November 16, 2011
London is one of those cities that will always be particularly meaningful in my life. It's where my parents met and lived for two years before I was born; it's where my dad first immigrated from Pakistan and made his home for more than fifteen years; it's where I spent a memorable summer working various random jobs between my junior and senior year of college. It's where I learned how to mix a gin and tonic, where I got hit on by a Scottish soccer hooligan, where I ran gleefully through a hedge maze and rode my first subway. It was the first overseas place I ever visited, as a baby and then as a four-year-old toddling around after my parents; again as a sullen thirteen-year-old, with my mother. It's a place where I have friends, where I have extended family, where I feel like I have invisible roots, however tenuous.
reviewed on this blog in the past: Un Lun Dun by China Miéville. In this book for younger YA/older MG audiences, twelve-year-old Zanna and her best friend Deeba accidentally stumble upon a secret entrance to UnLondon, a fantastical alternate version of the city they know and inhabit: "UnLondon is full of quirky magic, sly humor, and engaging, imaginative personages from the outlandish to the silly--reanimated rubbish that has seeped across the barrier from London, giant flies manned by crews of air-pirates, people with pincushions or diving helmets or occupied birdcages for heads." (from my earlier review) And, one of the things that I loved most about this book was not just that one of the main characters, Deeba, is South Asian, but also that she ends up being the sidekick who steals the show and has to save the day. Readers who've grown up with Wonderland and the Phantom Tollbooth, with Roald Dahl's zany scenarios, are sure to enjoy this one.
Books like these end up adding another wonderful layer of story to a place that is already alive and bristling with centuries upon centuries of history and tales. For me, they enrich and inform the way I think about London, the way I experience it each time I'm fortunate enough to find myself there.
Fantastical Past Londons: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, Black Book of Secrets by F.E. Higgins (the first two are written for adult readers, but would be fine for older YA)
Imagined Future Londons: Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Also, be sure to check out Jackie's post at Interactive Reader on historical London as well as Tanita's post on Terry Pratchett's truly zany city of Ankh-Morpork. The full One Shot schedule is available and updated throughout the day at Chasing Ray.