A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Great Unexpected, by Newbery Award-winning author Sharon Creech, blends fantasy and realistic fiction to tell a mysterious family tale that takes place partly in America, partly in Ireland. Creech uses simple, lyrical language, but the blurring of fantasy and reality and the gradual unfolding of the plot could make this book challenging for readers under 9. The narrator, Naomi, and her best friend, Lizzie, are both orphans, and one girl worries about being "homeless" and having to live in a cardboard box, but neither girl is ever in danger of being abandoned. There are a few violent images in the book, including a description of a young girl and her father being attacked by a dog.
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What's the story?
Sharon Creech's THE GREAT UNEXPECTED is narrated by Naomi, an orphan, about age 12, who lives in a small (fictional) American town called Blackbird Tree with her guardians, Nula and Joe. One day, Naomi encounters the mysterious Finn, a boy who seems to be injured after falling from a tree. Finn stirs romantic and possessive feelings in Naomi and threatens to cause a rift between Naomi and her best friend, Lizzie, who's also an orphan. Meanwhile, across the ocean in Ireland, an elderly lady seems to be hatching all sorts of plans that may or may not involve people in Blackbird Tree. And the stories Nula tells about the love that came between her and her sister sound awfully familiar. As the plot unfolds, Naomi, Lizzie, and Nula learn about their connections to the places and people they came from and make peace with their personal histories.
Is it any good?
The Great Unexpected is a beautiful puzzle of a book that's revealed piece by piece. In charming and simple yet lyrical language, Creech creates parallels between characters who are at once fantastical and essential to show the ways in which people of every generation are similar and connected. Do three generations of women, in two different countries, all really fall in love with the same boy? Maybe, maybe not, but they certainly all feel love -- and the same brokenhearted disappointments.
This is a sweet, romantic novel with a wonderful mystery that's revealed with care and sensitivity. Creech has written a lovely, old-fashioned sort of book about universal feelings and characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way the author blends and blurs fantasy writing with realistic fiction. What parts of the book are "real"? Is Finn real?
Why do you think the "poor unfortunate souls" are often annoyed by the girls' offer of help?
Why is Joe's story about the donkey so important in this book? Why does that story scare Naomi?
Themes & Topics
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