First Came The Owl

First Came The Owl

by Judith Benet Richardson
     
 
Nita can't believe it! She's just won the role of Snow White in her fifth-grade class play. If only Nita's mother, Ma-jah, could be there to see her perform. But ever since Ma-jah returned from visiting relatives in Thailand, she's been suffering from depression. And now she's in the hospital. Nita feels lonely without Ma-jah around to talk to. As soon as shy Nita

Overview

Nita can't believe it! She's just won the role of Snow White in her fifth-grade class play. If only Nita's mother, Ma-jah, could be there to see her perform. But ever since Ma-jah returned from visiting relatives in Thailand, she's been suffering from depression. And now she's in the hospital. Nita feels lonely without Ma-jah around to talk to. As soon as shy Nita steps onstage to rehearse for the play, everything seems better. Using her powerful imagination, Nita forgets her own problems and pretends to be someone else for a few magical moments. And at home, Nita's busy working on a school report on Thailand. As she learns about her Thai heritage, she understands more about her mother, and about herself as well.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A Thai immigrant girl finds solace playing Snow White in a class play as her mother suffers from depression. "Lyrical, acutely observed yet simply told, with a heartwarming conclusion, this is top-drawer middle-grade fiction," said PW in a starred review. Ages 8-12. (Jan).
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-6In this slight story, fifth-grader Nita Orson struggles with several weighty issues. Chief among them is her mother's depression: since returning from a trip to Thailand, her native country, the woman has become catatonic. Only her daughter realizes that the illness is tied to homesickness. Nita's Caucasian father, a Coast Guard engineer, seems oblivious; he puts his wife in the hospital, dumps Nita with friends, and leaves on a mission that stretches from days into two weeks. Meanwhile, Nita attempts to understand her dual heritage through early childhood memories of Thailand and, more reluctantly, through writing a school report on the country. She also gets the role of Snow White in a school play, prompting a classmate's teasing to take on a distinctly racist tone. Nita's hosts are kind, but the girl is clearly on her own emotionally. Her dream is that her mother will recover in time to see her as Snow White, and it comes trueunrealistically quickly. The story raises several unanswered questions. How does the family relate to one another during "normal" times? Does Nita's mother, a former victim of government oppression, have a history of depression? Why is Nita's father so insensitive to his family's needs and to their Thai heritage? Nita is a likable heroine, but readers have little opportunity to understand where she's coming fromand where she might be going.Mary Jo Drungil, Niles Public Library District, IL
Kirkus Reviews
When Mah-jah (Mom in Thai) is hospitalized for depression during a cheerless Cape Cod winter, Nita is taken in by her best friend's family, the kind, calm Stillwater clan. Nita's American father, a "perfectly polished" Coast Guard lieutenant, is at a loss himself to understand his wife's illness and escapes to sea. Nita surprises herself by landing the lead in a fifth-grade production of Snow White. ("She'll have to be Snow Brown," she is teased.) Playing Snow White lost in the woods ("like her mother must have felt when her family hid from the soldiers . . .") or lying in her plastic coffin, Nita begins to feel her mother's profound isolation—"a wall of plastic between her and the rest of the world." Nita takes the advice of a family friend to speak Thai to her mother, who responds (a little conveniently) in time for Nita's school performance. In another satisfying development, Nita tells off her father to good effect. Like its heroine, this story has quiet strengths and makes for thoughtful and rewarding reading.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780440413929
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
12/01/1997
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.64(h) x 0.47(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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