Saturday, January 17, 2009
Looking for Newbery - Day 23
I literally just finished reading Jimmy's Stars by Mary Ann Rodman, and I was crying for the last fifteen minutes of reading. (Ok, I probably should have warned you since that was somewhat of a spoiler.)
Ellie McKelvey is a sixth grader in 1943, when the story starts. She has a loving family, and her worst problem in the beginning of the story is her neighbor, and fellow classmate, Victoria (a real loudmouth and bully). Ellie's older brother, Jimmy, is her best friend; they have an incredibly close relationship, and do many things together. Life drastically changes for Ellie when Jimy gets his draft notice, and has to report to boot camp.
After Jimmy leaves, Ellie misses her brother dearly, and anxiously awaits the mail each day, hoping for a letter from him. Rodman handles the passage of time in the story quite well, transitioning us to each new month or season with some great descriptions:
"The bright blue days of October had given way to the battleship gray of November."
"The last week of January dragged by on slushy feet, each day drearier than the one before."
"Spring arrived ever so slowly in Pittsburgh. Even though the calendar said April, winter lingered on. The cinder-crusted snowdrifts dwindled, then grew tall and white again with new snow."
And in August -- "Tree shadows stretched across the asphalt, still sticky with heat."
There was a lot to love about Jimmy's Stars -- the main character (Ellie), the historical setting, Ellie's family, the language, the passage of time. There was even a character, Toots (Ellie's aunt), who comes to live with the family while Jimmy is gone that is quite well developed, and a pretty pivotal character, as well. Another character that added dimension to the story is Ellie's 6th grade teacher, Miss Granberry She is a calming force in a time of great change for many families.
But the best part of the story for me was the happiness of Jimmy, Ellie's brother. He was a kind man who helped others, and always had a kind word and smile for people he met. He was constantly telling Ellie, "You have to let the joy out." I love that phrase, and it is repeated often. We should all have such a positive outlook on life.
Jimmy's Stars is well done, and a book worthy of several mock Newbery mentions.