Challenging Reading? To Whom?

24 Feb

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Copyright: 2012

Sometimes I wonder if books we (the adults) consider challenging is really challenging to our kids or just to us.  If you found this book in your school library (middle or high) would you get upset?  A middle school can get away with not having this book in the school by claiming the lead character is a graduating senior.  Would you want this book to be available in your school library?  You be the judge, if you can read past page 8.

“Beautiful Music for Ugly Children” is the name of Gabe’s radio show which plays for one hour on the community radio station – midnight on Fridays.  Gabe, who is legally known as Elizabeth, is about to graduate high school.  He’s explained to his family that he really isn’t a girl – his body is just shaped that way.  He’s focused on playing his “B” side – being Gabe in public instead of just with his family.  Gabe’s a total music nerd and his radio show is an amazing hit.  Every week the Ugly Children Brigade follow his instructions to do cool, non-damaging stunts.  But what happens when the two sides of Gabe/Elizabeth collide?  Why do the guys get more upset with him than the girls do?

Gabe is a well-crafted character, even allowing for unanswered questions like where the name Gabe came from.  His family reactions aren’t overstated; if anything they are understated to the realities so many people face.  Gabe faces violence, disbelief and acceptance from some as the story takes you through his head and his heart and his life.   I really like the lines “That’s what bites about the future – there’s no way to predict it.  You just have to show up and see what happens.”

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