Books for Big Conversations
All books have the potential for great discussion, or as Julie Bogart calls it, big juicy conversation. This month I’ve reviewed our recent reads that led to the juiciest conversations. We didn’t necessarily love them all, but we’re grateful for the opportunity they provided us to talk about some heavy but necessary truths.
The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig
The Truth Pixie is unable to to lie. It has landed her in some prickly social situations. She has resolved not to leave the house, but even the Truth Pixie has to eat…
When the cursed pixie meets a little girl having a tough time in life, she tries again to resist telling the truth, but this little girls wants nothing less. And so the Truth Pixie tells her the truth – sometimes life is hard, and for this little girl things are only going to get harder. But, she continues, if she hangs in there, her life will come good again.
The Truth Pixie pulls no punches in this heart-warming story told in rhyme. Any fan of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day will also enjoy this book. Miss Six asked us to read it several times! It’s thick but can be enjoyed in a single sitting and includes great artwork for visual learners.
The Magic Place – Chris Wormell
Clementine dreams of The Magic Place. One day she lays her head in the cold fireplace of her cellar bedroom and sees the real sky up above for the first time. On another day, a tilted window pane reflects the place of her dreams back down the chimney. Clementine becomes determined to escape her aunt and uncle’s prison of a home and reach it.
I found this story to be a great introduction to a difficult conversation about stranger danger, ‘bad’ people, and child neglect/ abuse without being too disturbing for Miss Six. The baddies get their comeuppance and Clementine gets a happy ending.
Mister Ten also enjoyed this read-aloud. The chapters are short and several can be read in one sitting. The pictures are black and white sketches but full of expression.
The Iron Man – Ted Hughes
The Iron Man was originally published in 1968 as The Iron Man: A Children’s Story in Five Nights. It is a quick read and a comment on war and peace that could make for a great conversation starter.
I didn’t find Ted Hughes easy to read aloud. The author’s point about war was a little lost on the children. The fight between the Iron Man and the Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon reminded us more of Anansi the spider and his tales of clever trickery. The book was a good excuse to watch the film adaptation The Iron Giant which we really enjoyed and felt made a clearer point about war.
I felt Hughes’ ending with the Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon sent to the heavens to sing to mankind and sooth their souls was a better comment on lasting peace than any comment the film may or may not have made about peace, even if it was a bit weird.
Both Miss Six and Mister Ten said they enjoyed this book. I’m on the fence, but I like books we can compare to films and have interesting conversations about.
The Iron Woman – Ted Hughes
The Iron Woman is the sequel to The Iron Man, published 25 years later in the 1990’s. It too is a quick read, though not as quick as The Iron Man. This volume is a comment on pollution and could be a great conversation starter on sexism too.
The book begins with Lucy observing animals in the marsh acting strangely. Shortly thereafter the Iron Woman emerges from the marsh to threaten the waste processing factory in town. Lucy’s father works at the factory, so she enlists Hogarth’s help to reason with her. Hogarth in turn enlists the Iron Man’s help to reason with her. The Iron Man, instead, gifts the Iron Woman the song of the Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon to fortify her message and give her one wish. What does she wish for? All of the men, all over the world, turn into creatures that must live in the polluted waters themselves or in their bathtubs at home.
The ending of this book is so weird. I think a film adaptation is required, once again, to clarify Hughes’ message but also bring it up to date. Ideally, Greta Thunberg would voice/play the Iron Woman. Miss Six and Mister Ten both enjoyed this book though it had few pictures. There were some laugh-out-loud moments, though I didn’t really enjoy reading this one aloud either.
What have you been reading this month?