Monday, January 3, 2011
Looking for Newbery Day 8: Keeper
I was not a fan of The Underneath by Kathi Appelt and I know that puts me in something of a minority. I probably would not have read Keeper based on that opinion alone except that it was showing up on a lot of Newbery watch lists which put it on my list of books I needed to read.
I liked it better than The Underneath, but they are very similar in the writing. Kathi Appelt moves between characters both human and animal telling her stories from many points of view which sometimes is confusing for kids. Several kids I know who read the book expressed this confusion to me telling the real from the unreal and who is talking when. I tried the fairy tale comparison where animals talk and people believe in creatures, but most of them weren't buying, a couple chose to abandon the book.
Keeper is the story of a young girl whose mother abandons her, leaving her with a young woman named Signe. Signe tells Keeper that her mother is a mermaid who returned to the sea after giving birth. Keeper grows up believing that she is half mermaid, her mother will return for her, and she will become a mermaid living in the sea. Her belief is so strong that at the climax of the story she, her dog and a seagull crawl into a rowboat to sail to the sand bar where the mermaids will be meeting under the blue moon. The tension created in this part of the book kept me reading because I had to see if Keeper and her crew would survive. It also drew me in because I wasn't' sure where the author was going. Would she continue the fairy tale showing Keeper's mother to be a mermaid? Or would she go the dramatic realistic fiction route and show that Keeper's mom was a woman not ready for motherhood?
In addition to Signe, Keeper and a host of animals, there are other very interesting characters that help raise Keeper. Mr. Beauchamp lives next door with his one eyed cat and dreams of long ago when he was young. Just down the road lives Dogie. Dogie runs a surfboard rental business out of an old school bus and pays Keeper to wax the boards for the customers. Together these characters make up sort of a family living along the Gulf Coast in Texas.
I really liked the characters and the descriptions of life along the beach. Kathi Appelt creates a simple beach life attitude with her words. It was easy for me to put myself on the coast for the telling of this story. Overall, I liked Keeper but it wasn't one of my favorites.
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