Thursday, December 10, 2009

Appreciating the Stepmonster!

I love reading about those great step-parents or guardians in books, because stepmonsters have a bit of a bad reputation in the history of fiction. Like in fairy tales. Step-parents are always trying to kill you or brainwash your dad (hey, maybe it's just stepmothers who have a bad rep?).

What I love to read is a book with a lovable stepmonster who shows that you can build a family, not just be born into one. It makes my heart melt. So here are some of my favourite " steps" and guardians that I can think of reading lately:

King Dork by Frank Portman is a hilarious book and one I totally recommend. Although weaker in the lady-character development, Tom's stepdad "Little Big Tom" is awesome:

He means well. He likes to walk around making little helpful comments.
"Now, don't fill up on milk," he'll say if he thinks someone is drinking too much milk. Or he'll say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the homework hour!" if he thinks there's not enough homework going on at any given time. "Let's put some light on the subject," he always says whenever he turns on a light.

Or, my absolute favourite:

He likes to say "rock and roll" all the time, but what he usually means by it is "way to go!" or "let's get this show on the road!" or "this is a fantastic vegetarian sausage!" Like, he figures out how to set the clock on the VCR and he'll say "rock and roll!" Or he'll say "rock and roll!" when everyone finally gets in the car after he's been waiting for a while.
Sometimes he'll even say it quietly and sarcastically when something goes wrong. Once he knocked over my mom's art supply shelf. He bent down to pick everything up, whispered "Rock and roll," and sighed deeply.

Big Little Tom is my favourite part of King Dork, and my co-worker Dave and I said "Rock and roll!" for months after reading the book. Actually, I think it's due time to bring that little gem back into our daily usage.

Another favourite guardian from a book is Butler from The Secret Ministry of Frost. I just reviewed this book, which I truly enjoyed, and I keep thinking "what is Butler doing RIGHT now?", like he lives and breathes. Butler is cool because he is tender with Light, looking after her while her father explores the Arctic, then goes missing. Later in the book you find out there is a deeper reason for his loyalty, and he has a mysterious past of his own, but he truly loves Light and follows her on a seemingly hopeless mission.

He sends her pneumatic tube messages to wake her up in the mornings, like this one on the day of her dad's funeral:

Good morning. You'll get through this. Love, Butler.

And I also love Heidi from Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. She's her father's new younger wife and Auden is staying with them for the summer. At first Auden can't stand Heidi because she's so different than her mother, but soon Heidi's character really develops and she became one of my favourite Dessen secondary characters. At first she came across as afraid to ask for what she needed from her husband (she has just had a baby with him and he's not helping), but then she takes a turn and comes into her own. She's a girly-girl but also very loving with her new family, and she really looks after Auden, who's father is distant and self-absorbed. Heidi seems to know exactly what's needed in an emotional situation, and the book needed a character like her.

So these are some of my favourites, who are yours? Next time I'd love to do totally horrible step-parents and guardians in books, like Lyra's mother from His Dark Materials!



Tales of Whimsy said...

Great review. And you are SO right. Stepparents get the worst raps in books.

yuan said...

So true. Hmm, thing is, I sincerely can't thing of a single stepparent I liked... I *can* think of a Stepsister I liked though! The blond girl in Gayle Friesen's Losing Forever. It's been ages since I read it but I remember liking her. She wasn't nice or anything, but she was smart and bright and a smidge insecure, and I really wish Friesen wrote a story with her as the main character someday.

Nina said...

Loved reading this post. It's so true, you are right, stepparents always bad in books or even movies. :)

motocross clothing said...

okay well my mom died when i was young. my dad has dated other women but he never liked them. im 19 now and he says he wants to marry this lady named anna. and i know this is childish but i dont want him to. she acts different with me around my dad and me and her alone. she acts like she really wants to be mom when its me her and my dad but when its me and her its different. shes more protective of my dad. shes not mean or anything though. what should i do? should i leave them alone or do something about it? HELP!!


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