by Bryan Patrick Avery
I’ve always believed that many of the best magic tricks are those which get us out of our comfort zone. We squirm and want to look away but we just can’t. And once it’s over, we’re better for the experience. One of my favorite tricks to perform when I was younger was the finger guillotine. It was fun to watch my friends jump and scream as I shoved the sharp blade through my finger. Only once I pulled my finger out and showed it be still intact could they breathe again. And then, everyone wanted to see it again.
Books can have the same effect. Take, for example, Ellen Hopkins incredible YA novel in verse, Crank. It tells the story of drug addict Kristina, and her relationship with the Monster better known as meth. Under the influence of the Monster, Kristina morphs into an alter ego, Bree. Bree is willing to do all the things that Kristina won’t and quickly finds her way into trouble. It can be un unsettling read, but Crank grabs the reader with the first verse and doesn’t let go.
Another incredible story which pushes readers out of their comfort zones is Walter Dean Myers’ award-winning novel, Monster. When teenager Steve Harmon is arrested and tried for the murder of a convenience store owner, he resorts to collecting his thoughts and experiences in the form of a screenplay. Labeled a “monster” by the prosecutor, Steve must figure out who and what he is. As readers, we follow along on his journey, which includes journal entries detailing his time in prison. The horrific descriptions of life in prison are gripping and Steve’s own description of himself and his actions invoke by sympathy and disdain. In all, it’s an extraordinary tale of a journey of towards redemption.
Books that take us out of our comfort zones aren’t just for older kids. There are many picture books aimed at helping children deal with issues like trauma, grief or fear. One example is A Terrible Thing Happened, written by Margaret M. Holmes and illustrated by Cary Pillo. When Sherman Smith witnesses something terrible, he isn’t sure what to do. He tries to forget about it but, as time goes on, he finds that he cannot escape the bad feelings it has caused. He’s nervous all the time and begins to have bad dreams. It’s only once he meets someone who helps him talk about what happened, and how he feels about it, that things start to get better.
Like my friends watching me pretend to sever my finger, readers are given a glimpse into some very uncomfortable situations in these books. In each case, though, there is something to be gained by making the journey. One of the benefits of a good magic trick is to expand the mind of the spectator by showing them something they didn’t believe was possible (like passing a solid blade through a finger without cutting the finger) but revealing that things are still okay after the trick is done. For many kids, and adults too, the first exposure to many uncomfortable subjects like crime, drugs, and bullying is through books. This exposure may help prepare them to deal with these issues in the real world, and that’s pretty magical.
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
Join our Tribe
and receive 7 Steps to Creative Happiness, access to free webinars, and lots more!
Your email addresses are always safe and respected with us.
Follow our Blog!