Chig and the Second Spread

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Chig and the Second Spread Book Poster Image
Keeps harshness of Depression mostly at bay.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that children may be interested in learning more about the Great Depression after reading this.

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What's the story?

Chig, so called because \"That girl ain't any bigger than a little red chigger,\" is small for her age, the smallest girl in the one-room schoolhouse in Niplack, \"way down deep in the hills and hollers of southern Indiana.\" She doesn't talk much either and, as her Aunt Dorothea tells her, \"to be small or to be quiet on its own is no great disability in life. But if you're both at once, you're apt to be invisible ...\"

Chig may be quiet, but she notices things, such as the way the contents of her classmates' lunch buckets are dwindling, often to just a biscuit with one spread -- ketchup. And the time is coming when her observations and her readiness to speak out come together in a surprising way.

Is it any good?

Through a gentle, engrossing historical story, Swain introduces many interesting ideas for readers to consider, like the importance of stature and what turns a person mean. Unlike many other novels about this period, the harshness of the Depression is kept mostly at bay. As seen through the eyes of a rural child, though food is tight and pennies scarce, life is still good, and the biggest problems are those that children deal with in any era. 

Chig is a winning heroine. And though the good news comes a bit too thick and fast, the ending will be satisfying to young readers, as Chig becomes visible without sacrificing who she is.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Chig's difficulty with size and speaking up. Do people underestimate her? How does she work up the courage and resolve to make her voice heard?

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