What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that it's implied that Jane's mom has had children with several different men, and that Jane is choked and dragged away by a drunken, abusive man.
What's the story?
Jane, her poet mother, and her three younger siblings live in a seaside vacation cottage year-round. In the summer of her twelfth year Jane wishes for adventure, and has some odd ones, including an unexpected solo balloon flight; delving into the paranormal with the local preacher; being conned into babysitting for free for a horrible woman and her drunken, abusive husband; and meeting several men, former boyfriends of her mom, any of whom might be her father.
Is it any good?
Children's literature is hard to define but, as the old saw goes, you know it when you see it. There's an idea in publishing that anything about children must be for children, and sometimes this leads to odd ducks like this one. The book is lyrically nostalgic -- not the prime qualifications for a children's book, but traits that will make it very appealing to the few adults who happen across it in the children's section. The publisher rates it for ages 8-12. While there's nothing wildly inappropriate for that age (though there is certainly plenty of behavior and motivation that children in that range simply won't understand), there are long swaths of gorgeous prose that don't leave them much to chew on.
Though older readers may wonder why all the adults in this small town are so crabby and self-centered, they may be swept away by the language, eccentric characters, and the simple, even barren, but oddly appealing life led by Jane and her family. In our harried, media-drenched, overstimulating world it can be a great pleasure to read about people gently whiling away their unhurried lives with berry-picking and jam-making; characters to whom a little local fair or visiting a palm-reader are the adventures of a lifetime. This is a delightful book, if not really for kids.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about this family's unusual lifestyle. Would you like to live like this? Why or why not? Why doesn't Jane's mom tell her children who their fathers are? Why do you think so many of the adults in this story are so mean and grumpy?