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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Memory v Life

School Library Journal Battle of the Books, Round 3, Match 2. Drawing from Memory v Life: An Exploded Diagram. Judge: Ron Koertge

Once again, Life goes up against an illustrated work!

But first: I may have a new favorite Battle post, because Koertge’s crowd sources from the track. No, really.

In discussing Drawing From Memory, Koertge notes what wasn’t included in the book. “But , man, as far as the story goes he is really reined in. How did he eat? Did he go shopping and cook for himself?” This is actually a fairly radical observation, because is it criticism of the text as it is (the book should have more!) or is it wanting the text to be something that it was not (a more detailed autobiography).

When it comes down to it, what Koertge likes is the details of life, and, well, that is what Life gives him: “As I walk, I think how much I admire Allen Say’s talent and how glad I am that his life turned out so well. But I don’t feel close to him. I like to really know the characters in books. I like to ride around in cars with them, eat dinner with them, sleep in their spare rooms and poke around in their medicine cabinets.”

Meanwhile, under the “all about me” section of the post, really? Even all the guys at the track are in love with Life?

Aside from that, each time Life has gone up against an illustrated book for a younger audience. I wonder what will happen with the final round, when it’s more a text versus text battle?

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Eliza says:

    I’m so with you on “Life”. At page 80, I was thoroughly depressed and feeling like I was slogging through a mire – a well-written one true but a cold mire nonetheless. However, since it has received rave reviews from folks I respect and it was going up against my beloved “A Monster Calls” I forced myself to finish it. Forced, not enjoyed. These characters never came to life, they remained one-dimensional and for that I’m glad. They are, for the most part, so unpleasant. I felt sorry for George, who had such a joy for life and brashness until he was sucked into the vortex of that soulless family. There was good writing but not good storytelling and for a book to be a winner it must have both. There’s writing that calls attention to itself (hello “Life”) and writing so good it recedes into the background in service of the story (“A Monster Calls” and “Okay for Now”).

    So glad to know I’m not alone in the wilderness in my dislike of “Life.” Thanks!

  2. Angela Carstensen Liz B says:

    Eliza, as I think back on my reading of LIFE I think part of my problem was I liked George and I hate the initial 80 odd pages that ground him down. And it seemed to me that the rest of the book was, well, how Clem would be ground down by life, also.

  3. Sondy says:

    I am totally with you two. By the end of the book, I saw things to admire in it. But I didn’t really enjoy reading it. And, yes, it’s not a very uplifting book, is it?

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