Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wonderful, Even Out of Order

Despite the fact that I'm incredibly messy with physical things (just ask my husband), I'm pretty organized when it comes to mental tasks.  If a book is part of a series, I read it in order.  And I finish the series (with rare exceptions).  That's why I was horrified to discover my daughter reading Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice books out of order.  Out of order!  Who does such a thing?  And yet, when I picked one up, I understood. 

Some of the many Alice books, out of order.

Alice's voice is so real, so frank, so matter-of-fact, that you can't help but be drawn in.  And, being, let us say, frugal, I put the books on hold at the library and they arrived out of order, leaving us with a random assortment as we await earlier ones in the series.  But once my daughter had read one, she just couldn't wait to read the others.  (The books were actually written slightly out of order, with the prequels coming later, as younger readers clamored to get in on the Alice action.  Moreover, with 28 books in the series (!!!), we'll see if my daughter actually reads them all.)

I picked up the one where Alice is in seventh grade (Alice in Rapture, Sort Of).  I opened it to the middle (hey, once you're reading the series out of order, why not pick up an individual book halfway through?), to this part:

"It's bodies!" Elizabeth told us.  "I mean, they're so embarrassing."

"Everybody's got one," I said.

"The noises they make!" she said.  "I have to eat four crackers just before I go out with Tom to keep my stomach from growling."

Pitch perfect, right?  Alice isn't horribly embarrassed by her body, as her friend Elizabeth is, but neither is she entirely comfortable with it.  What girl or woman is?

A few pages later, Alice describes her friend Pamela's bikini bathing suit.

"I knew her mother had gone with her to buy it.  I wondered why a mother would buy such a suit for a daughter who wasn't supposed to kiss until she was sixteen.  Some parents don't seem to have a bit of sense."

Don't you just love her?!?

When her boyfriend kisses her, she tells him simply and straightforwardly, "I don't think I'm ready for this yet."  And in the perfect touch, "He looked a little relieved himself."

The Alice books are some of the most-censored books out there.  What a pity.  Alice is a wonderful guide for young girls.  She's the big sister every girl has wished for and no one has ever had.  The time to read these books is when the reader is just a bit younger than Alice is in each book.  I'm thrilled my 8-year-old came upon these books.

If only we had them in order.

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