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Chig and the Second Spread

Chig and the Second Spread

5.0 1
by Gwenyth Swain

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Being small is a big concern for Chig Kalpin. Like the insects that catch folks unawares with their bites on a summer evening, Chig is small enough and silent enough that she’s near about invisible. But she has a heartfelt desire to become a big person, both in stature and in spirit, and soon her adventures culminate with the Great Niplak Train Disaster, where


Being small is a big concern for Chig Kalpin. Like the insects that catch folks unawares with their bites on a summer evening, Chig is small enough and silent enough that she’s near about invisible. But she has a heartfelt desire to become a big person, both in stature and in spirit, and soon her adventures culminate with the Great Niplak Train Disaster, where she helps the folks in the hills and hollers of southern Indiana make it through the Great Depression with a little more to spread between the covers of their sandwiches. Haven’t heard of it? Well, as Chig might say, “Set a spell and turn the page.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Swain (The Road to Seneca Falls) sets her appealing first novel "way down deep in the hills and hollers of southern Indiana" during the Depression. In the fall of 1933, Chig-named by her father, who declared that his tiny child wasn't "any bigger than a little red chigger"-finally starts school at the age of eight after her parents realize that their diminutive daughter isn't likely to grow any bigger. Despite the taunts from older boys (they call her the "runt of the litter"), Chig adjusts to school with the help of her supportive teacher and a kind schoolmate. With the folksy narrative filled with period particulars, these school passages, as well as numerous scenarios depicting Chig's relationships with members of her likable family, convincingly convey this winning heroine. Yet the tale loses its punch as it treads on less credible turf. Chig notices that her schoolmates' lunch sandwiches are "decidedly slim on spreads" and writes a letter to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt proposing a plan that will create jobs for her town-and enable residents to afford more substantial meals. The girl's larger-than-life aspirations continue as she masterminds a successful last-ditch effort to prevent a train derailment (yet the wreckage of one car carrying tinned food supplies the town with abundant second spreads for sandwiches). Despite a few tall-tale traits, the novel's strong characters and the engaging banter between them should keep kids entertained. Ages 8-12. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Being small is a big concern for Chig Kalpin, who lives in the hills and hollers of southern Indiana. Not having had a formal education, she tends to keep to herself. Soon Chig learns that she loses an opportunity to be heard by keeping quiet, and that a person's size has nothing to do with his or her accomplishments. She then sets out to do good deeds. Despite her small stature, the eight year old makes big contributions to her southern Indiana community: spending time with neighbors, helping friends, and saving the day during a train disaster—during the Great Depression. Without photographs, the book and its heavy text might be discouraging reading for those children trying to bring reading into their lives. 2003, Delacorte Press, Ages 8 to 11.
—Carol Rados
School Library Journal
Gr 4-5-Eight-year-old Minerva Kalpin, nicknamed Chig after a red chigger for her tiny physique, worries about her size and feels intimidated when it is time to attend the one-room schoolhouse in Depression-era southern Indiana. With encouragement from her teacher and her friend Willy, she understands that regardless of her petite stature, she "can do good works." With her newly found determination to ignore the inevitable teasing in school, Chig makes some money, seeks advice from the visiting carnival's tall lady, and works out a plan to help the town solve the hunger problem. Written in a folksy narrative style, the story moves as slowly as Chig appears to be growing. It finally picks up some steam in the last quarter when a railroad bridge buckles after a major rainstorm, just as the 10:40 comes across. This colloquial slice of life will have trouble holding the interest of most readers.-Rita Soltan, Oakland University, Rochester, MI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Tiny Chig ("That girl ain't any bigger than a little red chigger") Kiplan is eight in 1933 when she first enters the one-room school in her small Indiana town where a warm-hearted veteran teacher helps Chig to grow in spirit and courage, if not much in inches. The bigger boys torment her, but kind, lazy Willy Huddleston becomes an ally and a marble-playing mentor. The "second spread" refers to the sandwich fillings that have gone missing from Chig's schoolmates' lunches by the time she is ten--a casualty of the hard times that have crept from the city to the country. Chig's acts of heroism both big and small, from a train catastrophe diverted to restoring the second spread for everyone, stem from her good heart and good sense. Endearing--and not one bit cloying--faultlessly paced, and rich in colloquialisms real or invented, Chig is a textured, sympathetic look at rural life during the Depression and at a champion of a girl. (author note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt



Way down deep in the hills and hollers of southern Indiana, there once was a girl named Chig. No, Chig was not her real name. But when her daddy first laid eyes on her, he said, "That girl ain't any bigger than a little red chigger."

She was small, but well proportioned. Plain, but in a pleasing way. A sturdy baby, with a crown of frizzy red hair and eyes as soft and green as the leaves on a dogtooth violet. "It's the eyes," her mama said. "They're what make her almost, near-about pretty."

As the years passed and she grew older, her daddy allowed as how she'd grown. "'Bout the size of a chigger bite that's been scratched a few times too many," he said, looking her up and down. But as big as she got--and that wasn't any too large--she never outgrew her nickname.

"Chigger" seemed almost too big for her, so folks took to calling her Chig. And before anyone had any time to give it any thought, they'd all forgotten that her real name was Minerva.

This couldn't have mattered less to Chig. "We all got to have a name," she told her teacher, Miss Barkus, when she started school. "Might as well have one that fits."

Miss Barkus, Chig noticed, wasn't like most grown-ups. She was broad as a barrel and taller than a sumac tree run wild. But she didn't peer down distractedly at Chig like people generally did. Miss Barkus eased herself lower, knees creaking under the pressure of her bulk. When she was eye level with Chig, and considerably lower than anyone else's ears, she said, "You know what, Minerva? That's a grand nickname you've got. Wish I'd had one just as good when I was your age." Then she adjusted her voice so that the whole room could hear. "We'll register you as Chig M. Kalpin."

Chig beamed. Then she started. There was a commotion of slapping and snickering somewhere behind her. When she turned toward the back of the room, she saw several near-grown boys swatting each other and scratching their armpits and kneepits as if they were being worried by a swarm of chiggers. Chig's own daddy had given her play chigger-bite pinches when she was a baby girl, and she grinned at the memory. But the boys didn't grin back in a friendly way.

"Silence!" With that simple, sharp command from Miss Barkus, all snickering and swatting stopped. Chig felt her teacher's warmest smile shining on her, and she dared to continue their talk. "But why would you want a nickname?" she asked. "Miss Barkus suits you fine." Her voice was so soft and small, it was possible no one heard her, Miss Barkus included. That had happened more times than Chig could count. But her teacher surprised her. Still hunched on creaking knees, she whispered, "It's my first name that doesn't suit."

Chig blinked. Somehow Miss Barkus read the question in her eyes.

"It's Lily," she went on. "Can you imagine putting a name that delicate on someone like me?"

But before Chig could muster up an answer, her teacher swept on to another question. "Your birth date?" Miss Barkus asked.

Chig swallowed hard. Her answer was likely to get her in trouble. "It's the first of April," she said, "nineteen twenty-five."

It wasn't being an April fool that was so troublesome. It was her age.

"But that'd make you eight, Chig," said Miss Barkus. "What's taken you so long getting here? School's not so far from home you couldn't have come last year or the year before, is it?"

How could she explain? How her parents had held her back the first year, hoping she might grow a wee bit taller or bigger. How Mama's eyes had welled up, near to bursting with tears, the previous fall. "It's not easy being the oldest," Mama warned, "with no one to show you the ropes at school. Plus, kids can be hard on you when you're different." Chig guessed different meant small.

"Couldn't we hold her back one more year," Mama pleaded with Daddy, "just in case she gets a spurt?"

Daddy agreed, and for another year Chig helped Mama with chores and kept her younger brother, Hubert, from jumping off the henhouse roof. To make sure Chig wouldn't be too far behind once her growth spurt came, Mama taught her the letters of the alphabet, all the numbers from one to twenty-six ("So you'll know as much math as you do letters," Mama explained), and how to write her name.

Maybe in some other, more traveled corner of the world, a government official would have investigated and ordered Chig to school, small as she was. But Chig's corner, around the town of Niplak, was decidedly less traveled. No one there had seen a government official in years, and the natives tended to mind their own business.

Mama and Daddy watched Chig closely, but they saw no sign of a spurt. "'Fraid you'll have to face the world as you are," Daddy had decided at last.

"Well," said Miss Barkus, taking Chig's silence as a kind of answer, "I've never been one to push folks into doing what they're not ready for. There's a big river of learning out there, and we're not all willing to get our feet wet at the same time. You feeling ready now, Chig?"

Chig glanced at her feet, dry and warm, if a little uncomfortable in shoes after a long summer spent running bare-soled. Was her teacher talking about a real river or creek? Full of mud and crawdads? Probably not. "I could get my feet wet," she said.

Miss Barkus's smile showed Chig that this answer, at least, was the right one. "You're not afraid of hard work, are you?"


"You'll have a lot of catching up to do, to have lessons with the other eight-year-olds."

"I don't mind catch-up," said Chig. She liked ketchup, too, but didn't think this was the time to mention it.

"And starting tomorrow," Miss Barkus said, "you'll have to sit out recesses this fall and winter while we get you up to steam."

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

A former independent bookseller and editor, Gwenyth Swain has written a number of nonfiction titles for middle-grade readers. This is her first novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Chig and the Second Spread 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What do I enjoy about 'CHIG AND THE SECOND SPREAD'? There are lots of times of grinning when memories flood back, thoughts of stories told when our children were small. Reading about CHIG brings forth several giggles and laughs, too. Most girls experience intimidation by blustery boys in grammar school. CHIG is one who doesn't take it lightly, who slogs through the mud to get an education and concentrates on making her world a better place even in tough times. Her piece of the U-S-A is peopled by caring family members, neighbors who don't miss a thing, and a sharp teacher. The 'Great Depression' didn't change the lives of 'rural poor' as radically as it did those who had not always done for themselves. CHIG stretches mightily while soaking up learning, with marble contests on the playground, and her growth showing up in social skills more than inches. Any Hoosier will love the surprise package she receives from 'the clearance basement at L.S. Ayres' and delight in a roundabout answer to her letter to Mrs. FDR, First Lady of the land. CHIG is a five-star 'read' and her strengths mirror the courage of whole communities who didn't allow the Depression to stunt their growth.