No, stay…stay. Hear me out. Trust me, that name fills my veins with ice, too. I don’t know if I was forced to read that 1943 Newbery winner in 5th or 6th grade, but it scared me away from any other Newbery medalist till I was in college.
But I’m gonna give it another chance.
I plucked that book from the library shelf earlier this week, fully intending to delve into it that night. But four nights have since gone by and I’m still too nervous to turn past the first page and really commit myself.
On rocky islands gulls woke. Time to be about their business. Silently they floated in on the town, but when their icy eyes sighted the first dead fish, first bits of garbage about the ships and wharves, they began to scream and quarrel.Sorry for splicing the introduction right there, but that’s the only way I’d be able to intrigue you into picking up your own copy and joining me on this venture. Misery loves company, you know.
The cocks in Boston…
Why have I decided to put myself through this? I don’t know. But I plan to use this experience to study what’s changed in the publishing world since shortly after World War II. Could a book like this ever get published today? At the Writers’ Day we recently attended, there were two separate presentations with editors reading and critiquing anonymous first pages. I can’t imagine where they would’ve started with Mr. Tremain, because we writers are constantly being told to hook readers (and editors) immediately. We need to make them turn that first page. Well, good ol’ Johnny isn’t even mentioned on page one, and neither is any sense of conflict. Basically, Boston is full of sleepy women waking up even sleepier children. Woo-hoo! Let’s get this party started!
Honestly, I’m hoping to fall in love with Johnny T. this time. And I’ll admit, when I first had to read about him, I was reading books like The Secret Life of the Underwear Champ and The Mad Scientist’s Club for pleasure. So a 256-page historical fiction novel, heavy-heavy-oh-so-very-heavy on description and adverbs, and labeled A Novel for Old & Young on its title page, had no chance of pleasing me.
So…here I go. I’m now approaching the end of page one.
And so, in a crooked little house at the head of Hancock’s Wharf on crowded Fish Street, Mrs. Lapham stood at the foot of a ladder leading to the attic where her father-in-law’s apprentices…I know! The page almost turns itself, doesn’t it?