It's We Recommend, where you write to us with a person's age, tastes, likes, loves, hatreds, and anything else that might help, and we put it in a magic pot and come up with a perfect book for them! Or something like that. Got a person in your life who needs a book? Write to us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com with all relevant and irrelevant information, and we will do our best. And the secret? Look in the comments, it's where you'll find all the best recommendations.
Well, this one really hit home for me, and so I am posting about it though I an meaning to write about something else. It's—well, you'll see.
My 5th grader (girl) has always been a bookworm. Loves to read, and has always scored 98-99 percentile for all of those reading assessments we hate. (She was the subject of this post
, several years ago.) Last year she even had a goal to read all of the Newbery winners by the time she's 14. But in the past 6 months, she's mostly stopped trying new books, and instead just reads the same things (Calvin & Hobbes
, the Popularity Papers
) over and over. The list of books that have been picked up & put down after reading the flap or the first page is endless (and full of wonderful books!). Watership Down
? Eh. Harry Potter #7? Got 1/2 way through and doesn't want to finish because too many people die. And so on. And even the realistic fiction that she used to love isn't doing it for her anymore. The thing is, now she's saying that a) she's tired of her favorite books, and b) there are no more good books left. And she's spending her time playing DragonVale and exploring the New Moon Girls
site, and explodes when it's suggested that maybe she should do something non-electronic, because "there's nothing to do and nothing to read."
So I think I'm not really looking for a recommendation to bring her back to reading (unless someone has something that would be just perfect for the kind of kid who loves The Penderwicks and can't wait for the next one to come out). But for you parents of older girls–is this normal, in your experience? Is this a phase that some kids go through before, as part of pre-adolescence?
Any thoughts are welcome!
It's lucky that any thoughts are welcome, because I have a few. First of all, as I said to the writer in an email, normal is just a setting on a washing machine, which is what a well-meaning camp counselor told us when we were freaking out about something or other. But I know that's a dodge, really, because the real question is (more or less) Should I Be Scared? And the real answer to that is what it always is, No, because being scared doesn't help anything. Though, I must admit, I am scared all the time.
Also, the other real question is: Is this happening to other kids, and the answer to that is an emphatic: YES. It's certainly happened this way to both my girls, from what I can see on the outside. And it happened to this kid
. And I went ahead and flat-out asked Chestnut about it, and she said, "Oh that's happened to me!" She fully recognized it as a thing she goes through sometimes, especially when things are a little tough. But then, she tells me, she finds a book that no one expected her to read or like in a million years, and she'll read that and like it, and she'll be fine again.
She also said that it's of no use recommending books to her when she is in one of those moods, because recommending a book to her will only make her want to read it less.
And I would note, too, that it's plain old hard to be in 5th grade. Everything is changing, and maybe that's just fine for some people, but for me and for many of the people I most admire, change, especially lasting, profound change, is tricky.
So, even though all these things are true, I still insist on recommending something, because that is my nature, I suppose. And also, because the real concern here is that reading is such a friend and relief in a difficult world, and we want her to have that if she can.
First of all, I would offer something foolish and terrible.
I know that I violate every trusting and good heart in recommending these, but…. Well, Chestnut was reading one of these on her bed the other day, feeling overwhelmed by guests and visitors and life itself. And a guest, a wonderful but also distressed teenager, came into her room and said, "Oh! I remember those! I loved reading those!"
"Yes! They're so terrible!" Chestnut said.
"Yes!" the teenager cried happily. "They're really awful." And they were both so happy. Sometimes, I feel silly stupid things are just the ticket.
But! I am not just an emtpy-headed Mephistopholes. (I think.) Because I would also recommend this.
Just getting a subscription (you can find them here
) means that it will show up, and she can read it…or not. It's not as much of a commitment as a book, and it's truly strange and silly and wonderful.
I do know this happens, and that it's hard and scary, just like every other part of being a parent (as far as I can tell), where you watch someone ahead of you walk down a rocky, wonderful, terrifying path, and you just have to hope they're OK, but you don't get any real assurance that they will be.
But perhaps I have gone on enough? OK, Penderwicks fans and readers everywhere, do you have a lifeline to throw this family? I am sure they will be OK anyway, but extra lifelines never hurt anyone.