I have had the pleasure of reading several kid’s books this past week. I like to preview the books I add to my Little Free Library, and I find that a quick read of a good children’s or YA book will take my mind off from whatever is going on in my life at the time. A book that I found especially appealing is The Burning Questions of Bingo Brown by Betsy Byars, an author my sixth graders often gravitated to. This book is not “the very latest fad in adolescent books,” but its timely life lessons hold true, and because I found neighborhood kids had “donated” it to the LFL, I knew it was still being read years after its publication date.
Bingo Brown is the typical middle school boy. The “Burning Questions” he asks as he makes his way through the treacherous labyrinth of middle school relationships and complexities are still very relevant, and the answers he “discovers” are helpful to young boys encountering for the first time feelings about girls, teachers, and facing one’s future. What is admirable is the way Byars gives solid answers that are specific … and work. For example, Bingo holds hands with a girl for the first time. It is the first time he has ever wanted to, and a burning question pops up, “When and how do you stop holding hands with a girl”? The answer he comes up with is, “When your hands got sweaty. It was simple really.” Bingo reminds me of a neighbor I often converse with as he passes my LFL in the mornings on his way to the bus stop, whom I first met when he was a fifth grader at the elementary school down the street. When he “graduated” to junior high this fall, I happened to be refreshing the library as he came home from his second day of junior high. When I asked him how junior high was, he said, “It sure is different from fifth grade…it’s so confusing.” He went on to describe how his relationships with friends, especially girls who were friends had changed over the summer. In the conversation, he often repeated “I just don’t get it…it’s so confusing.” He went on to say, “Even the classes are confusing.” He described how his Language Arts teacher was pointing out that geo meant earth and therm meant heat; thus, geothermal energy was formed by the heat or the earth.” He complained in an agonized tone, “That’s not Language Arts; it’s science. I just don’t get it…it’s so confusing!”