Discussion:
Kristin Cashore: Introduction
Add Reply
Joe Bernstein
2018-10-31 17:34:29 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Kristin Cashore is a writer whose publications so far sort neatly
into three very unequal parts. This is the first of six posts
dealing with those parts, in vaguely reverse chronological order.
As the first, it continues with some biographical information.

Cashore was born in August 1976; one could probably get the exact
date from August posts to her blog. She grew up in rural
northeastern Pennsylvania. She attended and graduated from Williams
College in the Massachusetts Berkshires, and then began, per her
blog's bio (1st URL below) and some author blurbs, wandering. US
places named include New York City, Boston (where, in 2003 per
Scholastic, 2nd URL below, she got an M.A. from Simmons College's
Center for the Study of Children's Literature), "Cambridge" (probably,
to judge by a journal author blurb, the Massachusetts one), Austin,
"Pennsylvania" (home?), and Jacksonville. Non-US locations named
include Sydney, London, and "Italy". Her first two author blurbs
have the usual quirky list of past jobs, though unusually low on
actual quirk: "a dog runner, a packer in a candy factory, an
editorial assistant, a legal assistant, and a free-lance writer."
She seems to have started publishing non-fiction, and started writing
fiction, while working on the M.A. She lived in Jacksonville when
her first published novel became a major success; she then promptly
moved back north, and now lives in Cambridge (MA) again. She married
not long ago (3rd URL below).

Her first publications seem to have been critical essays on *artists'*
books for children, plus mini-reviews for <The Horn Book Guide>. She
then went on to "educational writing", a minority of which is fiction;
a minority of *that* is fantasy. Because those are the only short
fictions I know she's published, and because I haven't found any
evidence that anyone else has tried to cover this phase of her career
thoroughly, *I've* tried, and mostly failed, in posts five and six.

She has so far written six or seven novels known to me:
a) "a middle grade realistic contemporary novel" written September
2003 to late spring 2004
b) <Graceling>, written late spring 2004 to late summer 2005,
published October 2008
c) "a YA contemporary novel that was a sequel to" a), written late
summer 2005 to late spring 2006
d) <Fire>, written late spring 2006 to late 2007, published
October 2009; related to b)
e) <Bitterblue>, written late 2007 to, at a guess (this is where
the 4th URL below stops), early 2011, published May 2012;
sequels b) eight years later, while its ending sequels d) *much*
later
f) <Jane, Unlimited>, published September 2017; not obviously
related to any of the above
g) A novel submitted September 2018 (5th URL below)

<Graceling>, <Fire> and <Bitterblue> - her first three *published*
novels - form a loose fantasy trilogy, which her publisher has called,
and English Wikipedia calls, "Graceling Realm", which is dubious (I
don't see any way the main setting of <Fire> can be considered part
of a "Graceling Realm"); the ISFDB calls it "Seven Kingdoms", which
goes beyond dubious to just plain wrong (again thanks to <Fire>, the
trilogy deals with at least eight kingdoms). These books, which
offer a relatively harsh feminism to their young readers, have been
tremendously popular. I cover them in the third and fourth posts.

I was introduced to Cashore by finding an ARC of <Jane, Unlimited>.
I figured that obligated me to write about it; then found the whole
trilogy on the shelves of the library I spend most of my waking hours
in, and expanded the plan, so here we are. <Jane, Unlimited>, though
still speculative, is a major departure from her previous work, both
by having no relationship with the trilogy, and by putting aesthetic
elements front and centre; I review it in post two.

I don't know of anything she's said about her next novel other than
that she's submitted it (I have *not* read her voluminous blog with
any thoroughness, despite all these citations to it), and can't guess
whether it's a) and/or c) in a revised form, a return to fantasy, in
some way an extension of the departure, or who knows what. That said,
part of my point in mentioning a) and c), as well as her "educational"
writing, is that she doesn't seem actually to be, as so many writers
do, an obligate fantasist. <Jane, Unlimited> pushes the bounds of
both YA and fantasy, but I tentatively think her likelier to move
beyond fantasy than to move beyond YA.

Her first four published novels had Kathy Dawson as editor. Dawson
was at Harcourt when she edited <Graceling>, but returned to Penguin,
her former employer, in 2009. Evidently Cashore was able to come with
her. Dawson got her own imprint in 2014, from which <Jane, Unlimited>
appeared. AFAIK, the relationship continues.

A 2013 post to her blog (9th URL below) explains her apparently
continuing strong limits on her online activity (I'd be pretty
surprised if she commented on these posts), and attributes some (but
not much) of the relevant decisions to the "haters" attracted by "a
female writer who creates female characters who sometimes (sometimes!)
choose to have sex outside of wedlock, not to get married, not to
have children, to self-sterilize, generally to make their own
decisions rather than do what society tells them they're supposed to
do". (They're assisted in these choices by all having access to
reliable post-facto contraception.) She's published four novels
whose protagonists are women roughly 18 years of age, but only two
end with the protagonist clearly attached, and none with a
protagonist clearly headed for traditional nuclear-family motherhood.
If all this is an issue for you, well, you're warned.

Sources:
<http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/2008/02/short-bio-of-me.html>
<https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/authors/kristin-cashore/>
<http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/2018/09/in-which-i-embark-on-my-lifes-grandest.html>
<http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/2009/05/faqs-on-writing-and-publishing-aka.html>
<http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/2018/09/arctic-prep.html>
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristin_Cashore>
<http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?111882>
<http://www.penguin.com/publishers/kathydawsonbooks/>
<http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/2013/05/faq-why-dont-you-allow-comments-on-your.html>
I was unable to consult the profile(s) in Gale volumes: <Something
about the Author> #206 (2010) and #283 (2015), <Contemporary Authors>
#290 (2010), and <Authors & Artists for Young Adults> #88 (2012).
Robert Carnegie
2018-10-31 19:47:27 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Is "dog runner" a quirky job? It's like dog walker but of course
quicker. Does that mean a dog owner saves more time of their own,
or less? It's a puzzle.
Titus G
2018-11-01 02:58:02 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Robert Carnegie
Is "dog runner" a quirky job? It's like dog walker but of course
quicker. Does that mean a dog owner saves more time of their own,
or less? It's a puzzle.
It certainly is. (And obviously one of much importance to those of us in
the civilised world.)
Does a runner charge more than a walker?
And how many steps does the dog take and what difference does the length
of stride make to the overall benefit of the exercise?
Is the runner simply exploiting the ignorant lazy dog owner by spending
less time for more money winding the dog up with short term elation
causing violent mood swings or is the lazy walker restricting the dog's
natural exuberance causing depression?
Did Kristin Cashore carelessly ignore dog ownership readers by treating
this topic quirkily?
Joe Bernstein
2018-11-01 03:34:17 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Titus G
Did Kristin Cashore carelessly ignore dog ownership readers by treating
this topic quirkily?
Do we assume that that part of author blurbs comes from the author?

Apparently there really are services out there, advertising better
exercise for your dog by having them run instead of walked. Go
figure.

-- JLB
Robert Carnegie
2018-11-01 08:32:25 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
Post by Titus G
Did Kristin Cashore carelessly ignore dog ownership readers by treating
this topic quirkily?
Do we assume that that part of author blurbs comes from the author?
Apparently there really are services out there, advertising better
exercise for your dog by having them run instead of walked. Go
figure.
-- JLB
One online that I looked at for verification claims a speed that
really counts as jogging, but "dog jogger" is past quirky into goofy.
And anyway, it probably isn't jogging from the dog's point of view.
Ahasuerus
2018-10-31 20:42:02 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Wednesday, October 31, 2018 at 1:34:32 PM UTC-4, Joe Bernstein wrote:
[snip-snip]
Post by Joe Bernstein
<Graceling>, <Fire> and <Bitterblue> - her first three *published*
novels - form a loose fantasy trilogy, which her publisher has called,
and English Wikipedia calls, "Graceling Realm", which is dubious (I
don't see any way the main setting of <Fire> can be considered part
of a "Graceling Realm"); the ISFDB calls it "Seven Kingdoms", which
goes beyond dubious
"Beyond dubious"... It has a nice ring to it!
Post by Joe Bernstein
to just plain wrong (again thanks to <Fire>, the
trilogy deals with at least eight kingdoms). [snip-snip]
Some Wikipedia articles also call it "Seven Kingdom Trilogy", e.g.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_(Cashore_novel) . So does Fantastic
Fiction -- https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/the-seven-kingdoms-trilogy
LibraryThing -
https://www.librarything.com/series/Seven+Kingdoms+Trilogy+-+Chronological+Order ,
some Amazon records --
https://www.amazon.com/Bitterblue-Seven-Kingdoms-Trilogy-Book/dp/B00845U8JQ ,
and Overdrive -- https://www.overdrive.com/media/573609/graceling

Series names are often slippery things. The author may prefer one name,
the US publisher another, the UK publisher a third one, etc. For example,
see http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pe.cgi?12288 . We just chain them using
slashes since we don't have a mechanism to account for multiple series
names. It only gets worse when multiple languages get involved.
Joe Bernstein
2018-11-01 00:48:33 UTC
Reply
Permalink
<Jane, Unlimited>, 2017

This book was originally meant to follow the "Choose Your Own
Adventure" format. Its structure is, in effect, a compromise between
that format and a regular novel's. It's definitely meant to be read
through, not skipped around in; but it consists of six unequal parts,
a beginning followed by five endings.

Jane is an orphan who remembers only her Aunt Magnolia as a parent.
[1] She turned eighteen not long ago. She enrolled in the college
where Aunt Magnolia taught (as a lecturer, but still getting free
tuition for her dependent). The aunt's subject was marine biology,
but the fame that presumably ensured some stability of employment
came from her marine photography. Jane was struggling in school when
Aunt Magnolia left on a trip to Antarctica; the next things Jane
heard was that her guardian had been lost in a blizzard. Jane moved
in with difficult roommates, dropped out, and started working part-
time at the university bookstore. Jane is deeply unsure who she is;
her main recreation is hand-crafting umbrellas. (So I thought, "Oh,
how precious", but the book reasonably convincingly presents this as
physical as well as artistic work. Of course Cashore turns out to
have had an actual artist who works in umbrellas in mind.)

[1] It's probably no coincidence that we learn all major characters'
surnames *except* Jane's and Magnolia's.
Separately, I forgot to say this in the right place in the first
post, but all Cashore's novel protagonists so far are orphans, in the
sense that none begin the book with living birth parents, nor acquire
any later through birth secrets. (There *are* birth secrets in <Fire>
and <Bitterblue>, just not about the protagonists.)

Jane had been tutored in, of all things, writing during high school,
by a rich student like those she'd later have such trouble with as
classmates. This tutor, Kiran Thrash, finds Jane at the bookstore
one day, and impulsively asks Jane to accompany her to her family's
upcoming spring gala. Jane would refuse, except that her aunt had,
a few days before leaving for Antarctica, demanded that Jane promise
never to refuse an invitation to the Thrash mansion. So as the book
begins, Jane and Kiran are aboard the family yacht - <The Kiran> -
approaching the island palace Tu Reviens. (By this point, I gather,
readers of <Rebecca> by Daphne du Maurier will already have noticed
that, as Cashore says clearly at book's end, <Jane> is an homage.)

Jane finds there the Thrash family, which is way beyond dysfunction,
two smaller families of servants, and various guests, who show us up
close why Jane hadn't thriven at her university's fortress of
privilege. As she's beginning to get her feet under her, the
introduction ends, and the five stories resulting from her choice at
one moment begin.

Fundamentally, this book is a masterwork. There's a certain lack
in it from Jane's unformed character, as there just about has to be,
for Cashore to do what she wants to do, which is write the five
different endings in five different *genres*. Most lists of five
related to this book are in book order, so it isn't much of a spoiler
to name the genres in that order: mystery, spy story, horror,
science fiction, fantasy. To make this feat even more impressive,
Cashore makes it very clear that all five stories really happen at Tu
Reviens, to the extent they can without Jane's involvement, that all
their presuppusitions are true; this *one* fictional universe can
hold all five genres. Finally, she plays all sorts of textual games
among the stories to tie them even more together, and even manages to
convince me, at least, that *despite* the obvious fact that each
story is separate, Jane really does make progress as we move from
start to finish. This is a masterwork in the old sense,
demonstrating a craftsman's skills, and if you will, declaring that
the author needn't be bound by the past I discuss in the next four
posts.

(One important exception to all this masterwork talk: Cashore writes
with skill, but here and in general without noticeable style, by my
lights, though many readers disagree. If she thinks she has anything
to prove in that area, I don't think she's decided to prove it yet.)

One could reasonably argue that the stories get gradually less
plausible, but there's still something of a cliff between the spy
tale and the supernatural one, and this leads to one problem with the
book: *all* the speculative-genre stories are significantly shorter
than *all* the seemingly mundane ones, so that the book's structural
halfway point is actually about 60% of the way through. It's hard
enough to swallow the spy story, but the last two clearly remain
episodes of strangeness, rather than full experience, for Jane. (The
horror story is claustrophobic enough, *constrained* enough, to work
at its length; it even has the book's most extended grace note, a
really twisted revision of <Winnie-the-Pooh>.)

That said, none of the book is *actually* mundane. I suppose it's a
spoiler to go into any detail, so I'll just tell you, notice every
reference to frogs. Umbrellas prove connected with this, but Cashore
rightly refuses to explain.

Which brings us to whimsy. There's quite a lot in this book, peeking
out every so often, and nearly in control in the sf story. So what I
find most impressive is that Cashore somehow manages, despite the
whimsy, melodrama, and just un-plain strangeness in which they move,
to convince me her characters are real, and that however blank Jane
may be, I should care what happens to her.

If you *just hate it* when authors poke holes in the fourth wall, you
probably shouldn't read this book. But if, like me, you find
auctorial pyrotechnics in general appealing, go find it NOW.
Robert Carnegie
2018-11-01 08:35:37 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Thank you for this review. My responses may suggest that
I take your contributions lightly and not seriously;
that's half true, but I do appreciate you sharing your
thoughts.
Joe Bernstein
2018-11-01 16:38:45 UTC
Reply
Permalink
The "Graceling Realm" trilogy, 2008-2012

This is Cashore's main exercise in worldbuilding to date, and as
we'll see, she's talked about it in that light. The worldbuilding
turns out to have occasioned her some difficulties; the looseness of
the trilogy strikes me as obviously a result.

Nevertheless, *everything* later than the first book, discussed in
this post and the next, contains spoilers for that book.

Cashore chose the common pattern of a new heroine for each book. She
also gave the second a new geography and societies. What unifies the
trilogy, then, is not its heroines, but its villain, introduced and
killed in the first book, re-introduced much younger (and with rather
more lines) in the second, and cleaned up after in the third. Also,
because this villain can do mind control, the kinds of abilities we
normally encounter as psionic, but here understood as magic, come to
the fore, and various ramifications they have are explored in depth
and with considerable emotion in all three books.

In the first post I mentioned these books as having a "harsh feminism",
and quoted Cashore, at a time when <Jane, Unlimited> can't have
gotten very far, itemising ways her protagonists violate traditional
girls' fiction morality. These things are unexpectedly linked by
this: Cashore promises her readers, in these books, that they *can't*
have it all, that because of this what feminism means is that they
must choose their own priorities, and make their own decisions about
how to achieve those. She is, in other words, more adult with her
young readers than many authors are with their older ones.

I think it's true that her books have been decreasing in popularity,
each time (albeit from a stratospheric starting point); I'm quite
sure it's true that they've been increasing in quality. So we start,
here, with her first published novel, her weakest to date. It's
still plenty strong enough.

<Graceling>, 2008

We start badly. Our protagonist and third-person POV is Katsa, who's
"Graced", a "Graceling", with what is believed to be exceptional
killing ability, and so is used by her uncle, the rather bad king of
Middluns, as an enforcer. She's sick of killing, so having started a
secret Council (later, as it gets decreasingly secret, Secret Council)
of do-gooders, she insists on sparing as many opponents' lives as
they can afford. In the first chapter, she helps rescue the abducted
father of the king of Lienor, having to fight a probably-Graced
Lienid man in the process. In the second, we get most of the above,
plus a thoroughly kiddish [2] explanation of the realm's politics
(the ISFDB's "seven kingdoms"). Then the Lienid, who'd identified
her from getgo, comes to the Middluns court, and propinquity starts
to propinque.

[2] The knowledge that Cashore had written a novel for younger
readers just before <Graceling> makes **SO** much more sense of
<Graceling>'s opening chapters, which is why I insisted on sharing
that knowledge with you.

Katsa is hard to make sense of. Orphaned and feared, she had,
despite her royal blood, a profoundly deprived upbringing. We expect
this to show in her personality, but it seems to do so only as an
unusually intense prickliness. Her morals she's said to have learnt
from the bad example of her uncle, and her personality, I guess, we
just have to take on faith, not having had that sort of upbringing
ourselves after all.

But as the book goes on, and her life careens out of her control, she
finds it more and more urgent to make sense of *herself*, and then
gambles everything on that understanding in a tremendous tour de
force of a third act (roughly the second half of Part Two) which
can't be read without reading everything before it, and which makes
everything before it worth reading. Here we've entirely left
kiddishness behind; we're in the rarefied heights of human struggle
and accomplishment of which YA at its best is so capable. The rest
of the book is good, but frankly, after those terrific chapters it
could have been *drivel* and the book would *still* have deserved its
popularity.

So if quests by troubled good guys in bad lands are your kind of
thing, don't let the opening flaws deter you, *read this book*.

The book was optioned for film in 2013, but I see none of the
publicity I'd expect if the project were active.

"Hot Dog, Katsa!", 2009-2010

This derives from a talk Cashore gave at her alma mater, a Summer
Institute at the Simmons College Center, in July 2009; but is
available in the form published in January 2010 by <The Horn Book
Magazine> and online thanks to that magazine, and reprinted in the
2011 Firebird trade paperback of <Fire>. So should it be listed here
or after <Fire>, which appeared in September 2009? Well, this talk
about world-building draws all its examples from <Graceling>, so here
is good enough. But it has, as I warned above, spoilers for
<Graceling>. So really, go read that, and then you can safely tackle
all the rest of the writing I discuss in this post and the next.

Oh, and yes, it *is* something of effrontery for her to give a talk
on world-building after one published book, but she gets it funny
enough, modest enough, and actually intelligent enough to make it
worth reading anyway.

The Firebird <Fire> also has a reading list and an interview with
Cashore, both also from <The Horn Book> empire. The reading list is
at the end of the URL below; the interview seems not to be online. [3]
The Firebird <Fire> also, duh, includes the opening of <Bitterblue>.

<https://www.hbook.com/2010/01/creating-books/hot-dog-katsa/>

[3] OK, OK. The search:
"Four Questions" "teleporting isn't realistic as a Grace"
yields a Google Books preview long enough to include the whole (three-
page) interview.

I haven't been able to see whether the trade paperback editions of
<Graceling> and <Bitterblue> have neat stuff in them, or just sample
chapters, but a Google Books preview suggests the <Bitterblue> one,
at least, does. <Jane, Unlimited> in trade paperback has maps of Tu
Reviens, a guide to the parts of an umbrella, and the opening of
<Fire>; I don't know whether the first two are also in the hardcover,
but suspect so, in which case the <Jane, Unlimited> trade paperback
would not have unique neat stuff.
Joe Bernstein
2018-11-02 01:22:46 UTC
Reply
Permalink
<Fire>, 2009

This is a very different book from <Graceling>. Maybe I'm just a bad
reader, slow on the uptake, but this is where, reading the trilogy,
it becomes obvious to me that Cashore does literary art, where, in my
actual first reading order, I first recognised the author of <Jane,
Unlimited> *in* this trilogy.

Mind, we still have a problematic opening. The prologue narrates the
birth and childhood, at least, of the villain mentioned above. We
then abruptly switch to the titular character, who's nowhere near the
prologue's setting; it isn't obvious until way far into the book
whether the prologue has anything to do with the rest of it, and at
the level of plot, the connection still, after two readings, feels
forced to me.

At the thematic level, however... See, Fire, the character, isn't an
ordinary person, but she isn't a Graceling either; there aren't any
Gracelings in her country (the Dells). What she is, is a monster.
In the Dells, monsters are brightly particoloured animals (luckily
for Fire, in humans this seems to be confined to the hair), extremely
attractive to non-monstrous animals including humans. But monster
animals mostly want to *eat* other animals including humans, and can
exert some degree of mind control (much of the attraction) to help
with this. Monster humans, of whom Fire is the sole example known to
her after the recent death of her father, have much stronger mind
control, and as far as we see don't engage in physical cannibalism.
Her father had instead used his power to control the king and wreck
the country. Fire has mostly missed out on this, rusticating on his
country estate and being raised largely by her uprightly moral
neighbour.

So as the book gets going, Fire encounters a mystery, which leads to
a visit to the queen mother (not far), during which she uses her
abilities to rescue a military troop from monsters. Not much later,
she's summoned to the palace, to help the princes and officials who
are trying to rebuild from her and the princes' fathers' reign. So
where in <Graceling> mind control was solely evil, here Our Heroine
has to evaluate whether it can ever be good. But the contrasts with
the first book don't stop there. Fire endures a winter journey easy
to compare with Katsa's, but very different in pretty much every way.
Her romances flow very differently. So do her relationships with
power and with family. And of course our villain from <Graceling>
offers Fire a contrast with herself as well as with her father. On
top of all the fun Cashore has with these contrasts, she also uses
structure much more overtly than in book one, by giving frequent
flashbacks to Fire's interactions with her father.

This book is full of war, though not so much, given our POV, of
battle; its politics is much more convincing and much more intense
than <Graceling>'s; so it has no such Romantic height as the great
chapters of the latter book. But it's much stronger as a whole,
despite the interruption of <Graceling>'s villain, and well worth
reading.

<The Kristin Cashore eSampler>, 2008-2012, first compiled as such
2012

This came out a month before <Bitterblue>, as a teaser. It includes
chapters from each of the three books, plus a a dozen letters among
the good guys of <Graceling> shortly before <Bitterblue> begins.
These are funny enough (and include a joke you won't get without
reading "Hot Dog, Katsa!"). And yes, they include spoilers for
<Graceling>. Really, just read that book, OK?

This was released as a free e-book, but is no longer available at the
respectable sites it started at; hordes of illicit sites, of course,
claim to offer it, and I suppose some actually might provide it.
Thankfully, however, Cashore herself put the new writing, the letters,
on her blog, a few weeks after the release.

<http://kristincashore.blogspot.com/2012/05/secret-council-letters-from-
spring-of.html>

<Bitterblue>, 2012

I've tried to write this in such a way as not to perpetrate really
bad <Graceling> spoilers, but can't promise I've succeeded, because
we might differ in our judgements of what spoils <Graceling>.

Each book in this trilogy is better than the last; each is also
tougher to read. <Graceling>, harsh though its heroine may be, is
the one I'd pick in a lazy mood, just wanting fun. <Fire> is the
one I'd pick for sympathetic characters. And <Bitterblue> I'd choose
if I wanted to exercise both my reading ability and my morality.
Because it's the hard book, presenting cleaning up after a dictator
(excuse me, mind controller) not as a relatively clean matter of war
(cf. <Fire>) but as the painful daily work it really is.

See, our mind control villain had become a king, mentioned in the
chapter of <Graceling> which catalogues the wicked rulers. And he'd
married, as kings do, and fathered one daughter on his wife: Our
Heroine, Bitterblue - Cashore's first *un-magical* heroine. It's
eight years after his death in <Graceling>, and Queen Bitterblue is
waking up to adulthood. She's an orphan seeking work, love, self-
knowledge, knowledge of her parents, ... oh, and also an answer to
why her kingdom, eight years later, remains mired in the past, just
as she does. (She quickly learns, in fact, that efforts to unmire it
tend to result in the unmirers' murders.) On top of all that, the
friends she'd found in <Graceling>, the Secret Council, now that
Cashore has decided her childish political structure has to grow up,
are fomenting revolutions against various crowned heads, and don't
understand why that worries Bitterblue.

She finds much of what she seeks, but the finding is as heart-
wrenching as it has to be; indeed, Cashore takes very little pity on
her young readers here. Bitterblue finds coded messages from both
her parents, but "I wish I'd given my child a kind father" offers
little help, "Little girls are even more perfect when they bleed"
none at all. [4] Major characters, plural, commit suicide.
Bitterblue, less able to defend herself than Katsa or Fire, comes in
for more physical trouble than you'd imagine a queen could.

[4] The latter quote became the title of the first academic study of
Cashore's work known to me. Subtitle: "Monstrosity, Violence and
the Female Body in Kristin Cashore's Graceling Trilogy". By Patricia
Kennon, 2015. I haven't yet read it.

By no means is this book all dark. Bitterblue *does* finds much of
what she seeks, including resolutions to most of the mysteries she's
trying to solve. Also, well, she's 18, and it's freaking hard for
someone with some agency and money to experience nothing but darkness
at that age. In the end, Cashore keeps her deal with her readers,
and not only allows enough closure for the book to work, but makes it
powerfully affecting. I'm just about certain some people's mileage
will vary, and dare not recommend this, any more than <Jane,
Unlimited>, to everyone. But if what I've described is a book you
think could be worthwhile, you'll probably find that it is.

Postscript

Cashore has recently posted to her blog an essay well worth reading
about the sources for her villains' kinds of villainy. Unfortunately,
its title, hence its URL, give away those villains' names, the main
thing everyone refers to as spoilers for <Graceling>. The essay is
dead easy to find at her blog; once you've read <Graceling> it'll be
obvious which one it is, and once you've read <Fire> extremely
obvious. Let me know if you actually do have trouble finding it
after reading those books. I should also note that, um, spoiler
group may find that essay really offensive. Sigh, yes, this is as
annoying to write as I'm sure you're finding it to read. All the
same, if you read the trilogy, you may well want to read that essay.
Joe Bernstein
2018-11-02 18:04:12 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Turns out I need three posts for this, so two this morning.

Cashore's first publications known to me, in 2003 and possibly
thereafter, were broadly critical. They include two articles on
children's *artists*, both involving spec-fic, and nine brief reviews
in <The Horn Book Guide>, several of which focus on the illustrations,
and two of which review fantasy books. I suspect she offered her
services to <The Horn Book Guide> and they handed her a set of books
nobody else really wanted to review. I have no reason to think she
failed that test, or stopped working for them after her first issue,
but what access I have to later issues strongly discourages me from
seeking her initials in them. (No joke, I could throw my back out.)

She came back perhaps two years later with "educational writing".
Most of Cashore's educational publications seem to have taken the
physical form of pamphlets or some such physically separate from main
textbooks, but included with some editions of those textbooks as
extra material. I'm by no means sure this is true of all of them,
and rather doubt it, in fact.
The following list is based primariy on Worldcat, but with
additions from another source:
a) <http://www.paducah.kyschools.us/Downloads/Morgan%20-%20By%20Author%20-%2010-2007.pdf>
b) <http://www.mcsnc.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_2081588/File/gougeQuizInfo-1.pdf>

Most of these publications came from branches of the educational
publisher Pearson. Enough came from other publishers that she could
have been working entirely free-lance, but Pearson is so dominant
that, given the "editorial assistant" line in her old occupations
list, it wouldn't shock me at all if she'd had a day job as an
editorial assistant at Pearson for at least some of the years in
question. (She certainly *had* a day job, or jobs, as late as <Fire>
if not <Bitterblue>, and for all I know still has.)

Various school districts have put PDFs of quite a few of these books
online, but only of the Pearson ones. All but one lack copyright or
other explicit publication dates. I have reason to think the books
from other publishers might so lack as well. In general, sites that
provide copyright dates for these books are *showing their ignorance*,
not their knowledge; these include many Worldcat entries as well as a
site called Lexile Find a Book (<https://fab.lexile.com/>) which
thinks every single one appeared in 2005. Separately, Pearson often
reprinted (and may continue to reprint) their books, sometimes
retitling them. I'm not sure what it'll take to get proper
bibliographic control of this phase of Cashore's career; I figure
there's about a 5% chance Lexile is actually *right* about 2005, if
not about copyright dates. I have absolutely zero certainty that
I've found everything.

I cite, below, PDFs I think are relatively innocent. I don't cite
ones offered by obviously illicit sites.

Search results for most of these books are dominated by lists of
books usually with numbers representing their difficulty. a) and b)
are the earliest examples I found; they include some non-fiction and
most of the fiction I think had by then been published. a) claims to
be, and I think probably mostly or entirely is, from 2007. b) has
PDF creation and last modification dates in 2009. They list the same
books by Cashore, and a) is easier to use, being author-sorted.

(I can't swear to it, but I'm *pretty sure* that the decimal numbers
in a) and many other book lists that include Cashore's books from
Pearson relate to a private company's program called Accelerated
Reader, in which the column "IL" in a) means "interest level", and
the column "BL" means "ATOS book level"; the decimal point separates
grade level on the left and month in that grade on the right, so 3.8
means a typical third grader could read it late in the school year.
See in particular questions 10 and 17 in
<https://www.stpatrickcatholicschool.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=302228&type=d&pREC_ID=698291>.
I cite these numbers for the fiction, but not for the non-fiction.)

Pearson has online PDF study guides for some of the books, all
created and most last modified 2005.

In general, PDF creation and modification dates have been the most
useful tools I've found to date these books. I realise these dates
can be spoofed, but doubt it's easy to do so by mistake, and don't
see any reason the sites creating the PDFs I've referred to would
want to spoof them.

I've compiled bibliography as best I could on all the books, but it
got way too long. So in the next post (coming shortly) I provide
full information on the fiction and criticism. But in the last post
I merely list the non-fiction. E-mail me if you want the rest of the
info I compiled on the latter.
Joe Bernstein
2018-11-02 18:14:35 UTC
Reply
Permalink
FICTION, ALL FROM PEARSON

These seven are in the lists a) and b) mentioned in the previous post,
so may date to 2007 or earlier, and very probably to 2009 or earlier.
Possibly coincidentally, the three identifiable as fantasy are all
currently available as PDFs online:
<Mr. Grim and the Goose That Laid Golden Eggs> - Illustrated by
Tom LaBaff. A question at the end asks whether it's "a realistic
story or a fantasy". Entertaining, recommended. Not in Worldcat.
PDF at URL below claims creation date 2005, last modification date
2014. 20 pages, 1837 words, 3.8 (for explanation see previous post).
<https://www.iss.k12.nc.us/cms/lib/NC01000579/Centricity/Domain/1392/Mr%20Grim%20and%20the%20Goose%20That%20Laid%20Golden%20Eggs.pdf>
<Salt Lick Boom Town> - Illustrated by David Sheldon. Worldcat
dates separate edition to 2005 and two textbooks including it to 2007.
PDF created 2005, last modified 2006 online. More obviously didactic
and less funny than previous, but OK. Has question "What things in
this book tell you that it is a fantasy?" 16 pages, 659 words, 2.8.
<http://www.johnlstrain.com/resources/3.1.1%20Salt%20Lick%20Boom%20Town.pdf>
<Warm and Fuzzy> - Illustrated by Rick Ewigleben. Animal fantasy.
Worldcat dates Braille edition to 2008; 2010 PDF online. 12 pages,
270 words, 1.7.
<http://www.gorham.k12.me.us/~barbh/01608E56-000F6FCA.1/Warm%20and%20Fuzzy%202.2.2.pdf>
<Sir Tom> - Illustrated by Albert Lorenz. Worldcat dates separate
edition to 2005. I've found *nothing* saying what it's about, so may
be speculative (if so, probably fantasy). 20 pages, 1766 words, 3.5.
<The Noble Boy and the Brick Maker> - Illustrated by Dan Bridy.
Worldcat dates separate edition to 2005. An evidently illicit
Chinese page may offer PDFs to those who read Chinese, but does give
the majority of the text to English-readers. This shows it to be non-
speculative, but probably about craft, and perhaps about
technological advance, even though it's set in ancient Egypt. 24
pages, 3581 words, 3.8.
<One Chili Pepper> - Illustrated by Janet Nelson, not speculative,
set in modern Mexico. PDF created 2005 but last modified 2014 is
online. Included in textbook Worldcat dates to 2007. Worldcat dates
separate reprint as <The Market Adventure> to 2013; PDF so titled but
created 2010 is online; Google dates that reprint to 2009. 16 pages,
827 words, 2.9.
<https://www.iss.k12.nc.us/cms/lib/NC01000579/Centricity/Domain/1392/One%20Chili%20Pepper.pdf>
<https://growtobeyourbest.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/0-328-51370-9.pdf>
<Far Away at Home> - Not in Worldcat, nor do I see booksellers
offering it. 32 pages, 5853 words, 4.0. Apparently non-speculative
fiction; praised at:
<https://wk.baidu.com/view/adbf87befd0a79563c1e7284?pcf=2>
It wouldn't shock me if this were related to the non-speculative
novels that were the first and third Cashore wrote.

These three *aren't* in a) and b); since a) seems to have emphasised
her fiction, this suggests (but doesn't prove) that these are post-
2007; alternatively, they may have been omitted from those lists
because they're shorter and easier than any of the stories in them.
<Tom and Pam> possibly aka <Pam and Tom> - Illustrated by Bob
Brugger, probably not speculative. Worldcat dates separate edition
to 2008. 8 pages, 1.2.
<Rob, Mom, and Socks> aka <On the Farm> - Illustrated by Bob
Masheris, not speculative. Worldcat dates separate edition under
former title to 2010. PDF online under latter title dated 2010.
Still, if I believed 2010, that'd be the latest date I believed for
Cashore writing this kind of thing, so I suspect it originated
earlier. 8 pages, 36 words, 0.4.
<https://growtobeyourbest.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/0-328-50702-4.pdf>
<Where They Live> - Illustrated by Bob Brugger, probably not
speculative. Worldcat dates separate edition to 2013, but I'd be
pretty astonished if that were the first printing. 8 pages.


CRITICISM

"Minding the Gaps in _Black and White_" (by David Macaulay). In
#1 of Vol 7 of <The Looking Glass: An Online Children's Literature
Journal>.
<https://www.lib.latrobe.edu.au/ojs/index.php/tlg/article/view/221/219>
"Humor, Simplicity, and Experimentation in the Picture Books of
Jon Agee". Pp. 147-181 of Number 2 of Volume 34 (whole number 129)
of <Children's Literature in Education>.
<https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1023764612178>
(probably paywalled)
"Plourde, Lynn _Summer's Vacation_". P. 308, in the "Preschool"
section, of Number 2 of Volume XIV of <The Horn Book Guide> (which is
*not* <The Horn Book Magazine>).
"Rylant, Cynthia _The High-Rise Private Eyes: The Case of the
Fidgety Fox_". P. 351, in the "Easy Readers" section, of the same
issue.
and more reviews pp. 357, 363, 381 (of non-speculative fiction)
and 397, 435, 449, and 493 (of non-fiction). Probably more reviews,
possibly including more reviews of speculative books, in later issues
of <The Horn Book Guide>.
Robert Carnegie
2018-11-02 23:31:16 UTC
Reply
Permalink
It may be obvious /and/ irrelevant to mention that in bible Egypt,
the characters might be Moses (royal prince) and one of his People
(as in "yrg zl crbcyr tb", spoiler).

Maybe this isn't bible Egypt.

Maybe you have to make up your own mind about that.

I'm sceptical that "bible Egypt" ever happened, at least on the
scale described.
Joe Bernstein
2018-11-03 00:44:46 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Robert Carnegie <***@excite.com> wrote in news:bc6c93a6-a1f5-
4ee3-bc5e-***@googlegroups.com:

[<The Noble Boy and the Brick Maker>]
Post by Robert Carnegie
It may be obvious /and/ irrelevant to mention that in bible Egypt,
the characters might be Moses (royal prince) and one of his People
(as in "yrg zl crbcyr tb", spoiler).
Maybe this isn't bible Egypt.
Maybe you have to make up your own mind about that.
I don't know what the last seven pages (of 24) say, but in what I
read, there's no real indication of time frame. I understand,
however, that the brick maker winds up doing something involving the
prince's coffin, which increases the chance that the prince is
identified with a name we'd recognise. (In what I read he's "Meren",
but that proves nothing.) However, the coffin also decreases the
chance that he's Moses, who AFAIK is nowhere credited by anyone on
any side of any issue with an Egyptian mortuary complex.

The part of the story I read is vaguely Huck Finn-ish, a bit of
adventure, in which the higher-status boy is running away, and the
lower-status man both helps protect him and learns from him. The
specific context being that they get trapped by the beginning of the
Nile flood (river -> Huck Finn again; I *like* this Huck Finn
comparison, of which I just now thought...).
Post by Robert Carnegie
I'm sceptical that "bible Egypt" ever happened, at least on the
scale described.
So am I, but not all stories involving princes in ancient Egypt are
Biblical. The country existed for over two thousand years; I *think*
we only see four pharaohs in the Bible [1]; you do the math.

Maybe if all pharaohs were elves, but, um, that also does interesting
things to the Biblical accounts. (Were the Hebrews orcs, then?)

Joe Bernstein

[1] The one Abraham meets (IIRC, in a story duplicated elsewhere in
Genesis); the one Joseph meets, also in Genesis; the one Moses fights
in Exodus; and the one who comes conquering in, Wikipedia tells me,
Kings. Did I forget any later in Kings? Do any of the stories the
Protestants don't admit to the Bible involve pharaohs? - maybe
Maccabees, if you count Ptolemies as pharaohs?
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Robert Carnegie
2018-11-03 07:43:46 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Joe Bernstein
[<The Noble Boy and the Brick Maker>]
Post by Robert Carnegie
It may be obvious /and/ irrelevant to mention that in bible Egypt,
the characters might be Moses (royal prince) and one of his People
(as in "yrg zl crbcyr tb", spoiler).
Maybe this isn't bible Egypt.
Maybe you have to make up your own mind about that.
I don't know what the last seven pages (of 24) say, but in what I
read, there's no real indication of time frame. I understand,
however, that the brick maker winds up doing something involving the
prince's coffin, which increases the chance that the prince is
identified with a name we'd recognise. (In what I read he's "Meren",
but that proves nothing.) However, the coffin also decreases the
chance that he's Moses, who AFAIK is nowhere credited by anyone on
any side of any issue with an Egyptian mortuary complex.
The part of the story I read is vaguely Huck Finn-ish, a bit of
adventure, in which the higher-status boy is running away, and the
lower-status man both helps protect him and learns from him. The
specific context being that they get trapped by the beginning of the
Nile flood (river -> Huck Finn again; I *like* this Huck Finn
comparison, of which I just now thought...).
Post by Robert Carnegie
I'm sceptical that "bible Egypt" ever happened, at least on the
scale described.
So am I, but not all stories involving princes in ancient Egypt are
Biblical. The country existed for over two thousand years; I *think*
we only see four pharaohs in the Bible [1]; you do the math.
Maybe if all pharaohs were elves, but, um, that also does interesting
things to the Biblical accounts. (Were the Hebrews orcs, then?)
Joe Bernstein
[1] The one Abraham meets (IIRC, in a story duplicated elsewhere in
Genesis); the one Joseph meets, also in Genesis; the one Moses fights
in Exodus; and the one who comes conquering in, Wikipedia tells me,
Kings. Did I forget any later in Kings? Do any of the stories the
Protestants don't admit to the Bible involve pharaohs? - maybe
Maccabees, if you count Ptolemies as pharaohs?
--
Thank you.

I'm not in love with having the story be Moses, but I understand -
maybe wrongly - that pharaohs spent a lot of their own lifespan
on their funeral arrangements. So it could be, Moses /did/ have
a coffin ready, with a face on that didn't look much like him.
And brought it when he left.

Filled with the loot, maybe?
Joe Bernstein
2018-11-03 00:26:39 UTC
Reply
Permalink
OTHER NON-FICTION, PEARSON UNLESS OTHERWISE INDICATED

These three are probably the most documented, perhaps most popular,
of these books.
<Abraham Lincoln>, probably 2005
<Abraham Lincoln: Great Man, Great Words>, probably 2005, not the
same as the previous
<https://www.houstonisd.org/cms/lib2/TX01001591/Centricity/Domain/35237/Abraham%20Lincoln.pdf>
<A Time of Change: Women in the Early Twentieth Century>,
possibly 2005, probably 2007 or earlier

The Pearsons in general often come in threes: one book understood as
"below grade level", one at, and one "above" grade level.

<Our Government>, probably 2005
<http://mrbutlergrade5.yolasite.com/resources/Our%20Government.pdf>
<D is for Democracy>, probably 2005
<The Constitution: Protecting Our Rights and Freedoms>, probably
2005

"Growing and Changing Cities", probably 2005
"New Problems, New Solutions", probably 2005
"The Urbanization of America", probably 2005

<John Muir: A Man of the Wilderness>, possibly 2005, probably
2007 or earlier

"The Show Must Go On!", possibly 2005
<Lights, Camera, Action!>, possibly 2005
<That's Entertainment!>, possibly 2005

<The People Who Gave Us the U.S. Constitution>, possibly 2005
<Words of Freedom: The U.S. Constitution>, possibly 2005
<Authors of Liberty: Writing the U.S. Constitution>, possibly
2005

<Worker Bees> aka <Learn About Worker Bees>, probably 2006
<https://www.duxbury.k12.ma.us/cms/lib/MA01001583/Centricity/Domain/328/2.6%20SI.pdf>
<https://growtobeyourbest.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/0-328-50738-5-2.pdf>
"Swamp Life", possibly 2006
"Exoskeleton" probably aka <What Is an Exoskeleton?>, possibly
2006
"Polar Life" probably aka <Life at the Poles>, possibly aka
<Arctic Life>, possibly 2006
<http://www.onlinelearningexchange.com/content/assets/literacy/Grade3/0-328-72935-3_VA_web.pdf>
"Fertile Floods", possibly 2006; the Internet Archive claims to
have "Exoskeleton", "Polar Life" and this one, but I'm dubious
<https://archive.org/details/isbn_0328138509>

These non-Pearson threesomes don't have single topics, and probably
aren't the same kind of increasing-difficulty set.
<A New Kind of Art>, from Houghton Mifflin, possibly 2006
"Take the Subway", from Houghton Mifflin, possibly 2006
"Making Pictures", from Houghton Mifflin, possibly 2006

<Wants and Needs> with Anne Bowman, from Sundance, possibly 2006;
widely (but I suspect wrongly) dated 2004 online
<People and Technology>, from Sundance, possibly 2006
<What's That Sound?>, from Sundance, possibly 2006

<Insect or Arachnid?> aka <Arachnid or Insect?>, probably 2007 or
earlier
<https://growtobeyourbest.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/0-328-50838-1.pdf>
<A Day in the Life of a Vet> aka <A Vet for All Animals>,
illustrated by Alexei Ivanov, probably 2007 or earlier
<https://growtobeyourbest.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/0-328-51353-9.pdf>
<Oak Trees> aka <A Mighty Oak Tree>, illustrated by Donna Catanese,
probably 2007
<https://growtobeyourbest.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/a-mighty-oak-tree-ol-unit-5-week-3.pdf>
<How Does the Mail Work?> aka <Let's Send a Letter!>, probably
2007 or earlier
<Storm Danger!> aka <Dangerous Storms>, probably 2007 or earlier;
I actually liked this one
<http://www.svsd.net/cms/lib5/PA01001234/Centricity/Domain/390/Dangerous%2520Storms.pdf>
<Grow a Tomato!> aka <How to Grow Tomatoes>, illustrated by Nicole
Wong; text p. 9 of the URL below may be from this book; probably 2007
or earlier
<http://claytonsuccessmaker.weebly.com/uploads/1/1/3/5/113529433/grade_1_fluency_scripts.pdf>
<Special Talents: Extraordinary Lives>, probably 2007 or earlier
<The Two Sides of Mining>, probably 2007 or earlier

This is where a) and b) in the previous post, represented above as
"probably 2007 or earlier", cut off (though they don't list *all* the
works above either). What's more, none of the following appear in
Accelerated Reader quiz lists online, like a), at all; with respect
to the Pearsons, that inspires more or less doubt in me as to their
existence. (The Rigbys are well attested.)

"Predator and Prey", somewhat attested, possibly 2008
<Water on Earth>, if it exists (which I doubt), possibly 2008

<The Corps of Discovery>, from Rigby, possibly 2008
<The Japanese Giant Hornet>, from Rigby, possibly 2008
<Sea Turtles in Danger>, from Rigby, possibly 2008
<A Nation of Parks>, from Rigby, possibly 2008

Worldcat dates the following to 2012, and since that's the only date
I have that's what I report, but I seriously doubt Cashore was still
writing this kind of thing by then, and if these exist at all (not
attested outside Worldcat for three), I'd bet money they were written
and first published years earlier.

<Arctic Life>, well attested, possibly 2012 unless it's a reprint
of the possibly 2006 "Polar Life" (which however includes the
Antarctic)
<Exploring Motion and Force>, if it exists, possibly 2012
<What Is Light?>, if it exists, possibly 2012
<Animals and Their Life Cycles>, if it exists, possibly 2012
--
Joe Bernstein <***@gmail.com>
Joe Bernstein
2018-11-06 17:49:24 UTC
Reply
Permalink
If anyone's been biding time before commenting, please say so.

Otherwise I expect to return the copy of <Fire> I borrowed tonight.
(Yes, I originally read a copy owned by the university library from
which I write, but that copy is now itself checked out to someone.)

So more specifically, please say so within the next nine hours -
before about 7 pm Pacific Standard Time, or about 3 am Greenwich Time.

-- JLB

Loading...