Bloomers At Large / Features / Uncategorized

BLOOMERS AT LARGE: The Kid in Us

Occasionally, we all have to get in touch with our inner child. This has certainly never been a difficult task for Karen Cushman, a Newbery Medal-winning bloomer who began writing children’s novels at age 53. Before becoming a prolific and beloved writer of children’s historical fiction, winning awards for novels like Catherine Called Birdy and Midwife’s Apprentice, Cushman taught in the Museum Studies department at John F. Kennedy University. Cushman’s highly anticipated Grayling’s Song came out this month and, notably, it is her first foray into the world of fantasy. Lena Dunham notes, “Like all of Karen Cushman’s gorgeous novels, Grayling’s Song delves into the past to let us know what we must ask of our future. I want Cushman’s books to raise my children for me: that way I can be assured they’ll grow up witty, vastly knowledgeable, and tough as nails.” After reading the excerpt on Cushman’s site, we can’t wait to pick up our copy. Read it for yourselves here!

To celebrate her arrival into the realm of witches and the occult, Cushman has spent the weeks leading up to the novel’s release using her blog as a platform to celebrate and interview some of her own favorite fantasy novelists, bringing some much-deserved love and attention to other bloomers like Avi, Susan Fletcher, and Susan Cooper.

The world of children’s literature has long been occupied by many esteemed bloomers. We’d previously featured Cushman on our list of “Five Children’s Literature Authors” along with Dick King Smith, Lucy M. Boston, Christopher Paul Curtis, and Sharon Creech. This month, the Center for Fiction’s Elizabeth Marro included beloved children’s author Richard Adams in her list of “Five Over Fifty.” Adams, most famous for his debut novel, Watership Down, had had his manuscript rejected by four publishers and three agencies before Rex Collings finally accepted it. Adams was 54 when the novel was published. Marro’s list also names Harriet Doerr, Annie Proulx, Abigail Thomas, and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney as writers who made their literary debuts after 50 (we’ve featured Doerr, Proulx, and Thomas all here at Bloom). You can check out Marro’s list here.

Kate DiCamillo, a relatively late bloomer who gained recognition at age 36 for the widely-acclaimed children’s novel Because of Winn Dixie (widely known for its film adaptation starring Jeff Daniels and AnnaSophia Robb, has published her latest novel, Raymie Nightingale. The novel dives into a world full of family strife and children’s beauty pageants, as young Raymie Clarke attempts to win back her estranged father’s love by winning the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. Along the way, she finds friendship and, ultimately, a very grown-up kind of catharsis. The Washington Post calls the novel “a fairy tale for our times,” noting that much of DiCamillo’s magic stems from her ability to find a childlike wonder in the seemingly banal, tiny heartbreaks of everyday life.

So often, it is only after growing up and reflecting on the troubles from youth that one can truly appreciate its beauty. Filmmaker Beth B explores her childhood, adolescence, and her complicated relationship to her mother, artist Ida Applebroog, in her new documentary film Call Her Applebroog. You can read Lisa Peet’s feature on the film here. Similarly, Lynne Kutsukake, a third-generation Japanese Canadian, draws upon her parents’ experiences and hardships in internment camps during World War II in her new novel, Translation of Love—the story of Aya Shimamura, a “repat girl” whose family returns to Japan after the war. You can read Terry Hong‘s Q&A with Kutsukake here.

In other news, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Shipping News, Annie Proulx, recently released her latest novel, Barkskins. Much like Kate DiCamillo, who turns the everyday into something fantastical, Annie Proulx—who published her first book Heart Songs at age 53—has always been known for taking a setting like a grimy dive bar or a dusty ranch and turning it into something haunting and almost mystical. Her latest novel begins in the Canadian wilderness before traveling across North America, Europe, China, and New Zealand in what Dwight Garner of the New York Times calls “an epic tale of logging and doom” that spans three generations.

While so many of us were inside reading, James Murphy of LCD Soundsytem fame has been making headlines this month for his band’s standout performance at Bonnaroo. In the midst of an indie music scene dominated by twentysomethings, Murphy released his first album at 35. Since then, LCD Soundsystem, Murphy’s electro-rock band from Brooklyn, has played major music festivals such as Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Coachella. Meanwhile, Ang Lee, acclaimed director of Life of Pi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the 2002 film adaption of Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain”, was receiving the Filmmaker on the Edge Award at the Provincetown Film Festival. Lee was 38 when his first film, Pushing Hands, came out, but was 40 before he got his big break with The Wedding Banquet.

Finally, in the spirit of Karen Cushman, we’d like to wrap up by remembering and celebrating one of our favorite bloomers to explore the world of monsters and magic, Bram Stoker. The theme music from Francis Ford Coppola’s celebrated 1992 adaption of Stoker’s Dracula is almost a masterpiece in itself, chilling and instantly recognizable in just the first few seconds. This month, Youtuber 331ERock released a heavy-metal cover of the famous theme. In honor of Stoker, give it a listen here and try not to hurt yourself head banging!

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Homepage photo credit: Marlene Lacasse via flickr (licensed)

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