Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher

"Sasparilla succotash," says Uncle Billy snapping his fingers. Cliff listens as Billy makes up a story about what "yidda yadda" means. Baby Josh wants a "yidda yadda" and no one knows what it means. In Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher a clear picture is painted of 5th grader Cliff and his brothers and sisters. Baby Josh looks like a sickly baby with green snot running down his nose that he  constantly smears all over his face. Teddy is a terror who shouts instead of uses a regular voice. Nate pulls pranks, especially on the gullible Brad. Cyn is the only girl who spends more time with the family down the street than with her own family. And Grandma, is adored by all, and has skin like tissue paper but a grip that is still strong. When a terrible accident happens, everyone has to deal with their "bowl of sadness."

This is a great read aloud. In the beginning of the novel, each chapter stands on its own almost as a story itself. The stories are funny and poignant. The descriptions are terrific:

Teddy was wild in church, wild in school, and especially wild during the holidays. After Christmas, while Josh was still at Good Sam, Teddy started hiding people's presents and unscrewing lights on the tree. He took gobs of tinsel off and made little bird nests that he stuck back onto the tree. One day while Mom and Dad were shopping, Teddy stole baby Jesus from the manger and laughed when no one could find it. See what I'm saying? He stole Jesus and thought it was funny.

I also thought the beginning chapters were choppy. The first has Grandma as a significant character and then it shifts to a sibling and Grandma disappears. The change was abrupt. I think it would have helped if there had been something linking the chapters together in the beginning. Fletcher does tie the baking of stollen or bread to the end of the story but I think some overall theme was needed throughout. The book reminds me of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, but in that story the main character wants to be a scientist and it weaves a thread throughout all the chapters tying it together. Maybe if it had something like that? I'm no expert. What do you think?

There is a death in the story that makes it sad but it is balanced with humor and ways of dealing with grief. Terrific book.

Reading Level 4.9

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

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