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August 10, 2016

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Every month, TAB editor Kristin will be sharing her thoughts on five titles from our… Read More

June 1, 2016

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Eleanor & Park

I read hundreds of books every year, and Eleanor & Park is hands down not just one of the best YA books I’ve read in the last two years, but one of the best books period. In the last two years.

This is the story of two misfits trying to figure out who they are in this crazy and sometimes really terrible world. Amidst the awfulness that the world throws at them, they fall madly, hopelessly, honestly, and heartbreakingly in love.

Eleanor & Park is about much more than love though. It’s about the American high school experience. It’s about bullying, friendship, and hope. It’s about overcoming horrible circumstances that many of us are extremely privileged to never have experienced. I did not grow up rich. But I didn’t grow up poor either. I was a lower middle class white kid who sometimes took for granted my station in life. I never had to worry about what I was going to eat for dinner. Nor did I have to worry about being bullied for my weight or the color of my skin. After reading Eleanor & Park, I am thankful every day that I never experienced any of the issues that these teens face and it’s made me want to learn more about poverty and how I can help.

A school district in Minnesota recently canceled an upcoming visit from Rainbow Rowell, the author of Eleanor & Park. Not only did they cancel her visit but there was also a call to discipline the school librarians who chose the book as a summer reading title. I won’t get into the details (if you want to know more, I highly recommend Book Riot’s post on the matter). I’d like to focus on the fact that a book about poverty, a book that readers desperately need, was challenged.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, there are 16 million children living in poverty in America. And that is just families below the federal poverty line. Considering the fact that families need an income of about twice the federal standard for poverty to cover basic expenses it turns out that 45% of families are low-income. There have been novels for young people published on the subject, but frankly the topic is grossly underrepresented and this particular book is amazing. I sincerely believe it should be read by everyone to bring attention to the real-life issue of poverty in our country. It should also unquestionably be available to all the children growing up below the poverty line who are looking for a great book with characters they can relate to.

I read quite a bit about the challenges to Eleanor & Park and I think Linda Holmes defended the need for this book better than anyone (If you haven’t read her article about the book, please do. It’s incredible.)

“What’s worrying about treating Eleanor & Park as a nasty book, or a dirty book, or an immoral book, is that it transforms talking about how to survive ugliness into something that’s no different than ugliness itself. It makes the act of telling a story about rising above misery a miserable thing.”

Vulgarity, obscenity, violence, and bullying exist in schools all over America. Many of the 45% of children in America growing up in poverty have been bullied and teased, and have seen or dealt with some ugliness in their life. If they fight through all that ugliness and make it to middle school or high school and still want to read, why not give them something to read that can inspire them and make them feel less alone in the world? Why not give them hope? Why not give them Eleanor & Park?

 

Eleanor & Park is available online now.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Brenda scamehorn

    This book should not have been in 6th grade book order.
    Lots of language but worst of all SExUAL content not suitable for young pre trend.
    Makes hunger games mature warning look rated g.
    Poor taste scholastic – for the age group targeted in our school district.

    • Heather

      We’re very sorry to learn of your disappointment with our offering of “Eleanor & Park”. Our team of editors pores through literally thousands of books published for children and teens every year to select high quality, grade-level appropriate titles for each Reading Club catalog. Though “Eleanor & Park” contains language or subject matter that may be considered objectionable and not appropriate for every student, our editors believe this book makes a valuable contribution to literature and should be available to young adult readers. Please know the descriptions of these titles in the paper flyers and online will include a notice to inform parents that the title may not be appropriate for their child. We appreciate your feedback and will be sure to share it with our editorial staff. By combining your input about the books we offer with suggestions from other customers, we will continue to improve our book selections.

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September 27, 2013