I still read aloud to my 11-year-old son at bedtime. We do it because he still loves it, so we have just never stopped, but here are a few other good reasons to do it. We have read so many good books together over the years, including all 7 Harry Potter books, the Narnia books, Dragon Rider, Hatchet and Brian’s Winter, The Hobbit, and a bunch of Gordon Korman books (his favourite right now).
For Christmas, he received The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, and I had heard it was good and was excited to get to it, so one night a few weeks ago we did. If I had known how intense it was going to be, I might have thought twice about it, but now that it’s over, I’m glad we read it together.
There were many cringe-worthy moments that had him hiding under the covers, whimpering – like when I read about how they used a condom to keep the fruit flies from coming out of the end of the vacuum. And, when Henry talks about Karen’s cleavage, or the part when he kisses Alberta. But, when we got to the big secret, the crux of the story, we were both shocked. I looked over at him and saw the gravity of what I had just read fall over his face. And, although he never cried, many times throughout the book, he had to put up with me pausing and collecting myself before carrying on.
But, wow, if you want to read a book about bullying and the ripple effects it can have, then this is the book. It is so well done. Susin Nielsen takes a loaded, shocking, depressing subject and weaves it into a sensitive, engaging story, peppered with humour. Yes, it is still shocking, and at times uncomfortable, but it is also sweet, funny, and appropriately written for teens. It sends a message to all readers that this unimaginable horror could happen to anyone, so be kind, and don’t judge.
As we were reading it, I promised my son it would be okay in the end, because it’s a children’s book, and all books for children turn out okay in the end, right? When it was over, we breathed a sigh of relief, and moved on to some more Gordon Korman.
After reading about Henry K. Larsen, I am determined to check out the rest of Susin Nielsen’s books.
What have been some of the toughest books you’ve read to your kids?