Children's Corner

The Value in Not-So-Happy Endings

Everyone seems to love a happy ending. In fairy tales and princess stories, the narrator usually tells us the heroes lived “happily ever after”. The prince and the princess get married, all the characters learn an important life lesson, and any fights that happened between characters are resolved at the end.

For any book lover, there comes a day when they flip to the last page of a book, excited to find out how all the strings get tied neatly together, only to discover that this particular book does not have such a neat ending. This is never a pleasant discovery, but it is a necessary one. My first book of that type was The Tale of Despereaux. It is one of my favorite books, and it certainly doesn’t end horribly, but Kate DiCamillo herself tells the reader that it’s not necessarily a “happily ever after” ending, because those kind of endings don’t happen in “real life”.

Then there are the Tragic Books. These are the ones that take the reader’s heart, promising to take care of it, then throw it on the ground and stomp all over it. Spoiling a good book is never a good idea, so my first Tragic Book will remain nameless. My mother is the one who suggested I read it, so I did. The two main characters were lovable, and they played imagination games like the ones I played with my friends. Then the author went and killed one of the characters just when I thought everything was going perfectly well. I was furious at the author, but I didn’t know her personally so I had to resort to being furious at my mother instead. I refused to eat dinner and huddled under the blankets on the family room’s couch, sobbing my eyes out.

Reading books with endings like that don’t make you feel good. They make you feel sad, or frustrated, or angry. But that’s what is so good about them. Happiness isn’t the only emotion a person can feel. We also feel sadness, and frustration, and anger, and many other things. When I think back on the tragic book I was so angry about, I realize that it wasn’t really so tragic after all. It was upsetting for a beloved character to die, but the important thing was the reaction of the other character; the one who lived. He felt grief in his own way, and therefore I felt his grief too. When he later found a way to honor his friend’s memory, I felt the peace that he was able to come to. I felt betrayed by my mother and the author for making me feel “bad” feelings in the first place, but now I know that the author was trying to teach me how to let myself feel those feelings, and how to let them go.

If you haven’t yet read a book like this, you will some time in your future. Don’t shy away from the things it makes you feel. If you think it’s too much for you to handle, that is okay. Talk to an adult about the things you’re feeling, and if you still don’t know how to handle the emotions the book is throwing at you, set it down. You can pick it up later.

And, of course, there will always be Happily Ever After Books to read when you need them.

Children's Corner

Exploring the Genres

Here at Books and Quills, we have this thing we like to call “Genre of the Month”. We post puzzles, prompts, and articles about that month’s genre. This October, for example, was Horror month. So, what is a genre?

When we describe a book’s “genre”, we are talking about the type of story it is telling. A book can be a romance, a fantasy novel, historical fiction, or something else entirely. There are many genres in the literary world, but these are a few of the most common ones for children’s books.

Fantasy

Supernatural creatures, funny names, and magic galore; fantasy books use all of these and more to tell stories of heroes, villains, and quests that could never happen in real life. Some fantasy stories take place in other worlds, like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. Others, like Harry Potter, use a magical version of our own world to tell their stories.

Science Fiction

Science fiction (or sci-fi for short) is similar to fantasy in that it uses people or things that are fantastical and beyond our understanding. However, instead of using magic to explain these things, sci-fi stories use science. This means that aliens, time travel, and advanced robots are all elements of sci-fi stories, since they are all subjects explored by science and might one day be discovered or created by scientists. Books like The Giver and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH are examples of sci-fi books.

Realistic Fiction

Fantasy uses magic, sci-fi uses futuristic science. Realistic fiction uses the world as we know it today. These stories are still made-up, but they mimic real life. Many of Andrew Clements’s books, like Frindle and The Landry News, are realistic fiction. Holes (Louis Sachar) and Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo) are also examples of realistic fiction.

Historical Fiction

Historical fiction books are like realistic fiction except that they take place in the past. They are usually about a specific time period or event, like the 1920s or World War II. Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech) and Goodnight Mr. Tom (Michelle Magorian) are examples of historical fiction. Some novels, like The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), were not historical fiction when they were published but are now historical fiction because they take place in our past.

Mystery

Some stories are about a character or a group trying to solve a mystery. These mystery-solvers can be detectives, or they can be any person who stumbles on a mysterious event. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are examples of characters in mystery novels.

Nonfiction

All of the books mentioned so far are fictional, or books that involve made-up characters and plots. Nonfiction, on the other hand, deals with real life. This is different than realistic fiction because though realistic fiction takes inspiration from real life and they all seem very real, the characters are still made up. The Little House on the Prairie series is an example of a nonfiction series. They are memoirs: stories written by a person about their own life, with little exaggerations here and there.

There are many other genres, sub-genres (genres within genres), and stories that have more than one genre. Some authors write all of their stories in one genre. Others write in many genres. Many write most of their stories in one genre but step out of their comfort zone to try something new.

We as readers can be like that as well. Take some time to figure out what genre you read the most. Why do you like that genre? Are there genres that you avoid? If there are, try to find a book in that genre that you like. It is okay to prefer one genre (I personally am very fond of fantasy novels), but if you never explore what’s out there, you never know what you might be missing.