Eggs by Jerry Spinelli
|Eggs by Jerry Spinelli|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A story of grief, love, loss and recovery. The dialogue sparkles and Spinelli catches the angry child perfectly. Dry wit and plenty of conflict keep the story touching and charming but never sentimental. Lovely.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: August 2007|
|Publisher: Orchard Books|
David is just eight years old. Eight is too young to lose your mother, but David has lost his. Carolyn Sue Limpert of Minnesota died in an accidental fall after slipping when someone forgot to put out a "wet floor" sign where they'd been cleaning. David missed seeing the sunrise with her as they'd arranged, and he's sworn that he'll never see a sunrise unless it's with her. He has a plan to make this happen. David believes that if he never breaks a rule, if he never forgets a wet floor sign, and if he keeps it up long enough, his mother will come back and it'll all turn out to be some kind of bad dream. While he's busy rule-following, David makes it his business to keep everyone at a distance, especially his grandmother, who is doing her best to look after him while his father works long hours.
Primrose is thirteen. She's moved out of home already. She lives in an abandoned van at the front of her tiny house. Primrose's mother is a clairvoyant. She's scatty and irresponsible and a little bit crazy. She's not a very good mother. Primrose's father vanished long ago. Like David, Primrose is angry. Very angry. So when they find each other, the friendship forged by these two children is a rather acerbic one. They mock one another. They argue. They fight. But despite all this, they are kindred spirits, bonded by a joint fury and a refusal to let anybody, particularly an adult anybody, find a way through the defences they've erected.
Eggs could have been a horribly cheesy book - particularly when you see that it's written by an American. Americans love schmaltz. I don't love schmaltz. It makes me cringe. Happily, it isn't. It's all those other slightly worrying adjectives - charming, quirky, moving. But it isn't sentimental. It's very funny and it's sharply observed. David has a running lunch battle with his grandmother in which he won't eat the carrot she puts next to his peanut butter and jam sandwich. The carrot is left sticking into the crust, a folorn little flag waving secession from family life. It's a funny picture, but a sad one too. Eggs is full of such vivid images and it's also full of some fresh, vital writing with short sentences whose observations render entire prisms of meaning. The dialogue is the best part. It simply sparkles. David and Primrose are horribly mean to one another. Neither misses a single opportunity to put the other down and there are some killer one-liners.
The children also fall out in major ways and then it does get sad - they lived in the same town, but only the sky was vast enough to measure the distance between them - and of course, fallings out are only natural. But when you're a lonely, grieving child, they're almost too much to bear. So it's only when David and Primrose realise that everyone needs love in their lives but also that it can spring from more than one place, does their recovery really begin. This resolution in particular could have ended in icky schmaltz, but it didn't. It ended with a slightly surreal but very sweet sunrise - literal and metaphorical. Lovely.
My thanks to the good people at Orchard for sending the book.
Louis Sachar's Someday Angeline is another lovely story about two lonely misfits.
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Kathy Doan said:
What exactly do you have against Americans? Are you trying to say that Americans can't write a good book? Reading the review for Eggs was very insulting. You do realize Americans read of your site too? And this line got me VERY ticked. Eggs could have been a horribly cheesy book - particularly when you see that it's written by an American. Americans love schmaltz. I don't love schmaltz. It makes me cringe.
I'm trying to say that cheesy is often an integral part of American popular culture, whereas irony is often an integral part of popular British culture. I prefer irony to cheese. You, by the same token, are perfectly free to say that you find the irony in British popular culture is cutting and cruel and not to your taste, if that is the case. There are many things I like about America, and similarly, there are many things I do not like. Frankly, cheese is the least of the latter.