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"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Knuckleheads by Jon Scieska

This author is on a mission to reach the reluctant boy reader.

Mission accomplished.

This autobiography covers highlights of Jon S’s life growing up with 4 other brothers in Michigan. It’s utterly in sync with the world-of-boys. And if a middle-aged mom and her tween girls liked it, it ought to be absurdly attractive to young boys. What normal American boy wouldn’t like short, funny, readable chapters about boys playing war, wrestling, or throwing up on each other in the car?

There’s some blunt humor around bodily functions, such as streams of urine hitting the space heater his parents were naïve enough to leave in a basement room with 2 boys. It’s relatively tactful and quite laughable. Not to mention utterly real.

His experience of worrying about scary nuns whacking you isn’t something I can relate to even after 12 yrs. of Catholic school. I guess we post Vatican 2 babies had different issues. Like no nuns at all.

While there is no hard-hitting damage to be done to children; as an adult, I caught a whiff of some slightly deficient theology, maybe just to play for laughs, but considering the the level of religious ignorance we're currently up against, I am nit-picky. For example:

1. The reference to pagan babies going to hell. It was a minor joke. Still… you are playing to an audience under the influence of the mainstream media. They won’t necessarily get the joke. (yes, the Church takes baptism as seriously as Jesus did and as the normative means of salvation. No, She never taught the unbaptized are all likely going to hell.)

2. The joke about Sister claiming TV and cartoons are sinful. (yes some nuns spoke like that, and the media can be quite morally destructive, no, the church has never taught that TV or cartoons are intrinsically evil.)

3. The analogy of Boy Scouts and Church being organizations where you join and follow the rules and don’t ask questions. Ummm… Ha Ha Ha? (one may not like or agree with the Church’s answers or even agree that there is universal truth and doctrinal absolutes, but many a great (and not-so great) minds came into or back into the Church exactly because they did ask questions… lots of them.)

Numbers 1 and 2 are minor jokes that potentially play into a stereotype for the ignorant or those of less-than-good-will but are not likely to do much harm to the well-catechized. Number 3 I take exception to. His experience is his. But I want my children to have a more balanced and accurate perspective of church membership: funny ha has aside.

By and large, tweens won’t be reading it with such a critical eye, and my tweens loved it and laughed uproariously over the nuns and other vignettes. Then again, my children's primary experience with nuns has been with the young and fantastically joyous Sisters of Life in New York City, so they have a different perspective going into it.


See: Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The necessity of Baptism: 1257
Salvation Outside the Church
: 846, 847


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