Who wasn’t wanted to create a new word—especially after reading Andrew Clements’s novel Frindle? If you’re not familiar with the book, here’s the concept: a boy decides to try to create a new word for a familiar object, mostly just to annoy his teacher (although it goes deeper than that by the end of the book). He enlists his friends in an effort to get everyone in his town to call pens (the ubiquitous ballpoint) frindles. And it works. Simply by force of effort—always asking for frindles at the office supply store, for example—he gets his whole town using a new word.
One reason this middle-grade novel is so appealing is that is seems, just possibly, plausible. Really, couldn’t any kid turn a lowly pen into a frindle? Recently, I went out on a limb with my own creation: the localire.
What’s a localire? Well, if a locavore is someone who tries to eat foods produced in the local area, then a localire is someone who tries to read locally written books. (Lire, from French, looked way better than leer, from Spanish…And I don’t know Latin.)
The last few years have been great for YA and middle grade books written in my area—the Minnesota-Wisconsin nexus. I wanted to share the news at my middle school library. So during recent visits with seventh and eighth graders, I talked first about frindles. Then I moved on to locavores. (After all, it was the 2007 Oxford University Press Word of the Year, having been coined by four women in the San Francisco Bay area two years prior.) From locavores it was an easy jump to localires.
And then all I had to do was pull out some recent titles:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Western Wisconsin)
Bluefish by Pat Schmatz (Central Wisconsin, but Minneapolis before that)
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell (suburbs)
Unforgettable by Loretta Ellsworth (suburbs)
The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman (living “bi-coastally” in Wisconsin and Minnesota)
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (Minneapolis)
Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor (suburbs)
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (Minneapolis)
The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt (St. Paul)
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus (Duluth)
El Lector by William Durbin (Boundary Waters Canoe Area)
If I’d spread my localire radius into Iowa, I could have brought out True (…sort of) by Katherine Hannigan. You get the idea.
A person in the Minnesota-Western Wisconsin area could be a localire, reading locally written fiction for years, and never be intellectually malnourished. Yum!