Monday, August 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Books

I'm almost always reading more than one book at a time.  Here are my two current reads:

One is a hoot, one is quite serious.  I really need both!

A Long Way From Chicago- Richard Peck

Richard Peck's books are my family's favorite read-alouds.  They take place in the nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries, and are full of nostalgia. (also history!)  Many of them are very funny, while others are mysterious.  All are engaging.

This is our second time reading this book aloud- the first of three in the "Grandma Dowdel" series.

The story is told from young Joey's point of view, as he and his younger sister, Mary Alice, visit their Grandma Dowdel in rural Illinois every summer.  Each chapter is a story from each yearly visit, from 1929-1935.  The Great War is over.  The Great Depression is on.  Grandma's town is full of characters- just like Mayberry- with Grandma being the biggest character of all.  Grandma is shocking, unconventional, clever, and really does have a heart of gold, as the readers discover.  You won't find straight-delivered morals here, but as the schemes play out, usually the right thing is done in the end.  Grandma Dowdell is my hero.

This book is a Newberry Honor book.  Richard Peck's books are written for children, (about age 9-10 on up)  and are equally enjoyed by adults too.

Reviving Ophelia:  Saving the selves of adolescent girls- Mary Pipher, PH.D

I really find this book very effective in describing the objectification and diminishing of the true self that happens in adolescence, as kids become more involved in the adolescent social systems, and absorb more of the "junk culture" values.  This book focuses on girls, though it seems to happen to boys to a different degree.

As I read it, I remember my own adolescent pain, and appreciate Mary Pipher's insights into the social patterns that set girls up to be less authentic, and then mourn the loss of this authenticity, as they assimilate into the broader culture.  This culture was harsh when I was in school, and is much worse now- with reducing a person down to their looks and possessions, not to mention sex appeal, at earlier and earlier ages.  According to Pipher, harassment, violence, and the incidence of having sex is now down into the middle school years.  (keep in mind that this book was written in the 1990s)  

Not having children in the school system, I don't have direct access to knowing how things are today.  I hear the parents of middle school girls muse over whether their girls are kissing their boyfriends or not.  According to Pipher, much more than that is happening, (as she has witnessed with her clients as a psychologist) so I wonder what the norm is, if there is one.

Anyway, helping Daughter make it through adolescence with her self intact is one of my biggest concerns now, as she enters puberty.  I want to understand the pressures the girls face today, and understand how she may react.  I want to help prepare her for the changes ahead.  I want to protect her from dangerous situations and unhealthy attitudes, even as she needs to move away from me into a wider sphere.  (I also want to do the same for Son, who is older, and am looking for more material that addresses boys)

I've found this book the most helpful so far- more so than "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" and "So Sexy So Soon", both of which I have read recently.

...and thank goodness for Grandma Dowdel, to inspire me, and act as a counterweight to my serious reading!


  1. Saving Ophelia is on my TBR pile. You've convinced me to bump it up.

  2. Great, T.L.! I hope you find it very helpful!