Friday, August 13, 2010

Literary Touchstones

In Cynthia Lord's Touch Blue, Tess’s hope that Aaron, her new foster brother, will be more like Anne of Green Gables and less like the Great Gilly Hopkins got me thinking about other characters who make literary references.

This is one of those moments when I wish I were sitting at a table with three or four other book-lovers to come up with more. I know there are more. The example that leaped to mind, of course, was Mira in When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and her many references to Meg in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. And, though it’s slightly different because Jack becomes fascinated with Walter Dean Myers as an author rather than one particular character in his work, I do love how Miss Stretchberry starts Jack on his way in Love that Dog by Sharon Creech, with examples of various poets, and then he finds Myers’ work and mines the author’s books himself. In John Green’s Paper Towns, Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass holds clues that are key to the mystery of Margo’s whereabouts, but that’s (obviously) not a children’s book.

I know there are more. Can you think of other books whose characters make literary references to sum up their situation? We’ll have a virtual round-table discussion.


  1. Wednesday Wars is full of Shakespearean references with a bit of Treasure Island thrown in. Wish I could remember more! This is a great idea. I'll follow comments to continue the discussion.

  2. Doesn't the recent book Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskin, refer often to Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird? I loved Mockingbird.

    A book that I loved from my childhood was The Rising of the Lark, by Ann Moray. In it the main character reads and loves Welsh folk tales and poetry and there are many quotes, although I was never clear what they were from.

    And in at least one of the Edgar Eager books, (is it Knight's Castle?), the children refer to Ivanhoe. It made me want to read Ivanhoe, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

    Another suggestion is Mike's House, by Julia Sauer and Don Freeman, in which a little boy loves Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. He refers to the library as Mike's House.

    It is fun to read books that reference books. It makes me want to read them all. A favorite adult book is 84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff.


  3. Thanks Caroline and Sallie! These are great additions to the list of characters who reference other fictional characters. I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't know MIKE'S HOUSE, but I'm going to have to get hold of a copy through my nearby branch of the NY Public Library. MOCKINGJAY occupied most of my brain this week, but I'll keep thinking about other titles in this genre, too.