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May 29, 2012

So, fiction . . .

After I finished Adopting the Hurt Child, I told myself that I would take a nonfiction break. I decided to read at least one book recommendation from each of the people that replied to my last books post. I checked out:

  • Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
  • Middlemarch, George Eliot
  • North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Hidden, Helen Frost
  • Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems (mostly for Addison, but I kind of adore it)

I was going to start with Les Mis, but then thought about how it’s kind of about child abuse and neglect, so maybe I should wait. So I started Middlemarch instead. I brought the book down to read while eating lunch, only to be drawn to a nonfiction book about pain management my mom had left on the table. Despite my pledge to read fiction, I was into Relief at Last before I even realized what I was doing. At the moment, I’ve abandoned Les Mis, Middlemarch, and North and South, in favor of pain management reading. There’s no doubt I’m drawn to nonfiction when that pulls me in, but at the same time, I am having a major escalation of pain at the moment so it probably makes sense to see what the book has to say about the latest research.

But I am happy to report that I did read Hidden and Knuffle Bunny. (And only one of them was about abused children.) My friend Alysa, who reviews books at Everead, is slowly initiating me into the world of juvenile literature. And so far, Alysa’s suggestions have been spot-on.

Addison absolutely adores Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (Alysa’s review here), perhaps because she has her own beloved Dubby. We’ve read it at least 30 times since we brought it home from the library last week. I seldom think about buying things (as in, I literally have never bought Addison a book or toy in her short life), but I am seriously considering this little gem. It was that delightful for all involved.

As for Hidden, it is a book about a girl, Darra, who has an abusive father, and another girl, Wren, who is accidentally kidnapped by Darra’s father (in a sort of botched car theft). Although I was kind of trying to steer myself into lighter, more escapist territory, I have to say that the book draws you in immediately and I was done with it almost before I resolved that I should keep reading (there really is something satisfying about reading short books, as Alysa has mentioned to me before). I heartily agree with Alysa’s assessment of the craft of the book — it’s comprised of three different types of poetry and each adds an interesting layer to the story. For me, it didn’t feel like a heavy book even though it was dealing with some difficult issues, like how kids can still love a parent that hurts them and how kids grapple with feelings of responsibility for bad things that have happened to them. I was quite moved by one of the concluding moments when Wren writes to Darra, “None of it was our fault.” You always wish that would be obvious to kids, but it never is.

Beyond just enjoying the book, I also had a minor epiphany while reading it. Frost’s writing about adolescents feels really appropriate, both as channeling them and as speaking to them. Although I’m far from an expert in youth or literature geared toward them, I repeatedly thought that she was getting at some very significant things but in a non-frightening, accessible way. Perhaps this is what all children’s authors do; I have read so little literature for kids or teens, even though I was one once. I suppose the epiphany was just that if I want to understand how to talk about some of the issues I am passionate about with young people, I should read more from writers who specialize in communicating with those age groups. I have this vague memory of someone overhearing me telling a story to the four-year-old girl I used to live with and just laughing because I used the term “lower socioeconomic status.” Kidlit may have a thing or two to teach me, after all.

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2 Comments »

  1. ❤ thanks for the blog love! I'm glad you liked the books. And today's a good day to visit Everead because I'm doing a giveaway this week! 🙂

    "Perhaps this is what all children’s authors do;…" Sadly, no. As with anything, Children's Literature has it's wheat and tares. Loads of children's authors are adept at this, but just as many are less than adept. Luckily, you have me! Plus also your own good judgement, of course.

    Kids & Responsibility: They really do take responsibility for things that aren't their fault. Just yesterday we launched model rockets with friends and the one Benjamin pushed the button for went farther than the rest and got lost for a while. "I shot that rocket so high…" he said, as we gave up the search. All he did was push the button of course, not build the rocket, load the rocket, control the wind etc.

    Comment by Alysa — May 29, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

  2. Oh we LOVE Knuffle Bunny! I think I’ll hve to check out Hidden now. 🙂

    Comment by Ishkhanoohie — May 29, 2012 @ 5:59 pm


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