OK, I Lied—But Just Because I Had to Do this One We Recommend, with update

OK, yeah, I'm out of the business, I don't do that anymore—but there's one last heist…and I'm going to need all of your incredible skills.

Here's what happened. A loved one, who is also a social worker, called with this situation. (I will condense and paraphrase.)

She works in a public elementary school where there has been a recent spate of 5th grade girl-on-girl emotional violence in the form of hacking each other's Instagram (and other social media, I imagine?) accounts, as well as emails sent that include unpleasant graphic sexual commentary. Yes, yes—this is terrible, but that's just the context.

Some of the perpetrators were caught, and brought to our friend the social worker (praise be!) to get straightened out. Conversations were had. One girl—a 5th grader, remember—is an extremely beautiful, smart, physically developed Latina. She looks, in the words of the social worker, like a gorgeous 16 year old. In the most recent meeting she wept. "No one ever talks about anything but my face and my body. The only thing the boys in the class talk about is my body. They talk about my body parts all the time."

Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. All these things working together—children, rape culture, sexism, race (I have no doubt), social media, 5th grade, being a person. But for us the question is, what can we give this child to read? She feels alone, but she is not alone. 

See why I had to take this one?

My thoughts on this are varied and possibly not all that helpful. First I thought of Speak, but that is too grown up, too much acting as though what people see when they look at her is the truth.

Then I thought of going in a whole other direction with an old favorite, First Test: Protector of the Small. This is the story of the first girl who trains as a page. It is about learning your own power.

51AiLWqkDgL._SX302_BO1 204 203 200_

Then I thought of—ok, don't laugh—the greatest of them all, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Because who remembers Laura? The girl who they socially torture because she has big breasts? Whom no one will speak to? But yeah, she's not the center of the book.

OK, people, I know I'm quitting—we're all quitting!—but I need you now! Or really, this kid needs you. She needs a book to remind her that she is not alone, that she is who she thinks she is. Bonus points if you can offer her a Latinx author. Extra bonus points if you can think of a book to make the boys in her class shut up and learn something about other people's humanity.

You all remember how to do this, right? Put your ideas in the comments, social worker will look here, books will make their way to the girl—let's do this!


UPDATE: Chestnut strongly believes that a book should be gotten for the boys as well, the ones who are spending all their time talking about this girl's "body parts," something, perhaps, that might remind them of the humanity of others? She wants the teacher to be able to have them all read it. In a curriculum this might be hard to fit, but I do think it is an excellent idea. 

In Which I Am Highly Suggestible

Thank you all for your incredibly helpful suggestions. Sometimes I don't say anything about having such a remarkably pleasant group of readers here, for fear of jinxing it (I'm mature and reasonable that way), but it must be said: You are all quite wonderful.

And since you all recommended Doll Bones to me, I went out to my local library, which was very helpful, having three (!) copies in stock. I borrowed it and read it right away, pausing only because the dastardly Chestnut filched it from me.


What a lovely book it is! Told from the point of view of the boy in a trio of friends (two girls, one boy), it is spooky and heartfelt and it represents oh so clearly the muddled, conflicted, joyful, fearful state of being in 7th grade and being pulled in a million directions, not knowing who you really are yet, not being quite ready to grow up but here it comes anyway. And it's scary, but not terrifying, more creepy than outright horror. As with so many books, the age of the protagonists seems about three years older than the age of the ideal readers—or maybe that's just my vision?—but it's sweet and, more important, it seemed to thrum with truthfulness: the jealousy towards the kid whose parents never clean the house, the constant conflict among the friends, the wish, so painful and poignant, for magic to be real.

Anyway, this book is another thing to thank you all for. And for those of you who have readers in the house, or awaiting you at holiday gatherings, this is an excellent thing to bring them.

For the Boys (and Girls)

I rode in a car with my nephews last week, and Readers, I have learned much. I have long known (and cherished knowing) that there are books out there that speak in a particular way to everyone, but I saw this one up close and personal, and…wow. I give you:


Can you guess what it's about? I bet you can.

My excellent nephews were listening to the audio book, and they couldn't wait to get back in the car to listen to it at any and every opportunity. I was treated to the extended play-by-play that is the book's last section: the Big Game. A lot of passages like "he bounced a pass off the backboard!" They were rapt. 

This is exactly the sort of book that needs to find its way into the hands of more kids, because they will be so happy. Kids who can follow play by play and know what it means (unlike me). Kids who are all about whether the travel team will win the big game. 

Do you have or know this sort of kid? Find this book—there are apparently tons of them, lots of team books—and give it to him. Or her. I am endlessly happy these exist, because we will all, at one time or another, come across the person who needs it, and we'll know just what to do.

6th Grade, Reading, and…Romance?

First, I must say that what I'm about to relay is based on hearsay. I am not the person going out with a sixth grader (hooray), nor the parent of the sixth graders in question—heck, I'm not even at the school in question.


I found this tale fascinating (sort of) and you will see why:

An unnamed parent of a sixth grade boy reports that her sixth grade son has a girlfriend.

OK—not exactly typical, but neither is it uncommon. Proceed:

The sixth grade girlfriend of this sixth grade boyfriend had a specific request, and she (allegedly) noted that it was really important to her, and would help him better understand her. Would he please read The Fault in Our Stars?

To which I say: huh? I mean, I know that in that selfsame book the girlfriend requests that the boyfriend read a book. And so maybe it seems like, "Oh yeah, this is something people do." And it is something people do. But is it something that sixth grade people do? In your neck of the woods? And to better understand them?

In our neck of the woods, boys are routinely classified as "good kid" or "jerk," nothing more, and the idea that someone would have enough clarity about herself to say, "You should read this book in order to better understand me," is both thrilling and mystifying. I don't think I would think to do this, and if I did I have no idea what book it would be.

You? Would you do this? Have you done this? Were you in 6th grade? What was the book?

Help me understand other people, please.

We Recommend: Nice Boys, for a 6-Year-Old

It’s We Recommend! In which we post a request that's been sent to us, and do our best to get that person the right book. Know a kid who needs a book to read? Send us (thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com) his or her likes, dislikes, favorites, quirks, and any other reading information that might be helpful, and we will think on it, and pose it to our oh-so-helpful readers. And look in the comments—all the best recommendations are there.

An interesting…well, I won't say conundrum, because it's not, but it certainly will get you thinking about gender and books and stereotypes and bravery, if you're that sort of reader.

See, we got the following lovely email:

For our almost 6-year-old boy Sam we're looking for books that show boys being wise, intuitive, and brave. He is naturally attracted to the qualities in many books written for girls, and we feel he is not being exposed to enough wise, intelligent, kind and brave boys.

Some books he's loved in the past: 
Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy (by David Soman, Jacky Davis)
The Children of Noisy Village (by Astrid Lindgren)
Fairyopolis: A Flower Fairies Journal (by Glen Bird Liz Catchpole and Cicely Mary Barker)
– We Are in a Book (Mo Willems)

Six-year-old Sam seems to like: nature. fairies. the outdoors. fun. insects.

I agree with him—these are all good things. And while there is a tiny bit of hesitation in me regarding the idea of such a purposeful read, I am fairly sure that this hesitation is reflexive and purposeless. So I will say that the very first book I thought of is the oh-so-wonderful Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White, which has the most brave, kind, wise and intelligent boy of all. AND it has nature. And magic! And swans.

But then I thought it might be too old, even as a read aloud? Is it too long? Would it be too much? Would Stuart Little be better, as it is much more episodic? But Stuart Little doesn't seem to match the young man in quite the same way. 

And then I thought: insects! Perhaps James and the Giant Peach, one of the greatest books in the world? But what about the two aunts getting squished flat so early on, and their terrible cruelty?

Oh dear, oh dear, it seemed like I would know, but maybe I won't know? A great read aloud, that's magical and kind and outdoors. Readers: I must return to my heart of hearts, and simply ask you to correct me in the comments, where you can put in a whole bunch of other books that make more sense. And truly, it is oh so wonderful.