Welcome to Summer Reading 2017! This year we’re taking advantage of the long summer days to read our way through some of our favorite series for children and young people.
One of the wildly inaccurate misconceptions about homeschoolers that I’ve encountered out in the world is that we are, as a group, overprotective of our overly sheltered children. After all, why else would we refuse to send our kids to school if not to spare them the tough-but-necessary life lessons that can only be learned on the playground? Part of this comes, I think, from the tendency to send children off to preschool at earlier and earlier ages, as a good friend discovered when, after choosing to keep her 3-year-old home with her for another year, a family member told her, “You’ve got to untie those apron strings at some point.”
It’s also confusing to me as a modern parent how protective I’m supposed to be. As a kindergartener I walked a half mile or so on my own to school every morning, and as a tween (a word that was not yet invented when I was one), I rode my bicycle (not wearing a helmet, of course) along a busy four-lane highway to visit friends, and I don’t think I would have been comfortable with either of those scenarios with my children. On the other hand, when I was a teenager, whenever I went out I was expected to let my (responsible and engaged) parents know who I was with, where we were going, and when I’d be back. Now that my kids are all cellphone-enabled, I’m lucky if they tell me they’re leaving before they run out the door, knowing that I can text them if I’m wondering where they are, and they can call me if they need to be rescued. And while I’m pretty much okay with that, given that it’s never been a problem and my kids are good about responding, I still wonder if that makes me irresponsible and disengaged. My high school freshman daughter’s friends were shocked that I was fine with her heading to the coffee shop or public library (both within easy walking distance) after school let out without asking my explicit permission beforehand, just texting me at some point to let me know where she was. Apparently, despite all those years of homeschooling, I’m actually more on the loose and easy-going side of the spectrum.
Which leads us (albeit in a roundabout sort of way) to one of my favorite fantasy series for upper elementary readers and above. No matter whether you’re protective or permissive, the world created by Lian Tanner in his Keepers trilogy will give you a new perspective on how we choose to look after our children. In the city of Jewel, children are literally chained to the Blessed Guardians for their own protection until Separation Day, learning such lessons as “An Impatient Child is an Unsafe Child, and an Unsafe Child puts All Others At Risk!”
When Separation Day is canceled, Goldie escapes from the Guardians and takes shelter in the mysterious Museum of Dunt, where she must quickly learn to navigate its shifting rooms and discover its secrets in order to save herself and the people she cares about.
Goldie joins her best friend, Toadspit, on the trail of his little sister, kidnapped by child-stealers and taken to the city of Spoke during its Festival of Lies, when everything is turned back to front and upside down.
Back in Jewel, Goldie and Toadspit (with the help of a magical dog, a talking cat, and the bloodthirsty spirit of a warrior princess) join the battle to free their city from the tyranny of the Blessed Guardians.