This morning a customer came in with a request we had a hard time filling, so I’m putting it out here for you all to ponder AND for you publishers and writers to put in your bag of tricks. The customer in question is the mother of a fifth grade boy, and the two of them are about to start participating in a community service group, doing volunteer work in shelters, etc. She wanted a book they could read together in which a character (or characters) did such work.
Color us stumped. We could think of lots of books in which kids did good deeds or fell into the position of offering their time to help someone, but few books that were about kids engaged in organized community service projects, in spite of the fact that this is a pretty common activity.
In the end we wound up selling her a copy of The Hero’s Trail by T.A. Barron, which talks about the different ways we define heroes and heroic deeds and includes examples of kids who volunteer service work has made a difference in the world. I think it was a good choice, in part too because there’s so much other material available to support the book, including an actual prize awarded by Tom Barron every year, plus the documentary Dream Big: The Inspiring Young Heroes of the Barron Prize. This customer left feeling like we’d more than fulfilled her wish, but I can’t help feeling we must have missed out on a few additional recommendations — either because we didn’t know about existing books or because these books should exist but don’t!
Anyone have any thoughts as to what else we could have tossed her way? If not, it’s clearly time for you writers out there to take up this cause, and at least MENTION such work as a part of a character’s life. (Much as I encouraged you to mention the existence of a wider range of sports a couple months ago, too.)