Friday, September 9, 2011

Spring begins in March by Jean Little

It's been far too long since I posted a Jean Little review! One of the things I love about her characters and her realistic fiction is her ability to look at the same situation and characters from completely different viewpoints. In Mine for Keeps she shows Sally, a girl who has cerebral palsy and is coming home after living at a residential facility. Her struggles to be independent, to become part of her family again, to have friends and function at school are definied through her dog Susie who is also painfully shy and has a lot to learn. Sally has two sisters, bossy older Melinda and wild baby Meg.

Now it's Meg's turn. She's older now and Sally is the perfect older sister who always does everything right. Nothing goes right for Meg. She's failing in school, constantly daydreams, and when it looks like she's going to get the one thing she desperately wants, a room of her own, it turns out she's going to have to stay with Sally because Grandma Kent is coming to live with them. After many painful struggles, Meg and her new dog Robbie, who is also a "wild child" finally begin to see new hope with help from friends and family and their own courageous determination.

Although this story was originally written in the 1960s, it is still spot-on. Meg's struggles at school, her desperate feeling that everything she does goes wrong, her clashes with her grandmother and sisters, every one is something a modern girl can completely sympathize with. I've looked at several books showing extended families having to move in together because of economic circumstances, but this is the one I'd choose. Same thing for dealing with school difficulties. Maybe in a modern school Meg would get testing and extra help - maybe not. Either way, it's her own determination and the love of family and friends that finally starts her on the way to fixing all the things that are going wrong.

Verdict: Sadly, the most recent paperback version of this book has a seriously icky cover, looks like clothing from the 1920s. BUT, if you can do a little twiggling around with your orders, Penguin has a nice new edition out in Canada, paperback, but very worth getting, especially if you get Mine for Keeps at the same time. If you're not buying for a library, you can pick up a paperback on Amazon for about $5, more than worth it!

ISBN: 0140380841; This edition published 1996 by Little, Brown; Received copy on Bookmooch

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