Thursday, August 30, 2012

Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King

This is one of those "oops, I meant to say something" reviews; I have a bunch of drafts in progress, but somehow, I failed to finish them. So, oops, because Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King (Little, Brown - BYFR) is one of the best books I read last year.

Lucky Linderman sees things. A lot of things. Things that other people don't see. He sees his grandfather, a man presumed dead at war, and he sees himself in combat situations. It's harder to see what's right around him--how to mend or forge relationships with his relatives, including his parents, his aunt and uncle (at whose house Lucky and his mom go to retreat for a while), and a group of bullies.

There is a powerful and disturbing scene wherein a group of boys attack Lucky, one I'd even say might be triggering for some readers. Yet, I know this happens. I know it does; there was a much more violent similar incident at a town in my state when I was about Lucky's age. And this is real bullying, the kind where you can't quite prove things, where the parents are afraid, where no one knows what to do, and one doesn't have the skills to try anything new should the bully change their mind and be receptive to change. Which is all to say: bullying sucks. It's truly difficult to prevent and solve, despite all the prepackaged programs that promise to save us all.

And: despite my feeling that teaching and learning about bullying is difficult, I don't think it should be ignored. In fact, I think that Everybody Sees the Ants is a highly appropriate book for classroom discussion precisely because it doesn't pull punches. Stuff sucks. And kids know it. And the time to start talking about it beyond the couched, please-don't-let-the-parents-complain presentations is right now.

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