Looking for some summer reading? I’ve got two books that are both in my “Top-Ten of All Time” (neither of which has anything to do with education, school or Montessori!) What I love about both books is that the authors truly capture the authentic voice of a child or teen narrator.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbra Kingsolver is a story told by the wife and four daughters of an evangelical Baptist missionary who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from their home in Georgia, but soon find that all of it – from garden seeds to boxed cake mix – is calamitously transformed on African soil. It’s a heart-wrenching story of one family’s tragic undoing and survival over three decades in postcolonial Africa. Each chapter is narrated by the mother Orleanna or one of the four girls. Rachel, 15, is a self-absorbed teen who resents being torn from her friends and social life back home; Leah, 14, adores her father and shares his enthusiasm for the mission; Ada, Leah’s twin, chooses not to speak aloud but is a sharp and cynical observer; and Ruth May, 5, is an adventurer, full of curiosity…that ultimately changes the course of the family’s story.
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell* is a coming-of-age story that covers a year in the life of Jason Taylor, from a small town in England in 1982. Each of the thirteen chapters represents a month of his life as he grows into adolescence. It’s a story of of first cigarettes, first kisses, first Duran Duran LPs, and first deaths; of Margaret Thatcher’s recession and Falkland Islands War; of stupid and dangerous teenage pranks and dares; of tense family dinners and a slow-motion divorce; of cruel and manipulative school bullies; of Jason’s socially-devastating speech impediment. As a reader, you can see things that young Jason can’t, but as the book goes, you watch him mature and slowly come to understand the world around him.
Both books do an amazing job of getting inside the heads of the characters, in an incredibly accurate way. The voices of all of the young characters ring true. Cheers!
*I’d recommend almost any of David Mitchell’s books.
**Full disclosure: I used the help of CliffsNotes and Hudson Book Seller to write the book summaries above. The words are mostly, but not entirely, mine.