Thursday, March 24, 2016

I Raided My 8-Year-Old's Book Collection

I guess it was just a matter of convenience, especially since having Joey, that lately instead of searching for grownup reading material for myself, I've found myself coming back to the bookshelf in the girls' room for something to read. There might also be a little sleep deprivation at play, and their books are a little easier to digest.:) There are several new goodies there since Christmas, thanks both to Santa and aunties who know what a bookworm Delaney is. Some of them I remember from my own childhood, and they make for a fun trip down memory lane; but there are a few new ones that were not around back in my day. I've been mostly enjoying all of them. I must have a special place in my heart for children's and young adult literature.

1. Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco. Oh, how I loved the sweet protagonist of this book. Bee is a 12-year-old (but seems much younger to me) orphan, growing up with a traveling carnival and being raised by a young woman not much older than herself. Having no home and no family already makes her a misfit in society, but on top of that, she has a huge diamond shaped birthmark on her face that she is mercilessly taunted for by almost everyone who comes to the stand where she sells hot dogs. In an effort to conceal the birthmark she keeps her head down so that the hair falls over her face. (This might have been what drew me to this book in the first place -- the image of a young girl on the cover with hair falling over most of her face, who bears a striking resemblance to Delaney.) I ache for the little girl who feels she must hide from everybody, and who never seems to grow a thick skin but feels every unkindness as salt on an open wound. Then I end up cheering for her as she picks herself up after huge setbacks and makes her own way in the world. She also makes some mistakes and does things wrong, which just makes her all the more believable as a character. I happily recommend this book for all kids, as it helps reinforce things we hope our kids are learning from us: Be kind. Be brave. Stand up for the ones who are being picked on.

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read this book ages ago, but I don't know if I read it all the way through or just flipped through it one day when I had nothing better to do. Because there is a LOT of serious stuff in this book that I feel like I should have remembered. This book explores, as a few others do that you can probably think of, the concept of a society that has achieved a lack of crime, lack of sickness, lack of any kind of insecurity or want; and what that would cost us as humans to attain. We see it all through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy who has been selected to a most important role in his community, and given the opportunity (as well as the unbearable burden) to see and understand what is lacking in their lives, and the sickening realities underpinning the predictable and safe life they're accustomed to. A lot of it would probably be over Delaney's head, but she hasn't read it yet. I would advise parents to use discretion with younger and more precocious readers because you know your child's personality and if they're especially sensitive, some things are difficult to read. But at the same time I want to say it's a must-read for all -- one that I look forward to discussing with her.

[I've also read Gathering Blue, which is part of the "Giver Quartet" even though it has nothing to do with The Giver that I can see, besides being dystopian. I notice a lot of Young Adult books come in quartets. I will have to check out the other two books in this quartet to see if either give me a clue about what happened after the ending of The Giver.]

3. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. This was a sweet but not especially memorable story about a group of animals living in a shopping mall, from the perspective of a silverback gorilla named Ivan who was captured and brought to America while still a baby. In the wild he would have been in charge of protecting a whole group of gorillas, but here in his "domain" within the shopping mall, he just observes life passing by. He has no one to protect. He doesn't feel sorry for himself, but we kind of feel sorry for him. He tells of how a young boy once cried while watching him through the glass and said, "He must be the loneliest gorilla in the world." And Ivan had looked back at him thinking, 'It's actually not so bad. You can get used to just about anything.' But when a baby elephant comes along Ivan is forced out of his complacency, because he now has someone to protect. I had already been made aware of the abuses inflicted upon elephants in the course of learning all those stupid tricks; and already knew I never wanted to go to another circus. This book reinforces that for me -- beats me over the head with it, really. But I did enjoy the tale of friendship among the animals, and with the kind humans they encounter.

I can't seem to get Delaney to tell me what she thinks about any of the books so far. I've asked her a few questions about a book or two, and she answers them in a short way and doesn't want to discuss. It's funny because I always like to talk about a book I've read with someone else who's read it. Delaney just devours the books and then keeps her thoughts to herself. But then at some other point in time she'll mention something she's learned from a book and explain it in detail. She's a funny little thing.

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