Children's Literature - Jackie HechtkopfUncle Frank and his niece, Cora Lee, are trying to enjoy their annual fishing trip at Coot Pond. But the noisy coots are squawking so loudly that the fish are scared off. Cora Lee grows impatient, so Uncle Frank begins a yarn about a grebe named Putnam. Grebes are swimming and diving birds just like coots. However, Putnam doesn't like coots any better than Cora Lee. So, he leaves Coot Pond only to find himself trapped in a dreary cave with an underground spring. There, he meets a grebe named Pennyroyal, who convinces him that an underground existence, subsisting on bitter mosquito fish isn't worth living. Together, they devise an escape based on the premise, "where there's a way in, there's a way out." Uncle Frank's method of storytelling is condescending. At one point, he stops the story to eat lunch and only resumes when his niece urges him on. It is hard to believe that a youngster would coax an adult to continue this plodding story. A subplot of family conflict over Uncle Frank's solitary lifestyle has no child appeal. Adult bird lovers might appreciate this book. Other readers should look elsewhere for entertainment.
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 4-6-Frank and his nine-year-old niece, Cora Lee, have a tradition of going fishing on New Year's Eve day during her annual trip to Arizona. This year, however, may be the last because of Frank's stubborn refusal to ever visit Cora's home and the rest of his family in Indiana. The child is upset by this prospect, but her uncle can offer her no reasonable explanation. Instead, he tells her a story about Putnam, a grebe who leaves his pond when his favorite food runs out. He has a number of adventures and ends up in an underground spring that appears to have no exit. There are other grebes there, though, and it's safe, so Putnam comes to accept it as his new home. Then, Pennyroyal, a least grebe arrives. Unlike the others, she longs for adventure and desperately wants to find a way out of the spring. Putnam is moved by her need and works to help her escape. As this story unfolds, sideline conversations between Frank and Cora provide insights into their personalities and relationship. It also becomes evident that the story is Frank's somewhat clumsy attempt at explaining himself to his niece. The story-within-a-story device is intriguing; however, neither the human nor bird characters are developed strongly enough to make their tales compelling. Young nature lovers might initially be interested in the grebes' adventures, but they (like Cora) will soon discover Uncle Frank's motive in telling the story. Unlike Cora, however, they have no vested interest in finding out how it all ends.-Arwen Marshall, New York Public Library Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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