September 8, 2011

Eight Keys by Suzanne LeFleur

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 4:58 pm by suebe2

Eight Keys
by Suzanne LeFleur
Wendy Lamb Books, 2010

Middle school is all about change.  Ask any new middle school student and they’ll clue you in.  Some of the changes are good (getting to pick some classes and more independence) and some are bad (additional responsibilities and the fact that not everyone matures at the same rate.

So its no surprise that Elise and her best friend Franklin no longer see eye-to-eye.  Their games of make-believe seem babyish to Elise and she knows that she doesn’t fit in with the fashion conscious girly-girls.  To stem their harassment, Elise distances herself from Franklin, often being quite unkind.

But things aren’t all bad.  On Elise’s birthday, she gets one last letter from her deceased father who wrote his daughter, then a toddler, a collection of letters to open one by one on her birthday.  The letters and a mysterious key give Elise the clues that she needs to start exploring a series of store rooms in the family barn.  Each room contains clues about who she is — one is filled with photos of her mother, another her mother’s book collection and still another items from her father’s childhood.  With each addition, Elise begins to realize that she has the ultimate power over what type of person she becomes, shaping her life through who she holds close and who she pushes away.

Admittedly, this was a tough book to get into.  Elise is at a difficult age developmentally — not ready to give up on childhood but grown up enough to be embarrassed by Franklin who is less emotionally mature than she is.

The stress of being bullied results in a series of bad decisions that some adults may find “out of character” for Elise, but will be all too familiar to any parent whose child uses passive aggression to cope (you can’t make me catch the bus, do my homework, etc.).  Furthermore, though she goes to an adult for help with the bullying, the teacher is kind but useless, an all too real situation, that leads Elise to be ashamed of her inability to cope.  This results in her keeping the escalating abuse a secret; again, this situation is real enough to make an adult squirm with discomfort.

But it is all of these uncomfortable moments that make the book real and will ultimately help tweens connect with it.  They are, after all, beginning to see how imperfect the world is and how powerless, either by circumstance or by choice, the adults around them often are.

If you have a child who is having a tough time making the jump to middle school, this is a great book to read together.  Ditto if you have a child who is coping with bullying or having to decide whether a friendship is worth maintaining.

This book will launch many a thoughtful discussion between maturing tweens and the adults who love them enough to suffer through some discomfort.


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