Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lonely Guy: Nobody Here But Me by Judith Viorst

My mom's making phone calls.

My dad's doing e-mail.

My sister's upstairs with a friend. They're playing great games. But the games are for two, not three.

So, even though there are four other people right here in this house, it's just as if there's nobody here but me.

It's four o'clock in the afternoon, and the kid is at loose ends. His parents are too busy even to multitask with him, and his sister Katie makes it clear there's no room for a little brother at her board game. He's on his own for a little while, and he's definitely NOT where he wants to be--the center of everyone's attention!

He tries coloring pictures solo, and even paints an artistic heart on the wall, announcing the proceedings out loud as he goes, but Mom keeps talking to Grandma. He tries out his scissors on his jeans and his hair and the fringe on the rug, but Dad determinedly keeps at the keyboard. Then he decides to make himself a snack:

I'm making a sandwich. I'm making a fruit drink. I'm making a chocolate dessert. And I'm turning our kitchen into a catastrophe (that's a really big mess!). But is someone, ANYONE, rushing in with the sponges and mops?

Uh uh. It's just as if there's nobody here but me

The kid tries pestering, a bit of whining, and a run at negotiation.

--"Hey, Mom! Hello! Hell-oh? Can you hear me?"
--"Sorry, but I don't want to hear you right now!"

--"Hey, Dad! Hello! Hell-oh? Can I ask you. . . "
--"Sorry, but I don't want you asking right now!"

--"Hey, Katie! Couldn't you, just this once . . ."
--"I couldn't. Why don't you get a friend to play with?"

Sometimes there's nothing left for a kid to do but find a sulking place. The basement seems promising. There are lots of big, empty boxes to sit in down there, and it's pretty dark, and it's a good place to hide, and . . . . Trouble is, it's also kinda spooky and getting really dark down there, and besides, nobody is even looking for his hiding place.

Maybe what this family needs is some dramatics.

--"Hurry, Katie! There's a giant bird with wide dark wings and it's flapping this wings outside the bedroom window."

--"There isn't."

--"There is. I know there is. There absolutely is."

--Then why don't you climb on its back and fly away?"

Out of ploys to get attention, the boy decides there's only one dramatic gesture left for him: he puts on his p.j.'s and puts himself to bed at 5:00 p.m. Just as he seems to be dozing off, everybody finishes with their afternoon activities and comes looking for him.

--"I'm done with my phone calls. We could bake a dessert for our supper."

--"I'm done with my e-mails. We could ride our bikes before supper."

--"My friend went home. We could work on the jigsaw puzzle till supper."

--"ZZZ ZZZ! I'm in no hurry to open my eyes.

--It serves them right! But I'm glad I'm just making believe!"

But even a determined faux sleeper can't resist a group tickle, especially when the mock snoozer has his chance to be the center of everyone's attention at last!

Judith Viorst, author of such definitive childhood stories as Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, proves that she hasn't lost her chops in nailing the workings of a child's mind in her newest, Nobody Here but Me. Fortunately for our protagonist, Viorst thankfully drops the veil of suspended disbelief upon the mess left behind our kid's lonely hour, leaving us a final page showing a believable family sharing a good giggle together. Illustrator Christine Davenier's art portrays just the right touch of pathos and peskiness in Viorst's character in this delightful new picture book from an old master.



  • Oh, this sounds great. Wait, it actually sounds like my house right now. :) I'll go check it out. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day has always been one of my very favorites.

    By Anonymous Meg, at 1:23 PM  

  • Dear Meg,

    Thank you for the kind words.

    Your comment about your house reminded me of the oft recalled "great glitter disaster" at mine. I'll leave your experienced imagination to picture that scene!

    By Blogger GTC, at 8:36 AM  

  • After reading Judith Viorst's newly released children's book, Nobody Here but Me - (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2008) which by the way, is beautifully illustrated Nobody Here but Meby Christine Davenier - I thought to myself, the title should read: Nobody HEARING Me.

    How often are our lives and ears driven by our ipods, cell phones, blackberries, laptops, cable box etc.? If it clicks, it sticks to us!

    ...which is why I love the message in this book.

    We plod along with these I-AM-SO-BUSY days leaving little time to talk to our kids. We do, however, have plenty of to click-text-and talk them away.

    I am guilty. Sorry, guys.

    Viorst does not state the obvious. She subtly drives home the theme: listen to them

    By Anonymous supperworks, at 2:41 AM  

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