Thursday, August 21, 2008

Off With Their Heads

It all started with the Headless Horseman.

Since Washington Irving introduced that immortal character in his classic 1820 story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," literary heads have been popping off hither and yon.

Even children's books haven't been immune. Who can forget THE MAN WHO LOST HIS HEAD, written by Clare Huchet Bishop and memorably illustrated by Robert McCloskey? Then there's Carolyn Sherwin Bailey's MISS HICKORY, who lost her head but won the Newbery in 1947. A few decades later Zilpha Keatley Snyder got a Newbery Honor for THE HEADLESS CUPID. The Harry Potter series features the character "Nearly Headless Nick" and the heads just keep onnnnnn rolling. In fact, these days it appears that every other character in children's fiction is headless -- and I'm not even counting Kathryn Lasky's entry in the "Royal Diaries" series about Marie Antoinette.

Don't believe me?

Just go to any library or bookstore and look at their display of recent kids' books. In fact, since gas is so expensive these days, I'll save you a trip to the library and provide a few examples here:

FIRST BOY is the profound story
of a young man who may have
lost his head, but refuses to
lose his spirit. Every morning this plucky
kid puts on his tie and overalls (in
addition to lacking a head, he also lacks
fashion sense) and goes off to school.
Nothing is going to stop him from learning
and getting a head in life!

Pity the poor heroine of HOW TO
RUIN A SUMMER VACATION. Waiting till the
last minute to pack, she forgets to take
her head along on what was supposed
to be a "fun in the sun" vacation.
(How many times did her mother warn
her, "You'd forget your head if it wasn't
attached"? Why oh why didn't she listen
to Mom?) A great book for mindless beach

Another entry in the ever-increasing
"headless chicklit" genre, this young adult
novel concerns a scatter-brained teen who,
some time between having an afterschool latte at
Starbucks and coming home to IM her BFF, discovers that her head is missing! Enlisting the help of the hunky "surfer next door," the protagonist goes off on a scavenger hunt and learns that "sometimes you have to lose your head to find true love."

The thing about Georgie...
is that he has no head!
Family and friends try to humor
the oblivious protagonist
("Yes, it's a lovely hat,"
said Mom, "but wouldn't it look
better had a head?")
Finally, a family crisis makes
Georgie realize he must grow up
and "face" the future.

Karlene may be at the head of her
class, but how will a headless girl fare at the annual county spelling bee? The
feisty heroine dons her late Grandpa Joe's pair of cowboy boots, wowing the judges with her sense of style and spelling her way to s-u-c-c-e-s-s, as she learns that anything is possible if you've got pluck, sass, spirit, and the ability to

The teenage years are never
easy...particularly if you lack anything above the neck. The hero of this powerful novel learns it's a lonely world for the headless, yet if you look around, listen to others, and speak up for yourself (if only you COULD look around, listen to others, and speak up for yourself) you will succeed. ...Though it may require the patience of a saint!

At last! A romance novel
about the headless!
In this engaging love story
two teens learn that having
a head isn't all it's cracked
up to be. Not when you've got
each other! "Watch what happens"
when these two fall head over
heels in love!

A group of teenagers converge
on a small Tennesse town to rebuild a house that was destroyed in a tornado. By the time the summer is over, the house will be completely built -- but several of the young adults will have lost their heads. This novel is a testament to the importance of volunteer work...and the dangers of untrained teens using power tools.

A little girl guides her headless
father through a day of fun! This touching book will evoke both smiles and tears as young Trixie learns, "My daddy may not have a head, but at least he has a hand to hold." A family classic to be shared again and again!

He will do anything to win the swim
meet. ANYTHING. He'll get up at six a.m.
He'll swim laps for hours. He'll wear an aerodynamic swim leotard. Anything...anything to be "Quicker, lighter, faster." But what if the only way to increase his speed and lower his body weight is to surgically remove his head? Will he make the ultimate sacrifice? And how does one shout "Stotan!" without a head?


Kelly said...

Hah! Too funny, and too true :)

Anonymous said...

Peter, thank you for this hilarious post. The headless wonders have been driving me nuts for years now. For a time I collected them, but there were too many to keep track of. I'd love to hear from a publisher or two about this: why do they think such covers sell books?

leda schubert

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the publishers want readers to form their own picture of what the characters look like?

Stasia said...

Awesome and hilarious post. And a very interesting question to boot!