Forgive Me,Leonard Peacock (Little Brown and Company, August 2013) is a powerfully rendered story by Matthew Quick. We’ve been conditioned to hate those students who become school shooters. Leonard is on his way to becoming just that. At times he is rather unlikeable. But then his story unfolds piece by piece and Quick takes us into the heart and soul of a young person bashed about by life circumstances and events out of his control. And like a ship dashed upon the rocks, he begins to splinter and fall apart.
Leonard’s parents are absent at best, totally self-absorbed at worst. His mother is the poster child for selfishness. She ignores Leonard when he tries to reach out to her about painful events in his life. But she sticks her head in the sand and moves on, leaving Leonard to try and make sense of it on his own.
There are two key figures in Leonard’s life who speak loudly through their quiet actions and words about the power of teachers and mentors in the lives of young people. Herr Silverman and Walt understand Leonard in a way that his own parents probably never will. Leonard’s words remind us as teachers how very ,very important it is for kids to feel visible and noticed in our classrooms. Leonard’s description of Herr Silverman and his class are a study of some of the most powerful teaching strategies we can employ.
Statistically we know the number of alienated students who become violent at school is low compared to the overall number of students in school. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have more young people than we realize walking around with the pain inside that Leonard carries. This book is one of those books that a student could pick up and read to discover “I’m not alone.” Perhaps it is the book that will be a wake up call to the person bullying someone else. And for teachers, it is a poignant look into the heart of that student we might easily overlook and a reminder of the power we have each day as we enter the classroom.
Teresa Bunner has been an elementary, middle and high school teacher and reading specialist. She’s been a member of the Nerdy Book Club for as long as she can remember. When she’s not busy sharing books with the kids she works with, she enjoys sharing them with the 4 boys in her house who are avid readers as well. You can find her thoughts on closing the achievement gap as a featured blogger for Triumph Learning.