Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Showcase: White Pine by Caroline Akervik

"Whtie Pine" by Caroline Akervik

After Sevy Anderson's father breaks his leg in a sawmill accident, the fourteen-year-old must take his place with the rough and tumble lumberjacks and river rats who harvest the white pine forests of Wisconsin. The men of the Northwoods live hard and on the edge, and Sevy must prove his courage and his worth in the company of legends. 

Will he become the man he so longs to be? 
Will the other men ever accept him? 
And will he even survive his first winter in the Northwoods?

Caroline Akervik

Caroline Akervik has been an avid reader since the fourth grade when a nun named Sister Dorothy introduced her to the magical world of Narnia. Caroline read anything and everything and was a particular fan of Marguerite Henry's horse stories and, especially, of King of the Wind.
Most of her early adulthood was spent as a professional horsewoman. She competed through the Grand Prix level of Dressage and worked with and trained many horses. Then, Caroline was blessed with a wonderful husband and three incredible children. Spending time with her own children motivated her to return to school to become a library/media specialist.
Now, Caroline shares her love of story and of the magic and power of words with the children she teaches. In her own work, Caroline seeks to write from the heart and to transport her readers and give wings to their imaginations. Caroline writes for young people, but agrees with C.S. Lewis that "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."

Books for boys?

                Disclaimer: Please note that the general terms that I use, “books for boys” and “books for girls,” are simply that, generalizations. Many boys read and savor books which may have been targeted at a female audience and vice versa.

Several summers ago, I went with my children to the local public library. Upon arrival, I took my younger two to the children’s area, and sent my eldest, a thirteen-year-old boy to the YA section on the second floor. Not even ten minutes later, he returned with empty hands.

“You were supposed to find a book or books,” I reminded him.

He shook his head. “There’s nothing good up there. Just books for girls, vampires and werewolves, and Hunger Games stuff.”

“No, of course there are books for boys,” I argued. I herded my little crew upstairs where my eleven-year-old daughter proceeded to find abundant reading materials, but my son was far less successful.

“See what I mean?” He said.

Now, I did find the usual boy fare, including the Garys, Paulsen and Schmidt, as well as Harry Mazar and the wonderful new “I Survived” series, but the bottom line was that there were many more books that targeted girls. Of course, there is always Harry Potter. But some boys and girls aren’t fantasy readers.

Fast forward a few months. I had recently completed a manuscript entitled White Pine. It was a lumberjack story, an historical fiction, set in the Midwest in the 1880s in Wisconsin. It was intended for a boy audience, or for any middle grade readers who enjoy action and adventure. It included a touch of romance, as well. I submitted the book to several publishers. I waited several weeks and then got the same response several times. I will paraphrase: “While we like your writing and the story, we do not believe that there is a market for this sort of book.” This “sort of book” meant a boy book.

At first, I was angry, and then frustrated. So, I put the book away and started to work on some other ideas. I tried to forget about White Pine. But it nagged at my mind. I thought it was a story that deserved to be told. I like the main character, Sevy Andersen. He had spunk. In addition, it annoyed me that a book intended for boys was viewed as not having a marketable audience.

I work as an elementary school librarian. At a meeting, I was chatting with another librarian, Sharon B., who is an avid reader and an inspiration as a librarian. We got to talking about books for boys. and noted that some children, boys and girls, prefer nonfiction. We discussed how historical fiction can be a good “hook” for reluctant readers. Then, somehow, I ended up telling Sharon about White Pine. She offered to read it and share her thoughts.

Sharon got back to me shortly thereafter. She loved the story and told me not to lose heart, that I ought to “give it a chance” and resubmit it to publishers. I did so with a cover letter explaining why I believe that there must a body of literature targeting boys. Then, Fire and Ice, a YA imprint of Melange Books ( ), decided to take the risk and ended up offering me a contract for White Pine.

As a writer and as a parent of two sons and a daughter, I believe that we cannot forget about the boys. Some may be harder to engage and capture as readers, but think about the possible consequences if we fail to get them to read. At the end of every school year, I remind my students of the importance of reading. I tell them that the “number one predictor of college success is whether a student is a reader.” Frankly, it frightens me that the publishing industry, which I understand is driven by the need to make money, has seemingly decided to emphasize books for girls over books for boys. It should not be an either or decision. School librarians believe that is there is a “book for every student.” It is our job to connect that student with the “right” book for him or her. That is why is absolutely critical that there are books for all tastes.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that when I was a girl of young teenager-hood years, I read and enjoyed many books that were more targeted for boys. I read my father's set of the old Hardy Boy books-which I much preferred over Nancy Drew, I read the Black Stallion books, many times. One of my favorites was a book called 'Mystery Island', or really, The Island of Adventure- by Enid Blyton. It's very sad that boys don't read these books anymore. Like Caroline I felt driven to write a book for YA boys, and just the same Fire and Ice YA offered me a contract. Great publishers! I'm going to buy 'White Pine', myself, and read it with eagerness! Thanks Mrs. Mommy Booknerd!


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