Young readers who aspire to become authors will find inspiration in this charming little book. With its emphasis on looking closely at the details of one's own world, it encourages children to see the wonder in everyday things. The inference is clearyou do not need to grow up with wizards and dragons to have an interesting life. Conversely, young readers who thrive on action and adventure will find this slow going. Like many memoirs, the book lacks a clear narrative structure. And while the short chapters each create interesting vignettes, they do not build upon each other. Consequently, the book does not have the kind of tension and direction that will keep a reluctant reader engaged. All in all, with its gentle evocation of a time gone by, this book may have been more successful if aimed at adults, rather than at children. 2005, Henry Holt and Co, Ages 9 to 12.
Barbara Carroll Roberts
In short, charming essays, Fletcher, author of Writing Kind of Day: Poems for Young Poets (Wordsong/Boyds Mills, 2005/VOYA June 2005) and Room Enough for Love (Aladdin/S & S, 1998/VOYA August 1998), describes his life from birth to his thirteenth year in Marshfield, Massachusetts, where as the oldest of nine children in a traditional Catholic family, he gathered the experiences that inspire his writing about family, nature, and language. About separate but related experiences, the essays can be read individually or as a whole. He describes his close relationship with his nature-loving brother, Jimmy; his special respect for his father, who gave him the pen that kindled his desire to write; his mother's loving nature and work ethic; and a brief encounter about teeth and family tradition with his great-grandmother. His most humorous essays involve a gossipy classmate and the chickens that prove to be roosters. The most serious reflections concern his relationship with his father and the realization that at thirteen, he must leave his home and three closest friends forever. Fletcher fans will love hearing about their favorite author's early life. These sensitive glimpses of a close-knit, traditional family offer great read-aloud material and models for essay writing. The introductory map of Fletcher's childhood world and the family photos introducing each chapter present inviting ideas for student autobiography. Some senior high students and adults may enjoy this nostalgic Russell Baker-type approach, but middle and junior high students will probably be the main audience. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, definedas grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Henry Holt, 192p.; Photos. Map., Ages 11 to 18.
Gr 5-8-Fletcher reminisces about growing up in Marshfield, VT, recalling boyhood friendships, sibling attachments, and romps through the woods. "We found all kinds of mushrooms. Some were edible, others were poisonous toadstools. Mom said to think of them as strangers-some are good, some are bad, and since you couldn't tell the difference it was best to leave them alone." Fletcher grew up in a Catholic family that grew larger each year, and when another baby was on the way, he'd learn the news from a girl in his class. Family and friendships were fulfilling, enriching, and perplexing. The author thinks about the loss of Dad's goodnight kisses as he grew up, and the adolescent predicament of being pressed between a girl's body and a wall that housed a giant beehive. Fletcher's connection to nature and the environment infuse every aspect of his life. Written with sagacious eloquence and gentle humor, this work stands strong in the ranks of authors' memoirs and autobiographies.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Fletcher joins a select group of children's authors who open the pages to their childhood and the circumstances that led to their literary lives. "My world on Acorn Street (Marshfield, Mass.) seemed perfect, complete. But things began to happen that made me aware of another, bigger world." Not much is secret in Ralph's small town, so it's embarrassing when a classmate tells him the scuttlebutt is that his mom is having yet another baby. Ralph's mother has a baby every year, making him the oldest of nine, but who wants to hear that news from some nosy girl. A black-and-white photo of family members pertinent to the episode heads each chapter as Ralph relates "snicking" up the rug, raising chicks, playing war and sharing germs. This scrapbook of family moments is an amusing, charming and heartwarming memoir about a close family-close in terms of both small house space and their feelings for each other. A snapshot of small-world life that will open readers' eyes to the bonds of a peerless time and simpler lifestyle. (Autobiography. 8-12)
“Written with sagacious eloquence and gentle humor, this work stands strong in the ranks of authors' memoirs and autobiographies.” School Library Journal
“Boisterously good times . . . For readers who enjoy imagining what it was like to be a kid in days of yore, this has a certain charm.” Booklist
“Charming . . . Sensitive glimpses of a close-knit, traditional family.” VOYA
“This scrapbook of family moments is an amusing, charming and heartwarming memoir about a close familyclose in terms of both small house space and their feelings for each other. A snapshot of small-world life that will open readers' eyes to the bonds of a peerless time and simpler lifestyle.” Kirkus Reviews