It's back to We Recommend, in which we attempt to match kids up with their perfect book. Got a kid in your life who needs a recommendation? Write us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com with the age, reading tastes, favorite books, and any other relevant (or irrelevant) information, and we'll give it a shot. And really? All the good suggestions are in the comments, so be sure to look there!
Well, let's all stagger back from our various holiday indulgences and start thinking about books, shall we? Starting with this wistful request:
I'm looking for chapter books that deal with the subject of shyness and features a girl character. I have a second grade girl who is shy, quiet and loves to read. It seems that books for girls around this age have a lot of outrageous outgoing characters (Judy Moody, Clementine) and I think they're fun but yesterday we were talking about about shyness, how people see her as shy and she didn't like it. I was trying to say that some of us are just quiet and observe the action a little more before jumping in, and it's good to have more people in the world who are listeners, etc etc. I'd love it if she could see a good girl character in a book that deals with this well. It's not that I want to encourage her to stay "shy" but I'd love if she could see more of her qualities in a positive light in another girl. Girls with a quiet strength? Any ideas?
Interesting, no? Most general views of the shy and the bookish—well, let's just say if there was a Venn diagram involved it would have a lot of overlap. But shy characters as the main characters in kids books? That's a little more difficult, mostly because just like in regular life, shy people are not so good at grabbing our attention. Which is sort of what you want a book to do, no? So really, the shy girl books tend to work in one of two ways (how's that for a bullshit made up belief I just came up with?): either the shy narrator has a rich inner life to which we are privy, with lots of luminous/incisive visions of the world around them (think of Laura in the Little House on the Prairie Books, who talks often about her paralyzing fear when she goes into town and has to see and talk to people), or, in the grand tradition of the seminal Ramones film Rock 'n' Roll High School, they have to have a PJ Soles to match the…whatever the shy girl's name was. Shy girl is matched with outgoing girl, so the story moves along but we are also able to experience shy person's vulnerability/sensitivity. Something like The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (oh how I love that book!). Or, for a sweet second grader like the one described above? This:
Here's what is sad: I don't remember which one of these girls is the shy one. But I know that one of them is! And what's particularly nice is that these books don't equate shyness with goodness or sweetness; they let the shy person have her own strong character, despite her reticence. And there isn't judgment of the "shy is better" or "why don't you just go introduce yourself!" varieties, simply description. One kid is one way, another is different, this is how they are in the world. Oh! Also Betsy-Tacy would work; Tacy is so shy!
But enough from us. Come on, all you shy ones—we know you're out there. What have you got for this girl to read?