To be fair, since I spent some time talking about favorite books from the national market (I could go on for days about that), today I’ll touch on one set of LDS books for young readers.
Chickens in the Headlights by Matthew Buckley is quite possibly one of the funniest LDS books for children that I’ve read. I love it even more for the fact that good LDS literature for children is a rarity. It seems it’s rather hard to compete with the national market for a child’s reading attention and the parent’s spending dollars. The smaller LDS publishers just can’t offer books as cheaply as the national books can be offered. I’m sure there are plenty of us that hunger for more titles like this, but in reality would you rather pay $5 for a book from their school book club paper or $15 from the local LDS bookstore? Many of us would like to say the gospel messages and content we didn’t have to worry about would be worth the extra $10, but in actuality how many times is your wallet truly able to make that choice? Because it is not an easy thing to do, I applaud Matthew for getting Covenant to take a chance on his “fun in an LDS setting” book for children (and their parents, too).
I bought Chickens in the Headlights shortly after it came out as a result of a marathon book signing weekend of my own. After spending two days staring at that cover and hearing different store employees repeat over and over again how hard they laughed, I just had to get my grubby hands on it. Home it went in my extra piece of luggage I always bring along for the sheer purpose of filling it with LDS books. J
It was one of the first titles from the trip that I read. (See the above about falling in love with the cover.) I read it in one night. My husband began to wonder what was wrong with me— I’d alternately burst out in laughter, cry, and turn purple from trying not to laugh some more. I finally took the book downstairs so he could actually sleep. I also let my neighbor, who is not LDS, read this one. She was laughing so hard she ended up having to read it out loud for her own husband and child.
I waited a while longer to get Bullies in the Headlights. Oh, I was excited to get that one in my hands, too. But, I also have this thing about having at least one book by each of my friends on my shelf that is actually signed by the author. I figure when I die, my posterity can look through my book collection and say, “Wow, look at all the famous people grandma knew!” That’s another story all together. Needless to say, I brought Bullies home in my “book” bag from the next LDStorymakers conference, complete with author signature.
I’ve read both Chickens in the Headlights and Bullies in the Headlights by Matthew Buckley aloud to my boys (7 and 9) and it was a treat to do so. I must admit however that of the two, we much preferred Chickens to Bullies. I can’t answer for my children, but for me the main difference seemed to be in the boldness of the “message” or moral of the story. See, in Chickens in the Headlights you learn a lot of valuable lessons about finding joy in life and the blessings of family, but most of the time you don’t really know you’re learning them. It’s clear, but subtly woven in with antics that will leave you in stitches. Bullies in the Headlights isn’t quite so subtle. Oh, yes, there are still very funny parts and the storyline is still very true to what young boys would be thinking and doing, but this time the main character is actively looking for the “moral of the story”. The character version of the author is nagged by a sneaking suspicion that bullying bullies isn’t exactly Christ-like and goes looking for ways to both answer his questions and justify his own answers. ( BTW— One of the places he turns is a Primary teacher that I would absolutely love to hug for his atypical, but loving, characteristics.) It is a really great message, but my boys wanted to spend less time pontificating the realities of “should I or shouldn’t I”. They just wanted to hear more about chicken armpits.
Okay, are you ready for the really fun part? Mr. Buckley recently got permission to provide a free audio version of Chickens in the Headlights! Yippeee! So, if you’re not able to get your hands on a printed copy right away, go to Matthew’s website, http://chickenarmpits.com and listen. It will brighten you’re whole day.
Want more? Matthew Buckley has another free audio book available, also very giggle worthy, but made for general youth audiences not just LDS kids. You can listen to Matthew read this fun story at http://thesupertrio.com. Happy listening!
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