Original date reviewed: 4/8/03
Award: Newbery Honor book, ALA Notable Book
Summary: Primrose is having her own Series of Unfortunate Events. Her parents are lost at sea, her guidance counselor thinks she’s trying to kill herself (and small animals), and her babysitter is losing her mind. Her Uncle Jack loves her in a real-estate agent kind of way (very charming), but she firmly believes that this is all temporary because her parents aren’t dead – just marooned. Her best advocate is a chain smoking cook/owner of The Girl on the Red Swing, the only place that Primrose can speak plainly and remain connected to the memory of her mother’s cooking.
Personal Reaction: I liked the language tone and form that Primrose uses – precious or precocious? Either way, it’s logical and straightforward. I don’t know if this will appeal to many unless they can keep the right tone playing in their minds as they read. However, I busted a gut (seriously) laughing when Primrose accidentally sets her new guinea pig on fire. It was the matter-of-fact tone of the statement that did it to me.
Any Cautions: Be sensitive to orphaned or foster children & victims of storm damage
Suitable for Read Aloud? Yes
Points for discussion with children: orphans, foster children, cooking/recipes, real estate sales, guidance counselors
Possible classroom uses: Just an entertainment read – no curriculum tie-in – unless you want to include it in books where a main character BELIEVES in something no one else does.
Connections to other books? Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books – though I think this is funnier! Any of the Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery would be successful with lovers of this book!
Realia: stuffed Guinea Pig, yellow rain slicker, cookbook, knit sweater, fake hand with tip of pinky missing, fake foot with small toe missing, photographs of beach front businesses or townhouses
Food items connected to story: (this story is full of recipes) waffles, boiled potatoes, carrots in an apricot glaze, asparagus, lemon sugar cookies, tea biscuits, caramel apples, cinnamon rolls, chocolate covered nuts, pear soup, tuna noodle casserole, shepherd’s pie, butterscotch chow mein noodle cookies, cherry pie pork chops, Polynesian skewers