Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea: The Story of Annaliese Easterling & Throckmorton, Her Simply Remarkable Sock Monkey by Eileen Beha, Sarah Jane Wright

This story takes plot elements similar to "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams, but explores topics such as divorce, abandonment, and the joy of being loved. Annaliese Easterling loved her sock puppet, Throckmorton, until a horrible incident happened that made her abandon the toy. When she rediscovers it she brings it to life with her love and friendship. Life is difficult in the Easterling household since their mother ran away nine years ago. The oldest boy, Evan, is angry, isolated, and mean-spirited at times. The middle child, Teddy, is more kind to his sister and those around him. However, the father rules with an iron fist, not allowing the children to ask any questions about their mother or letting them have any communication with her. Annaliese is isolated more than any of them. Her brothers are going to military school and a tutor has been hired to teach her. She is not allowed to have friends or go out and it leaves her only Throckmorton, her sock monkey, as her friend.

When an invitation arrives for a large family gathering with their sock monkeys, a hunt begins to find the two that have been misplaced by Evan and the father. When Annaliese finds the sock monkeys in the forbidden attic, she also discovers clues to who her mother was before she left the house. The tutor, Miss Pine, helps Annaliese's father deal with his children in a more healthy way as they begin to question him about the items in the attic that was their mothers. When Annaliese gets together with her grandmother, she learns not only how to sew a sock monkey, but gathers more information about her mother.

The point-of-view is from Throckmorton, which allows the reader to see how all the characters are reacting to each other. The drama, action, and pacing are well done. When Annaliese comes down with pneumonia, I thought of the boy in "The Velveteen Rabbit," that comes down with Scarlet Fever. The author does not follow the same plot and puts her own unique twist that is original from the classic. I got a kick out of the grandma who loves horses which again made me think Margery William's Skin Horse, the wisest and oldest toy in the playroom that tells the Velveteen Rabbit that children's love is what makes toys real. The same is in this story. The sock monkeys are only alive when a child loves them. However the imagery of a child abandoning a toy juxtaposed with a mother abandoning her children is completely unique.

The Esterling grandma handmade all her grandchildren sock monkeys that made me think of how people will give presents like this, but they are not always appreciated as they should be. I was a bit convicted thinking about a person that handmade an ornament that I would hide because I thought it was so ugly. Really it is the effort and love in the item that should be seen more than the product. Even in school I think I focus on students creating products versus thinking of the process. Anyway, it is worth reflecting on how actions impact others. An intriguing story that would make a good read aloud.

4 Smileys

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