Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spitting Image by Shutta Crum

Jessie lives in a small poor town in the 60's. When a social philanthropist comes to town, Jessie gets involved with "the President's fight against poverty." She soon finds out that helping the "poor" is more complicated than she could have believed, especially when the "poor" are her friends and neighbors. How do they feel when people see how poor they are and when they receive help and attention from strangers? Jessie's best friend, Robert, is from one of the poorest families. His father is a drunk and his mother has to work all day to support the family. Dickie, who is a bully, has a father who is mean and violent. Jessie doesn't know who her father was, but she wants to find out. When this book came out in 2003 it got a lot of attention. Many librarians had it on their short list for the Newbery Medal. It has all the elements of a Newbery winner. It has more social issues than you can shake a stick at; unwed mother, abusive fathers, neglected children, alcoholism an much more. That said, they are handled well and are not oppressive. The main character is very sympathetic. She is big hearted, but hot headed and has to struggle to keep from getting into fights. The other characters are interesting, dimensional and realistic. The book deals with very difficult issues in a way that is accessible to fairly young children (maybe 6th grade and up). If there is a child, especially a girl, who likes to read social issue books, this is a good choice. Reader beware,-spoiler alert- in the end Jessie finds out that her inception was the result of a rape. Some kids in 6th grade can understand and deal with that kind of plot, but it might be too much for others. (218 p)

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