Battle of the “Hunters”

The problem of plagiarism isn’t a new one. But today, in the internet age where writing “fan fiction” is becoming more and more popular, the lines are becoming blurred. For example, the popular 50 Shades of Gray series originally was written as Twilight fan fiction (if you didn’t already know that- the similarities are very apparent).  There are websites and forums where fans post elaborate tales and fan-fiction writing seems to have formed its own subculture.

On February 5th No. 1 New York Times best-selling author Sherrilyn Kenyon sued No. 1 New York Times best-selling author Cassandra Clare. She filed a complaint of copyright and trademark infringement, claiming that Clare copied her Dark Hunter’s series trope (“an elite band of warriors that must protect the human world from the unseen paranormal threat”) in her popular Mortal Instruments series (which has recently been made into a television show for teens which I’m sure precipitated the lawsuit). Both Kenyon’s and Clare’s series feature secret societies of supernatural crusaders tasked with protecting the unsuspecting human race from predatory demons. Kenyon’s are “dark-hunters”; Clare calls her group “shadowhunters.”

Clare, who prior to her career as YA author, was largely involved in Harry Potter fan-fiction sites, so she isn’t a stranger to building on the ideas of others. Attached to Kenyon’s complaint is a detailed list of similarities between the Dark-Hunter series and Mortal Instruments. These include such motifs as objects “including without limitation a cup, a sword, and a mirror, each imbued with magical properties to help battle evil and protect mankind.” And both “Dark-Hunters and Shadowhunters have enchanted swords that are divinely forged, imbued with otherworldly spirits, have unique names, and glow like heavenly fire.”

Personally, as someone who reads a LOT of YA fiction….this isn’t exactly uncommon. YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels are filled with these tropes. However, these two series do seem a little bit too familiar. To me this issue speaks to something that I’ve been thinking for a long time- that there needs to be more diversity in YA literature and publishes should be open to more unique story lines.

Outstanding International Books

The publishing industry in the United States has tried over the last several years to respond to the wants and needs of the book buying population.  What they’re hearing is that more and more buyers are asking the industry to publish more diverse titles.

With that end in mind, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) has been promoting books from areas outside US borders.The 2016 Outstanding International Books (OIB) contains 42 titles from countries around the world.

This year’s list is all about disruption–in a good way.  Many of the books focus on disrupting expectations of characters, settings, and story lines.

Here are some of the titles on OIB list.

For  pre-school to grade 2,  “I Am Henry Finch” and “The Bus Ride” will be appealing.  “I Am Henry Finch” deals with Henry’s trips of exploration.  The colorful illustrations feature birds’ bodies using human fingerprints.  “The Bus Ride” is a fun story of Clara’s ride to her grandmother’s house.  She encounters all manner of animals and makes several friends along the way.9780763678128_p0_v1_s192x300.jpg9781771382090_p0_v2_s118x184.jpg

For readers in grades 3-5, “The Red Bicycle:  The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle” will present to the reader how a bicycle donated by a Canadian boy changes the lives of subsequent owners.  “The Tortoise and the Soldier: A Story of Courage and Friendship” is the true story of Henry Friston, who while serving in the Royal Navy during W.W.I adopted a tortoise which became his ship’s mascot and a life-long companion.


“Piermont Pier”

Most of us who live in this area have at one time or another walked along the Piermont Pier.  In a recent article in the January-March 2016 issue of “South of the Mountains,” which is published by the Historical Society of Rockland County, Patti Panayotidis recaptures the history of Pier when it was the scene of another kind of walker.


In September, 1942, the US Army, under the War Powers Act, seized 1365 acres in Orangeburg and within several months opened Camp Shanks, which was a staging area for troops headed to Europe.  Ten of thousands of troops per month were sent overseas from Shanks.

Once the Piermont Pier, which was built in 1839 as part of the New York and Erie Railroad, was reinforced and wood planking was laid down on the roadway, soldiers marched or rode of trucks the four miles from Shanks to the pier.  There they boarded vessels that took the troops to New York harbor, where they boarded large transport ships.

Captured German and Italian soldiers also marched along this roadway.  More than 2000 POWs lived at Camp Shanks during the war.  At the end of the war more than 290,000 POWs came through Camp Shanks on their way back to Europe.

“Piermont’s Role During World War II” is an informative article that details the history of Camp Shanks and reminds us that when we take a leisurely stroll along the Pier that we shouldn’t lose sight of the historical impact that this spot played during the war.


Everything Everything

What would you do if you were unable to leave your house because of a rare disease called SCID, or Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (aka bubble boy disease)? Madeline is the protagonist who suffers from an allergy “to the world,” as she explains it. She has not left her house in seventeen years, a mind-boggling issue for the reader to handle. Fortunately for her, she loves to read and this has been her world until a young man, Olly, moves in next door, and Madeline’s world changes overnight. Brace yourself for a shocking ending by Nicola Yoon, which really strains the credulity of the reader. For teens who want a romance with a twist, Everything Everything is suggested for grades 10 and up.

“The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend”

If there is a genre of literature called librarian chick-lit, ” The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” neatly fits into that category.  Written by Swedish author Katarina Bivald, this novel is set in the economically depressed town of Broken Wheel, Iowa.

Sara Lindqvist is a young Swedish woman, who for more than two years writes to Amy Harris, an older woman who lives in Broken Wheel.  Their pen pal relationship is based on their mutual love of books.  At first, the letters were about books that each writer enjoyed.  As the letters continued, we only read Amy’s letters to Sara, we learn more and more about Amy’s life and the town of Broken Wheel.  Eventually, Amy invites Sara to visit.  Since Sara has lost her job in a book store, she decides to take Amy up on her invitation.

When Sara arrives in Broken Wheel, she learns that Amy has died.  Everyone in the small town knew about their correspondence,9781492623441_p0_v4_s192x300.jpg so Sara is not exactly a stranger.  She is told that she can stay in Amy’s house for as long as she likes.  Not knowing what do do, but not having a job to go back to, Sara agrees to stay.

Eventually, Sara opens a book store in town stocking the shelves with all of Amy’s books. The inhabitants of Broke Wheel are not readers, so Amy uses all her enthusiasm and love of books to try to match up books to the people of the town  Although the store is not a huge success, Amy does become an well liked member of the community.

The chick-lit part of the novel deals with the fact that Amy’s visa is due to run out.  The only way, of course, for her to stay is to marry a local.  There is an obvious candidate, Tom, Amy’s nephew.

The fun parts of the story for any reader are the references to books and how Sara tries to match up books to the locals.  The love interest aspect of the story is contrived, but since Bivald has created likable, quirky characters, “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” is, in the end, a heartwarming, fun story.