Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Asta in the Wings

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Asta in the Wings

by Jan Elizabeth Watson

Asta in the Wings by Jan Elizabeth Watson
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  • Paperback:
    Feb 2009, 314 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Vy Armour

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Title Trivia

Asta

In homage to her obsession with movies, Asta's mother has named her after the wire-haired terrier in a series of six comic-detective films inspired by Dashiell Hammett's last novel, The Thin Man. In the films, William Powell and Myrna Loy play Nick and Nora Charles, a witty couple who solve crimes, engage in snappy banter and imbibe numerous cocktails. The first movie (The Thin Man, 1934) was nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture. The low-budget MGM film was shot in fourteen days and earned over $2 million. Its sequel, After the Thin Man (1936), was the first sequel ever to be nominated for Best Picture.

In the Wings

When Asta and Orion accidentally fall through a broken floorboard, they land in a strange part of their house they have never seen before. It then becomes their passage and exit to the outside world. In that space, trying to make sense of where she is, Asta is reminded of her mother's words about the wings of the theatre, "That area neither on the stage nor away from it but somewhere in-between it... the knowledge that you must soon face your audience." In the theatre, wings are described as "the place where one waits to enter onto the stage", making it a symbolic term for Asta's entrance onto the stage of the real world, as she tumbles out of captivity into a snowy wonderland.

Point-of-View and Perspective

Asta in the Wings is told in the first person from the point of view of Asta as a seven year old, but from the perspective of the adult Asta. In her blog, Reading, Writing, Musing, children's author Sarah Miller discusses viewpoint and perspective.
(Dec. 16, 2008, About Kids vs. For Kids)

Point-of-view and Perspective are not synonymous. Point-of-view is about whose eyes you're looking through. Perspective is about taking those sights and making sense of them via the brain and the experiences behind the eyes that saw them. And that difference means you can write a picture book about an elderly woman that a six-year-old will enjoy, or a novel narrated by a six-year-old that appeals to adults. Which is why books like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Secret Life of Bees -- books told from a child's point-of-view with an adult perspective -- are stories about kids, not for kids.

About Kids vs. For Kids

To illustrate her point about books about children vs. books for children, Miller suggests:

Imagine an event from your childhood that makes for an interesting story or anecdote. Now imagine the different ways you might tell your story if you were:

1. a child telling another child
2. a child telling a teen
3. a child telling an adult

4. a teen telling a child
5. a teen telling another teen
6. a teen telling an adult

7. an adult telling a child
8. an adult telling a teen
9. an adult telling another adult

Which parts of your story would you accentuate, and which parts would you gloss over, depending on who you are and to whom you're speaking? How might elements like length, structure, vocabulary, tone, style, and focus change depending on your audience?

sarahmillerbooks.com

Article by Vy Armour

This article is from the February 19, 2009 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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