Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Part 2 of discussing There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom by Louis Sachar:

In addition to creating a lovable bad boy, Sachar uses a unique technique in this book.

He adds a wonderful layer to the main character of Bradley Chalkers by having him live in a fantasy world with his collection of toy animals.

First of all, this fantasy relationship between Bradley and his animals is so dang sweet you just HAVE to root for Bradley, no matter how often he lies or otherwise engages in naughty behavior.

How can you NOT love this kid?

But what I love most about the way Sachar uses this device is the way he does it - by literally switching from realistic fiction mode into fantasy mode - just as smooth as smooth can be.

He was talking to his collection of little animals. He had about twenty of them. There was a brass lion that he had found one day in a garbage can on the way to school. There was an ivory donkey that his parents had brought back from a trip to Mexico. There were two owls that were once used as salt and pepper shakers, a glass unicorn with its horn broken, a family of cocker spaniels, attached around an ashtray, a raccoon, a fox, an elephant, a kangaroo, and some that were so chipped and broken you couldn't tell what they were. And they were all friends.

And they all liked Bradley.
[Note: Can Sachar write a powerful sentence, or what??!!]

"Where's Ronnie?" Bradley asked. "And Bartholomew?"

"I don't know," said the fox.

"They're always going off together," said the kangaroo.

Bradley leaned across the bed and reached under his pillow. He pulled out Ronnie the Rabbit and Bartholomew the Bear....
"What were you two doing back there?" he demanded.

Ronnie giggled. She was a little red rabbit with tiny blue eyes glued on her face...

"Nothing, Bradley," she said. "I was just taking a walk."
I love this! It takes the reader right into Bradley's fantasy world and it's just so much fun.

Oh, and remember that language test he cut up into a gazillion little pieces earlier in the story?

Bradley reached into his pocket and took out a handful of cut-up bits of paper, his language test.

"Look, everybody," he said. "I brought you some food!"

He dropped the bits of paper onto the bed, then scooped all his animals into it.

"Not so fast," he said. "There's plenty for everybody."

"Thank you, Bradley," said Ronnie. "It's delicious."

"Don't play with your food," the mother cocker spaniel told her three children.

"Pass the salt," said the pepper owl.

"Pass the pepper," said the salt owl.

"Let's hear it for Bradley!" called the lion.

They all cheered, "Yay, Bradley!"

Ronnie finished eating, then hopped off by herself, singing, "doo de-doo de-doo."

Then she said, "I think I'll go swimming in the pond."

The pond was a purple stain on Bradley's bedspread where he had once spilled grape juice.

And so it goes - Sachar using this fantasy world to help the reader love Bradley.

And it totally works.

And then.... when Bradley's sister barges into his room while he's chatting with his animals:

"Get out of here!" he snapped at her. "Or I'll punch your face in!"

I love that kid.

What's my tip here, you might be wondering?

My tip is:

Don't be afraid to try something new. Wanna intersperse some fantasy with some reality? Wanna take us inside your main character's world, even if it means leaving your realistic setting?

Break a rule or two.

Go ahead.

Try it.

I dare you.

Quoted from There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom by Louis Sachar; Alfred Knopf; 1987

1 comment:

Wild About Words said...


I've LOVED Louis Sachar's books long before HOLES was published. You're right. His characters feel so real and imperfect and perfectly lovable. You can't help but follow them and cheer for them. Our son must have read SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL a dozen times.

Thanks for these two posts -- wonderful reminders about good writing and a darned good author.

All best,