As promised, a fictional Richard.
Richard Flink is the sort-of boyfriend of Amelia, the middle-school-aged protagonist of the children’s series Angel By My Side. I freely admit that this kind of thing is not my usual reading material; I only read the trilogy because my grandmother gave me a copy of the third book. It sat on my shelf for a while until I randomly opened it to a page and saw there was a character named Richard. About two hours later (these books are short), I had finished it. Since I had started with book three, I felt the urge to read the first two. I was able to get the first book from my local library; I had to wait until I was in college and my public library joined a consortium to read the second. And that’s partially why I still remember these books: I was 18 and reading a book for ten-year-olds. Ahh well. I will stop at almost nothing to get my Dick fix.
Any who, it’s been a while since I read these books, but they’re pretty standard feel-good kiddy faire. Despite involving guardian angels, they aren’t overly preachy – I didn’t feel like religion was being shoved down my throat. They do, however, deal with the now-trite aphorism that beauty is on the inside.
Book One is Angel By My Side: Amelia’s Story. The kids are in sixth grade and the end-of-the-year dance is coming up. Amelia feels ugly and invisible and has no one to go with. Her best friend Shura has a devil-may-care attitude, eschewing the idea that you need a date for a dance. Not that it ultimately matters because Richard Flink, loveable dork, has a crush on Amelia and asks her to the dance. Awwww. We are also introduced to Amelia’s divorced mother and little sister, who communicates with her guardian angel.
Book Two is Angel By My Side: Lily’s Story. Shura had perished in an off-screen plane crash, which is a real WTF in my opinion. It just seems so random – I mean plane crashes are pretty rare. Anyway, Amelia is dealing with Shura’s death, as well as working on some cheesy book about beauty being on the inside. I think it’s called Swan Songs (as in the ugly duckling bit), so the unoriginality and lameness is exploding off the page; but the girl’s supposed to be about thirteen, so I guess I should cut her some slack. It is in this book that Amelia starts communicating with her guardian angel, Lily, who helps her get through Shura’s death. At some point, Amelia goes on a date with Richard and they hold hands (so cute); her book also gets published and her mom marries this awesome blind guy named Mr. C.
Book Three is Angel By My Side: Grace’s Story. Things sort of get good in this book. Now that Amelia’s life is in ship-shape, it’s time for her to start helping others. Lily tasks her with befriending Grace “Slick” Jamison, a girl who has fallen in with the wrong crowd (and is a total “wrong crowd” stereotype). It’s tough going in the beginning, but, long-story short, Grace is “saved” in the end. Huzzah! More importantly, in this book we discover that Richard’s parents are both English professors (bitchin’) and we see more of Richard’s love of Shakespeare. Yes, Richard is a middle-school boy who wears braces and quotes Shakespeare – I love him so much, yet I can’t understand why he isn’t beaten up regularly. I mean, these people live in Los Angeles for heaven’s sake. Must be because he goes to private school once he reaches middle school age. They might be a little more tolerant of nerds than the general population of the LAUSD.
To sum-up: Richard Flink is the nerdy, Shakespeare-quoting whiz kid of professor parents. He’s an only child, is quite gentlemanly, and is content with hand holding. He’s so going to grow up to be the humanities counterpart to those guys on The Big Bang Theory.
I wish I could elaborate more on Richard, but there really isn’t much more to say. He’s basically the thirteen-year-old version of the boyfriend any studious, serious, average-looking girl would want. As an older person, I look at his character and think “aren’t you adorable.” And then I try to pat him on the head.
These works are hardly prize-winning literature, but if you want something interesting, yet vaguely wholesome, for your kid to read, you could do lot worse than these books. After all, these books have a Dick in them, which automatically gives them an edge in my book.