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A Face First
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a delicate but realistic look at the ordeal of a burn victim, and it's an especially valuable story for burn victims and their friends and families. The car accident that causes Kelley's injuries is violent, to be sure; but it's not described in overly graphic detail. Still, your children might need help processing it.
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What's the story?
Kelley, injured and badly burned in a car accident, undergoes surgery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Her leg is pinned together, and skin grafts are taken from her leg to patch up her face and hand.
But the physical effects are only the beginning of her journey back. Facing a ravaged face, the need to wear a plastic face mask for at least a year, and the suspicion that her mother was at fault in the accident, Kelley begins to withdraw from the world, at first lapsing into silence, then refusing to return to school. Her mother, wracked with guilt and facing severe financial difficulties, doesn't know what to do. But her older sister, returning from France to spend the summer tutoring her, may have some ideas.
Is it any good?
Priscilla Cummings understands many important things. Her first novel, Autumn Journey, was a complex, lyrical, and powerfully emotional tale. This one takes a complex and powerfully emotional situation and renders it in straightforward, no-nonsense, unembellished prose. Clearly she's an author who knows when to let the material speak for itself.
While not shying away from the grimmer aspects of Kelley's treatment, such as the peeling off of the burned skin, she does so in a delicate, careful way that shows she clearly understands what upper elementary and middle school children can handle. And she understands her characters, too. There are no nasty insensitive peers or strangers or other author tricks to cultivate the reader's sympathy for Kelley -- in fact, no villains at all. Just the long, hard slog of a loving family working their way back from disaster.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Kelley deals with her injuries. In what ways did Kelley's life change after the accident? Are the issues she has to deal with different from other kids her age? In what way? Does the "healing" Kelley goes through over the course of the book a physical healing, an emotional healing or a little of both?