Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bell Teal by Ann Martin

Anyone who is over about 30 should recognize the name of Ann Martin. She was the writer of the hugely popular and never ending Babysitter's Club books. Many of us librarians considered her a barely better than average mass market series writer. Then a few years ago she started coming out with some stand alone books that were quite good, and what's more surprising, very serious. This is just such a book. Belle Teal lives in a rural southern town during the beginning of school integration. Belle is one of the only students in her class that makes friends with the new black boy in her class. With staunch loyalty she tries to help the other kids see that he is just another kid. Racism is not the only issue in the book. As in almost all other "social issue" books, Belle's mother is a single parent. Belle's grandmother who babysits her while her mother is at work is starting to go senile. Of course, in these kinds of books there is always the friend who is the victim of child abuse. So this book has all the elements found in all the social issue books, but it is a good read and nothing very terrible happens. I was especially sensitive to the depiction of the grandmother. Some things Martin got right, like when the grandmother asks the same question the same way over and over again. Other things didn't seem quite right. The grandmother would call Belle her uncle's name. I don't think a senile person would mix genders like that. She might forget the child's name, or think she was her mother, but senile people can still tell a girl is a girl. Anyway, Belle is a very likeable person in the story. I was glad that the author resisted the temptation to have the bad guy child abuser do something really terrible to the black family. (214 p)

No comments:

Post a Comment