CM . . . . Volume XV Number 17. . . .April 17, 2009.
One to Grow On.
Toronto, ON: Puffin Canada, 1969/2008.
127 pp., pbk., $8.99.
Truthfulness and Falsehood-Juvenile fiction.
Identity (Psychology)-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.
Review by Jean Nickel.
Janie made her bed more carefully than usual. She mitred the corners perfectly and left not even a hint of a wrinkle. Then she picked up some of the clutter and put it away. When she changed out of her church clothes, she even put her dress on a hanger and hung it in the closet where it belonged. When she joined the family for dinner, she felt almost angelic.
When everyone had been served, she could contain herself no longer.
“Guess what?” she burst out. Then, as they looked at her blankly, she realized that there was no way they could guess and she hurried on.
“My friend Lisa is coming over this afternoon.”
“What friend Lisa?” Rob asked bluntly. “You don’t have any friend called Lisa.”
“I do so!”
“This wouldn’t be someone you’ve imagined, would it, Janie?” her father asked.
“The way you imagined you’d made your bed…” Mother started.
Then she caught sight of Janie’s stricken face.
The main character of this story is Janie, the middle child in the family. She has a great imagination which, in turn, gets her into trouble as she embellishes her stories so she comes out the heroine. This behaviour is just perceived by those around her as lying. She cannot tell you why she does this, but the only two people she does not feel the need to lie to are her brother, David, and her godmother, Aunt Tillie.
At church, she meets a girl named Lisa who has famous parents. Lisa invites herself over to Janie’s house, and Janie is excited to tell her family that Lisa is coming. However, they have a hard time believing her until Lisa shows up. As this friendship progresses, Janie discovers that Lisa also lies, but she is mean about it.
In the meantime, Janie’s Aunt Tillie has purchased an island, and she gives Janie the chance to tell her family. When nobody believes Janie, her aunt comes to her defense. The island is to be an escape for both Tillie and Janie. They plan a trip to the island. While they are there, Janie’s birthday occurs. Her family shows up with a meal and a birthday cake. Aunt Tillie, in the meantime, has taken a trip to town and comes back with Lisa and Pam, another school friend. On the small island, differences have to be worked out between the friends.
One to Grow On is a good book to give students who have a problem with lying or exaggeration. As Aunt Tillie states, there are different forms of lying. Janie lies in a way that tries on different personae to see what fits best. This approach allows Janie to try to find out where she fits in her family or society. Lisa lies to try to make her friends, including Janie, Debbie, and Pam, dependant on her. This book is copyrighted 1969, and it depicts the Sixties era very well. Some students might find this dated, but the message is still relevant.
Jean Little loves to write. She is the author of more than 40 books for children and has won numerous awards for her writing. Among her awards is the Mr. Christie Book Award for Willow and Twig, and His Banner Over Me won the 1996 Violet Downey Book Award. She lives in Guelph, ON.
Jean Nickel is a Library Technician at the Westglen School in Didsbury, AB.
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