My Cousin’s Keeper, by Simon French;
Candlewick Press: Massachusetts, 2014;
Do you know what it feels like to be bullied? Have you ever felt left out? These are questions that My Cousin’s Keeper forces the reader to consider. They are questions I never thought a lot about until I read this book.
No book can be good unless it has interesting and inspiring characters. There are three important characters in the book. I was drawn into the story by the way these characters relate to each other. Their relationships made the message of the book jump off the pages and drew me into their world.
Bon is the main character. He is ten years old. Bon moves in with his cousin, Kieran, and his family and is insecure because his mother is not responsible enough to take care of him. When Bon arrives at his new school he is bullied because he is different. He has a long braid and wears old clothes, which the kids tease him about.
Bon’s experiences made me think of my own, and about how children learn about kindness and empathy. We sometimes think that school is just a place where we go to learn how to read or do math. But it is more than that. School is also where kids learn how to form friendships and deal with problems. It is a difficult place for kids, and people who aren’t bullied or treated poorly sometimes forget this. This story will remind kids who have to struggle at school, or even those who have no problems, how important it is to be aware of your fellow students.
Not everyone at school bullies Bon. He has one friend who defends him. Julia is my favorite character in the book. I admired her because of her sense of justice and her strength. When you first meet Julia you would think she would want to fit in and not stand up to the bullies because she has a troubled life at home. Her mother kidnapped her from her father and she lives on the run. She is unhappy but doesn’t take this out on others. I was pleased and inspired by the way she defends Bon and acts as a peacekeeper.
Bon also uses his imagination to escape the troubles in his life. He imagines himself as a brave crusader who gets help from “Kieran the brave” and “Julia the fair.” His uses his imagination to write these stories and gets lost in another world. Words have the power to make Bon forget about his troubled life, and I have learned that words can give you a sense of power. This was another part of the book that I enjoyed. It reminded me how important books and words can be for those who feel alone and troubled.
Finally, when I read the book I thought of something I read when I was much younger by Henry David Thoreau: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.’’ These are words I have tried to live by. They have also inspired me to be different and not to follow others. So if you’ve never asked yourself what it feels like to be bullied, or if you’ve always wanted to be yourself but were afraid, I recommend this book and maybe it can give you the drumbeat to march to your own music.