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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Monday, December 21, 2009

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

Cold, gray days in England give way to the sun-soaked shores of a Greek island for the lucky family in this book. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, I can relate. Tired of England’s dreary, gray days, Gerry’s family picked up, packed up, and headed to a rented villa on the Greek island of Corfu.

Corfu is paradise for a boy obsessed with nature. Settle in for incredible descriptions of the natural flora, fauna, and especially creatures of all types and sizes that populate this island and this boy’s fascination. He describes his adventures with humor and extraordinary detail. I was charmed by his descriptions of numerous insects that I wouldn’t willingly get close to. And I anthropomorphized the lizard that inhabited his room right along with him!

Sophisticated readers will delight in this tale. I say sophisticated because Gerry Durrell’s writing style is several notches above many books written for an fast-paced generation. You’ve got to slow down and join with the narrator in his detailed and complexly-woven descriptions of his boyhood hiatus in Greece. It’s hard for me to imagine any regular reader not enjoying the journey, but fair warning: non-readers could be overwhelmed.

A couple of minor eyebrow-raising moments: He mentions his sister attracts male observers when she sunbathes. The brother Larry makes a joking reference to a wish to stay at an idyllic beach and be fed grapes by naked dryads. And there is a party where a pastor with several children is confronted by a fan of sterilization who rather arrogantly makes a comment regarding “breeders.” It’s written in a style meant to convey the chaotic atmosphere of a large party. I found it to be a teaching moment for the age group that would be reading at this level. My 14 yr. old is already being prepped for these kinds of comments… so, no flags lost for this age group…

(hat-tip to Michael for another good recommendation)

SAFETY RATING: 3 Flags (for older tweens)

See Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Sterilization and the integrity of the human body:2398 2399


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