by Anne E. Johnson, author of Ebenezer's Locker,
paranormal mystery novel for tweens coming from MuseItUp in June, 2012
"Rhonda Zymler, will you please take your seat?"
This sort of warning comes at sixth-grader Rhonda many times during my novel Ebenezer's Locker. Rhonda always seems to be teetering on the edge of trouble, and often lands squarely in it. As I've been preparing this book for publication, I've been thinking about the appeal of trouble-maker characters.
There is something appealing about trouble-makers in fiction that is quite different from dealing with them in real life. As a teacher, I expect discipline, respect, and hard work from my students. But as an author, I am very happy to let my student-age characters disrupt the classroom and question authority.
A classic example of lovable hellions in children's literature is Pippi Longstocking. In Astrid Lindgren's enchanting books, the main character is the ultimate iconoclast. She simply can't behave the way people expect her to. She's not mean-spirited, just free-thinking. Adults in the story are appalled or baffled, but readers of all ages are completely charmed.
And it's significant that Pippi Longstocking is a girl. Boys who misbehave (like Huck Finn) are considered normal, but even today, rambunctiously clever girls are an exceptional breed.
Maybe that's why I made Rhonda Zymler into a trouble-maker. I was a perfectly-behaved child, and I think part of me longed to be Pippi Longstocking.