Love Among the Walnuts by Jean Ferris (2001)

This book is kind of absurd. Basically, Sandy and his parents live a fairytale life, shut off from the outside world. Everything they could possibly want, they have. Sandy is of indeterminate age because his parents stop keeping track of time, and since he has never been to school, it’s impossible to know what grade he should/would be in. You can imagine his surprise when something sinister happens to his parents! It’s really quite unpleasant to say the least. Especially since Sandy has no social/real world skills whatsoever.

Just to give an idea of what kind of life Sandy leads, a quote:

Sandy was dismayed at the number of times he had to say “I don’t know” when she asked him what he thought. He was beginning to wonder if, for all his educational advantages, he actually had ever thought.

So, Sandy is smart as a whip–book smart, just not a good critical thinker or real life participant. The book tries to resolve that tension by involving him with a nurse, Sunny, and the patients at an asylum down the road.

I asked my students to pick quotes they felt were most significant to the book, and one chose the following, which summed up most of the classes feelings on the book:

“What a bunch of balderdash.”

It fits. The students who liked it appreciated that it was fantastical and far removed from real life. It provided a real escape. I appreciated what it was trying to do, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anyone I know–not even a teen reader.

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