Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Criss-Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins

I decided to try listening to an audiobook while knitting, and I chose Criss Cross (a Newbery winner) because I thought it'd be shorter than an adult novel, just in case the whole audiobook thing didn't go well.

I discovered two reasons I vastly prefer reading to listening. First, the voice of the reader for this book was hideous. When I finished Criss Cross and started listening to Purple Hibiscus while knitting, it was such a relief just to have a pleasant voice to listen to. Aside from that, this book used a lot of poem and song snippets. The reader's awful voice was not improved by singing. And when she launched into a poem, I usually didn't know it was a poem right away, because I couldn't see the form on the page.

I really didn't particularly care for this book in general, though. The characters seemed interchangeable. I could not tell the two main girl characters apart. There were several times when there was dialogue between them that I just had no clue which girl was supposed to be speaking. The boys were more unique, but not by much. It seemed that although they had different interests, they all had the same personality.

It also didn't seem a special enough book to win the Newbery award. It was a story of middle school kids learning a little bit about themselves. Nothing out of the ordinary. The Wikipedia article calls it postmodern, but if that's true, it didn't come through on the audiobook. Maybe it's visually innovative? Powell's says, "Illustrated throughout with black–and–white pictures, comics, and photographs by the author." Maybe I just chose an audiobook version of something that should always be read. I can't even imagine trying to listen to The Invention of Hugo Cabret on CD, for example.

My favorite scene was the one in which two of the kids are helping an elderly woman, who becomes ill and has to be driven to the hospital by one of the twelve year olds.

What I did find special in this book were the kids' observations. The kids talk or think about life a lot, and their observations are quirky and amusing while at the same time very insightful. But perhaps a bit too insightful? Even gifted kids are not generally very emotionally precocious. These are tweens with the vocabularies of college graduates and the wisdom of grandparents. I'm not sure how actual tweens would react to that. Would they simply accept the insights and gain some understanding of their own? Would they feel inadequate because they don't think such things? Would they just think, "Huh?"

Cross-posted in my blog.


Anonymous said...

If you went to a middle school you would see that not everybody has a unique personality that shows, every group has their own personality. And its a big deal when middle school kids learn about them selfs. When you dont know who you are,finding out even just a little is a big deal. You would be suprised at what teenages think, especaly the ones who arent really worried about boys and clothes. Tweens might read that and think, I always wondered about that.

Amanda (the librarian) said...

Actually, the kid who drove the old lady to the hospital was Debbie, the main character. She is 14 in this book - but that's still too young to get a driver's license in most states.