Cauli Le Chat

Cauli Le Chat
Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Could You Wait to Open Them?

One of my Library's young adult patrons, who used to be called teenagers, wondered why I didn't do the readers' advisory thing more often with YA-targeted books.  It's a fair question.  It has been a long time since I was a teenage feline, and for my human minions, it has been even longer.  We're talking glacial time scales here.  So our recollections of what those periods of our lives were like are not as sharp and crisp as they once might have been.

Still, I offer a full-service blog, so if a patron would like a YA title reviewed, then who am I to nay-say?


Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson, is a young adult novel first published in 2005.  The main character, Ginny Blackstone, receives 13 blue envelopes from her recently-deceased Aunt Peg, who died rather suddenly after preparing the letters.  Peg, who labelled herself as a "runaway aunt," agreed to pay Ginny's expenses in a trip across Europe, provided that Ginny obey four simple rules:
  • Rule #1:  Ginny may bring only what fits in her backpack.
  • Rule #2:  Ginny cannot bring guide books, phrase books, or similar foreign language aids.  She is also not allowed to keep journals.
  • Rule #3:  Ginny cannot take her own money, credit cards, etc., because Peg will have provided for her expenses.
  • Rule #4:  Ginny must leave all electronic devices behind.
It is that final rule that would be well-nigh impossible for most teenagers to follow.  Aunt Peg, however, has good reasons for restricting what Ginny carries with her on the trip.  Some adventures are best experienced without distractions, like cell phones, laptops, cameras, and other techno-gizmos.  Having to make one's way in foreign cultures without any language crutches forces the traveller to focus on what is happening at the moment, sharpening one's wits and self-sufficiency skills.  It is always easier to travel light, and the backpack rule ensures that Ginny won't be burdened with baggage, both actual and emotional.  It is also quite convenient that somebody else is paying for the trip.

Ginny is to open the envelopes in sequence at various places as her European tour progresses.  Could you wait to open them, one-by-one, as you travelled along, perhaps uncertain as to your next destinations or objectives?  I know several people who would open them all at once, but that would, of course, spoil the fun and ruin the plot.

The book is a journey through self-discovery, as well as revealing to Ginny many aspects of her aunt's life about which she was previously ignorant.  Aunt Peg's untimely death makes this journey even more poignant and meaningful to Ginny, and, consequently, to the reader.

Perhaps YA girls will enjoy this book most, but I think YA guys could benefit from its insights and revelations.  When someone offers you the trip of a lifetime, don't say no.  Just go.  You'll regret it later if you don't.

Click here to access my Library's online catalog to place a hold on this book, if you have an Evergreen Indiana library card.

Maybe I should travel more myself.  All expenses paid, of course.  How about it, Boss Lady?  I could be the Library's foreign correspondent.


Dateline, London or Paris--Sounds Pretty Nice to Moi,

Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Readers Advisory News Beat



P.S.  "Handle With Care" comes courtesy of The Traveling Wilburys, from the band's aptly-named debut album, The Traveling Wilburys, Volume I (1988).  If you have never heard of this group, then visit the official web site.  You teenagers may not recognize the players, but anybody over age 30 should have no trouble.  Certainly, folks from my minions' generation have known them (and enjoyed their music) for half a century (for some of the band) and nearly so (for others).

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