That book is so last-century
I have learned that a surefire way to have my middle-grade reader refuse to open what could be the best book she has ever read is to hold it up and say, “I loved this book when I was your age!”
This utterance is typically met with skepticism, possibly an eye-roll, because what I like couldn’t possibly be cool.
Go straight to the books:
- “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” by Judy Blume
- “Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love” by Francine Pascal
- “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls
- “Homecoming” by Cynthia Voight
- “Locked in Time” by Lois Duncan
- “Dear Mr. Henshaw” by Beverly Cleary
- “The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia and Mean Janine” by Ann M. Martin
So it was a surprise earlier this summer when I saw that my daughter had put Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” on hold at the library. I later learned she had heard about the book, not from a trusted parent, but from a middle-grade book published in 2017, Alan Gratz’s “Ban This Book.” Gratz has the right idea: To get a kid to read a book, tell them they shouldn’t read it.
I have been skimming the same reading-level books as my daughter for some time now. It provides us with some common ground and gives me a way to be part of something she’s passionate about. I like to know what she’s comprehending and help explain troubling or questionable characters or scenes.
After my daughter read the Judy Blume classic, we discussed it lightly. I would have discussed it more in-depth with her but, truthfully, I couldn’t remember much of it. I sheepishly started the book again because I wanted to see if the novel, first written in 1970, had withstood the test of time.
It got me thinking about the other books that we, as a collective group of kids in the ‘80s, read and raved about. Do they still hold up, or should I end my pursuit of pushing books published last century? I took a week and reread some favorites and am here to tell you, yes and no. Read on.