Friday, January 8, 2016

Tales from Maple Ridge: Logan Pryce Makes a Mess by Grace Gilmore, illustrated by Petra Brown

I was really interested to try this out. Firstly, there aren't a lot of historical fiction beginning chapter books and secondly there aren't many historical fiction books that feature boys. Or are there? I feel like there aren't and that girls ask for historical fiction more than boys. Anyways.

Logan Pryce loves living on the family farm and working in his "Fix-It Shop." But then there's bad news. Like many other farmers, his father is having a hard time supporting the family and will have to get a job. Logan and his three siblings and worried and scared. Will they have to give up the farms? Should they quit school and look for jobs also? Pa finds a temporary job at the store and Logan comes along to help, but he makes a big mistake by not listening to his father. Will Pa lose his job?

There is no definite end or resolution of the family's problems at the end of the story. Logan's mistake is resolved and the book ends with the future uncertain but Logan and his siblings secure in their family's love and determination to make things work. Each sibling has a defined characteristic and Logan's is his inventions, fixing and recycling things in his Fix-It Shop.

The text is simple and in a large font, just right for beginning chapter readers. Brown's illustrations were just black and white sketches in this ARC, but they look friendly and well-suited to the historical setting.

There are no specific details given about the time period or geographic location, but I would guess late 1800s or the turn of the century, certainly not much later. Which is why several details struck me as jarring. The use of the word "recycled" felt out of place. From a brief search, it looks like that word was first used in manufacturing process in the early 1920s and wouldn't come into common speech until much later. The whole concept of the Fix-It shop struck me as off. At that time period and in a rural and poor area, wouldn't the whole family be fixing and "recycling" things? The concept of someone saving junk for inventions and fixing broken things rather than throwing them away is, I think, a modern one.

Verdict: This is a decent start to a series and a fairly unique premise. Kids are unlikely to notice or care about the historical anomalies. My main quibbles are that there's more talk than action in the story, although that could be due to the first book in a series setting the stage. The other reason I probably won't purchase this is that I simply have little to no call for historical fiction for beginning readers. The few people who ask for it are perfectly satisfied by the abridged Little House chapter books. If there's an audience for it in your library, it's an acceptable purchase, but not a necessary one.

ISBN: 97814814262449; Published April 2015 by Little Simon/Simon and Schuster; ARC provided by publisher at ALA midwinter 2015

1 comment:

Katie Fitzgerald said...

I just read three of these, and none of them identify a time period, which I thought was a huge flaw. The descriptions of the books on Goodreads say the year is 1892 - why could they not put that at least on the cover of the book?