Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure

Have you ever played the game where one person starts a story, and then then next person has to add on, and then then the next.  We used to play it during road trips when I was a child.  Now imagine the game being played by some of the most famous children's authors of our generation; M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbit, Susan Cooper, Kate Di Camillo, Steven Kellogg, at others.  You would think that it would end up being the greatest add-on story ever, but in reality, it is amazingly silly.  I think one of the reasons it turned out so silly is that they let Jon Scieszka start the story.  He took the liberty of predicting, in the first chapter, a whole long list of outrageous elements that would appear in the story.  The other authors must have just shook their heads and rolled their eyes, but they charged on and it became more outrageous with every installment. In the story, a set of twins, Joe and Nancy, have been raised in the circus as orphans.  On their 11th birthday they receive a mysterious card that gives clues to their identity and the fate of their parents.  As the story continues they encounter pirates, talking animals, alien eggy things, time travel, and all manner of crazy plot twists.  A child might think it was funny, but for someone who has read a lot of children's literature, it is interesting for other reasons.  As each new author takes up the story it is fun to see that author's style and personality come through.  Some even add references to their own books in the story.  The craziest of the authors was Lemony Snicket.  His chapters were just bizarre, while Katherine Paterson, and Linda Sue Park struggled to bring the story back to some kind of order when it was their turn.  At one point, one of them, (I think it was Linda Sue Park) had one of the characters say something like, "Well, we could wander around having strange adventures for ever, but then our story would never come to an end," a not-so-veiled hint that the other authors needed to get a move on with the plot.  The most amazing part was that one author, (I think it was M.T. Anderson) actually wrote one chapter that was suddenly so touching I almost teared up.  I thought, wow! now there's a good writer.  The story originally appeared on the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance web site, a chapter at a time.  It is an interesting concept, but, as I said, a very silly book. (276 p)

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