Thursday, January 24, 2008
Banks, Kate. 2007. LENNY’S SPACE. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 9780374345754 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]
Lenny is a quirky kid. He’s intelligent, but not very likeable. He has no friends, his teacher doesn’t like him, and he is often sent to the principal, who also doesn’t like him. His father left and his mother, a hand model, wears gloves at all times to protect her skin: “To her they were like a second skin, another defense against life’s blows.” Lenny hates them.Then two good things happen to Lenny. First he is assigned to see the school therapist, Muriel, on a regular basis.Then he meets Vander James, a boy from another school who seems to like him just as he is.
Bank’s prose is beautifully written. Her insights into the characters she’s created are profound and moving. The growing relationship between Lenny and Muriel reminds us how powerfully an adult can touch and inspire a child. The theme of empathy swirls throughout the novel and impacts Lenny as Muriel helps him understand his new friendship and how others may perceive him: “Empathy is the ability to participate in others’ feelings.” As Lenny enjoys his first, short-lived friendship and the sadness of losing another person he loves, Muriel reassures him that he is growing up: “Seeing the world from a point of view that doesn’t start with you.” A rare find.
Invite students to discuss empathy as a character trait. Are they able to empathize with Lenny or Van?
Books about a friend’s dying:
Banks, Kate. FRIENDS OF THE HEART: AMICI DEL CUORE. ISBN 9780374324551
Paterson, Katherine. BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. ISBN 0690013590
By Cay Geisler