Saturday, January 22, 2011

Required Reading

Students enrolled in the Hamline MFAC (MFA in writing for children and young adults) program have a required reading list of 120 books to deal with in their first two semesters. This last residency we had a fun conversation about the list. It was great to hear complaints about a book trigger immediate cries of "But I loved it!"

Like or dislike isn't the point of the reading list. These books have been required because it's useful to be familiar with them, for one reason or another.

We spent part of the discussion compiling a list of titles that each MFAC students had found useful to his or her own development as a writer. Not many titles were on both the official list and the student list. The student list had many more recent titles, and it was heavily weighted toward novels.

I've already started reading from the student list and have just put Craig Thompson's Blankets on the top of my stack. Can't believe I missed this one. That's the best thing about teaching--there's no better way to learn.

The required list is available on the MFAC site; if anyone would like a copy of the student list, email me.


  1. Hooray for Blankets! Honestly, I can't recommend this book enough—gorgeous art and just a beautiful story. If you want to see what graphic novels can do, give this one a read. It will open your mind.

  2. Blankets is one of the best coming-of-age novels around. For those of you squeamish about graphic novels, this one is so seamless you almost forget that you are reading pictures. It's a great tool for writers to learn how pacing evokes mood.

    Another all-time must read graphic novel is Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs. A love story of the authors' grandparents before, during and after WWII in England. It will make you weep (in the good kind of weepy way).

  3. I missed that discussion (fever, strep - I know, such a sad excuse); glad I get to weigh in now!

    On the non-novel topic, I was surprised that the "alternate-culture Cinderella" tale was not Yeh Shen, which I found far and away more creative/culturally unique, beautifully illustrated, and well-written than the one on the list. Likewise Little Babaji seemed a better pick for an alternate retelling of Little Black Sambo vs. Sam and the Tigers.

    Oh, and Gene Yang's ABC is much more representative of the graphic novel genre than Persepolis, I think, even though I loved Persepolis (though why only ONE graphic novel?!? Why? WHY?).

    There's my $.02! I wish I'd not been shivering with chills at the hotel that day. :( (although fever-delusions have their own appeal.)