Monday, April 19, 2010

Eli the Good

House, Silas. Eli the Good.
There is a lot going on in ten-year-old Eli's world in the summer of 1976. His father is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after having been in Vietnam; his aunt, a war protester, has moved in with his family because she has breast cancer; his friend Edie's parents are divorcing; his sister is fighting with his mother. The background to all of this activity is the American Bicentennial, an event which today's children can't begin to fathom-- it permeated everything that summer. This is a lyrical story of a particular moment in history, and Eli's dealings with the myriad trauma in his life is interesting.

That said, if I were to hand this book to a 12-year-old interested in Vietnam, I don't think he's be happy. Booklist gives the recommended grades for this as 9-12, and for good reason. Not much is happening. The detached tone of a forty-something father looking back at his tenth summer gives this a slow, introspective plot. House does a great job, especially since he was only 6 in 1976. Since I was 11 that year, I can vouch for his historical authenticity. This just isn't a middle school book.

Of course, I'm often wrong about these things. Appelt's The Underneath was actually nominated for the Buckeye Book Award, and I still think it is possibly the worst book I have ever read, and my students so far have concurred. It doesn't circulate unless I push it, and then the students bring it back and are disappointed in me. That's why there are all sorts of different books. I won't be buying Eli the Good, but it would be a good addition to a high school collection.

1 comment:

  1. I'm reading the book now and I have to say if it hadn't been for class I wouldn't have bought it, but now that I'm reading it I can't put it down.