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MENTOR TEXT MONDAY: Unique Main Characters

Doing research for my current position as Literary Agent Mentee has been illuminating, to say the very least. I see evidence both in recent books and deals, that many editors seek something that's fresh and new.

Here are some examples I have found in fairly recently published books (as recent as I could find in my reading pile, which is varied dates - I read anything and everything):

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022.

JACKET COPY: Hey, thanks for reading me. I know you're probably asking yourself: "What's this book about? Who wants to be a vase? Why is everything so shiny? So let me clear up some stuff.

This is a story about a plunger who wants to be a vase. It's also about a vacuum cleaner and a cup and a sink and some flower. The flowers don't talk though; they're just flowers. It's also a story about being exactly what you want to be. In a lot of ways, you could say it's about -- Well, why don't you see for yourself. It's more fun that way.

Okay, that's all I wanted to say...why are you still reading. I'm done here. Seriously, this is weird.

Well, after all is said and done, I want to be a "cup of tea" since this book wasn't my cup of tea. I found the agenda to be a bit adult-ish and although sometimes silly, it seemed also a bit confusing (at least to me reading it with my "child mind").

But it was interesting to see the formatting -- first person, speech without speech bubbles (the words placed near the object saying them), 3-D art presentation, a lot of characters and narrative intrusion when the book speaks to the reader at the end. Several interesting choices. It was certainly an experience to see these choices in action and it likely will inform some of my artistic choices as I continue on my writing journey.

Next up, is SIDNEY THE LONELY CLOUD, written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood. Flyaway Books,2019. This book was published in Great Britain as Cyril the Lonely Cloud. I do like that name and it has better consonance - CyriL and Lonely and CLoud. And, incidentally, I do love a good cloud, storm, or otherwise.

JACKET COPY: Sidney only wants to make people smile. But instead, everyone says, "I wish that cloud would go away!" Searching for a friendly face, the lonely cloud drifts for days before finally arriving in a hot, dry land -- where everyone welcomes just what Sidney has to offer.

Sidney's search for belonging affirms that we all have valuable gifts to share and that a new perspective may be all we need to discover our place in the world.

This book proved particularly interesting given I read it after VASE. For me, it was a much more kid-friendly portrayal of a *surrogate kid* wanting to be something. In VASE, the message seemed to be that it is okay to want to be and to be something you are not. In SIDNEY, the message seemed to be to find your space (or to find a place where you can be yourself) and where you will be appreciated.

In VASE we get to see the other household tools accept Plunger as a flower vase. Yet there are no people in the story, so we are not sure whether, in reality, his true function has actually changed in the real world. But certainly while the people are not there to utilize him, he is portraying himself as a flower vase. I find that all a bit confusing.

In SIDNEY, the cloud did not change his function as a raincloud. Instead, he blew across the sky to Africa where his efforts were appreciated and he was happy to be wanted. Not quite realistic (either), but I think the important thing is that the message is easy to navigate in this book. It's the opposite theme of bloom where you are planted (which could be the intended theme of VASE, but it doesn't quite hold up), if that gives it any context.

Last but not least, is UNDER THE BLANKET SKY, written and illustrated by Tim Fisher, and published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

JACKET COPY: In a heartfelt and luminous story that celebrates friendship, the imagination, and those achingly magical summer days that seem to stretch on forever, a lonely, young boy meets a unlikely companion, a majestic owl.

What follows is a season of childhood adventure and innocent joy under the warmth of a blanket sky, until the poignant moment when the owl must continue his journey and fly away.

Well this isn't quite an object and it's not the main character (but an important one). But to be fair, it is described as a strange creature and is a larger than life owl that talks. I also suspect that it is a stand-in for an imaginary friend. As such, it is a new and unusual imaginary friend, and this story is absolutely sweet -- child-friendly, a child-POV, lots of heart and a really wonderful message -- that our friends (real or imagined), remain a part of us and how we see the world, even after they are gone. I really loved this story and its message!

Whether these books become your favorites or not, it's clear to see that these characters are new and different! Consider swapping out one of your own main characters with one that's fresh and unique and see where it brings you!


As I say every time, there's always something to be learned from any mentor text we read, whether excellent or poor, whether a comp to our current WIP or not. As a reminder, I don't always have the time to go into each book in-depth, but feel free to post any questions or discussion points in the comment section.

COMMENTS: I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on these books! If you did please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section. Feel free to click on the titles of the books to buy them! All proceeds go toward books for our Mentor Text Talk Book Chats on Sundays on Zoom - you can join us here: Mentor Text Talk by | Facebook! Happy reading and writing!


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