16 November 2003


So, here's my question: If I read a Juvie or YA book and think it is outstanding, does that mean it is an appropriate book for kids and teens? Not appropriate meaning that the subject and language is inoffensive, but more along the lines as something that will capture them, too, something I should buy for my library.

The book that has me asking myself this question (yet again) is Jerry Spinelli's new novel, Milkweed. I finished this book this morning and... hmm... I hate to use the word "enjoyed" in connection with such a painful Holocaust story (although, to be fair, I think the book ultimately encapsukates a great deal of hope, too). The story definitely held my attention and moved me.

That said... I don't know. I'm not sure if I can articulate my hesitancy about giving it to a young 'un.

Hmm... Maybe I am wrong. I was just about to say that I have recommended the far more disturbing (at least in my eyes) The Final Journey by Gudrun Pausewang without worrying about whether kids would like it. That book made me feel like I'd been punched in the gut and haunted me for months after I'd finished it. It raised troubling questions for me, especially when it comes to how much should children be sheltered from reality and at what point does that shelter need to be lifted? Is ignorance always bliss? The father in Life is Beautiful, I think, did a good job of protecting his small boy from the horror of the Holocaust. Some may argue if that should have been done at all, but I don't have the energy to even peek down that road right now. Or maybe that's all tangled up in my point and I am about to trip so I should just stop.

ANYway. Back to Milkweed. My initial reaction was a bit of doubt as to whether or not it was a good book for kids or just a book that adults like and think kids should read. But I seem to have no problem with The Final Journey, so what exactly is giving me pause? I think maybe I am wrong. I have given the book to The Boy (my favorite thirteen-year-old reader) to see what he thinks.

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