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Bo at Iditarod Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill
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Children's fantasy that isn't British
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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 02) It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 09) It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 16) It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 23) It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 30)

Road Essays
Mapping Labyrinth (1986)
The Monster in the middle

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The monster in the middle: 04/20/18

The monster in the middle

Dan in The Way to Bea insists he prefers labyrinths (meaning the spiral mediation paths) to mazes (rectilinear paths with blind alleys) because they "don't have a monster in the middle." In revisiting my notes and saved quotes from Kat Yeh's middle grade novel, I've been thinking a lot about the monster in the middle.

For The Way to Bea there is no literal monster in the middle but there is a metaphorical one, namely the social anxiety both Dan and Bea feel. They are their own monsters. Without routine and a clearly marked path, their fears and sense of disorientation is their worst enemy.

Since then, I've been rethinking my crossing the cornfield and labyrinth road narratives now in terms of who or what the monster in the middle is. I've come to realize the monster can be literal (M, for instance, who is literally the Minotaur) or metaphorical (such as Dan and Bea's monsters). It can be a protagonist or an antagonist. Not all monsters are the bad guys.

I've plotted some of the crossing the cornfield / labyrinth road narratives now against two axes: one that goes from literal to metaphorical and the other that goes from antagonist to protagonist. The intercept of the two at zero would be the big gray area where it's hard to tell who the monster is. The closest one to that intersection is the main character from All Our Wrong Todays.

alignment of the monster in the middle

Having multiple ways of looking at road narratives that at first glance appear incredibly different helps to map their shared landscape. This alignment graph accounts for the "reluctant scarecrow" and the minotaur, the warden, the orphan, and any other sorts of characters one might find in a road narrative.

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