As I was making my book choices for Indiana, I realized that I didn’t have a young adult book. I always seem to choose at least one book that is a young adult or young readers’ book for each state. (Technically, I read 4 young adult books for New Mexico–the two Klages books, the Bruchac Code Talker book, and the Trinity graphic novel.)
Obviously, this has a lot to do with the fact that I have a 10 year-old son, and we read together a lot. So I’m always looking for good books to share with him.
Sometimes I read certain passages to him–like the story about the Navajo Code Talkers during a training exercise in the desert outside Kona, Hawaii, who knew to get water from the prickly pear cactus.
Or I share some element of a character or book with him–like the Rube Goldberg machines that Dewey makes in The Green Glass Sea (and the Wall in White Sands, Red Menace). He and his class are participating in this year’s Rube Goldberg competition, designing machines that will pour a box of cereal. So he thought the descriptions in the book were pretty cool.
He’s learned about the history of the Aleutian relocation camps with me, and the Navajo Code Talkers, and the Los Alamos labs where they developed the Gadget.
Occasionally, we read a whole book together, like we did with the graphic novel Trinity. He’s into science, (and he’s a 10 year-old boy) so he loves the thought of blowing stuff up. He was fascinated by the scientific explanations of nuclear physics, and the book is written at a pretty accessible level, all things considered. And, (perhaps most importantly to me) he also really understood the human messages in the book as well. The images in the book are not “graphic” (despite the “graphic novel” genre)–they are tasteful, poignant, and perfectly pitched. He really took away the message that just because science “can” do something does not mean that it “should.”
So I’m making it official and I will try to choose a young adult or young reader’s book for each state as I go. Much like the adult choices, these books may be classics–I’ve never read The Yearling (Florida), for example–but they may not be.
There are a lot of great books out there for young people–and not just the ones that are history lessons in (often poor) disguise. My son has read Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth Speare (Maine) and Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone (Virginia) this year in school. He sort of enjoyed them but he has enjoyed the books he and I read together more, while still having really good discussions about characters and morals and self esteem and peer pressure, and learning a ton of new vocabulary, all about figurative versus literal, dramatic irony, and so on.
We recently read Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff, which triggered some fantastic discussions related to friendships, peer pressure and self-esteem, without being preachy. It happens to take place in New York City, and, while I wouldn’t say that NYC is essential to the book, it does have a great mini-chapter about rain in New York.
When it rains in New York, people rush rush rush with their necks hunched low in their jackets and men stand at every street corner shouting, “Umbrella! Umbrella, five dollars!” The price always starts at five when it’s just sprinkling, then goes up to fifteen when it’s really pouring. Which, if you ask me, is just too bad, because that’s really when you need an umbrella most.
When it rains in New York, rich people’s dogs wear miniature raincoats and plastic slippers that pinch their paws, and kids giggle and shriek and splash in the puddles.
When it rains in New York, the playgrounds are empty and the buses are full. People cram together under the awning outside the bagel shop and talk too loudly on their phones.
The characters in the book mention going to the Met and the zoos, and using the subway, cabs and buses. It’s background, not necessary to the story, but it’s definitely New York City, and I’ll probably mention the book again when I get to New York.
In the meantime, I’m looking for a young adult book or young reader’s book set in Indiana. I’ve already read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green; I don’t really remember there being much about Indiana in there. I also considered Honey by Sarah Weeks, but although it is set in a small town in Indiana, it really just seems to be set in any small town. What I’d really like is a book set in Indianapolis with the Indy as a backdrop. If you happen to know of a good Indiana young adult or young reader’s book, please leave a comment!