The book that is you

We need books!  We need stories and voices that say the same things that we hear in our heads; we need to know there are others like us.  When I read Lenny’s Space by Kate Banks, that’s exactly how I reacted.  

Lenny is a boy who is very intelligent and creative but not emotionally on par with his classmates.  His immaturity doesn’t seem to be due to any affliction or condition (which can also be a powerful story) but rather comes from Lenny’s views of the world as a place to be curious about and manipulate creatively, rather than interpreted through feelings.  Lenny predictably upsets even his patient teachers and mother with his detached take on reality, but meetings with a special teacher/therapist named Muriel show that Lenny’s feelings are there, just waiting for an outlet.  

In the beginning, Lenny has no friends, never knew his father, and his mother is a hand model who never takes her gloves off.  Each of these is something that turns into a point of development for Lenny, in ways that are beautiful and painful, and sometimes both. Lenny’s character really reminded me of myself in the times when he humorously passes judgement on people and events with a myopic flair for uncommon sense, such as his verdict that the principal’s chair is wasted because he never spins around in it, only sits down straight.  

I think this is a wonderful book for children who may find themselves misunderstood even though they know they are intelligent, but also a very canny portrayal of the child some of us once might have been.  This book was certainly that for me, is there a book like that for you?

2 comments on “The book that is you

  1. The book I read as a child that had that same effect on me was “A Traveller in Time” by Alison Uttley. Uttley’s character, Penelope Taverner, is a bookish, dreamy child, who weaves stories about past times, finds beauty and comfort in the natural world, and is considered “fey” by her more active and practical siblings. That was me to a “T” – and still is. Penelope is sent to “recover her strength” with her mother’s country relatives and finds the past suddenly alive and present in the Tudor manor house where they live. Her story, full of grief, joy, warm human encounters, and the intense comforts of everyday pleasures gave me a foundation for respecting and finding charm in my own idiosyncratic personality.

    The book that placed another layer on that foundation is “Leo, the Late Bloomer” by Robert Kraus. This is a simple picture book, and I never read it until I was an adult, but the message left its mark on me.

  2. What a great way of putting it! I totally agree. I love book when they can identify a feeling I have with better words or use character traits I identify with. I think Tamora Pierce’s Keladry from the Protector of the Small series was a character I loved because I understood, and those books were my favorite of hers. A couple of my siblings mentioned they liked that series the least, because it was less excited and action-packed-Goes to show, I guess, I didn’t mind that at all because I so loved the character.

    I also love all the characters in Deep Secret-my favorite by the author of Howl’s Moving Castle, that you mentioned a couple days ago.

    I’m enjoying the blog by the way. Surprising how many of the books I’ve read and enjoyed; I’m still young at heart I guess. 🙂

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