It's 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 (especially with this one), so be sure to look there!
This one is a little funky. We got the following lovely email from a reader:
My daughter (age 11) is increasingly getting invitations to bah mitzvahs, which she says she wants to attend because all her friends are going. Since my husband and I are atheists we've been having trouble explaining to her the whole concept of a spiritual journey to adulthood and what Judaism is about. I don't feel good about letting her go to a bah mitzvah just for the sake of the party but if she goes to the service I feel like she needs some background information first. Any ideas (fiction or non-fiction) about something she could read?
Trying to figure out a way into thinking about what sort of book might work here brought up a whole huge question, which is: how are you supposed to tell anyone anything? I mean, there's a whole wide world between Dinosaurs Divorce and Who Moved My Cheese (or whatever self-help books are now sweeping the nation: The Secret? Skinny Bitch? I don't read these so much, though I would no doubt benefit).
Sure, the American Girl books have moved in their juggernaut-like way to take up the slack, and I think there is even a section in A Smart Girl's Guide to Manners about attending religious celebrations of other faiths, but where are the books of yore! You know, the All About Christmas or All Dogs Have ADD or whatever fact-filled well-meaning book you put in the blank? Because the truth is—wait, well there are two truths. One truth: 11 year olds do need help in figuring out what the heck is going on in the world, whether it's Bar Mitzvahs or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Socialism—there is a world of things they have inklings about but don't fully understand. Another truth: they don't seem all that keen on having the information given to them.
Now that second truth there comes with many caveats. For instance, many kids are happy to get information from each other, as my daughter's encyclopedic but entirely second-hand knowledge of Dr. Who proves. Also, I did witness a rather thorough and diligent study of A Smart Girl's Guide to Middle School on the part of a 10-year-old cousin in our house. But it isn't as simple somehow. And there aren't all the books out there.
So? What I figure would help is a novel. A good, funny Judy Blume-esque novel about a girl (or boy!) preparing for a bat or bar mitzvah. With chaos. And shenanigans. And a troubling little brother/sister. Such a thing must exist, right? But I don't know it is.
So this is a call to readers far and wide: does this book exist? Does one a little bit like it exist? If so, put it in the comments!
And for what it's worth: Blubber, which is excellent, has an excellent scene AT a bar mitzvah, even if it's not exactly the point. It's a turning point in recognizing the humanity of others, though. And it's a book that is always worth reading. Also? It completely worth going just for the party. Everyone else is.