Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dumb Kids: Keeper

Keeper - by Kathi AppeltThis gentle, loving book (Keeper, by Kathi Appelt) should go over well with people who love the delicate innocence of childhood and its fragile magic.  Also with young children who still believe in fairy tales and Santa Clause.  Unfortunately for me, I felt old and jaded and grumpy while
Renton Libraryreading it. I couldn't get over how dumb Keeper is as a ten year old -- I know many ten years olds, two intimately, and they are much more aware than Keeper.  I needed Keeper to be six to justify her decisions and actions, from laboriously working out how to transport crabs in a bowl to coming up with her plan to solve everything by getting lost at sea.

And I wanted some consequences for the decisions made -- Keeper makes many bad choices, but the end was all unicorns and rainbows.  The only negative that didn't get fixed was the flowers blooming in the pots she broke and no one cared.  It felt cheap.  I mean, I'm not saying the dog should have died, but at least let the poor thing wash ashore to get adopted by another family, one with children that won't accidentally toss it overboard during an foolish attempt to talk to a mermaid.  Yes, I get that the boat ride was a metaphor for Keeper learning about her true family, but it was also a kid who doesn't have the sense to come in out of the rain sneaking a boat out into the Gulf of Mexico in the middle of the night, and the actual plot kept me from enjoying the layered meanings.

I did like how the true love of the old man with the ruined flowers turned out to be another old man. Go diversity in children's lit! especially when the text isn't all proud of itself for being so enriching.  I'm glad I read this book as I wonder through my library's shelves, but I didn't actually enjoy it.  I can see how other people might, and it has nice short chapters for an easy read-aloud.

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