Monday, November 25, 2013
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: THE TRUTH OF ME by Patricia Maclachlan
What It's About (from the book jacket): When Robbie and his dog, Ellie, spend the summer at his grandmother Maddy's house, Robbie revels in his grandmother's easy, relaxed ways, such as eating doughnuts once for dinner. Robbie understands there's something missing in his everyday life with his parents, but he doesn't know what it is.
Maddy makes Robbie's parents nervous, which is one of the reasons Robbie likes Maddy. He likes her stories and he likes the way wild animals come right up to her, without any fear. Maddy helps Robbie find "the truth of me." The truth has to do with something that happened to his mother a long time ago. And it helps Robbie realize what he's really missing and gives him the confidence to make things right."
Opening Lines: "My name is Robert. There are many Roberts before me--a family of Roberts. There are my uncles, my great-uncles, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather, and on and on. I think of all those Roberts when I go to the ballpark and see a line of men waiting to go to the bathroom. All those Roberts."
What I Liked:
Emotional Honesty: This is a story about a child who is unsure of his parents' love. His parents are classical musicians, and often on the road. Robbie mentions that his mother loves her violin more than she loves him.
A good "what to do with the parents" solution: If you read a lot of middle grade, you know that the thorny question of "what to do with the parents" comes up often. Orphans abound. I, on the other hand, like to see living parents--and I'm always heartened when a writer chooses to approach the parent trope in an original manner. Here, Robbie is allowed autonomy because his parents are busy, highly successful, and ABSENT. Yet he also has adults who are involved in his life, particulary Maddy. Let's hear it for Grandmas! (The solution is similar to that in Cynthia Rylant's MISTER MAX, where the theatrical parents disappear and Max relies on his grandmother.)
The Dog! I must be on a dog kick, (see last week's LARA'S GIFT), despite not having a dog--although "dog!" is top of my 10-year-old's Christmas wish list. Ellie, the "brown hound mix" in this novel is a star in her own right--a loyal friend, and the character who ends up "saving the day." Let's hear it for Pooch Power!
The Verdict: I can see this novel becoming beloved by teachers--it would be a great 3rd/4th grade read-aloud. It is also well-suited to the "tender-hearted reader" brigade.
About the Author: Patricia MacLachlan has had a storied career. She won the Newbery with SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL and has written many novels and picture books. She lives in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, with her husband and two border terriers. [Here's a fun interview with her at Publisher's Weekly.]
What the week has in store: School conferences (and hence no school for my younger two); jury duty on Wednesday; and, of course, Thanksgiving. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all my American readers a happy Thanksgiving. I'm grateful for having you in my life, for fostering a sense of community and fun which makes my writing life a whole lot of wonderful. May you all have a blessed time celebrating the good in life!