Anything But Groovy : Catholic Teen Book set in 1974

Author: Amanda Lauer

Publisher: Full Quiver Publishing

Age Range: 10 -14

I never get tired of reading time travel stories.  Amanda Lauer took me down memory lane with this story of twelve-year-old Morgan who is transported back in time to 1974 and finds herself in her mother’s body, living her mother’s life. Following a bump on the head, Morgan wakes up in her mom’s old bedroom on the first day of school.  Within the first six pages of the book, we are already back in time, wondering how Morgan is going to navigate this sudden change of circumstances.

This is an easy-to-read book that explores what life was like for mom back in 1974.  I liked how Morgan’s persona – her ‘voice’- remains ‘modern’ throughout the story. As readers we observe life in 1974 from the point of view of a 2020’s pre-teen.  It was fun to read how Morgan balks at 70’s bell bottom pants and her new, very colourful, surroundings. Her alarm clock startles her every morning and she wonders how on Earth people get by without mobile phones. Somehow, Morgan manages to fit into her new life and make friends.  She is very aware throughout the story that she needs to make her mom’s life easier, not harder, when things return to normal.

Lauer focuses on the minutiae of life – what the family ate for dinner, what songs are being played on the radio, what games the kids play and how the seasons impact on their lives. On one level it’s a fun read, highlighting how busy, social and active life was for kids in the seventies.  Morgan (as Allison) flits from basketball games to football games, sleep overs and snow games.  Each week is punctuated by various evening TV shows that the family sits around and watches together. Mom busies herself with preparing meals and keeping the household going.

Beneath the veneer of Brady Bunch style family life, there is tension and sadness in this family.  Morgan has knowledge of the future. She knows that her mom’s parents will separate, and her mom’s brother will become an alcoholic.  She also knows that tragedy lies ahead for some families in the community.  But despite this, Morgan throws herself into 1974 and makes some good friends. Young readers will enjoy the squabbles and rivalry that are all part and parcel of pre-teen friendships regardless of the era.

Morgan has to contend with a bully at school who for some unknown reason decides to target her.  As the story progresses, the situation becomes more stressful and distressing for her.  The adults in her life appear to be oblivious or uncaring about her situation – for some reason, Morgan feels unable to ask for help.  By story’s end, Morgan stands up for herself and the bully backs off.

The book is definitely a Catholic book – the family regularly goes to Mass and the school is a Catholic school with plenty of teaching nuns.  Morgan enjoys good relationships with the local priests and nuns, dropping into visit the local convent more than once throughout the story. It is difficult to say if characters are/are not drawing on their Catholic values and beliefs throughout the story.  It is not a main focus of the story.

Adults will enjoy reading this book as much as young readers.  It provides an excellent window into a bygone era.  Lauer has cleverly recreated life for a twelve-year-old in 1974.  Perhaps this book could have been improved with a stronger storyline driving it forward from chapter to chapter.  I would also have made it a little shorter.  I was also left wondering what/why the bullying of Morgan (Allison) started and ended, but that might be because I am not American, and I could be missing some cultural references there.

The ending occurs when Morgan once again receives a bump on the head and returns to her current life.  It is suggested that Mom also experienced life as Morgan for awhile.  There is no real explanation provided for the identity swap between mom and Morgan, although they are drawn closer for the experience. The details of why or how they swap places is not explained and isn’t really needed.

Why not include this book amongst your pre tween readers – it lends itself to some great discussion and activities as a class or homeschool family.  Easy to read, wholesome and fun.

You can purchase Anything but Groovy HERE.

See Amanda Lauer interviewed by A.J.Cattapan HERE

Homeschool and Teacher Ideas.

As a homeschool mum myself I would have had 70’s dress ups and dancing to 70’s music.  Is there someone you know with a record player and records?  Kids in this age group would love it – and of course, you need to carefully recreate the snacks and tasty treats of the era: https://www.taste.com.au/articles/1974-school-canteen-list-us-reminiscing-classic-aussie-lunch-orders/1dd4wqac

You might also provide some cultural and political context to 1974.  Who was president?  Who was Pope?

Can you find someone in your family/community who was 12 in 1974 (I admit it!  Yes, I was!)   Why not help students to think of some questions to ask your guest speaker?  Students can then write up a report or summary of your guest speaker’s interview. You might easily transfer this into a tech project – have students produce a TV style documentary or interview. Why not try to give it a 70’s vibe with wigs, outfits and authentic furnishings?  (hit the opportunity shops!)

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