Every now and then you read a book and you think, “Only a master could get away with this.” What I mean by that is that you read a great book and you tell your friends about it and they look at you like you have lost what little sanity you once possessed.
For example, I found a book listed on the New York City Library’s top 100 books for kids. The name of the book was Interstellar Pig. I read the book blurb and decided to pick it up from the library and use it as a read-aloud at home. We loved it. We borrowed the sequel Parasite Pig. It was every bit as good as the first (a rare experience). But then my kids tried to describe the book to their friends. It went something like this:
Keller Kid (KK): We read this really great book, Parasite Pig.
Group of Friends (imagine scorning faces at hearing the title): What’s it about?
KK: It’s about this boy Barney, who gets involved in an interstellar game. But he doesn’t know that he has a parasite living in his brain.
Female Friends: Gross.
KK: He and his friend Katie get kidnapped by aliens and taken to this planet.
KK: It’s really good, honest. Even Ariel liked it. Anyway, Barney and Katie end up on this planet run by crabs who want to eat them.
FF (who are now turned slightly away, i.e. the cold shoulder): Why would we want to read that?
KK: Because it’s really amazing.
Male Friends: So what happens?
KK: They have to outsmart the aliens with the help of an alien intestinal worm named Julien who lives in the gut of a dinosaur.
MF: A dinosaur?
KK: The dinosaur is in the spaceship.
MF (with raised eyebrows): Right. And what about the “pig?”
KK: Capturing the “piggy” is supposed to be the goal of the game, but...I don’t want to spoil it for you.
MF (with the look of “I’ve heard you Kellers are odd”): Don’t think we’ll be reading it.
Later I explain to my kids that only a master writer can take the bizarre threads of a story like that and make them work—it’s part of what makes the book amazing. It’s why William Sleator is amazing.
So, readers, have you read any books like that? If so, please comment and tell me what the titles are. I’d love to read more.