Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Mysterious Benedict Society.

 I think I may have become that adult who, on sunny days, wants to sweep children out of doors, into their imaginations and away from their computers and game systems.  Or the adult who, on rainy days, encourages the devouring of books. And it might be true that I want to possess both of these characteristics myself. After spending the last week or so catching up on some Young Adult Literature, I remain convinced that adventure stories about smart, creative kids are my favorites under the YA umbrella.

 The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart opens with this advertisement: "Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" The story that follows is one filled with 4 adventurous, bright children who embark on an undercover mission to figure out what and who is behind the "Emergency" that is plaguing the country.  Here's what I love: adult characters who take children seriously and children who seek out knowledge and adventure, rather than succumb to the boredom that often accompanies being one of the smarter kids in the room.

Besides encouraging adventure, these books invite a deeper kind of introduction to the symbolic and kind of a "sci-fi lite" experience: even though there aren't "Whisperer" machines that create a false sense of well being or "brainsweeping" that hides your memories from yourself in the real world...or wait. Are there? Books like The Mysterious Benedict Society invite kids into reading the world through a critical, literary lens. It is amazing to watch them make connections and begin to understand the art of reading.  A lot of parents want their children to jump right into classics in the 7th and 8th grade, but what they miss is that there are a lot of great stepping stone books that create engaged, thinking readers.

Anyway, my favorite days of walking around my neighborhood involve running into a handful of past students who have started a band, created amps out of olive oil containers, built their own ukuleles and set out to eat a chair in a year's time.  I guess I just want my students to have literary heroes who don't settle for laying around and then follow in their footsteps.  (Hilariously enough, I just watched the another episode of Mad Men where Betty tells her children when they are bored/scared/overwhelmed to go watch television.)

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