I've debated writing this post since I finished reading The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I really liked the book except for one thing. It's a minor issue, not important to the plot, just a revelation at the very end that a character we think of as one thing is actually another thing. It's the equivalent of the stupid joke at the end of the sitcom, the one that makes everyone laugh.
Except that it's more than that, and it really bothered me. A lot. I can't explain without spoilering the whole issue, so proceed at your own risk.
Spoiler below, okay?
Okay, so the book is about a group of four kids who are recruited by the kindly Mr. Benedict to infiltrate a private school. The school is the cover for a mad scientist's plan to control the world by broadcasting subliminal messages through radio and TV signals. It's fun and the characters are interesting: Reynie the puzzle-solver, who becomes the group's informal leader; nervous and brilliant Sticky, a black boy with an eidetic memory; Kate, energetic and spunky--she ran away to join the circus so many times they let her stay; and Constance, who expresses her crankiness by making up silly rhymes.
It's Constance that's the problem. She's described as a little person, and I kept thinking about it all through the book because I've never read a kid's book with a little person as the main character. I kept thinking about how important it would be for a kid with dwarfism or some other related issue to pick up this book and find someone like him, who's part of an adventurous team of kids and treated just like everyone else.
Except that at the end, Constance is revealed to be not a little person at all, but an especially precocious three-year-old.
Leaving aside the fact that NO ONE would mistake a three-year-old--no matter how precocious--for a ten-year-old little person, certainly not the three-year-old's best friends, the real little person reading this book suddenly gets a punch in the gut. Constance wasn't just like him after all. In fact, it's an insult: little people are indistinguishable from small children, and oh no, I'm sure they never get treated like that at all ever, right?
It left a really bad taste in my mouth. I just had to vent about it.