I have created quite a reading list much to the dismay of many young readers in my area. I feel slightly guilty requesting such popular books from the library and leaving the shelves without other copies. My goal was to investigate the voices of authors of middle grade fiction. So far, I have made only a small dent in my pile by finishing two of the books, which sits staring at me from my dusty night stand: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
What I love about reading children's literature is that for the most part, the protagonist is the underdog, THANK GOODNESS. I was raised on the Dodgers, a team that many consider to be ultimate underdog of California baseball (sorry Dad). I became a teacher to work with the underdogs in education, students that have the odds stacked against them. Underdogs have special qualities about them. They have depth from experiencing isolation or loss or low expectations. They have a dedicated fan base because deep down, people feel as if they deserve justice.
I am a white, female who has had a pretty good go at things. I consider myself to be extremely lucky. However, the underdog may seem appealing to me because of some memories I have of not always fitting-in while growing up. I know it may seem that I have it ALL together, I mean I am practically Martha Stewart's twin, but let me tell you, I am and have always been a nerd. Yes, that's right. Gap-toothed, big-eared, gangly-limbed, and high-waisted. I have no shame in admitting it. As a result, nestled deep inside my little caffeinated heart are gently, stowed nerdisms. From the get-go, I have liked the wrong music (what ten-year-old likes Heart?), the wrong clothes (baggy, wool, oversized sweaters and overalls), the oh-so wrong hats (thanks to my love for Blossom), the wrong cereal (I was a Wheaties kid), and the wrong shows ( I used to BEG to stay up past my bedtime to watch ... Murder She Wrote). I was so innocent and naive as a youngster with all my lovely nerdisms that I made the most perfect target for little, mean-bodied, she-bullies. Back then I think bullying happened just as often as kids mistakenly throw their retainers out into school trash cans (which happens quite a bit, in case you didn't know).
EXHIBIT B: (Thankfully it doesn't get any bigger.)
What is wonderful about my former (and so, very current) nerdisms is that I can now use them for the good of humanity. I can validate the experiences of other underdog-kiddos in my writing just as some of these authors I am reading have done in their work. I can't remember reading about an "overdog". It just wouldn't be that exciting. There would be nothing to root for. It makes me wonder if there is such a thing as someone who has never experienced underdogness. I think they'd be really boring.