Tuesday, December 20, 2005

another kid book recommendation

The street that I grew up on dead-ended into the playground of the local Catholic school. The school had some enormous playing fields, and beyond them (behind a car dealership and the Acme-- pronounced Ac-ah-me, for those of you not from the Delaware Valley) was an acre of weeds and hillocks. I can't tell you how many days I spent with my brothers and the other kids in our neighborhood--the T family, the H's and the S's--creating a society of 8-10 year-olds. There was something magical about that place, and we never saw a single adult. The PA system at the car dealership would occasionally go off, emitting a series of announcements that were not unlike the teacher from the old Charlie Brown cartoons 'weh weh weh, weh weh weh wehweh.'

At the end of the field, beyond the acre of weeds, was an old cow tunnel under the highway. In the summer, there was always a trickle of water through it, and you had to be careful. In the winter, we'd crush the snow under our boots, and walk through the tunnel to the creek on the other side to test the ice. Once, my brother fell through the ice, and we were all terrified that he would freeze or drown. Working together, we got him out, and rushed him home to my mom, sopping wet and shivering. The bigger kids took charge, one of them running ahead to tell her we were coming. We were all in trouble that night, but it didn't stop us from going back.

We first read Roxaboxen about a year and a half ago, when the Bee took it out of the library. It transported me back to my old neighborhood, to the parts of my hometown that were owned by kids, where adults never bothered to go. I lived in a town that had a lot of places like that, secret creeks, hidden little forests, acres on acres of farmland (although much of that farmland has been eaten by development now). Much as I love my current home, I will never know it the way that I knew my hometown, never know it from a kid's eye view. I won't spend hours poking sticks into the river, or finding paths through the woods.

I know that our town has those places, and one of the most fervent hopes that I have for my children is that they will have the time to find them. That they won't be overscheduled every minute, and that they'll have a pack of friends to run around with and elect the mayor, and ride horses made of tree branches. I'm giving the Potato this book for Christmas, and with it goes my hope that they will be as lucky as the kids in this story, as lucky as I was, in their childhood.

• Posted By landismom @ 12/20/2005 08:38:00 AM
  2. My daughter is the Bumblebee. My son is the Sweet Potato. You'll have to ask their father.

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