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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Myths, monsters and heroes, oh my!



    One look at the master schedule for the Tucson Festival of Books is enough to overwhelm anyone: There are dozens of panels, Q&A sessions and informative talks of all sorts. On Sunday, there will also be myths, monsters and heroes.

    “Percy Jackson, Jaguar Stones and Islands: Myths, Monsters and Heroes” is one of a handful of panels catered towards the younger portion of the festival audience. The panel features Austin Aslan, John Rocco and Jon and Pamela Voelkel, all of whom are involved in creating middle-age or young-adult level fantasy novels.  

    Aslan is the author of the “Islands at the End of the World” series, in which an epileptic Hawaiian girl is faced with the end of the world. After the world’s technology collapses and Hawaii is cut off from the rest of society, 16-year-old Leilani and her father must fight to survive the journey back to the rest of their family. The first novel in the series was Aslan’s first, and it as well as the sequel have received praise from readers and critics alike.

    Rocco makes a living as an artist and book illustrator. As well as creating the artwork in an assortment of children’s picture books and middle-grade novels, Rocco is also the illustrator for the outrageously popular Rick Riordan and his “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” “Kane Chronicles” and “Heroes of Olympus” series.  He has also written and illustrated several children’s books of his own and received the Caldecott Honor for the picture book “Blackout.”

    Jon and Pamela Voelkel are co-authors of the middle-grade series, “The Jaguar Stones.” The series follows 14-year-old Max in his search for his archeologist parents who went missing while on a dig in Central America. Throughout the four-book series, he goes on incredible adventures and encounters friends, foes and Mayan myths aplenty.  

    Jon and Pamela Voelkel began writing the series over 10 years ago after being inspired by Mayan mythology.  

    “Essentially what we’re trying to do is bring alive Mayan mythology in a kind of modern context,” Jon Voelkel said. “There is a Mayan story, the creation myth of the Maya, about these hero twins that battle the lords of death, … and we’re loosely being inspired by that.”

    The final installment of the series was published just a month ago, so Jon and Pamela Voelkel are looking forward to seeing what their fans at the festival have to say. Jon Voelkel explained that he enjoys writing for the middle-grade audience. The main difference between a middle-grade novel and a young adult novel is certain kinds of content that is included — the plot could be the same but told in a slightly different way depending on the age of the reader.  

    Jon Voelkel said that he and Pamela strived to make “The Jaguar Stones” a series that could apply to younger readers as well as adults. He said that he believes some of the best writing today is done in the young-adult and middle-grade areas because of the necessity for authors to keep their novels interesting.

    “When you’re appealing to young readers, you have to keep them reading,” Jon Voelkel said. “I think there’s a sharpness of craft that is necessary to appeal to a middle-grade audience, and that makes for a really good book.”

    Aslan, Rocco and the Voelkels will be discussing their work in the young-adult and middle-grade areas of fantasy writing in a hour long Q&A panel in the Education building in Room 351 on Sunday at 10 a.m. After the panel, the authors and illustrator will have a signing area set up for their fans. The speakers will be involved in multiple panels throughout the weekend, and an entire schedule can be found online at the festival’s official website.


    Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter.

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