Saturday, March 7, 2009

Books inscriptions and questions of loyalty (Books - Sons of Liberty by Adele Griffin)

I received a surprise gift from a classmate this week. A book - good choice! I particularly liked the fact that it was inscribed by the giver. This would be one of those booking-through-Thursday-type-questions: what do you think of book inscriptions? Some people are just horrified by writing of any kind in books but I love when I receive a book from someone, having it inscribed. It usually tells me something about why they chose the book for me and I can associate the book forever with the giver and the date. I love it too when I buy a used copy of something, if it has an inscription in it. I get a little bonus story of the previous reader's life along with whatever story the book has to tell. I don't know that many people who keep up this old tradition and I find it a meaningful one.

This is a novel for young readers called Sons of Liberty by Adele Griffin. It concerns a middle school-aged boy named Rock who is smart and has a thing for history, but seems to get in a lot of trouble. His father is a discipline freak who does things like wake his children up at 2 am to fix the roof. His mother has become a frightened agoraphobic. There is also an older brother, a toddler sister, and a friend with even more abusive parents. Griffin creates a convincing child's state-of-mind in Rock, even though this reader sometimes did not believe the dialogue and could smell the effort of presenting thematic content for a young reader. Not that integrating themes into story isn't a challenge, I just don't want to be aware of it. This book told a good story in which a young reader might find someone like himself but it was tempted sometimes to veer away from this task to make some painfully clear instructional point.
"He just says stuff when he's angry. He's not gonna take away Wynona." Rock yawned. "You've heard him say all those same things before. Don't worry about it and go to sleep."

"I told Dad I have accidents because sometimes my dreams and nightmares hurt too much."
I wanted the kids to simply behave in the story rather than make the author's points. I felt it would have shown more respect to the reader and would have stopped the flow of the story less. However, I found the theme of the power struggle between authority figures and children well rendered. I especially enjoyed how Griffin dealt with two questions - responsibility toward others and when disagreement with or disobedience to authority is disloyal (and by extension, when it is not). This last notion Griffin integrated with Rock's writing a paper on the American Revolution in a way I particularly enjoyed.
The only thing Rock liked envisioning was his role in the cover-up, after Liza was safely gone. In his mind's eye he pictured a lineup of adults - Mrs. Zukoff, Mr. Faella, Timmy and Arlene, even his own parents - all pumping him with questions. Then he saw himself, secret as a stone, but inside he would be laughing, thinking of how easily he'd sneaked Liza across the battlefields of grown-up rules and regulations and straight to freedom.

An enjoyable read. I could easily imagine my 11-year-old self glued to this book until it was done.


Sheila O'Malley said...

I love it when people inscribe a book to me, too - those little notes really can act as time-travelers, bringing me back to a certain era, or phase, or relationship ....

There's an entire blog devoted to book inscriptions - have you seen it? LOVE IT.

Ted said...

I treasure your inscription to me in Harris Burdick! I didn't know about that blog - one to add to the list.

Unknown said...

I love finding and old book with inscriptions and notes in it. It gives the book a history as an object that it wouldn't have otherwise.

I have an inscribed copy of Elsa Lancaster's autobiography signed by the author to two male friends. It suggests a wonderful story. Something very interesting must have inspired the inscription.

Unknown said...

Read this book when I was younger. Always kept a place in my mind as a childhood favorite.