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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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When the Sargeant Came Marching Home by Don Lemna

First… the story. Donald, his brother and mother live happily in small-town Wistola where Donald collects bottles with his friends to recycle and pay for the weekly movie theater. Life is good with the friends, shows, and indoor plumbing.

Then Sargeant (aka “Dad) returns from the war and relocates the family to a farm where they are now able to savor the joys of outhouses and pig pens.

This doesn’t go over well with Donald. The joys of rural seclusion, chicken poop, and outdoor plumbing eludes him. In fact, he passionately hates it and vows to move to California as soon as he’s saved $10.00.

The book is chock-full of boy-appealing adventure and humor. I thought it ended strongly not only with funny vignettes but significant ones that taught important lessons in an utterly real way. When Donald seeks retribution on his younger brother because his brother gave into the same temptation Donald barely avoided, (spending some of the Christmas money on himself instead of all of it on his sibling), Donald’s parents call him out on his self-righteousness. Nursing his resentment and the resulting process of forgiveness is easy to empathize with. It’s made sweeter by the fact that the Christmas season helped him break his barriers.

Though the book came close to a 3-flag waving treat, I had some reservation. The conflict between Donald and his dad is natural enough, but I cringed when Donald stated that he “hated” him (not to his face). (We consider hate a 4 letter word in relationships when spoken in anger aloud.) The dad and mom at first appear to be dangerously at odds in terms of being on the same parenting page.. The dad comes back drunk from a confrontation with a squatter (it plays more for humor than a lack of Dad’s dignity). And Donald and his brother go looking for a friend one day and find a beer-guzzling neighbor (score for the movie money!) who lets them play with his gun while he sleeps. The parents don’t find out that they were playing with the gun… it’s a natural curiosity that turns out OK, but it’s well worth pointing out that it might well have not turned out safely.

SAFETY RATING: 2 Flags (boy-friendly)


Nancy Piccione November 6, 2011 at 12:53 PM  

As usual, thanks for all the good suggestions and reviews. I'm reading this on my phone and can't search, but wondering if you have read/reviewed pretties series by Scott westerfeld. The first started so well. It they just got more problematic as the series went on. I also just finished Matched by Ally Condie and found it not bad for older Tweens/teens. But I wonder about the next in the series. What is it with dystopian novels?

Tween Lit Crit November 8, 2011 at 7:36 PM  

so welcome...
I've only read Leviathan by Scott W., but I had pretties on my radar screen, and that sounds like one to check out. Matched is new to me; thanks for the suggestion!
I sometimes think the Dystopian stuff might be popular because people have an intuitive sense of where we might be heading if we don't get serious about serving God.. though I'd be delighted to be quite wrong about that!

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