Tuesday, July 10, 2012

First Book: Stranger Next Door

The Stranger Next DoorFor each of my sons I can pick up a book that was really their first immersion in reading, the first book that they cared about finishing, the text that really started their lives as independent readers. For X, that was Wen Spencer's Alien Taste, and he's never looked back. P has a more controlled relationship with books, but Peg Kehret's The Stranger Next Door was the book that he picked out, that he read, and that he finished.

So, of course I had to get a copy when I saw it in a Scholastic catalog, but of course I had read it over his shoulder at the time, so I just tossed the new copy in the shelves until it popped back up today. It's a competent little book, a slight mystery with a lonely boy and a cute cat. The plot moves along, and the words never get in their own way. My only concern as a book for my young son was the violence lurking in the corners -- the new boy, the stranger next door, is in the witness protection program so the mob doesn't take out his family. I thought that was a bit grim until the real villain showed up, kidnapped the pet owner at gun point and then locked him up in a burning building. Okay, now we are talking raised levels of violence.
BarockSchloss CC License

Of course, compared to the shots and deaths in Spencer's book I have nothing to complain about, but I knew what to expect when X wandered to the wrong section of my library and started reading one of my SF books. P's book came from the children's section, and I guess I can be glad that the cat doesn't head for the big catnip patch in the sky by the end. In general I like Kehret for her realistic (well, non-fantastic) stories with kids dealing with real world problems, and in particular I like the insertion of Pete the cat's sections in these particular books.

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