Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Sledding Hill

"The Sledding Hill" 

Teen Fiction, Paperback, 230 pages

I am so overwhelmed by books I want to read at work. I can't exactly explain how this one popped up as 'next in line' because it wasn't on my "must read" list.

The author, Chris Crutcher is apparently better known for his work being banned from schools than the work itself. He deals with issues that are relevant to today's youth using language that much of our kids also use, whether within earshot or not. This book, however, deals more with the issue of banned books than social issues. The language is clean and controversial topics are barely touched on.

The story is presented by a character who is tragically killed in the first chapter. It is the story of his best friend, Eddie, who is dealing with the death of his father, three weeks earlier, as well as that of his friend. Eddie was the first to find each body.

Billy, the dead kid, decides to stay around for a while after his death to be sure his friend is okay, although he realizes his friend's life is a minute blip in time. With what Billy now understands and knows about the universe, this really isn't plausible, but without it, there would be no story. I find it kind of interesting how much of my reading lately, has to do with death and "life" after… Which makes me think about "The Laws of Attraction" which I will be reading soon, but I digress.

Only Billy and a few other people realize that Eddie is a very bright kid who apparently is ADHD. Through my own child development classes of the past I realize that people learn in different ways, some through sight, some through sound, some through writing, and some through motion. Eddie learns through motion. When he is moving is the only time his brain seems to be able to stay focused. When he is 'still' his mind bounces from one subject to another. It appears this bouncing is also what allows Billy the opportunity to present himself to Eddie, which of course makes Eddie believe he is crazy. 

When school starts in the fall Eddie's class is assigned a book by Chris Crutcher. A top student, athlete and head of the Youth for Christ club objects to the book and begins the process of getting it banned. The remainder of the book is the fight for and against banning the book and the final outcome, with the book being pulled from the school, along with many other authors' works written for youth. 

I started off really liking this book. The deaths and the afterlife and Billy's connection with his friend kept my attention and anticipation high. Where it lost me was at the point the book was introduced to the students.

Why? Because at this point the author made himself the center point of attention. As far as I can ascertain, the book itself ("Warren Peece") is fictional, but supposedly written by the author of the book I am reading. I cannot say exactly why that put me off, but it did. 

I finished the book, eventually getting beyond this annoyance. The ending was weak but overall the message of the book, censorship in our schools, was an important one. The author included three appendixes at the end of the book dealing with his experience of the issue. 

I have to believe that exposing our children to all the diversity and issues in the world, with our own parental loving guidance, will only strengthen them as adults. Sheltering them from the real world leaves them unprepared to deal with real issues. Like a vaccination, a little controlled bit of the disease makes us strong. I'd rather give my kids exposure to foul language, teen sex, drugs, diseases, etc. through books than through experience.

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