Wednesday, July 05, 2006
The Ol' Gail Has Returned
Has anyone else noticed that I've been unnaturally pleasant lately, enjoying the majority of the books I've been reading? Yeah, well, it's over.
I picked A Bundle of Sticks by Pat Mauser McCord up off my To Read Shelf where it has been for at least a year. It was a gift from the guy who runs my taekwondo school, and I meant to read it this spring because it's a kids' book with a martial arts story line, and Happy Kid! is a kids' book with a secondary martial arts story line.
A Bundle of Sticks has an interesting publishing history. It was originally published in the early 1980s, I think by Atheneum, but I could be wrong. At that time it was reviewed in the right places and won three readers' choice awards. It was reprinted in 2004 by Turtle Press, a Connecticut publisher that specializes in martial arts books and DVDs.
Personally, I found the writing style a little...awkward. Not very compelling. However, you could definitely call this a problem book, and as with most problem books, the problem is all-important. The main character is being victimized by a bully. His father pressures him into studying a martial art so that he'll be able to defend himself. To McCord's credit, she tries to make clear that studying a martial art isn't about learning to fight. Ben, the main character, gets something from his studies beyond the ability to whip his tormentor.
Bullies are a big, big issue for kids. I've had lots of students mention them when I've been visiting schools. For many kid readers back in the 1980s, the content of this book was so significant that they didn't care about the writing style. I'm guessing that school culture has only become worse. No doubt there is still an audience for this book.