A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there are some discussions about having sex, not graphic, and a few murders in this Printz Award-winning adventure story. Readers might be impressed that the book's protagonist is a hearing-impaired 14-year-old misfit girl. Initially, she is quite gullible -- to a rather unbelievable degree -- but fights to survive in incredible conditions. Readers may be inspired to learn more about Lawrence Titus Oates -- a real explorer who is also Symone's imaginary friend. They may also want to investigate Symme's Hole.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Sym, a young teen outcast, is hard of hearing, obsessed with the Antarctic, and in love with Titus Oates, who died on the Scott Expedition 90 years earlier. When old family friend Victor takes her to Paris, and then spirits her off to the Antarctic, she is thrilled. But Victor is dangerously unhinged, and determined to trek into the heart of the frozen continent to search for the mythical Symme's Hole, supposedly an entrance to an underground civilization at the heart of the hollow earth.
Is it any good?
The subject matter -- Antarctica -- is one to inspire flights of poetry, but the author's lyrical descriptions are a bit overdone. It's a pity too, because the less experienced or impatient readers may be put off and give up, and they will miss out on an exciting 200-page survival story hidden within this nearly 400-page book.
It takes a while to get to Antarctica, and in the meantime readers may also be annoyed by Symone, whose blind faith in the first part of the book strains credulity. When Victor takes her to Paris, he leaves her mother behind even though she was supposed to accompany them. A sensible girl, which she is supposed to be, might have gotten suspicious, especially when she finds her mother's passport in his pocket. And what about when he suggests that they take an unplanned jaunt off to Antarctica, and says her mother won't mind? And so on. News of the depths of his duplicity later in the book come as revelations to Sym, but the reader will have seen them coming a long way off. Even so, readers willing to accept her foolishness will root for Symone -- a hearing-impaired 14-year old -- who fights to survive in incredible conditions in this unusual story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Symme's Hole and the whole "hollow earth" theory. Why do people continue to believe in things like this, despite clear and compelling evidence of its falsehood?
This book won the 2008 Printz Award from the American Library Association, given to a young adult book to honor its literary excellence. Did it deserve this award? Looking at the list of other Printz winners and honors, are there other books you'd like to read?