SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS

Today’s book is an older book, published in 1996, by the renowned children’s writer, Patricia Polacco. Aunt Chip and the Triple Creek Dam Affair, deals with modern issues like time management, public apathy, and conformity.  As the story opens, nothing is happening in Triple Creek because its population does nothing but watch TV. This town is so addicted to TV that often a picture of a family’s TV set appears on the fireplace mantel along with pictures of family members. Young Eli’s Aunt Charlotte is the only objector to this takeover; she is so upset that she “takes to her bed” and refuses to get out of it. Eli visits her often and one day asks her where the stories she tells him during his visits came from. Her reply, “books,” reveals the fact that Eli and the other townspeople have lost the art of reading and are only using books to prop up wobbly table legs, use as a doorstop, sit upon, and other reasons. NO ONE can read a book, for they are too busy watching TV. Even the public library has been closed for years. After Aunt Charlotte teaches Eli to read and use books for their proper function: relay stories, take readers to far-off lands or other times, entertain, distribute information, teach skills and more; Eli reads to the other children, who are enchanted and begin reading themselves.  Aunt Charlotte lends her books to them, and when those run out, the children attack a huge pile of stacked up books outside the library. “If’n we were meant to read, there surely would have been a sign,” the town soothsayer says, At that moment, all the TV’s went dead because the dam that had provided electricity blew apart, sending books high in the air and falling to earth again. It looked like it was raining books! The townspeople were amazed and agreed it was “surely a sign.” Children taught parents to read, and pretty soon the whole town was reading.  Nobody even noticed when the TV’s came back on–they were too busy reading!

Polacco’s book is categorized as a “contemporary fantasy,” and is the perfect read for “anyone who believes in the power of books.”

TRU AND NELLE by G. Neri

If you liked The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Sherlock Holmes, you’ll love the adventures of Truman Capote (author of In Cold Blood) and Nelle (Ellen spelled backward) Harper Lee (author of To Kill A Mockingbird). As young friends in the tiny town of Monroeville, Alabama, during the Great Depression, Tru and Nelle become acquainted. The novel opens with even less than usual going on in the slow-moving, small town.

This book is written as fiction based on fact, and the author “recasts their time together” in a narrative that is engaging and probably very close to accurate.

Many cases open up to Sherlock Holmes (Truman Capote) and Watson (Harper Lee) who are joined by “Big Boy” as Inspector Lestrade (who never had a clue, according to Nelle), aka Jennings Falk, a real resident and childhood friend of the pair. Jennings adds a section at the end of the fictionalized account as “Tall tales told by Tru and Nelle,” which he recounted.

Foreshadowings of To Kill a Mockingbird in the real persons and events from the kids’ childhood emerge, such as Sonny, a neighbor boy (who is the basis for Boo Radley, and a scene in which the Klu Klux Klan show up at Truman’s going away( costume-dress) Halloween party. The result is hilarious, entertaining reading and just plain fun.

The author’s notes at the end of the narrative deal with the eventual ending of the Capote-Lee friendship.  I felt it was an accurate surmise at what actually caused the dissolution of the friendship and maybe one reason for Harper Lee’s reclusive lifestyle.

The story itself is worth the read, but the whole volume is a good investment of one’s reading time for anyone who follows literary events and is interested in where authors get their “ideas.”

I highly recommend this 2016 publication.