A Mass of Mini-Reviews 6

Lisa and Lottie

My 2-year-old picked out this book in her random attempt to bring home every book in the public library. I would never have considered grabbing it if it hadn’t been in her “Bring Home!” pile. But it turned out that this book is the original Parent Trap. Yes, you read correctly: The Parent Trap by Disney starring Haley Mills and re-made starring Lindsey Lohan is based on this book. Now understand that it is very outdated; the mother is a woman “forced to make her own living” and can barely make enough to keep them in beef stew served over noodles and shares a bedroom with her daughter. Daddy, a musician/composer/conductor, can comfortably afford 2 apartments, a housekeeper and to eat out almost daily. But it is a very cute, although very conservative, little book. It would be interesting to do a “study” with children comparing the domestic messages of Lisa and Lottie with the two film versions of the Parent Trap. It actually rather reminded me of Freaky Friday. Not only because Disney also made 2 film versions of it (one starring Lohan) but also in the in-desperate-need-for-modernization aspect.

Flight

When Connie Brummel Crook’s Flight opens the American revolutionary war has been going on for some time with Hans Waltermyer avoiding picking sides. Until, one day, his neighbour is tarred, feathered and hung by American Revolutionaries and Hans decides to join the British as a Loyalist. This historical fiction is centred around George Waltermyer, Hans’ eldest son. We follow George and his family for many years and through many adventures. Some of these “adventures” were down-right dull and the book felt too drawn out. Furthermore, Flight‘s back cover gave the impression that we are following one very exciting and detailed adventure. We split our time between George and his father, Hans, and are able to see what life was like for both the solider and for the family that he is separated from.

Hollywood has so ingrained into us that the British and the Loyalist were bad, that a book celebrated their cause was refreshing. But the book was merely ok.

The Slave Dancer

In Paula Fox’s Newbury Award Winner The Slave Dancer, Jessie Bollier is a thirteen-year-old boy living with his mother and sister in abject poverty during the 1830s or 40s in New Orleans. After playing the fife on the street for a few coins, Jessie is kidnapped, um… sorry “press ganged,” by two members of a slaver’s crew and becomes a slave dancer cum cabin boy.

This book contains exquisitely detailed descriptions of New Orleans, the ship, the madness of the crew members, the appalling conditions of the slaves’ quarters and their treatment, and the shipwreck. We watch Jessie, who was indifferent, travel through an emotional arc of sympathy, fear, disgust, hatred and finally, love. Because of the difficult themes and detailed descriptions, this book is not for the sensitive reader and, even though it is marketed for 9 to 12 year-olds, I would not recommend for anyone under 13.

The Slave Dancer begs a discussion of the changing views toward those of African descent. I think it would be interesting to read as part of a book club/reading series including, among others, Little Black Sambo; Underground To Canada; Uncle Tom’s Cabin; To Kill a Mockingbird; Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry; The Cay; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; and Sounder.

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