Sunday, March 4, 2012

Learning from Experts

I am a great fan of regional writers like the southeast Florida writer, Carl Hiaasen and the southwestern writer, Tony Hillerman. They know the areas in which they live so well that reading their books is like taking a mini vacation. What makes an interesting comparison is how they write for children.

In his adult books, Hillerman's characters reappear and by the time you've read several of them, they've become old friends. His retelling of a Zuni myth, "The Boy Who Made Dragonfly," is distinctly written for children. Hillerman's love for the southwest and his knowledge of Southwestern Indian life and lore permeate all of his work.

In Hiaasen's books for adults, different characters, but with the same weaknesses and outlandish attitudes of characters in earlier novels appear in subsequent novels. Hiaasen has a fondness for detailing the environmental challenges of south Florida. He's known for crazy, complicated plots. making his books great vacation "reads."

But his children's books are a different matter. "Flush," "Scat," and "Hoot," are first class. In each he has crafted a plot with the environment at stake, nefarious or crazy adults, and a child hero. Compared to his adult books, the plots are tight and the characters realistic. These books read easily and well. His latest book, "Chomp," is due out in March, and I'll be one fo the first to buy it. Adding to my enjoyment will be a good lesson in the art of writing.


  1. I love Carl Hiaasen too, Melinda. Did you know he's going to appear at Symphony Space in Manhattan in connection with the publication of Chomp? It's part of their Thalia Children's Book Club. I took my daughter to their last event, which was for the 50th anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time.

    I also enjoy regional writers. I wish Elmore Leonard would write a children's book. His regional voices are so meticulously perfect and since he already says he "cuts out the parts no one reads" he would do a great job!

  2. I love Hiaasen's books too! I am now living in Florida and I'm already finding the environment has effected my writing. My story is suddenly set in a tropical type of setting.

  3. Count me in as another Hiassen fan. He is a perfect example of using setting as character. His books could not take place anywhere else. His settings are so specific and so interesting.