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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The novels of Daniel Pinkwater

I heard Daniel Pinkwater before I ever read any of his books. He was a goofy, friendly voice on the radio, talking to Click and Clack about some car problem or discussing children's books with Scott Simon. Sometimes, when NPR had an odd couple of minutes to fill, they'd have Daniel Pinkwater talk about whatever he wanted to talk about that day. And that was enough to get me dig through the children's section of bookstores (or maybe the young adult section, bookstores have a hard time figuring out where to put Pinkwater) and even though I'm not a child anymore (or even a young adult) when I'd find his books, I'd start reading and then, because I liked what I found, I'd buy the book.

Here's the thing about Pinkwater: he tells good stories. His characters are interesting, they're folks you'd probably want to hang out with for the most part. The great thing is that they may be young or old, fat or thin, boys or girls, moose, cat-whiskered girls, space aliens, talking lizards, whatever. They do interesting stuff. The books aren't too dark or scary for children but certainly not too boring for adults (or children for that matter).

You don't have to take my word for this. Go here:

And you can grab, for free, audio versions of his various books. I'm fond of Borgel and Lizard Music but there are a whole bunch of good ones there. Then send him some money or buy some of his real books. They're real good.

I like reading and when I got to looking at my shelves and the contents of my Kindle, I concluded that Daniel Pinkwater is my favorite author. That kind of snuck up on me, but the more I think about it, the more I see that it's true.

You'll learn things reading Pinkwater books. Here's a nice nugget from The Neddiad: father said. "Don't fall in a tar pit." It isn't tar. Everyone calls it tar, but it's really natural asphalt. The Indians used it to waterproof their canoes, and the Spanish settlers used it to seal their roofs. "La Brea" in Spanish means "the tar," so "The La Brea Tar Pits" means "the the tar tar pits."

Pinkwater makes normal things strange and strange things normal in a way that makes you feel that he really knows how things work and that the way things work is really OK. Here are a few bits from Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl:

Here, they are setting out in a boat.

"Oh, hell," I said. "It's a coracle." 

"What's a coracle?" Molly said, looking at it. 

"A coracle," I told Molly, "is the most primitive, and also worst, boat in the world. As you see, it is shaped like a bowl. It's made of branches with skins stretched over it, and it's waterproofed with a coating of tar." 

"Why is it round like that?" Molly asked. 

"As far as I know, it is because the people who invented it were not quite smart enough to figure out that a boat-shaped boat would work a lot better."

There guide leaves them on an island with monsters who want to play cards.

"Wait!" I called to Harold. "Are we safe here?" 

"As long as you don't play for money, you're safe," Harold said, and the coracle disappeared into the darkness. 

"We would never play for money against children," one of the monsters mumbled. "Do you have any money, girls?" 

"Not a cent," Molly said. 

"Me neither," I lied. I had twenty-six dollars pinned to my underwear.

As I noted earlier, Pinkwater is goofy, but as near as I can tell, the world is pretty goofy. I'm old enough to be sure I don't have it all figured out and Mr. Pinkwater would probably tell you he doesn't have it all figured out either. But his novels tell truths worth telling and they're a whole lot of fun.

1 comment:

  1. Imagine you're a writer, or whatever I am--it's easiest to call it writer--and you come across something like the post above. What the writer of the post has demonstrated is the way I think works of art work--that is, a work of art that's put together in the right way will cause the viewer/listener/reader to make associations of his or her very own, nothing much to do with "truths" the author may know, (or may not know.) So, I think the post is really saying that the post writer found the way to truths that were or became his own, using novels of mine as a way to get there. This does not in the least diminish how pleasant it is to be someone's favorite author. --Daniel Pinkwater