This sample Laurie Halse Anderson Essay is published for informational purposes only. Free essays and research papers, are not written by our writers, they are contributed by users, so we are not responsible for the content of this free sample paper. If you want to buy a high quality essay at affordable price please use our custom essay writing service.
Laurie Halse Anderson writes books for children and young adults. She is noted for the wide range of her writings. Some are lighthearted folktales, such as Ndito Runs (1996) and the morality tales in her ”wild at Heart” series, while books such as Speak (1999) address issues of child abuse, rape, and violence. Her works typically feature female adolescent protagonists.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Combining Religion and Adventure
Laurie Halse Anderson was born in 1961 in Potsdam, New York, and was the daughter of a Methodist minister. Her early religious background, as well as her later conversion to Quakerism, a faith that emphasizes social and political pacifism, are often cited as moral influences on her works.
Anderson knew she wanted to be an author from a young age. As she once explained, after her second grade teacher introduced her to writing poetry, she ”spent hours and hours and hours reading every book in my school library. The books took me everywhere—ripping through time barriers, across cultures, experiencing all the magic an elementary school library can hold.” She traveled across cultures in her first published picture book, Ndito Runs (1996). The book follows a young Kenyan girl as she makes her lighthearted and cheerful journey from her home to her school. Ndito leaves her village and enters the countryside, imagining herself to be any number of animals and birds indigenous to the African savanna. As Hazel Rochman commented in a Booklist review of Ndito Runs, Anderson’s ”simple, poetic words … express Ndito’s exhilaration and her connection with nature and with people.”
After the success of Ndito Runs, Anderson published the humorous picture books Turkey Pox (1996) and No Time for Mother’s Day (1999). In The Big Cheese of Third Street (2002), Anderson explores the issue of body image by telling a story from the perspective of Benny Antonelli, a very small child in a neighborhood filled with tremendously large men, women, and older kids.
Shift in Audience
Moving to older readers in 1999, Anderson published her first young adult novel, Speak, and was nominated for two prestigious literary awards. The narrator of Speak is a high-school freshman named Melinda who has become nearly mute after being ostracized by her fellow students for calling 911 during a drinking party the previous summer. Although she can hardly bring herself to speak to her peers or teachers, Melinda’s written narrative is bursting with language that is angry, sardonic, frightened, sad, and sometimes even funny. A popular novel, Speak was also adapted as a television movie.
Following the success of Speak, Anderson developed an interest in historical settings for her novels, particularly her adopted hometown of Philadelphia. Her 2000 publication Fever 1793, also geared for teens, is a historical novel set during a yellow-fever epidemic that swept through Philadelphia during the period when it was still the capital of the United States. The disease is estimated to have killed approximately five thousand people, or one out of every ten Philadelphians, making it the worst yellow-fever epidemic to ever strike the United States. Like Speak, Fever 1793 features a first-person narrative of a fourteen-year-old girl living through a trauma. Here, Matilda reports with growing horror on her life running a coffeehouse with her widowed mother and grandfather as her community is struck by yellow fever, which kills thousands in a matter of a few months.
Recent and Current Works
Since the publications of Speak and Fever 1793, Anderson has published several novels lighter in tone. Prom (2005), for example, describes an ordinary teen named Ashley as she becomes drawn into her best friend’s plan to save their school’s senior prom. In Twisted (2007), nerdy Tyler goes from social outcast to local legend when he is caught spraying graffiti at school. Anderson has also published a ”Wild at Heart” series for elementary school readers.
Anderson, however, has not abandoned the historical novel nor her narratives of female protagonists who face trauma. Anderson once explained: ”Despite evidence to the contrary, I believe the world has an abundance of goodness. Not all children get to see this, sadly. I would like to think my books serve up some goodness—with hot fudge, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.”
Works in Literary Context
Mothers and Daughters
The majority of Anderson’s novels feature female protagonists, and often these protagonists explore their often conflicted relationships with their mothers. For example, Charity, in No Time for Mother’s Day, is puzzled by what to give her tremendously busy mother for Mother’s Day. Ultimately, it dawns on the girl that the best gift of all would be to turn off all the clocks and machines in the house, because these timekeepers seem to be the cause of her mom’s stress. Similarly, Catalyst (2002), a book directed toward a slightly older reader, follows the consequences of eighteen-year-old Kate’s decision to only apply to the college attended by her late mother. When she is rejected by the school, she must confront issues regarding her identity as an independent young woman.
The Importance of Women in History
Anderson often adopts historical settings for her novels; frequently she uses these past time periods to show that young women, though often overlooked in the formal historical record, played a large role in America’s formation. The picture book Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving (2002), for example, describes young Sarah Hale’s efforts to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday, and her appeals to President Abraham Lincoln. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote of the book that ”Anderson offers readers both an indomitable role model and a memorable, often hilarious glimpse into the historical development of this country’s common culture.” Even more recently, Anderson has tried to revise eighteenth-century American history; her Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls in the American Revolution (2008) tells the stories of women and girls who acted as spies, organized boycotts, even disguised themselves as men to enlist in the Revolution.
Works in Critical Context
Criticism of both Anderson’s children’s and young adult novels have been consistently positive, with reviewers frequently commenting on Anderson’s versatility of style. Noting the variety of genres in which Anderson works, critic Cynthia Leitich Smith wrote that the author is ”always taking chances—writing books that are very different from one another—and still hitting it out of the literary ballpark.” Anderson seems to garner the highest praise, however, when she addresses issues of trauma or executes a revision of women’s roles in American history.
Speak, a first-person narrative written in the voice of a young rape victim, was a Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book the first year the prize was awarded. ”An uncannily funny book even as it plumbs the darkness, Speak will hold readers from first word to last,” wrote a Horn Book contributor. Other reviewers focused on Anderson’s realistic depiction of adolescent life. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, the author ”uses keen observations and vivid imagery to pull readers into the head of an isolated teenager.”
- Burkam, Anita L. Review of Fever 1793. Horn Book September 2000.
- Bradburn, Frances. Review of Fever 1793. Booklist, October 1, 2000.
- Rochman, Hazel. Review of Ndito Runs. Booklist, March 15, 1996.
- Review of Speak. Horn Book, September 1999.
- Review of Speak. Publishers Weekly, September 13, 1999.
- Review of Thank You, Sarah. Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2002.
- Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Review of Prom. Retrieved September 18, 2008, from http://cynthialeitich smith.blogspot.com/2005/01/prom-by-laurie-halse-anderson.html.
Free essays are not written to satisfy your specific instructions. You can use our professional writing services to order a custom essay, research paper, or term paper on any topic and get your high quality paper at affordable price. UniversalEssays is the best choice for those who seek help in essay writing or research paper writing in any field of study.