RECENTLY ON TOL:
- A tumblr site dedicated to the people and places that make up Oregon and Southwest Washington.
I discovered Cynthia Rylant when I was 65 years old. The discussion today focused on books for children through about age eight. Several of Cynthia's earlier books were written for teenagers, and I have found them to be immensely rewarding.
I Had Seen Castles is the story of a seventeen-year old living in Pittsburgh on Dec. 7, 1941, told in the first person when the narrator is in his sixties. In the first part of the book, the narrator, Robert, describes the visceral anger that he and his friends, and the whole community, felt towards the Japanese and Germans, and his eagerness to join the military to fight. His friend, Ginny, does not believe that war is a glorious adventure. In the second part, Robert recalls what war is actually like, on the ground, for men serving in the infantry, and his difficulties in coming to terms with the things he has seen and done.
In a sense the book is a love leter and an apology to Ginny, who he has not seen since he joined the army. It's a short book, less than 100 pages. If you want to have a discussion with your teenager about the effects on people of engaging in violent acts, especially as part of a community, this would be good place to start. It's not necessarily an anti-war story, but it does say that there are consequences, and we ought to think about them before we go to war, not after.
A Fine White Dust is also a first person narrative, in which Pete, an eighth grader, describes his desire to be saved, his attraction to a travelling preacher, and his friend Rufus, a confirmed atheist. The preacher betrays Pete's faith in him, and we learn how Pete works through that.
The Van Gogh Cafe is set in the middle of Kansas. Clara, age 10, helps her dad run the restaurant. Magic happens in the cafe, and in our heads as we're reading. It's a hard book to describe, but as with all of Cynthia's books, every word counts, and every word helps us think about who we are.
And my three-year-old granddaughter thinks I should mention The Great Gracie Chase, which has lots of action and a satisfying conclusion.
posted 3 years, 3 months ago
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