Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Stuck somewhere between childhood and "Twilight"

Recently E-girl wanted to cash in her Barnes and Noble gift cards and buy a copy of The Hobbit since none of the local libraries have a copy of it on their shelves. (We'd already listened to it on CD in the car last year, read by the excellent voice actor, Rob Ingles). has lots of ways of finding books for recommended ages and reading levels. First she looked at the lists of books recommended for ages 9-12, but found that she/we had either read them already  (the Percy Jackson series, Wonderstruck, A Wrinkle in Time, etc.) or they seemed too easy. So I suggested she plug in her Lexile score, using their Lexile Reading Level Wizard, to see what books match it. The results were not promising: Ethan Frome, Hiroshima, Animal Farm, The Jungle, A Farewell to Arms, To Kill a Mockingbird. All great books but not a good fit for a kid who still likes happy endings. (The Lexile score obviously represents mere vocabulary comprehension rather than level of emotional connection or life experience).

So we looked at books recommended for 12 and up. And here is the depressing part. Once you leave childhood (and Wimpy Kid, The Magic Thief, Percy Jackson, etc.) behind, according to's helpful recommendations, you're in the land of Pretty Little Liars and Hunger Games and Twilight—a place of malice and implied (or not) sexuality, where the good girl/guy doesn't always win.

My kid, so far, has not been eager to rush into young adulthood. She has resisted any interest in The Hunger Games, despite the urging of several classmates, because she knows she wouldn't enjoy it, at least not yet. But where does that leave her? Winnie the Pooh is a distant country already and even Beverly Cleary is slipping behind her.

Frustrated, she was about to give up the search for another book (and the $25 minimum for free shipping) when she happily discovered that carries DVDs. So now a copy of The Hobbit and the first season of "I Love Lucy" (which is one of her favorite TV shows) is on its way to our home.

Classic TV can be a refuge, particularly for those destined for unknown, and unfolding, lands. So, too, at least for a time, I think we'll turn back to the classic books of adolescence, written in a less cynical time, where characters didn't shop for expensive brand-name clothes or try to kill each other. Better start looking for my copy of My Side of the Mountain...

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