Wednesday, September 13, 2017

We Are Growing

We Are Growing. Laurie Keller (and Mo Willems). 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: BOING! What was that? I think I just grew! LOOK! Wow! You did grow! Look at that! I just grew. All by myself. Cool, huh? I know, I know. I made it look EASY. But growing is HARD WORK. In fact--

Premise/plot: Usually when someone says a book is as exciting as watching grass grow it's a bad thing. It means the book is slow, boring. Not so in Laurie Keller's new early reader, We Are Growing. Readers get the chance to watch eight blades of grass grow--each in their own special way at their own special pace. The book is melodramatic--there is even an identity crisis. Is it a little too over the top?

My thoughts: Do books have to have an embedded meaning, a moral lesson, a social message to disperse? Can you overthink a book? At its simplest, Gerald and Piggie are sharing a book together, a book called We Are Growing!

At its most complex, I'm guessing an optimist, a pessimist, and a realist would walk away with a different impression on what it all means.

One possible message of the book is that we're all something special and unique. We all deserve to have an "est" to describe ourselves. Tallest. Curliest. Silliest. Etc. We're equally awesome. Is this message challenged by the end of the book? Should it be challenged?

The twist in this book is the lawn mower. The lawn mower comes--readers can catch the clues well in advance--and suddenly all the leaves of grass are the same height. They've lost their uniqueness. They've lost their bragging rights. They're stripped of their glory, their beauty. The one leaf of grass who was struggling to find himself, to find his "est" is the only one left with an est. He looks around him, sees the mess--the mowed grass, and does something about it. Because he cleans up his mess--and everyone else's mess as well--he's the neatest. I couldn't help noticing that all the other descriptive words were superficial and based on appearances. Only the "neatest" label comes from within.

The blades of grass are silly and not all that smart. They don't see the big picture. They don't see what's coming--the lawn mower. They don't know--without being told--that they'll grow again another day. They're quick to brag and boast though. They're quick to take credit for something that is out of their control--growing. They don't know that all grass share an equal fate--a fate worse than a lawn mower when all is said and done.

The Bible on occasion describes people as being grass.
  • For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. James 1:11
  • As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; Psalm 103:15
  • The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass.The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:7-9
I do think its entirely possible to overthink a book. One shouldn't have to discern the meaning of the lawn mower in order to find a powerful message about how to live life.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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