Sunday, July 23, 2006

Book Report 

This is a follow-up to my post on various book "banning" controversies in public schools. I recently read Peg Kehret's book, Abducted, to see what all of the fuss was about. I give it a thumbs-up rating.

It is predictable that the popularity of something increases when controversy arises. Kehret's book was hard to come by at the public library. I was on the waiting list for a brief period before I got the book.

When I was in junior high school, there was a controversy in another Minnesota school district about the violence in Shirley Jackson's short story, The Lottery. We discussed the controversy in my English class, but did not actually read the story. I promptly went to the school library and read it for myself; perhaps that was what our teacher had in mind. The Lottery was nominally about a town where the inhabitants drew straws to see which one of them would be stoned to death. I saw it as a morality tale, where the characters were perfectly happy to have someone stoned to death, as long as they didn't draw the short straw themselves. The obvious violence of the subject matter brought objections from parents in the other school district. But the idea of a modern town deciding to stone a citizen is so fanciful that the reader can jump right past the violence and into the message.

Abducted is quite realistic. Aside from a number of improbable coincidences that keep the story moving, it could easily happen in real life. A reader with knowledge of the Seattle area will be able to visualize the landmarks as the story progresses. It is a bit too simplistic for an adult reader, but that is not the target audience. I am undecided whether or not a ten year-old is mature enough to read this book. I am convinced, however, that the Apple Valley parent mentioned in the previous post has raised a valid concern.

Kidnapping is a very frightening concept, in fiction or in real life. When I was in kindergarten, during "sharing time," one of my classmates told us about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. The kidnappers cut off one of his ears and mailed it to the media, to show that they were serious. I can attest that my classmate's little factoid was the source of some nightmares among the five and six year-olds. That may have been the origin of the sarcastic phrase, "Thanks for sharing."