I got off to a good start on my challenge this week, completing three books. The first was Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King. I already had this book on hand, so the challenge was a good excuse to move it to the top of my To Be Read pile. I think this book does a good job of showing the broader dynamics of bullying. Lucky Linderman has been bullied by Nader McMillan for years. And Lucky is not the only one Nader bullies. But all of the adults involved seem completely unable to cope with the situation. Their advice is ineffective, and they are intimidated by Nader’s father who is a lawyer. Nader’s bullying escalates until he finally goes too far.
Lucky escapes from his troubled life in his dreams, where he ventures to Laos to try to rescue his grandfather who has been Missing in Action since the Vietnam War. The family’s inability to come to grips with the results of his disappearance set the stage for their inability to cope the bullying. In addition, including the information on the Vietnam War, the draft and the POW/MIA issue added a layer of depth that made this book much more than just a story of a teen coping. I also liked the way King used the ants as a sort of Greek chorus, providing a running commentary on sidelines.
One review of this book that I read mentioned that all of the adults in the story are seriously flawed and completely ineffectual. But while I can see their point, for me that rang true to the situation. I think adults often do not really know how to respond to bullying. It is easy to feel as helpless and ineffective as the adults are portrayed in this book. But what if the adults had believed Lucky and intervened immediately after the first bullying incident, when Lucky was just 7 years old?
My second book was Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy. Last year our library system’s Youth Services staff had a Mock Sibert Award program and this book was one of the nominees. I never had the chance to read it at the time because there were not enough copies in the system for everyone. I am glad I took the time to go back and read it now. I had never really thought about how something as simple as the development of the bicycle could have a big impact on our culture. Susan B. Anthony said about bicycling that “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” (in “Champion of Her Sex,” by Nellie Bly, New York World, Feb. 2, 1896 as quote in Wheels of Change.) Definitely worth reading!
My final book for the week was Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone. I really enjoyed the opportunity to revisit an old favorite. Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence certainly nourished my love of fantasy as I was growing up. This is one of those books I have been thinking it would be nice to go back and read. How wonderful to have this challenge as an excuse to indulge my nostalgia!
One of my priorities with this challenge is to be sure I read at least one title from each category. If one title appears in multiple categories, I will only count it for one. So far I’ve read from the Edwards Award, the Non Fiction Award and the Top 10 Best Fiction list. Next on my pile to read is Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgal, from the Top 10 Great Graphic Novels list. It is going to be an extra challenge to continue my progress this week since I have two ARCs awaiting reviews. My first audio book will be Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt, but that must wait until I finish listening to Matched by Ally Condie.
So many books, so little time. . . .
- The Vietnam War – still alive in YA fiction. Part I. Everybody Sees the Ants (ericheipert.com)
- Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King (fortitudeandpatience.com)