2011: The Year of the Raven
At this point I’m getting a little suspicious. You see, every year I like to keep track of “trends” in the world of children’s literature. For example, back in 2006 there were at least two novels (Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett and Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow) that contained sentient cheese. I found this funny and mentioned it in my yearly Golden Fuse round-up. Since that time I have taken care to note any trends I see in the world of children’s literature. [Note: Google “sentient cheese” sometime to get a wide and weird array of hits]
This year I saw the usual smattering of trends. In one case, Tillie the Terrible Swede, Around the World, and Wheels of Change all discuss the rise of the bicycle in America. Fun! Trends like this usually don’t involve more than three or four books. Then I noticed something. There is one trend that has gotten, quite frankly, out of hand.
Ravens show up periodically in children’s books anyway. Last year Adam Gidwitz made lovely use of them in A Tale Dark and Grimm. However, this year it began to get ridiculous. I’ve been faithfully reading all forms of fiction and I have encountered time and time and time again a veritable unkindness of ravens. Consider the following:
- Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier – A whole SLEW of ravens in this one. Warrior ravens at that.
- Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby – Features one raven named Muninn, named after one of Odin’s ravens (Huginn and Muninn).
- Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky – Contains a raven named Neptune who, according to Mr. Kozlowsky, also can be traced back to Odin’s ravens.
- The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey – The heroine has an enchanted talking raven by the name of Deacon.
- Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – Once Hazel has stepped into the woods she encounters a small cluster of ravens. They don’t do much to help her, but at least they don’t hinder her either.
- Eddie: The Lost Youth of Edgar Allan Poe by Scott Gustafson – You can’t have Poe without a raven. Here we have another talking one named… uh…. Raven.
- Wildwood by Colin Meloy – Another large group of ravens. Definitely baddies.
- The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carman Agra Deedy and Randall Wright – The only book to mention that ravens play an important role in conjunction with The Tower of London. This book contains a wounded raven by the name of Maldwyn.
And those are just the ones I’ve found so far! I suspect that there are more ravens hidden throughout the 2011 catalog. If you know of any, please tell me now.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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