The Not Even Once Club by Wendy Watson Nelson
The Not Even Once Club is a story about a boy, Tyler, who has moved to a new neighborhood. His primary class has a secret club house and is close-knit group that likes to play together. Tyler has to pass a test to be able to join the club—the test is turn down drinking an alcoholic drink on a pretend restaurant menu. Tyler then signs a club contract that says he will always keep the word of wisdom, dress modestly, avoid pornography, and other bad habits. The boy is super happy about his new friends and super excited about his commitment to avoid doing any of these things Not Even Once!
On the one hand I think this is a pretty decent story. I think the idea of a secret club based on keeping the commandments is a fun idea for kids. Finding friends that have the same standards as you is a rewarding experience. The book also provides a safe way for parents and kids to have discussions about church standards and the choices we make. There is a discussion guide in the back for parents and kids to follow on topics like modesty and pornography, obedience, and repentance.
I did kind of have a problem with the fact that the primary teacher was the founder of the club and that she supplied the club house with snacks, candy, puzzles, games and crafts as long as the kids kept the promise of the contract. I didn’t like the message that the primary teacher would provide treats and other external rewards conditional on the children’s behavior. Because keeping the commandments shouldn’t be motivated by getting candy or games, keeping the commandments should be motivated by how living the gospel brings peace and happiness internally. Also, why should this primary teacher get to be judge if these kids deserve snacks or not? Is she going to keep track of everything they do? Also, what primary teacher can afford to do that? Seriously?
I think this book does have a lot of potential to be a good catalyst for gospel discussions and conversations in families, but I’m not a fan of the teacher’s influence. I’d like the book much more if the kids had decorated and supplied the club on their own initiative out of a desire to do what the primary teacher taught them about. They could have all brought something special to share— an activity, snack or game that reflected their commitment to make choices different from the world and to create a safe haven for themselves and their friends.
I hope that my quibbling with story details doesn’t cause people to discount completely the potential for this story concept to be a positive influence. I don’t want to convey that idea at all. I think that with the guidance of parents this story concept is flexible enough to adapt to different situations and circumstances, and that it could be a tool to strengthen families.
Find more information about the book here.