"Spider" to the Senior Cat this week - my nice, new autographed copy which Linda very generously gave me! He had not read it before. I thought he had.
At 91 the Senior Cat does not read many books for children and teens but he does read some. I read a good many books for children and teens and I pass over those I think he will enjoy.
I buy the books we give as presents to his great-grandchildren. They are all still young enough to be at the picture book stage. The Senior Cat is, as he puts it, "still young enough to enjoy a good picture book".
There weren't too many around when he was a child but, by the time I was born, people were beginning to take the business of picture books seriously. I still have my copy of Marjorie Flack's "Ping". Now of course picture books are a very serious business indeed. They are even, Nosy Crow style, interactive. I am still not sure what I think of that. Something needs to be left to the imagination of the child too. I think I will continue to supply straight books along with the interactive sort.
I think it took people a bit longer to recognise that teens need their own books as well. They might still read books for older children and they may also read adult literature but there is that curious in between stage where teens have their own world, their own ways of thinking, their own language and attitudes that are all part of growing up. They need their own books about their own issues and about the big issues seen from their perspective.
The Senior Cat liked Spider. He liked it very much indeed - and so he should because it is, as he put it, "a damn good read". He has dealt with the issues in Spider, the illegal use of cars, accidents and injuries. It was part of his job as the principal of a large rural area school where, for some teens, one rite of passage into adulthood was the "borrowing" of a car and the playing of a game of "Chicken". That involved two cars speeding towards one another on a narrow strip of road. The drivers would be unlicensed and uninsured. The one who moved aside first was, of course, considered the "chicken". "Chicken" was all the things that "Spider" talks about - with all the consequences. The Senior Cat considers himself fortunate he did not have to deal with a death. The night that happened the culprits had come from the city, escapees from the reformatory. It is a night forever etched on my memory as the night the crop duster pilot had to land his little plane on the unsealed road outside my bedroom window, not once but five times in order to fly the injured out.
I wonder now, as the Senior Cat did, how the teens who indulged in the stupidity of playing "Chicken" would have reacted to Spider. I don't doubt they would identify with him - but would they identify with the consequences? That's a more difficult issue. The Senior Cat says it would be a good book to use in the classroom and I agree. The Whirlwind read it and the reason my first copy was quite literally falling to pieces was that it was read by her entire year group - and, I suspect, passed on to siblings to read as well. I am surprised the book made its way back to me.
What I do know is that I won't be loaning my signed copy out - although I might just buy another copy for more teens to read.