I don't remember reading about the death of Paul Zindel (1936-2003), a writer who--during the earlier years of my middle-school teaching career--was once ubiquitous. I can still see kids carrying around ragged copies of The Pigman and My Darling, My Hamburger and other titles he so artfully wrote for the YA audience. (Link to Zindel website for all books.)
So what got me thinking about him now?
Some of you know that we're cataloging and selling our library online (at ABE--we're D. J. Doodlebug Books, LLC), and the other day Joyce pulled off the shelf Zindel's 1970 play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. Paul Newman later directed a 1972 film of the play. The entire film is on YouTube now (link).
In my old copy (1973) my name is in the front, but it bears none of my usual marks--though I know I read it. But what fell out of the book when Joyce started to catalog it was a 3x5 card (see below), the sort of card I stuck in a lot of paperback books I kept in my classroom, books that kids could sign out. This one went to a student in March 1974.
I liked reading Zindel myself--I admired what he was doing: giving young readers various looks at how fiction can be done. In The Pigman, for example, he has two narrators, teens (a boy, a girl) who take turns telling the story--commenting on each other's version, eventually arriving at some kind of truth.
Each of his novels showed us something different--helping young readers see there are so many ways to tell a story. I think Zindel had a great influence on YA writers who followed him.
As I said, I'd not really noticed his obituary--here's the one from the New York Times (link). Cancer got him.
I just checked my file drawers and found only a thin folder devoted to Zindel. Inside: an overhead projector transparency I'd made of this drawing from The Pigman ...
Also--some handwritten notes on The Pigman, some photographs by Richard Adler (why?), a ditto master of some "Dear Abby" segments (??), a poster about loneliness, and an eight-page guide: The New Fiction: Teaching the Junior Novel--Unit IV: The Pigman, published by Scholastic Book Services. That's it. Oh well--I'm sure it's far thicker than the folder Zindel had on me.
I'm sorry he's gone. I don't know if kids read his books nowadays. I hope so. He had much to teach, and they have much to learn.
PS: I see our copy of Gamma Rays is going on ABE for $5. Better hurry! (Link to the book on ABE.)