Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Time Warp

One of our daughters is attending a performing and visual arts day camp for the summer, where campers declare a major area of concentration and a minor. Her major is musical theater. She will spend two hours every day learning theater techniques and preparing for the big performance at the end of the summer. On the first day, her instructor described the play they will be performing and our daughter, in turn, described it to us. It's a story about an old guy who, following a dream sequence, goes back in time to high school where he has another chance to deal with the cool kid, the nerd, the mean girls, etc. The old guy returns to his high school days in the 80s and each scene is highlighted by a song from the era; songs like Footloose and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Were you paying attention there? This old guy goes back to the 80s. Wait a minute! I was in high school in the 80s! I'm not that old, am I?! Kids have such a funny perspective when it comes to aging and so their parents; totally divergent.

I had a similar "hold your horses" moment (an expression my dad used to use that always struck me as an old person's saying, even when he was my age!) when I read some of my favorite books written for middle grade readers that were set during my childhood and are considered works of historical fiction. Gary Schmidt's Okay For Now, set in the late 60s, and Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me, set in the late 70s, come to mind. I find it bewildering that my childhood is now far enough in the past to be fodder for historical fiction. Surely I'm not that old! Shouldn't historical fiction focus on the very olden days? Of course, there were no cellphones, Internet, Facebook, Twitter, or BBMing in the days of my childhood and when you consider the changes to the technological landscape alone, it's easy to consider those days olden.

For a real glimpse into history, consider Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix, an advanced picture book written by Gary Golio and illuistrated by Javaka Steptoe. What an interesting glimpse in the visually artistic and truly talented kid who grew into a legend and, many would say, the greatest electric guitarist of all time. The illustrations are key to getting a true sense of the musician as an artist and the text is fascinating and inspiring. Gary Golio writes children's books about legendary musicians and artist like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and John Coltrane. Parents who want to share their love of music and insight into musicians with their kids should check these out.

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