So, my wonderful eleven year old student is reading S.E. Hinton's, The Outsiders. This is my second recent go round with this novel as one of my wonderful students last year also read it. Ponyboy Curtis. What a name. Brother of Sodapop Curtis. The three brothers are orphaned when novel opens but these names tell us so much about the kind of parents they had. It is a genius stroke of doing so much with so little.
I remember reading it the first time as a seventh grader and totally revising the list of names I wanted to name my future pets and children. You know how we keep those lists of names we like? For me it has expanded to pets, children and characters. I read The Outsiders and wanted wonderfully quirky names on the list. I am not sure that sense ever left me as I still have truly quirky names on the list.
Rereading it, it is a far more spare book than I remember from middle school. The language is just enough and the balance never tips. The reader wants to know these people. The story is utterly compelling but secondary to these brilliant characters. It is a deceptively difficult way to write. To conjure complicated, likable people out of empty air using very few words is a tricky business. And she was sixteen when she wrote it! Wonderful.