Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Children of the Damned 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA little girl, no more than eight years old, quietly approached the desk. She reached into her Powderpuff Girl’s backpack and pulled out Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall.

“Hello. I’m looking for the short story "Nightfall" by Isaac Asimov.”

“It’s not in that book?”

“I'm looking for the short story. This is the result of collaboration with another author, Robert Silverberg. Together he and Asimov and expanded the short story into novel length. I am only interested in the short story.”

Her poise was beyond preternatural and her voice was as carefully modulated as HAL the computer or Nurse Ratchet. It was all my colleague and I could do not to stare at her like she was channeling some sort of demon.

I searched the catalog and found the story in a short story collection on another floor. I wrote out the book and gave her the call number. She thanked me and twirled around and left.

After she was gone my colleague and I almost clutched each other in fear. Who at that age is into Asimov?

I certainly was. And the short story is so powerful on its own, I don't blame her for wanting it. One of the candidates for best short science fiction story ever written.
Possibly she was homeschooled? Those kids tend to be unfailingly polite and very advanced for their ages. My cousin's kid is homeschooled, and she was using words like "symbiotic" at the age of six.
I love homeschooled children at the library and am always blown away by their manners and their intellectual curiousity, which I guess haven't been beaten out of them by their school peers. I always fear that they'll eventually have to go to public schools and it will be like lambs to the slaughter, though.
I would have staked her in the heart then and there.
Now that I think of it, I did have a friend who read Myra Breckenridge when she was eight.
Don't worry Foxy, in my experience most homeschooled kids have enough 'self' developed that by the time they go to public school they adapt well enough. I started public school in eighth grade and it was no worse for me than any other eighth grade girl (horrors!--to be in eighth grade again!).

It was those early library experiences that caused me to choose my current career path, however. A kind reference librarian explained that the book I couldn't find on the shelf was missing and the 'library detective' would have to look for it. My Nancy Drew-obsessed child self knew there was no higher career aspiration.
i totally was into agatha christie by that age - and i also had a soft spot for virginia woolf by then too. i was a freak, and obviously so is this child.

as for the home schooled theory - i totally buy it. the home school kids from my last library were out of control smart - socially awkward - like tiny adults -saying things that were much to mature, but if they would have been in their early 30's I would have been like "OK, what a nice customer" - but when its a 9 year old, I'm kind of "oh my G-d".

rock on foxy, have a happy thanksgiving.

This is one of the funniest things I've ever read.
I remember going to a book signing for Frank Herbert when the Dune movie came out, and having him sign my copy of Children of Dune (my favorite), and him asking me, all of 13 at the time, "You read this?", like it was unbelievable that I'd read the first, let alone the third book of the series.
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