Saturday, November 15, 2008

Among the Hidden

Bibliography: Haddix, Margaret Petersen. 1998. Among the Hidden. New York. Aladdin Paperbacks ISBN 0689817002

Plot Summary: Luke Gardner is 'among the hidden' in a futuristic society that is strangely a regression of today's society. In his world, families are allowed to have only two children, but Luke is the illegal third child of the Gardners, a modest farming family. When the Government forces the family to sell some of their land to build houses on it, this causes Luke to have to hide inside his house night and day, never even going outside. Only when Luke watches the homes through the vents in his attic bedroom and sees an extra face in a window of a home where he knows only two children live, does he realize there is another illegal third child within yards of his home. Luke then has to decide if he is willing to risk being found out in order to meet a 'shadow child' like himself. When Luke does meet the other shadow child, a girl named Jen, she introduces Luke to a lifestyle and a manner of thinking he had never considered: overthrowing the Government to allow Shadow Children to live.

Critical Analysis: Among the Hidden could be considered both low fantasy and science fiction. Haddix combines both elements in such a way that the society Luke lives in seems frighteningly realistic and at times even familiar. Ordinary lifestyles are introduced early in the novel, with the believable characters of the Gardners, a simplistic, hardworking family of traditional beliefs and habits except for one: the conceiving and raising of Luke, an illegal third child in direct disobedience to the laws of the Government.
Haddix chooses not to use futuristic or scientific vocabulary , making the novel an easy read for most students. Only when Luke reads propaganda about the Government does the reader encounter higher vocabulary, "...elements of the overpopulation crisis were foreseen in the 1800s, an uninformed observer could only wonder why humankind came so near to total annihilation." As the plot unfolds, much of the government's descriptive persuasions are explained by Luke and his new companion, another Shadow Child.
The eerily realistic settings with common effects found in today's homes such as computers, phones, security alarms, blue jeans, and junk food, make the issues of hypocrisy and bias within the story hit hard for a young reader of developing opinions. Today's youth could find it difficult to comprehend Luke's compliant acceptance of his hiding when he describes his life as, "He was special. He was secret."
Margaret Haddix gives young readers a thought-provoking novel with plots on which to use maturing problem-solving skills.

Review Excerpts:
From Publishers Weekly: This futuristic novel focuses on a totalitarian regime and the Internet. PW noted, "The plot development is sometimes implausible and the characterizations a bit brittle, but the unsettling, thought-provoking premise should suffice to keep readers hooked." Ages 8-12.

Novel could be used to practice debate: The Government vs. The Shadow Children
Students research famines and population growths and predictions and develop ideas for preventing such a world as the one Luke was born into.
Survey students to see who is a third child or more in their family.
Practice letter writing by writing a Letter to the Editor to defend Shadow Children

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