Q is for Quality (Quattlebaum)

What I read: Grover G. Graham and Me by Mary Quattlebaum.

There aren't many "Q's" when it comes to fiction authors. I'm sure there are loads of "Q" fiction authors in the Library of Congress, but "Q's" in local libraries tend to accompany one to two shelves--at the most.

At my local library, I looked over the two "Q" shelves in the adult fiction section and then went to look at the three or four "Q" books in the children's section. There I found Quattlebaum, and I decided that anyone with such an awesome last name deserved to be read.

The book is actually quite good. It belongs to the topic, "Fiction about orphan/foster children." Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming series comes to mind. Grover G. Graham and Me is told from a young foster boy's point of view. He is on foster home number eight or nine. There he encounters a toddler who reminds him of himself (this is never stated directly) and decides to rescue the toddler when the seemingly irresponsible mother comes to reclaim him.

The rescue part of the book is actually, realistically, quite short. It would have been interesting to see if the boy could have survived with the toddler for more than a day, but the book is really about the boy deciding to set down roots, not about the kidnapping.

The only slight snag is the boy's voice. This is actually a common problem with books told from a child's point of view. How do you make the child sound like a child without making him or her sound, well, boring? I'm not sure that children are too different from my cats: I'm hungry. I'm bored. Is there anything to do? Are we there yet? Can I go out and play?

I mean, how much critical thinking actually goes on? I don't remember much from my own prepubescence, but then, I've always liked getting older. I never wish myself back to my own youth.

My lack of memory (or desire to remember) may be why I don't write children's books. C.S. Lewis, for example, may not have liked children very much, but he vividly remembered his childhood. His child characters, therefore, although adult-like in many ways, have responses that are rooted in childhood's common experiences. For instance, there is a delightful passage in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Lucy "got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer." I remember reading that as a child and going, "Yes! Yes! That is the best feeling in the world."

On the other hand, C.S. Lewis provides his children with far more authority than your average child has--which is kind of the point. But "realistic" fiction (which, I have complained elsewhere, is sometimes terribly unrealistic) can't make that trade-off. In real life, children don't have power. Consequently, "realistic" children are given far more introspective thoughts about their powerlessness than I think they probably have.

But then, a lack of introspection would make such books pretty uninteresting. When I'm reading books of this type, I simply increase the age of the heroes or heroines in my mind: the hero isn't eleven, I tell myself; he's thirteen. And then I have no problem with the story at all!

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