By Patricia Polacco
Philomel Books, 1996
Absolutely everybody in Triple Creek loved their TV sets. No one could remember a time when there wasn’t a TV in every home. Nor could they remember when they weren’t watching TV. Their TV’s were always on. While they ate their meals. While they worked. While they played. They even kept photos of their TV’s on their mantels along with all the pictures of their family members.
Patricia Polacco is to children’s literature what Joyce Carol Oates is to adult novels. Insightful writing, sometimes flinchingly so. Main characters that are illustrated, warts and all. And revelations about human behavior that stick with you long after you turn the final page. From the above excerpt, you can probably guess the framework of this tale: Everyone in tiny Triple Creek is obsessed with TV. So much so that they’ve stopped learning how to read and books are now used “for doorstops, to hold up roofs, to sit on, to eat off, to sleep under, to mend fences, to stuff potholes, to prop up sagging buildings and even to shore up the dam.” Luckily, Eli’s feisty Aunt Chip — a librarian who took to her bed fifty years ago — is about to convince the town it’s time to put things right. Step one: Teaching Eli, and the other kids in town, to read. This book, honestly, should be required reading in every classroom between first grade and twelfth. And let’s hope that it never gets turned into a TV movie.