Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"




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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Flip-Flop Girl by Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson is a celebrated author for good reason. She creates her characters with a skill mastered by only the best authors.

One caution I have about her books is the serious nature of topics she tackles: death and loss of a parent.

This book, for example, has a protagonist, Vinnie, whose father dies of stomach cancer. Her brother, Mason, has stopped talking because he is traumatized by the comment he made that he was glad his father was dead because his father smelled. Being so little, he didn’t understand until the funeral that his father really was dead, and he clammed up at that point.

This leads to a great deal of attention being focused on Mason with little left over for Vinnie. To complete her trauma, she has to move to a new school because they have to leave their home and move in with their Grandma so Vinnie’s mother can make ends meet.

At her new school, she has no friends but plays at recess with a girl named Lupe whose story of woe surpasses Vinnie’s. Lupe has a father in jail accused of killing Lupe’s mother, but Lupe advocates convincingly for her father’s innocence.

See what I mean about topics? But know that distilling this story down doesn’t do justice to the poignant way Katherine Paterson tells it and to the vivid characters that populate it. The safety warning for this story is for the depth of content.

If you’re willing to delve into these topics with younger tweens, be aware that while she won’t be a Christian guide , she is a storyteller of high caliber. Her characters have resilient strength and their perspective resonates with tweens.

SAFETY RATING: 2 Vatican Flags

2 comments:

4ddintx November 8, 2009 at 9:12 AM  

Is this the first Katherine Paterson book you've reviewed? My 11 year old and I are reading "Lyddie" together right now. It's historical fiction set in the mid 1800's. It covers terrible factory situations and, of course, loss. I have also found that Paterson's books are well-written, but often with some disturbing themes. "Jacob Have I Loved" is definitely for when my daughters are older (if at all). Just a sidenote...my understanding is that Paterson was raised as missionary kid (Protestant). So there are often Biblical allusions and references and her characters often lose faith. There are references to "Papists" in Lyddie, but it is shown as prejudice as a friendship forms.

Thanks again. Please know that I read all of your reviews even if you don't get many comments! I think there are several others in our Catholic homeschool group that do, as well!

Thanks and God Bless!

Tabitha

Tween Lit Crit November 8, 2009 at 8:30 PM  

Hi Tabitha,
This is the 1st book of hers that I've reviewed, (though not the first I've read). (I really liked The Great Gilly Hopkins.) I had a hard time knowing how to approach her because I like her as an adult but have reservations for tween readers that are difficult to articulate. I didn't know her background until you told me (thanks), and it didn't surprise me. Reading between the lines, I detect a world view not tracking with a vibrant faith. How detrimental that can be is a tough call, depending on the book and child.

I liked Bridge to Terabithia but had some concern with the way her characters spoke and acted at times.

This book I reviewed was written awhile ago and was one of her first, I think. I think her characters' language was better, and there were no overt loss of faith issues; it was more of a non-issue. Maybe because it was written awhile ago... before so many adult-oriented issues began to be accepted in Young Adult Literature.

I read Jacob Have I Loved a long time ago, and I don't remember details, but I remember thinking it was definitely for the teen or older crowd and not a faith-inspiring book either. good call.

Thanks for the comments about the comments. It is a nice boost, esp. on those occasional occasions when I wonder if anyone is reading... :)

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