Saturday, January 26, 2013

Guns in Middle Grade Novels

In my last two blogs, guns were agents of survival. In many homes, especially in the American rural south, guns are enmeshed in tradition and culture.

GONE FROM THESE WOODS by Donny Bailey Seagraves. Delacorte Press, 2009
Daniel Sartain isn’t expecting his life to change. At least, not much. Daniel is 11. It’s 1992, a crisp November day in North Georgia in the Sartain Woods, owned by Daniel’s family for generations. His Uncle Clay is going to teach him to hunt.

Daniel doesn’t really want to shoot rabbits, or anything else for that matter, but he doesn’t want to let his uncle down. How could he?  Clay had presented Daniel his father’s gun—Daniel’s grandfather’s gun--for his 11th birthday.  This hunting trip would be a rite of passage.

So be it. In spite of his reluctance to shoot anything that lives, Daniel decides that if Clay thinks he should learn to hunt, then hunting is what he will do.

Daniel depends upon Clay as a friend and mentor. Add father figure. Clay’s older brother, Daniel’s father, has demons which no amount of alcohol will drown. Daniel’s feelings for Clay border on hero worship.

Clay’s special name for Daniel is D-Man, a super hero identity which swells Daniel’s chest and builds the confidence his father's words and actions erode on a daily basis. It’s easy to imagine D-Man and Clay growing old as hunting buddies, spinning tales by a fire built in the woods, listening to the sounds of the night.
And then…an accident. Daniel shoots Clay with Granddaddy’s gun. Nothing will ever be the same again.

How will Daniel cope? Overcome guilt? Survive the grief? How can he find meaning in his life after taking the life that meant the most to him?
This debut novel by a seasoned writer and veteran newspaper columnist covers lots of tough issues: gun safety, fault finding, living with alcoholism, depression, suicide, getting into therapy, counseling in school.

The author lists web sites and hot lines for people under stress.  It’s unfortunate that the counselor crafted by author Seagraves for this novel isn’t available to every young person suffering from an emotional trauma. Mrs. Hardy offers Daniel the right amount of comfort and understanding to help him reach out for healing.
To read an excerpt of this thought provoking book, see the author’s web page.
Read the entire book and be ready for questions from your tween or teen. Good stuff here.

Let the discussion begin.

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