The Newbold children introduce a friend to a favorite game in Letts’ (What’s Behind the Curtain?, 2013) children’s book, suitable for ages 9 and up.
Twelve-year-old Chance Newbold starts his Saturday morning sleepily, following a late night of Xbox and an unwanted morning wake-up call from the family cat. It doesn’t get much better—there’s laundry to do, no milk for his cereal and the possibility that the school gossip might post something embarrassing about Chance online. But when his three sisters congregate in the kitchen, along with his oldest sister’s boyfriend, Jake, and Jake’s best friend, Kelly, things start to turn around. After all, the Newbolds can tell Kelly about their family pastime, the “Should I?” game. The setup is simple: For example, “Should I eat an apple or should I eat an orange?” middle sister Sophia asks. “You choose,” 7-year-old Molly replies. The Newbolds explain to Kelly that the game is about actions and accountability, responsibility, consequences and rewards; “it’s thinking…really thinking…about why you choose to do what you do,” Chance says. The conversation turns to an event years ago, when some mean children almost caused the death of a boy with a nerve-impairing hereditary disorder. Bullying, too, is a choice a person can make—or decide not to. Letts’ book is a quick, fun read, with characters who are great role models for young readers, and not just because they ask challenging questions; they also volunteer, compost, and only use the Internet for research. Although it touches on tragedy, the story is far from schmaltzy and is instead cleareyed and frank. It also avoids moralizing, even though there is a very clear takeaway message. A series of pages at the end, with blank lines separated by “or,” allows readers to create their own “Should I?” games.
A fresh take on a topic that has seen plenty of ink.