14 June 2010


Summer Study, Volume 4

The Summer Study bug which neglected to bite my brothers (who may still not know how they got through these past few months) went straight for our mother. After I tried to "set a good example" (Ugh!) by saying I would read one of the books on the list as well, my mother was inspired to try a new read as well.

And when she was done with it--and they were barely halfway through theirs--she asked for another . . . And later, a third.

I'm not sure whether it was my teacher training or my natural tendency to be a buzzkill, but I couldn't leave well enough alone: I told my mother that I'd be giving her an assignment. (Or something.)

Of course, I don't actually want to suck all the fun out of reading; I just want my mother to have a "reinforcement activity" that both suits her "learning style" and deepens her "appreciation of the text." So I told her to get some of her friends to read the next book she borrows from me and form a book club with them. That idea she liked, but now the challenge is selling it to her friends as well.

Not that it has to be one of my books, of course. Every book club has the right to make its own selections.

3 Books from My Library
That My Mother Was Willing to Read

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This novel would turn out to be my mother's very first dip into Dystopian Fiction. Let's just say that she won't be going back. She has a pretty low tolerance for weirdness--which is why I still suspect that I was a preemie--and in this case, she wasn't really willing to suspend disbelief as much as necessary to believe in a Community that actively suppresses its citizens' ability to feel pain, know love, and even see colours.

These days, it seems as if The Giver is on every school reading list--usually around the sixth grade. That makes it officially overrated . . . which is probably why it's the only book on this Three-legged list that I didn't care to revisit with my mother. I've been through a whole stack of Dystopian Fiction since my own first reading of this Lowry novel, and if I had to rank them by their speculative settings, I just might put The Giver at the very bottom.

Though I'll never know for sure, unless I give it another try . . .

Tending to Grace by Kimberly Newton Fusco

When my mother asked me to recommend a second book--because she didn't want to pick another potential (and subjective!) dud--I gave her this one. "I think you'll like it because it has a girl who has to live in a relative's super messy house that she ends up cleaning because she can't stand it . . . and that's like you when you come visit me, and I'm neat by those standards!"

(Characters who clean: we need more of them.)

Anyway, my mother really liked Tending to Grace, thanks in huge part to its characters. The same reader whose first choice is for "strong women" who break glass ceilings in the urban jungle has a secret soft spot for "simple women" who take life one day at a time in a laid-back rural setting.

I reread this novel the morning after she was done and found myself wanting to slip into its pages--into the simple life of its two main characters--as well.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Unlike someone I could mention, my mother was actually put off by the possibility that Terabithia was a literal fantasy world and had to be coaxed into reading this novel. ("There's no magic at all! I swear!")

In the end, she was glad she had, although she found it hard to relate to protagonists who were so young and childlike. (I guess YA is another genre my maternal progenitor just isn't going to be crazy about. Ah, well . . .)

When she was done, I didn't want to reread it myself, because I hadn't liked it the first time around. But I kept at it for a couple of days; and when I was done, I found it worth a Reading Diary entry. I, too, know what it's like to lose my closest friend in the world--to be the one left behind and having to muddle through a world that has suddenly become colder. Paterson absolutely got all that.

Image Sources: a) The Giver by Lois Lowry, b) Tending to Grace by Kimberly Newton Fusco, c) Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson


Sullivan McPig said...

I hope she manages to form a book club, as it sounds like fun.

Enbrethiliel said...


She did like getting to discuss these books with someone after finishing them. And when she finally got a new book of her own, she asked me to read after she was done, too! =P

I think she really would like forming a book club with some friends, so I hope shecan make it happen. =)

Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

Hey, I just read Giver-- kept seeing it on people's Top Ten Picks. I had a hard time seeing why it was on so many top tens-- I enjoyed it ok but there are so many better dystopians. I found some of it a bit silly too-- no hills, no colors, no love. Maybe it would be a good first dystopian for middle graders--- which makes me wonder if fans read it at an early age but didn't read any other dystopians or just have nostalgic feeling for it.

Enbrethiliel said...


Lesa, I agree with your theory. I think an older reader would have a hard time suspending disbelief without a good explanation of how the community was able to suppress such essential emotions and even senses. The taking of special pills? Too easy . . .

And that ending! =P I know there is serious discussion about whether or not certain characters die at the end. I always say no; my mother is one of those who says yes. Maybe this is not just many readers' first dystopian but also their first chapter novel with an ambiguous, difficult ending.

Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

I read the ending twice-- the 2nd time in the library parking lot before returning it--- I'm with you-- they found other people and survived...

Enbrethiliel said...


Yay! =D The Giver just doesn't work as well as a tragedy, does it?