This science fiction book set in a futuristic Africa is a Newbery Honor book from 1995, but the future doesn’t feel too dated. It features a brother and sister (with their younger brother) as the main characters, so it easily appeals to boys and girls. I am always on the lookout for books that can appeal to both genders because I rarely have book club classes that are just boys or just girls, so I want to make sure that everyone can enjoy the book. I also try to switch off between male and female protagonists if I can.
I remember my sister and I both reading this book and enjoying it a lot through at least middle school. My copy of this book is pretty battered from the re-readings (and I think just the time it spent in my bag). I did re-read it recently because I was thinking about using it for a class (although we ran out of book club time because we needed to do test prep…). Even so, it took me a while before I could remember if the main characters were black or white.
This struck me because I was just reading this article about how characters are “white until proven black,” and I saw that I shared the same stereotypes in my reading. Most of the books that I read while growing up had white protagonists, so my natural association with books turned into one that is primarily white. I’m trying to counter that by reading (and re-reading) as many diverse books as possible, but there is still that part of me that defaults to white.
(Going further off topic, just the other day, my Korean American students–boys and girls–failed to notice that the main character of a short scene was female because they didn’t know her name, even though she was referred to with female pronouns throughout the passage.)
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm has mystery, action, likable characters, and bogeymen. Great for middle grades and up. It also deals with issues about race, gender, prejudice, and acceptance.
And just in case you were wondering, the main kids in the story are black, although a few key white characters (including the Ear from the title) help describe race relations in the society in the book.
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter E.