurt.



Filed under Other

Thoughts on Newbery: What I’d Like to See Honored a Week from Today

Next Monday morning the ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced. Many wonderful books came into the world this year, some receiving a great deal of attention while others were appreciated more quietly. And as is true for all the hardworking committee members, those charged with selecting the Newbery will have spent an enormous amount of time considering the eligible titles before making their careful decision. (See this post for more about the criteria and their process.)

Because it is fun to see if any of your own favorites get the nod here are eight of mine. While there were many more I loved this year (including some on this list), based on recent conversations, hard thinking, and irrational feelings from the heart these are the ones I’d be preparing for the most if I were on this year’s committee.

  • El Deafo  This is probably a long shot, but I can dream, can’t I? My arguments for this wonderful graphic novel memoir are here.
  • West of the Moon Way back last March I wrote in my review, “Mixing fairy and folktale with harsh historical reality, Preus has created a gorgeous story of migration set in 19th century Norway.”
  • Brown Girl Dreaming  I wrote here that it is “One of the most lyrical and moving books of the year.”
  • The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza  “By the time this final book of the series—as elegantly and propulsively written as the others—draws to a close, you know that no matter what the future holds, Joey’s inner strength and smart, sweet nature will prevail.” is how I concluded my starred Horn Book review.
  • The Madman of Piney Woods  In another starred Horn Book review, I wrote,” Curtis takes his young protagonists — and his readers — on a journey of revelation and insight. Woven throughout this profoundly moving yet also at times very funny novel are themes of family, friendship, community, compassion, and, fittingly, the power of words.”
  • The Crossover About this powerful verse novel, I wrote here, “The poetry is energetic and the story compelling — a sure-fire hit for a wide range of readers.”
  • The Family Romanov Of this elegant work of nonfiction I noted here, “Balancing the over-the-top lifestyle of the last Russian royals with firsthand accounts of the rest of the populace, Fleming provides a fascinating and highly readable version of this tragic story.”
  • The Fourteenth Goldfish In my New York Times review I wrote, “Youth, old age, life, death, love, possibilities and — oh yes — goldfish all come together in this warm, witty and wise novel.”





Filed under awards, Newbery