Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I knew it couldn't last...

the peaceful, easy days, that is. Day 2 didn't go quite as smoothly as Day 1. Minor annoyances, like half a dozen eggs dropped and smashed on the floor and a cactus needle stuck in the thumb. (Is it any wonder that my mom affectionately calls me Grace?) Major patience-trying episodes, like Max's full-blown over-the-top tantrum. Sadness, like the death of one of our sweet, little mice. (Not at all unexpected, as she'd already lived far longer than normal life-expectancy for a mouse, but very sad nonetheless. She was such an incredibly sweet girl.) And worst of all, a hanging-one's-head-in-shame lapse in parental judgment. As much as I hate even admitting that I now sport a large Scarlet B (Bad Mother) on my chest, I do have a reason for it. Because, after I explain, I'm going to ask for your help.

So, what happened? I let Annie read a book that I shouldn't have. I figured it was bound to happen sooner or later. She reads so darn many books, and many of the books she reads are teen/YA books. And in general, I don't have a problem with that...there are so many good books out there in those sections of the library/bookstores. But all of these books are obviously not appropriate for a 10-year-old. I can't possibly read everything before her...she literally reads twice as fast as I do, and has far more time to do it. But I do try to read jacket covers and reviews, etc. to get an idea. But a review doesn't necessarily tell me what I need to know.

But I have to admit that what happened was even worse than one slipping through the cracks. Tithe, by Holly Black, was actually a book I'd read! I remembered the story in general, remembered liking a lot of the faerie aspects while not being overly impressed with the book overall, and even remembered that there was a fair bit of swearing in the book. But there was something I didn't remember. And I should have. She asked me about it, and we had an honest discussion. But she never should have read it to start with. And I let her.

Last night at supper, Annie and I came up with an idea. We thought we'd just ask you. Like I said, the last thing I want to do is stop her from reading YA books altogether. She reads at a very high level (she tested at a high school level all the way back in 2nd grade), so difficultly is not the issue. Maturity is. And since so many of you are such avid readers and have undoubtedly read some of the books we're unsure of in her TBR pile, we were hoping that maybe you could give us some advice.

So, here's the list at this point:
*The Blue Girl and
*Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles de Lint
*The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (though I'm pretty sure I already talked about this one with Nymeth...I know it was her review that sold me on it!)
*The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (though I'm pretty sure it was Jean who recommended this one for Annie...am I right, Jean?)
*Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
*The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Any thoughts on any of these books would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. And thank you, Carl, for the heads up on Blood and Chocolate. (We've set that one aside for a few years.)

Wonder how long it will be before I can remove this big ugly B?

***And by the way, Rich, sorry to inform you this way, but Max wet your side of the bed last night.***


Joy said...

Oh my goodness! What a day! And...take that big, ugly B off of you right now. You do not deserve it. Things happen, Debi. We can't be expected to ward off everything, BUT it is how we react to the situations that matter. You are on top of it all and are taking measures to fix all areas of oops!

Now if you want, you can leave the "B" on, but change the color to purple (royalty) and the tune to BEST mom. :)

Have a great day!

Org Junkie said...

Gosh I can so relate. I have the exact same problem with trying to stay on top of the books for K. So so hard to do.

Nymeth said...

"The Book of Lost Things" does have a few slightly gory moments, and quite a handful of scary ones. I wouldn't recommend it to a young child, but I think Annie should be okay. It helps that the protragonist is a young boy himself - anything that would upset a younger reader upsets the main character too, so there's a sort of empathy that way. And the violence is the kind of fairy tale violence that children seem to deal with very well.

Anyway... that most certainly does NOT make you a bad parent. You can't control everything that she reads, and so far you are doing a great job in raising a talented, creative, intelligent and very well-read daughter.

When I was something like 13 I picked up a book I shouldn't have, and my parents never noticed. It was "The Lady of the Camellias" by Alexandre Dumas, a book with themes like adultery and a young prostitute dying of tuberculosis. What happened was that a good deal of the book went over my head. I was a bit disturbed by some of the parts I did understand, but in no time I had completely forgotten about them. It was only looking at the book again some 8 years later that I remembered that I had even read it at that age.

Neil Gaiman has said that children are their own best censors, and this is something I agree with. They have ways to block out what they are not yet ready to deal with. I think that whatever upset Annie about "Tithe" will soon be forgotten.

I'm sorry to hear about the death of your little mouse :(

Kailana said...

The Blue Girl was the last book that I read in 2007. The main character is very eccentric, and a little wild around the ages, but I don't remember there actually being anything too graphic in the book. It's mostly a bit of a fairy tale, but honestly when I read it I wasn't thinking of it from a ten-year-old point of view.

I agree on the Historian. I haven't read the whole thing yet (slacker, I know), but what I have read is fine! And, I know all about the troubles with reading. I read at a high school level when I was young too, so I found the regular books for my age boring! (Kids have it much better nowadays) My mother had a very hard time with my reading at times because I used to read books I probably shouldn't have!

Kailana said...

er, sorry, the character in The Blue Girl is wild around the 'edges' not the ages! Typo, sorry!

Jennifer said...

It happens. We do our best to protect our children, but they are sometimes exposed to things before they are ready. At least she was able to come and talk to you about it. You are NOT a bad mother. Lose the B!!!! And that will just make you a little more aware in the future. I'm sure Annie will be fine. Don't beat yourself up!

But oh my, how you turned a pretty serious post into one that made me LAUGH OUT LOUD!!!! That last line - oh my goodness! But then, it's not my bed that got wet, so I can laugh!

Chris said...

Debi! I swear I had to laugh at you calling yourself a bad mother...I'm sorry. If you're a bad mother, then I'm REALLY scared of being a parent some day! I agree with everyone else...take that B off of you!!!! You most definitely don't deserve it. You can only do so much and like Joy said, it's how you react that matters...and you're definitely taking care of that. Tithe is a "young adult" book and Annie is reading on a "young adult" level...I can imagine there's some freaky stuff to a 10 year old in books like that, but unfortunately to someone as advanced as her, things are probably going to pop up like that and you can't catch them all. But she'll be fine, I know she will. And you will too! If it make you feel any better, one of the first "long books" that I read was Misery by Stephen King in 5th grade. How's that for traumatic. And I read it for fun! I turned out ok :p

As for the books you mentioned, I've only read The Book of Lost Things and The Historian. Nymeth's comment sums up The Book of Lost Things perfectly. Honestly, I can't remember particular things about The Historian right now that would keep a 10 year old from reading it. It was certainly a little spooky at the beginning in an atmospheric way, but honestly if Annie doesn't scare too easily (and I'm not talking vulguar images, just the something in the shadows feeling) I think she'd be fine with The Historian. I don't want to be responsible though, get other opinions too! LOL! But if she read Dracula, I'm sure she'd be fine with this one too.

And bottom line, no need to be down on yourself, Debi. You're an amazing mother to your children. Sounds like a frustrating day all around. I can see how it's easy to get down on a day like that.

Debi said...


Geez, thank you all for all the extremely sweet things you said! I still feel like an idiot, but you sure helped cushion the blow to my "mommy-ego".

And thanks for the info, too! Annie was excited to hear that The Historian, The Book of Lost Things, and The Blue Girl all got thumbs up.

And Chris-

Misery is a book that gives me the chills, and I didn't read it until I was an adult!

Eva said...

I can see Tithe not being great for a ten-year-old, but you're not a bad mom! My mom let me read Piers Anthony when I was ten (it was a book where half the plot is this demoness trying to seduce an ogre...yep-I put it down myself).

Let's see...
I've read Twilight and The Looking Glass Wars recently. Neither of them have explicit s*x, and certainly nothing even hinting at bondage or homosexuality. In Twilight even kissing is a big deal, while The Looking Glass Wars isn't romance-oriented at all. Twilight has one pretty scary/violent scene. The Looking Glass Wars has quite a bit of violence, and it tends to be explicit. There's a palace coup in the beginning, and Alyss' mom gets decapitated. Also, Alyss' best friend ends up having a lot of anger/violence issues. But violence is always portrayed as something bad. (Here's my review.)

Jean said...

I am the one who recommended The Historian after reading Annie's review of a vampire book. I don't recall (and I can thumb back through it if you like since it's sitting here on the desk in front of me) anything terribly graphic in either the sex or violence realms, though as Chris said, there's certainly stuff there that you could get frightened by but it's not the graphic screaming scary sort of stuff. It's the I wonder what's out there or what could be out there sort of stuff, and I sense that Annie could handle that.

I would also agree with Nymeth that much of what kids read does go over their heads. I know I read many books as a kid (I was much like Annie in terms of how fast my reading level developed)that I probably shouldn't have based on my re-reading them later. When I re-read them, though, I don't remember thinking that a particular scene or item upset me when I was a kid. I just had the reaction, wow! I read that when I was a kid? Why don't I remember more about it?

The one thing I did take great care with in terms of my kids was movies. Don wanted to see Jurassic Park--he was 5 when it came out, and he had friends who were going to see it. I went to see it and laid down the law. No. I did let him see it a year or two later when it was out on video, because watching it on a small screen in our living room with the lights on was not nearly as overpowering as the large, dark theater would have been.

Too long a comment, I know. Sorry!

Debi said...

Thanks Eva! I didn't realize that The Looking Glass Wars was meant for such a young audience...that's usually the first thing I check (the age "recommendation" at Amazon). Obviously missed that on this one. But I'm happy to hear about Twilight...she's really been wanting to read that one!


No such thing as too long of a comment!

I'm definitely a bit more stringent when it comes to movies, too. I don't let them watch things that I probably could sometimes. Annie was, and Gray is so easily frightened by images. See it every time they close their eyes kind of thing.

But I think you're right...I don't think The Historian will bother Annie at all. She loves the dark, scary type of tale. She's even o.k. with some gore and violence (face it, there's definitely some violence in LOTR). But she gets uncomfortable with sex. What bothered her in Tithe were some references, though not graphic, to an abusive gay relationship. What she couldn't understand was the abusiveness.

Somer said...

As the mom of an 11-year-old with a reading level similar to that of Annie's, I thought I'd chime in here. You are in no way a bad mom! The older Laura gets, the harder it is for me to judge everything she reads. My first experience with this was when Laura read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret in 2nd grade. I have never been tight lipped about sex or other body stuff, but I wasn't quite ready for her to read that just yet... My most recent experience, which I may still find out was a bad one, was giving in and buying Laura Where the Wind Blows by James Patterson, because she's obsessed with Maximum Ride (which she knows is only marginally related). She begged for months and I finally gave in after thumbing through it. I hope I made the right decision!

As for the ones you've mentioned, the only one I've read is The Historian. I don't remember anything in it that would be inappropriate for Annie.

kreed said...

Yeah, right bad mom...I'll just go on and pretend you didn't berate yourself for letting one book slip through the cracks or I'd really have to give you a firm talking to!

Hopefully Day 2 was as bad as it will get and all will be smooth sailing from here.

Can't help you with the books - I have read The Historian but can't remember enough specifics to give an age recommendation. Good book, though!

Dewey said...

It's really hard to give advice since I don't know what types of things you'd object to. For example, my son would STILL be afraid of Goosebumps books, so he's never read them, whereas I had friends who let their 8 year olds read them. On the other hand, I know families who won't let their teens watch The Simpsons. I assume this is because those families either a) don't understand satire or b) have never watched The Simpsons but have just heard negative things about the show or c) both or d) some reason I can't fathom.

Now that I've read the comments, I see that it was an abusive relationship that she had a hard time with. I would just take the chance to talk about it, rather than beating yourself up! One of the really common challenges with gifted kids is that they often encounter things that they are ready for intellectually, but not emotionally. In all sorts of ways, not just in books. Thank goodness she can talk to you about disturbing things! Obviously a sign that you have a big G on you for GREAT mom.

But of the books on that list that I'm familiar with, I don't think any have in them anything that would be as upsetting as an abusive relationship.

cj said...

Debi -

You can add me to the list. One oversight doesn't make you a bad mom. Not by a longshot.

In fact, as long as you're there and willing to discuss things with her, I'd say you're doing your best as a mom. Kids grow up, as much as we don't want them to, and as a parent the best we can do is be there for them when they have questions.

And, out of curiosity, have you asked Annie if she thinks you made a huge mistake? It's her opinion that really counts, after all.

I don't remember discussing books with my mom at all. With six kids, little money, and her having to work because of that, she didn't have much time to spare. I wish we could've talked like you and Annie.


Carl V. said...

You certainly don't need to feel like you have a scarlet B on your chest. It happens, that is part of life. And with a child who is as advanced as yours, but is still a child, that is bound to happen. I'm glad you have the kind of relationship with Annie that she felt she could come talk to you about what concerned her.

I read The Looking Glass War a few years back, here's the review:


I said in it that the war and violence stuff may not be suitable to younger audiences, but I cannot remember now just how violent it was. I think it was pretty violent though and it too is shelved in the teen section and that is probably the reason why.

I haven't read enough of Little Grrl Lost to know how appropriate it is yet but will let you know when I have. I certainly will make the effort in the future when I review children's and young adult books to be cognizant of what if any potentially objectional material is in it and will blog about it.

I know we all have to learn stuff sooner or later, but in my opinion some of the stuff in these Holly Black books, the Annette Curtis Klause books, some of Gaiman's short stories, etc. are just not appropriate for younger children.

There seems to be this rush in Teen fiction to introduce not only sex, but sometimes unhealthy, abusive sex as some sort of 'coming of age' thing. I don't quite get it. There certainly isn't that kind of stuff in the speculative fiction I read as an adult that is as prevalent as it is in the same kind of fiction I read that is geared for teens.

Anyway, back to you. Quit feeling bad. You're a great mom and it will all be okay.

~**Dawn**~ said...

I don't know what topic she read about, but please don't beat yourself up! You provided a good open dialogue for her... and sometimes even though you wouldn't choose to do it this way on purpose, you are given an opportunity to stregthen the trust that is necessary for open communication as she gets older.

And now I am going to go back to giggling at the ending to this post.

Lis Garrett said...

Debi - I hate to tell you what I was reading when I was Annie's age. I had very little parental supervision. ;-) I was bored one summer, when I was about 11, and so my dad gave me a bunch of Stephen King and Dean Koontz books to read. While I love Dean Koontz now, his storylines are definitely too adult for kids. And after reading Salem's Lot, I had nightmares for the rest of the summer. Thanks, Dad!

gail@more than a song said...

I can't help you with any of those listed, haven't read any of them! I hope everything is going better now.
The first child is always kinda the one we learn on, my oldest was probably a little bit like Annie in his reading. When he was about 10 he read Rise and Fall of the third Reich and I had no idea he did....maybe not whatever Annie ran across but he was having nightmares for the longest time about his parents dying in a concentration camp! It was a few years before we ever found out why!

Jean said...

Reading Gail's comment about her son's early reading reminded me of two of the books Don read in second grade: Fahrenheit 451 and The Hot Zone. The latter is why we have a dog named Marburg. And Don went through a Titanic phase when he was three years old. He may well be the only three-year-old ever to request A Night To Remember as bedtime reading and to stick with it night after night after night as I read it to him.

Quixotic said...

Oh you are so not a bad mother, Debi. These things are bound to happen, especially with children reading at the level Annie does.

Like Lis, I started reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz novels at around 10/11. Before that I picked up one of my Mum's Wilbur Smith novels...Elephant Song. That disturbed me a great deal - rape and violence. But as I think Nymeth made reference to - there is something in the idea that children are great self-censors.

I would say that if Annie is ok with scary tales, The Historian should be fine. I certainly don't remember anything graphic or any worrying sexual references. The Book of Lost Things is probably okay too in that respect - have to agree with everything Nymeth said there.