>Is Passion Old-Fashioned?

>Over on the PUBYAC listserv, Jan Hanson of the Longview Public Library in Washington is looking for it: "A HS teacher called and is asking for ideas of books that illustrate a teen with passion, as in "a passion for dancing" or a "passion for football."

I love this query; it's requests like these that make us think about what books for kids do and don't do. Off the top of my head I think of that Joan Bauer book about a girl with a passion for shoe-selling, Hope Was Here Rules of the Road, and several of Chris Crutcher's early books feature teens with a passion for various sports. Oh, and that extremely high-minded but badly dated Madeleine L'Engle book about a fledgling actress, The Joys of Love. What else? Generalizing wildly, too often it seems that intense interest in something that isn't another person is viewed in YA books as dysfunctional or simply as a way to i. d. a character; i.e. "Jane loves music," but do we ever see her practice?

P.S. I put Harriet the Spy in the tags because she's the most passionate person I know in children's books, plus I've just started listening to Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost, an adult mystery that begins, anyway, with a very Harriet-like third-grader.
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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>This is one of my very favorite children's book themes and a bibliography I did for "Five Owls" is still available online, though of course it's quite old now: http://www.fiveowls.com/03_96_bib.html.

Posted : Sep 12, 2008 05:19


>The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt by Patricia MacLachlan was a favorite of mine, as I played viola, too, albeit not as well as Minna.

Thursday's Children by Rumer Godden deals with kids who are passionate about dance (and music, too, as I recall).

And how can one not mention the Shoes books by Noel Streatfield?

Posted : Aug 26, 2008 04:56


>Great question!

My reader kids (12 y.o. girl and 10 y.o. boy) write a book recommendation blog (www.kidsbookshelf.wordpress.com)
and I peeked at it to see whether they mention passion. My daughter likes the Bauer books and also Sharon Creech's Chasing Redbird especially for the characters' passion for their work & interests.

Posted : Aug 23, 2008 06:47


>Jennifer Donnelly's "A Gathering Light"/"A Northern Light": Mattie and her best friend Weaver are passionate about words.

Posted : Aug 23, 2008 10:28


>Peter Abrahams's "Echo Falls" mysteries, Miyuki Miyabe's Brave Story, and Wendelin Van Draanen's Flipped all feature intense, focused, passionate young protagonists.

Also (and this one is hard to find, but it's awesome), Eloise Jarvis McGraw's Greensleeves. McGraw's heroine is plenty passionate... but she's not quite sure what she wants to be passionate about, which I think is true of a lot of young people.

Posted : Aug 22, 2008 08:29

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