Whoa Nellie, or Could This Be the END of My Life as a Professional* Book Finisher?

I have chronicled my challenges with Chestnut's timid reading behavior before. For instance when Louis had the webbing of his toes cut. Or when she looked at the cover of On My Honor. Or how the story of a girl and her grandma got out of hand.

But her timidity was reliable, at least. She was scared of most books (don't even get me started on movies). She liked gentle stuff. Realistic stuff. Historical narratives about good little girls—not unlike herself—struggling bravely through tribulations. But the tribulations were never particularly intense, and when they were, there was I, reading as fast I as could ahead—uh huh, horse is scared, rears, looks like it's going over, she's thrown but not hurt, uh huh, uh huh, all good—and letting her know, more or less, what she was in for.

I wonder, still, if this is or was in some way bad for her, but at the same time I sort of feel like: get off my back, world. Or at least, Get off my back, world whose voice of disapproval I constantly imagine. She was scared, OK? She loves reading, but she gets a little too identified and it's tough, that's all. From which you can probably deduce that I, too, am a chicken, too scared to watch all the way through of a Netflixed Watch Instantly episode of Friday Night Lights ("What if he misses? Oh God, I can't watch, tell me what happens"). We're sensitive, ok? Or chicken, if you must.

And while I might grumble and mock (just a occupational hazard of being me), it was OK with me. I wished she would be braver about reading, but I could go with it. I guess I liked the company.

Then about a month ago, Chestnut wanted to bring The Thirteen Clocks in to school. Why? "We're voting as a class on what book we want as a read aloud." What was it up against? The Hunger Games.


"Our teacher wants us to read that one."

"Your TEACHER? What? Huh?" And I thought: oh dear. What will Chestnut do if The Hunger Games wins? But don't worry, I assured myself. It won't win. They're 9 and 10. They're in 4th grade. It won't win.

Guess what won?

I steeled myself. She went in for the first day of the read aloud—and she loved it. And every day since. Last week she asked permission to buy the other books and read them.

"Gee, I don't know, they're supposed to be pretty intense…" (Admission of full kidlit blogger failure: I have not ready ANY of this series. I know. I hang my head in shame.)

"That's OK, I love them."

"But you can get kind of scared when you read…"

"That's when I was little." Complete with a disbelieving sort of huff as in: how could I not know that she was little then? And that she's big now?

"Well, I think it was only a few weeks ago with that one where by mistake the cut the tip off of someone's nose…"

"I'm not scared anymore!"

And just like that, my career as Professional Book Finisher appears to be nearing its end.

I'm not sure if we're buying the books. I think I ought to at least read them first. But wow.

*Why professional? Not because I charge for it, but because I'm so damn good.

11 thoughts on “Whoa Nellie, or Could This Be the END of My Life as a Professional* Book Finisher?

  1. You should definitely read them first. They are incredibly gripping (I lost many nights of sleep finishing them) but VERY intense and VERY violent. I’m a little surprised that a 4th grade teacher wanted to read The Hunger Games in class!


  2. Hope this ends well… also: maybe you can launch a little sideline business regarding the book finishing. Shame to waste your gifts and all. Does Craigslist have that as a category?


  3. My daughter and I have both read THe Hunger Games. I feel like it is inappropriate for 4th graders–developmentally are they really ready to read about treachery and alliances? And would you want them to? But my 7th grader loved it and wants to read the next ones in the series.


  4. The timing of this post is pretty unbelievable. Is it the Brooklyn 4th grade Book of the Moment? My 4th grader came home saying she wanted to get it (and I’d previously heard her classmate swooning over it).
    But in the back of my mind, I remembered hearing that it was for older kids. So…I looked it up on Common Sense Media. I’ve only used that site for movies before, as my kids, too, are sensitive. And some of the site’s concerns aren’t mine (they note, for example, that the mom in Ponyo has a beer. WTF?) but my daughter read their take over my shoulder and decided against getting the book for now. I am relieved, I have to say. I mean, she’s 9. There are many years of reading that lie ahead…
    From commonsensemedia.org:
    For a story about 24 teens forced to kill each other, the gore level is fairly low — but there is some. Teens are speared, shot with arrows, stabbed, mauled by wild animals, burned, and have their heads smashed and their necks broken. Injuries are realistic, including burn blistering, blood poisoning, and gangrene. A girl’s tongue is cut out.


  5. Whoa. Hunger Games? As a read-aloud?? In 4th grade??? I hold highly libertarian views about kids’ reading, but…wow. I don’t think I would’ve touched that one, as a school librarian, even if the kids wanted it.
    OTOH, sounds like that teacher is onto something.
    I wonder if he’s read the third one, though.


  6. You really are damn good. I second trying to find a side job. I haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, but my bookclub (for adults!) is reading it for July. This reminded me that I have yet to buy the book…thanks.


  7. I think you should definitely read them first. I read them, all, in 2 or 3 sleepless days/nights. And I’ve recommended them to (adult) friends. But they are very intense. The tribulations are not heartwarming but disturbing/challenging – disturbing in a good way, for the right reader? And the third one, definitely, I think even a 7th grader would need some discussion/conversation/help grappling with the bigger issues.
    But I love the fact that it’s a kick-butt take-charge-of-herself protagonist, not some wishy-washy woe-is-me klutz of a which-boy-is-going-to-come-save-me one.
    And when I read them, I was reminded of a trilogy we read in sixth grade that I have no idea anymore what it is, but it was post-apocolyptic and it involved huge tripod robot monster alien things. And the post-apocolyptic children are the future thing is all I can remember them having in common, but I experienced the books in much the same way, I guess, or something. So I agree the teacher’s on to something. But hearing a book read aloud with all your classmates is probably going to be different than reading it yourself. And these will be intense, for someone who can suspend disbelief that much.


  8. I agree with all the above posters, so don’t really know why I’m throwing my two cents in, but I am! LOVED The Hunger Games trilogy and can’t wait until my son is old enough to read it, but that being said…. yeah, I think 4th grade is too young. And again, like those above have said, I’m pretty open to young children reading books with complex ideas, but this series is pretty intense…


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