Slate calls Louis Sachar a Hot novelist of the sandbox set. The article has plenty of good things to say about Sachar's last book Holes, but isn't as positive about his new one, Small Steps.
The author of the article, Bryan Curtis, says Holes has "touches of magical realism," which I found interesting because I've never been clear on what magical realism is. He also says that "Children's novels often depend in some part on the confinement of their protagonists—whether in algebra class or a dusty old country house..." I found that interesting, too. I'd never heard that before or made the connection, myself, but, yeah, I guess I'd go along with that.
I'd Go Along With This, Too
The Guardian has a wonderful article called Cultureshock in which a children's author named Francesca Simon (I'm not sure if I've heard of her books) makes a deal with her son. She'll read a fantasy novel if he'll read one by Anthony Trollope.
Mom says: "All right, I admit it, I'm biased. I hate fantasy. All those adjectives and elves and weird names. The moment someone says fantasy, I know I'm in for "The three blood-red moons rose over the dusty sand plains of Ut-Tajik as the bald jackal priest of Sidt placed the sacred silver urn of Caldon on the broken altar of the blind god Fifff.""
That is exactly...exactly...what I think of when I think of fantasy.
Sixteen-year-old son says of Barchester Towers (which I believe I read when I was a teenager): "...all characters are introduced by means of lengthy and irrelevant description. The basic doctrine of "show, don't tell" was obviously not around in the 19th century, nor the notion that character and plot work best in tandem, rather than in isolation."
Now, I don't remember much about the book so I have no idea whether or not the kid's argument is accurate. But he states it so clearly and seems so knowledgable that...hey, I was impressed.
I mean, it certainly beat that famous literary appraisal "That sucks" and was even a little more sophisticated than "I don't know why I didn't like it. Does there have to be a reason for everything?"
There usually is, whether we realize it or not.
Thanks to Big A little a for the link.