Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Paperboy by Vince Vawter

  It is always nice when a book can have elements of truth to it but written in such a way that a young reader can grasp something from it. Paperboy occurs over the span of one summer in Memphis Tennessee. Little Man volunteers to be a substitute paperboy for his friend Rat, an act that changes his life forever. Though he can throw a mean fast ball and is quite good in school, he does have one problem, that will require much help to overcome.

What separates this from other books that I have read is that the protagonist suffers from a speech impediment which both influences the narrative and also influences how he interacts with others.  Physically he is a normal kid (he does have a mean fastball pitch) and he is intelligent and savvy.

As you would expect, the adults in V life are very influential. However his parents, good people that they are are relegated to a small role in this narrative. Instead, the African American maid Mam, the verbose and loquacious Mr. Shapiro and the scoundrel Ara T are the adults whose actions change Virgil's life forever.

Though not mentioned by name the specter of discrimination rears its ugly head in the novel (it did take place in the 1960s). Another theme that is still with us today- that of school choice is also alluded to. For this reason I can add this list to many others that I class as "conversation starters" in that they pique interest in a subject and will inevitably invite questions from young readers who may want more background info. I recommend this book for readers aged 10+.

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