July 6th, 2011
Subterfuge, as a character trait, appears early. Guilt always won when my older son spilled or broke something, so I was unprepared for my second son’s imaginative streak. At the age of four, he informed my in-laws that his brother was in the hospital to get rid of his “extra” fingers. Seven years later, I still find forbidden candy bar wrappers behind the TV cabinet. I joke that he will grow up to be either a lawyer or a used car salesman, but to appease my worries I started reading “prodigy fiction”. In these books featuring brilliant child narrators, depth of imagination and cunning lead to mysteries being solved or family issues resolved, not juvenile delinquency. Straight forward and quick moving, they provide a surprising perspective. Here are a few to try:
What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn
Playing Harriet the Spy has dire consequences for a lonely ten-year-old girl. Twenty years later, the girl’s stuffed monkey is found in the employee area of the mall where she disappeared. Did she ever leave?
Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
When digging on the moor fails to turn up his uncle’s body, twelve-year-old Steven starts writing letters to the serial killer believed to have killed him. In looking for closure for his family, Steven manages to give the killer a new lease on life.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley
An 11-year-old expert in poisons and the art of sibling revenge, Flavia outwits the local constabulary in determining how the dead man in the cucumber patch came to be there and why.
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
Having won an award for his meticulous scientific drawings, T.S. explores both his journey East to accept his prize and the history of his adventurous family. The margins of the book overflow with samples of the narrator’s maps and illustrations, adding another level to the story.
Room by Emma Donoghue
Five-year-old Jack lives with his mother in a shed in the yard of her kidnapper. Their life, escape and reentry into the world are revealed through his simple, but painfully real observations.
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen
Having suffered a near fatal accident each year for his entire life, Louis narrates from the coma clinic he rests in after a fall from a cliff on his ninth birthday. Suspicion falls on his father who has disappeared, but will Louis’ subconscious reveal the truth?
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Disturbed by the killing of a neighbor’s dog, a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome sets out to solve the murder. Unable to process the emotion and chaos of daily life, the narrator still manages to reveal more than just a killer.
Now in middle school, my son’s subterfuge has lost the magical inventiveness of his early years, focusing instead on avoiding unpleasant situations, like health class homework. Still, I’ll continue looking for a better place to hide the candy bars…
Is there a book or movie that lets you see the world through a child’s eyes once again? What are your favorites?