In the summer of 1988, President Reagan proclaimed August 21 “National Senior Citizens Day.” With health care constantly improving, and people living longer, more active lives, it is a good thing to honor seniors, who can give younger folks the benefit of their experience.
Seniors and teens go together like peanut butter and jelly. Events like Senior Citizen Proms, and Teens Teach Tech, show how seniors and teens can benefit from spending time together. This is not to say that it is all smooth sailing from the start. People are people no matter their age, and there are ups and downs to any relationship. But everyone has something to share, and when you cross generations, the results can be so very positive.
This type of inter-generational relationship has been beautifully portrayed in YA literature. Here are six titles to explore…
Pop by Gordon Korman
New to town, Marcus is desperate to join his new high school’s football team, so he spends his summer practicing in the local park. There he meets former NFL great Charlie Popovich, who takes Marcus under his wing. While this is great for Marcus’ football prospects, it puts him in direct conflict with Charlie’s grandson Troy, Marcus’ new school mate and rival for a spot on the team. Charlie and Marcus are antagonistic not just because of sports rivalries, but also because of Charlie’s illness, an illness Troy and the rest of the Popovich family want to keep secret.
Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick
(2008 Best Book for Young Adults) Alex makes a really huge mistake involving vodka, a car, and a garden gnome statue. For this, he is sentenced to 100 hours of community service. Alex spends the time in a retirement home with Sol Lewis, the meanest old man on the planet. Alex would rather shirk all responsibility and Sol seems to hate the world. But Sol was a jazz guitarist and Alex is studying guitar, so perhaps they can find some way to connect…
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
In this classic by the 2002 Margarest A Edwards Award winner, John and Lorraine are bored, trouble-making teenagers . They play pranks on people and crank call old man Pignati (the Pigman). Somehow, their nihilistic attitude towards life does not upset the Pigman; instead, his good-natured love for life rubs off on them. This book is over 45 years old, but it still feels timeless.
The Canning Season by Polly Horvath
(2004 Best Book for Young Adults) The summer that Rachet is thirteen, she is sent from home by her neglectful mother to live with two elderly cousins – Tilly and Penpen – in their very remote house in Maine. Penpen has espoused a new philosophy: take in whatever shows up at your door. This leads to the acerbic Harper, another abandoned teen, arriving at the house to stir things up. Tilly and Penpen may be in their 90s, but they are not fading away. They tell the girls gruesome stories as everyone gets ready for canning season: that time when what is ripe and ready gets stored up for the future.
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
After Davey’s father is murdered, her mother packs the family off to New Mexico to live with family. Davey is lost and grieving while her mother sinks into a depression, her little brother seems to bounce back too quickly, and her aunt and uncle are well-meaning, but overbearing. She begins volunteering at a nursing home and befriends an elderly Native American man who whose son becomes close to her and helps her through her grief. While Davey and Wolf’s relationship is central to the story, Davey’s relationship to Wolf’s father is touching and shows the first time Davey allows someone to get close to her since her father’s death. A deeply moving book by the 1996 Margaret A Edwards Award winner Blume.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
(2006 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers) The vampire Edward Cullen is over 100 years old when he begins romancing 17 year old mortal Bella Swan. ;-)
~ Geri Diorio, currently reading The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi