Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Liberty books for kids. The Shadow Children

Millions of people first heard the message of individual liberty through novels -- yet the libertarian movement seems to produce precious few novels, in spite of their success record. If liberty is to grow the ideas of liberty have to seep into popular culture. If libertarian novels are in short supply for adults the selection for children is even more dire. It is the intention of Laissez Faire Books to help rectify this problem by offering a selection of good libertarian-oriented works for children.

And the first such book that we are stocking is part of a series called the Shadow Children sequence by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The Shadow Children series comprises seven volumes in total. Volume one, Among the Hidden, introduces us to our the main character of the series, 12-year-old Luke Garner. All Luke knows is that he must remain hidden at all times -- for he is illegal. No, he’s not Mexican -- he’s a third child in a nation which regulates everything and which bans anyone from having more than two children. Be warned, this review will give away the entire plot but then we’re hoping this is a book adults will buy for kids.

Luke, the main character of the book, lived on a small family farm and had some reprieve from the necessity of hiding. He could go outside during the day with his brothers because the woods shielded the farm from the view of others. But one day the government tells the family they are confiscating the wooded land to build housing for Barons. Barons are mostly wealthy government employees who live in relative luxury while the rest of the population is kept intentionally on the financial edge -- in order to force them to work harder.

Luke realizes when the woods are gone his life will be gone as well. He wants to know why the family must give up their land. “The Government didn’t ask us if we wanted houses there,” his father tells him. Luke imagines “the Government as a very big, mean, fat person, two or three times as tall as an ordinary man, who went around yelling at people. ‘Not allowed!’ and ‘Stop that!’ It was because of the way his parents and older brothers talked: ‘Government won’t let us plant corn there again.’ ‘Government’s keeping the prices down.’ ‘Government’s not going to like this crop.”

Everything on the farm is tightly controlled by the state. The family is forced to sell their hogs, and forbidden to have livestock, since it might offend the Barons moving into the new houses. When Luke’s father looks at hydroponics to grow food during the winter in order to feed his family he is ordered to turn in the equipment because it might be used to produce marijuana.

Luke retreats to his room and sees the world entirely through a small vent opening. But, with the woods gone, he can now see farther and one day he discovers that inside the home of one of the Barons there is another Shadow Child. After weeks of planning Luke finally finds a way to meet the other child and discovers it is a girl named Jen. Jen tells Luke that lots of Barons have illegal children and her father is a top official in the government.

Luke is shocked. “’But—if you’re an illegal—’ Luke hadn’t thought he could get any more confused.”

Jen respond: “'Haven’t you learned? Government leaders are the worst ones for breaking laws. How do you think we get this house? How you think I got Internet access? How do you think we live?’” She introduces Luke to the world of Shadow Children through an illegal chat group that she operates and she tells him of her bold plan. The shadow children, thousands of them, will come out and demonstrate in front of the president’s residence. She says that once the world sees these children they will understand that they have a right to live free.

Luke refuses to go along. He’s too afraid but Jen carries out her rally with the few dozen Shadow Children who dared join her. Luke listens patiently to the news and hears nothing. The media is tightly regulated by the state. Days go by and Luke can’t stand now knowing what happened. He sneaks back to Jen’s house looking for her only to be discovered by her father instead. The frightened man points a gun at the boy, a gun which is illegal in this society -- as are pets and junk food. Luke tells him that he’s a third child as well, a friend of Jen’s and he has to know what happened at the rally.

Luke is told that the Government killed her and all the other children with her.
They shot her,’ Jen’s father said. “They shot all of them. All forty kids at the rally, gunned down right in front of the president’s house. The blood flowed into his rose-bushes. But they had the sidewalks scrubbed before the tourists came, so nobody would know.
And by using Jen’s computer to access the chat room, which was now being monitored because of the rally, Luke would be discovered as well. The Population Police would come and search all the homes in the area and any Shadow Children would be taken away and executed. Jen’s father makes Luke an offer. He says that for the time being he still has power. He can obtain fake ID for the boy to legalize him. But Luke must take on the identity of a young man who just had recently died. The boy’s parents were part of an underground movement who donated ID to help Shadow Children come out into the open.

Luke had no other choice. The underground would pay his tuition at a private school but Luke had to loose his identity and become Lee Grant instead. And Luke/Lee accepts. He dreams of his plan to ultimately free the Shadow Children. And so ends volume one. If there is another children’s book that so clearly outlines the evils of big government I don’t of it.

The books is recommended for kids from the ages of eight to twelve. I think it a tad bit difficult for an average child under ten years of age. But intelligent children won’t have a problem with it. In addition I think it is appropriate for children much older as well. If you want a book to dispel the notion of benevolent statism this book will do it. No child who reads this book, and absorbs the plot and it’s meaning can ever see government quite the way the political classes want them to.

While the book is 153 pages the type is large and double-spaced for easy reading. Our price $5.95. To order this book call 1-800-326-0996.

1 comment:

lewis said...

My eleven year old daughter loved the Shadow Children series. She has gone through many series including the Nancy Drew books and was looking for a new series when a librarian recommended the Shadow Children. I owe that librarian a "thank you."

Not only did my daughter really enjoy the books but she had a lot questions which led to some good discussions about the role of government. All libertarian parents should buy their children this series.