Monday, September 10, 2007

Moving: In Praise of Bibliotherapy

I've been pretty cagey about it on this blog--at first because I hadn't given notice at work yet, and then because things were so frantic there was no chance to sit down and write a substantive and literary post about it--but we've spent the summer moving to Vancouver. That's Vancouver, Canada. We have a new home, with new jobs and new school, in a new city, in a new country.

It hasn't been a painless move for any of us. I'm probably the most jazzed about being in a new place (all those British editions!), and my just-turned-7-year-old daughter is easily the least enthusiastic. And why shouldn't she be? She had a nice life, good friends, great school, comfy (if somewhat snug) home. She didn't ask to move. But she had to, anyway, just because her parents got this crazy idea in their heads.

Just before the end of the school year, I snagged a copy of Alexander, Who's Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to Move, by Judith Viorst, at my school's used book sale. I thought the book might be too blatantly bibliotherapeutic for my kid--that she might feel emotionally manipulated, or put on the spot--but I gave it to her anyway in early July, and she's glommed onto it. Not every day, but once every week or two, all summer and now into the fall, she asks for it for her bedtime story.

Even though it's about a boy and she's a very girly girl, even though he has siblings and she doesn't, even though she's only moved a hundred-some miles from her old home, not a thousand miles as in the book, this story speaks to her. She likes the humor; she likes the eponymous refrain; she likes the litany of people and things that Alexander is going to miss; she loves the variety of places where the hero contemplates hiding (at the friendly neighbors'; behind the clothes racks at the cleaners'; inside the pickle barrel at the market). And I think she likes the hope held out in the end, that there can be new things to love in the new place where you live.

It calms her and makes her laugh, knowing that someone else, somewhere, has been through the same thing that she's going through, and felt the same things, and that there's a story about it. And it doesn't hurt that it's a decent, funny, well-written one, at that.

Here are a couple more good books about moving, that focus especially on friendship:

The Shelf-Paper Jungle
, by Diana Engel. (o/p, alas.) When Frannie has to move away from her best friend, the two create a huge mural on a roll of shelf paper, dive into their creation and have one last adventure together, then cut it in half and each take a portion.

Ira Says Goodbye, by Bernard Waber. In this book, it's the hero's best friend, Reggie, who's moving away. Ira acts like he doesn't care, but at the last minute he's able to say goodbye to Reggie.

Anyone have any other suggestions?


Vardibidian said...

It's probably too young for your daughter, but I'm fond of Marjorie Weinman Sharmat's Gila Monsters Meet you at the Airport. That may just be my Southwestern upbringing, though.


liz said...

Ira Sleeps Over is currently MM's favorite and it was mine, too, when I was younger.

I had no idea that there was another Ira book or that there was an Alexander book about moving. Hmmmm....Gotta get on top of THAT.

Pamelamama said...

This book makes me cry every time:

What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlin

This one also made me cry, but not the kids. What can I say.

Goodbye House by Frank Asch

Is it bad manners on a literary blog to link Amazon? Should I be linking something more highbrow?


Charlotte said...

The begining of The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright has to be included. Randy's rather self conscious grief is so exquisetly done!

I hope things are settling down nicely for you!


Alkelda the Gleeful said...

I'm only echoing others, but I really like Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport... probably the way my children's lit teacher read it has a lot to do with my liking, too.

I'm looking forward to meeting up with you in a couple of weeks!