THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE: A Review

Donna Everhart’s debut novel, available in large print, like any novel about childhood abuse, is hard to read.  This one is even more so because it is told from the child’s point of view.  From the opening of the story, we know that Dixie’s Uncle Ray is in jail.  As the plot unfolds, Eleven year old Dixie’s “spidey sense” that something is just “not right,” alerts the reader to expect the worst.  Dixie and her brother, AJ, already have a rough life living with a depressed  mother who has anger issues and a father who drinks to escape. Set in Alabama in 1969, Dixie struggles with the need to lie to cover for her mother and to keep the other girls at school from labeling her family as “white trash.” She becomes a deliberate and accomplished tale-teller, resorting to lies even when they aren’t necessary. When she tries to tell AJ and later her mother what Uncle Ray has done, no one will believe her.  Seldom have I met a heroine so young with such spirit and courage.

This is a difficult book to read as it peels away layers of family secrets leading to the eventual harsh ending.  There is a ray of hope at the end, one thing I require of any book I read before I will say it is a good book.  This is not an enjoyable book but one that book clubs and individuals might take on to open thoughts or discussions about a very serious problem.

 

Review: Children’s Book on Adult Subject–Something for everyone

As the book’s cover says, “One summer can change your whole life”, and Frank Viva in his texts and “toons” proves it can change the individual as well. Sea Change, a children’s book written and illustrated by Frank Viva, is one of the best “reads” I’ve ever been able to get through in one day. More a coming-of-age (both physically and maturity-wise)story, than a children’s book, the story deals with Eliot, a twelve year old boy. It is a chapter book, but also aimed at “the visual learner” by Toons Graphics.  It is cartoonish, but in an artsy way.

Eliot is upset that his parents plan for him to spend summer in Port Aconi, Nova Scotia, with his Great Uncle Earl, in a tiny fishing village where Uncle Earl is a professional fisherman living in an old house. The first friend he makes is Happy, Uncle Earl’s dog, who connects to the feeling-sorry-for-himself Eliot. He gradually does make new friends, including Mary Beth, who gives him his first-ever kiss.

Many of the scenes are told by graphic drawings; for example, the time the fishermen see the Great White Shark impresses the reader with the size of the creature and the danger of the situation. The lines of text often swirl and move all over the page as one reads, but never to the point where the reader loses the continuity or “loses his place” and has to re-read.

During the course of the summer, Eliot discovers Uncle Earl’s “hidden library” and shares his time there with a younger new friend, Timmy. Eliot learns a lot from Timmy, and Timmy idolizes Eliot. Problems arise, of course, in the form of juvenile delinquent, Donnie, and the fact that Eliot can’t swim and is afraid of spiders and thunderstorms.  “Old Miss Gifford,” a school teacher, manages to fix all the problems, including the very adult one of child abuse. The lesson children learn from this book is, “Tell an adult!”

The most interesting part of the book is the change this one summer brings about in Eliot. On the flight to Nova Scotia, the stewardess treats Eliot as the little boy that he is, giving him plastic pilot’s wings and inviting him to the cockpit to meet the pilot. Eliot’s reaction is a little boy’s–delight and glee at both.  On the flight home, the same stewardess sees a pensive, almost troubled individual, whom she does not recognize and addresses Eliot as “young man;” for indeed over the single summer Eliot has grown up.