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