Thursday, July 30, 2009
Very Different Childhood
Johnny May Grows Up by Robbie Branscum has been living on my unread bookcase for years now. I don't even remember where I got it; probably a library sale or garage sale. It's the second book about Johnny May and I've never seen the earlier one.
Johnny May is a young girl (thirteen? fifteen? twelve?) in rural Arkansas who dropped out of school to take care of the farm that her Grandma and Grandpa are too old to handle on their own. This is a normal thing for a poor kid to do, so I guess that means that the book is set in the past. There are radios and pick-up trucks that Johnny May can drive to town, but no mention of television. These are the clues I have to figure out the setting -- when the heck does this book take place? The book was written in 1987, but didn't even Arkansas have education laws by then? She is very worried about losing her boyfriend Aron, who thinks they should stop kissing so much now that they are older, and she diets strenuously (and successfully) to get skinny to win him back. It was hard to really commit to the book because I never felt grounded in the setting. I don't know whether that is a fault of me or the book -- either I missed clues or the author didn't think it was important. The very different childhood of Johnny May was interesting, but I don't really feel I understand a new culture since I have no idea where in time it rests. I'm guessing the fifties, but I don't feel confident about it. I don't think I'll be recommending this to my kids, although the reading level is about at the fifth grade level.