Monday, July 6, 2009

From The FCPS Reading List

The blogger's rising middle schooler had to choose a book for a summer reading project for school. Looking at the list, the blogger thought he might enjoy London Calling by Edward Bloor and picked it up at Reston Regional Library. The young man loves history and the book plug said it was set in WWII. In the meantime, the young reader found a different book, also on the list, which he liked. The blogger didn't have anything new to read over the weekend, so picked up London Calling in order to do a Monday review. Now the blogger is glad her son found a different book on his own.

In London Calling, Martin is a middle-school aged boy living in the U.S.who inherits a WWII era radio from his grandmother. He hooks it up just to listen to the white noise of static and begins time traveling as a boy named Jimmy, living in London during the blitz, asks for his help.

Concurrently, Martin has a big problem at the private school he attends that involves privileged kids, injustice, and manufactured myths about the founder. Martin's own father is absent more than present because he's an alcoholic.
Martin ends up getting suspended from school and thus able to work on an 'independent study' project which, of course, involves the radio. This enables him to do extensive research into the subject of the radio which brings him into a position of being able to debunk the myth of the school founder. It also allows him to heal the relationship with his father as much as possible and even with his mother who finally understands why Martin should not attend that particular private school. And, of course, it enables him to help Jimmy.

The original premise of this story is very good. The additional emotional junk is a unnecessary. Why publishers think teens need more angst than they already manufacture in their lives is a mystery. It is so difficult to stay well-balanced during the middle school years. Perhaps they think reading about other people their age who are experiencing upheaval will make them feel better. Unfortunately, for some kids like the blogger's son, it makes them suspicious of reading any fiction published since 1975. It is very telling that one of the Amazon reviews that gives this book 5 stars starts, "London Calling is one of the most emotionally wrenching YA books I've had the pleasure to read in the past year." Exactly -- that's fine for an adult, but the target readers here are kids!

If the 12-13 year old male in your life likes angst and drama and enjoys reading about time travel and this period of time, this is a good book. For others, this is a reminder that many boys this age cut way back on their reading, which does not serve them in the long run.

/kw

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