Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Stories Julian Tells

This book has "disappeared" twice in my four years as librarian at this school. That's unusual in itself, but when the illustration on the cover is ugly and it still "disappears" then I know I have to read it.

The Stories Julian Tells, by Ann Cameron, is 20 years old and while it has a forgettable cover, it is a gem inside with terrific writing, characterizations, and plot.

Julian and his younger brother, Huey, get in trouble with their dad when they eat most of the pudding the three have made for their mom. After, the boys, along with their dad, order plants from a catalog for their garden. When Huey asks Julian what a catalog is, Julian makes up a story about invisible cats that live in them and who are released when the catalog is opened. I love the twist in this story and how the dad reacts to the boys fighting. I won't give it away. Next, they plant the garden. In a hilarious chapter, Julian wants to grow so he eats the leaves of a fig tree in the garden. His dad can't understand why the tree won't grow. The chapter on pulling teeth brought back memories for me and the last chapter ends with Julian making a new friend.

The book reminds me of early readers with episodic chapters that all tie together as a whole. There is repetition of vocabulary that is higher than early readers and some wonderful descriptions such as pudding that tastes like a "raft of lemons." This is a great story for readers who are just starting to read longer chapter books.

The parents in the book are presented as caring and loving but some readers might not recognize in the first chapter that Julian's Dad is a loving and caring parent. He might come across as harsh. For instance, when he's ordering the boys around to make the pudding I read it as playing a game to make cooking fun, but it could also be interpreted as shouting: "Stand back!... Pick up those seeds, Huey!... Sugar, Julian!... Wipe that up Huey!... p. 3) Julian describes how the boys love Dad when he laughs but he has wild black hair and when he is angry they "shiver to the bottom of our shoes" p. 2. This characterization is why the first chapter might leave some wondering about dad; he sounds wild and unpredictable when he's angry. However, that is not the case. In the following chapters it is evident that he is a loving, sensitive father.

A wonderful book that can be read over and over again. I just have to figure out how to keep it in the library. Scribes during ancient times would put curses on or in books and chain the books to podiums. I'll have to check into it ; )

Reading Level 3.5

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) 5 out of 5 Smileys

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