Monday, February 3, 2014

Gordon Korman: Evolution of a Kidlit Author

Gordon Korman is the man.

And that's "the man" as in "You the man!"

Not "The Man" as in "The Man" who's always working to keep me down.

(Although someday I will greatly enjoy being The Man and keeping Jeffs down. Bwa-HA-HA-HA! Ahem. Good thing no one reads these stupid parenthetical comments.)

Okay, I'll admit it. I have a teensy (read: gigantic) man-crush on this dude. I mean, how could you not, considering he's WRITTEN MORE THAN 50 BOOKS for kids and teens? Hotchee-motchee! So today I'm sharing with you two books of his that I enjoyed, using them to demonstrate his continual progress toward uber-deity.


Published back in 2009, SWINDLE is a kid caper book involving the retrieval of a baseball card conned away from a kid named Griffin. It's a solid read, jam-packed with action, crime, fugitives, and breaking and entering. Perfect for a 4th grader! Note: this is not a "how-to" manual.

In fact, a friend of mine read it to her 4th grade class, and it kept everyone on the edge of their seats. She said it was kind of like eating a big ol' candy bar: you get a huge rush while you're wolfing it down, but there's not a lot of complexity to it, and it doesn't last terribly long. Raw sugar IV... commence pumping! I like me a Snickers every once in a while.

Okay fine, two to eight a day! Sheesh.

But it's a little tough to remember once down your gullet. I really enjoyed SWINDLE, but just a couple months later, I don't remember much about it besides it was a very fun heist caper. NOT A HOW-TO!


Now we get in our time machine and pew-PLORK! (obviously the sound of a time machine, duh) land in 2013. Four years isn't a lot of time, but wow, how much Korman has evolved. THE HYPNOTISTS features a subject just as intriguing as heists. I mean, what kid isn't fascinated by the ability to put someone into a trance and make them do your bidding? Well, except me of course. I can't be hypnotized. Although, yawn, I am getting a little sleepy...

Y o u a r e g e t t i n g v e r y s l e e p y y o u w i l l c l u c k l i k e a c h i c k e n w h e n y o u t y p e t h e w o r d J e f f

Huh? Anyway, this book is still action-packed -- the story starts with Jax hurtling through New York on a bus with a hypnotized driver -- but there are these... these strange things present. What are they called? You know, the stuff that produces sniffling and other nasty side-effects?

Oh yeah: emotions. I found myself choking up at the end of the book, my heart getting yanked out as Jax... well, I won't give it away. But I actually connected with Jax in a way I didn't with Griffin. Jax was a real person in my mind, someone I absolutely wanted to read more about. So in addition to the usual wham bam kick schtick, there are more layers of complexity within this book, a richness to the story that actually filled me up and stuck around a while. Something still tugs at me when I think about THE HYPNOTISTS, a lot more than just "it was a fun ride."

I tell you what: that ability to evolve is the mark of a great author. I hope that in my career, I'll be able to continue growing with each new book I write.

Ah, I can't end this post on such a serious note. Therefore, I shall now hypnotize you and make you visualize a wiener dog dragging its butt along the carpet. You're welcome.

-- Jeff CA-CA-CA-CA-CAW!

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