Given my deep and abiding love for M.T. Anderson’s writing, it’s no surprise that his contribution to SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books is my favorite so far.  In his round, he was forced to choose between Deborah Heiligman’s Charles and EmmaThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and Jacqueline Kelly’s .  For the record, I called the match accurately on my bracket, going with my head over my heart.  Whee!  But that takes a back seat to watching a master at work discussing these two fabulous books.  If you’re not already following the Battle of the Books, it’s not too late!  Tuesday is the last match of Round 2, with Round 3 and the Big Kahuna Round left (plus the winner of the undead poll!  My choice is still in the running, but nothing is guaranteed.)

Things that I particularly enjoyed about Anderson’s commentary:

  • Darwin vs. Darwin, or as he puts it: “I’m forced to compare apples to apples: two books about scientific investigation, Darwinism, and large families, both with yellow foolscap covers ornamented with Victorian silhouettes.”  Two books that are, “if not the same species, then at least, er, a case of convergent evolution resulting in paired traits appearing in separate clades.”  What he said.
  • The idea of an Octavian Nothing-shaped topiary.  There should be a whole children’s literature-inspired topiary garden somewhere in the world.
  • He nails what I loved about Calpurnia (as well as what’s potentially problematic – the episodic nature and lack of tension).  I’d forgotten the line about “pitching woo,” a phrase I always associate with Anne (of Green Gables, of course) being outraged at the idea of “pitching and mooning.”
  • The spoiler warnings.  “*** SPOILER *** Charles Darwin died *** END SPOILER AND BOY ARE YOU SORRY YOU MISSED IT ***”
  • His comments on the Darwins’ many children: “After eight pregnancies, I lost track, and started to develop a wearying sense that no sooner did Emma D. stumble out of the borning-room, a new babe delivered into its swaddling clothes, than her husband was lurking in the corridor, crooking a come-hither finger and whispering about the origin of the species.”  Like all great writers, Anderson does that thing of putting into words exactly what you were feeling, but much more articulately.  See, I feel inarticulate just trying to compose that sentence.

Oh, just go read the thing already.  And while you’re at it, don’t miss my other favorite “can’t wait to check in on it every day” event – Fuse #8’s Top 100 Children’s Novels Poll, which is down to #11.