Back in 1978, when Canadian author Gordon Korman was still a teenager himself, he had has first book published: a YA classic called This Can’t Be Happening At Macdonald Hall, set at a fictional boarding school and centered around the adventures of a youthful duo named Bruno and Boots. Nearly four decades have elapsed since then, but Korman is still at it. Now 52 and a married father of three, he continues to solely write for kids and teens. In the early years, Korman knew what kids wanted to read because he was a kid himself, the key to his initial success. Now, as a middle-aged man, his job depends on his ability to think like a kid. For professional reasons, he cannot leave his own adolescence behind him. What’s that like? Nicholas Hune-Brown, who was inspired by Korman to become a writer himself, decided to investigate for a Hazlitt piece called “Low Stakes Forever.”
Korman seems resigned to his curious fate and at peace with his legacy. Ostensibly, the excuse for the article is that the characters of Bruno and Boots are finally being immortalized in a made-for-TV movie on Canada’s YTV, possibly the first of a series. Hune-Brown sees this as just one example of the current nostalgia for children’s entertainment of the ’80s and ’90s, a phenomenon that has spawned shows like Fuller House. “The idea that at this point in my life Bruno and Boots are still a factor is pretty wild,” Korman says in amazement. The best part of being an author for children, the article reveals, is that his audience renews itself every few years.
Korman’s work has proven exceptionally durable over the years. Part of that, Hune-Brown argues, is that the author’s books do not try to moralize, only entertain. And there is something peculiarly Canadian about Korman’s books, too, says Hune-Brown. “There are no real villains to hate, none of the cruelty of a Roald Dahl book or the social realism of Judy Blume.” In other words, only the Great White North could have spawned such a gentle, proudly non-edgy literary giant as Korman.