CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 9. . . .October 30, 2009.
Booky: A Trilogy.
Bernice Thurman Hunter.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1998.
496 pp., pbk. $14.99.
That Scatterbrain Booky. (1981).
With Love From Booky. (1983).
As Ever, Booky. (1985).
Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.
Review by Tanya Boudreau.
“Do you like my costume, Bea?” asked Audrey, twirling around so her bride’s veil and long sausage curls floated out behind her on the autumn breeze.
“It’s gorgeous!” I replied obligingly. “Do you like mine?” I touched the peak of my cap like a gentleman.
“Oh, Bea!” Audrey screwed her nose up scornfully. “It’s not a costume. It’s only your brother’s old suit.”
“All right for you, Audrey!” I cried threateningly. But I let it go at that. I didn’t want anything to spoil Hallowe’en.
Our first stop was Mrs. Cook’s house. Mrs. Cook was known far and wide as the best shell-outer in Birchcliff. But there was a catch to it: you had to pass a test. Everyone was marched into her brightly lit kitchen and ordered to unmask. This yearly ritual scared the daylights out of me because I always had a darned old guilty conscience!
“Ah, it’s you, Beatrice,” said Mrs. Cook, towering over me, her flabby arms folded over her big bosom. “For a minute there I thought you were Arthur. Well now, I don’t recall you doing any mischief around my property this past summer, so you may put your mask back on and help yourself.”
Miraculously, I had passed again. I knew perfectly well I had taken shortcuts across her green-carpet lawn and flying leaps over her flowerbeds during the summer, but I vowed then and there never to do it again.
Booky: A Trilogy is a coming of age story set in Ontario during the Depression. The three books and the new story included in this trilogy are a collection of reminiscences based on the author’s childhood. The stories follow her development from the age of nine to the age of 16 and are inspired by memorable times. Some holidays stand out because of the shame they caused her family, while some are written as if they were the greatest day she ever lived. Details about dates and relationships increase as Booky gets older as does the frequency she experiences turmoil and powerful emotions. In That Scatterbrain Booky, she overhears her parents arguing over the fate of her mom’s unborn baby, and in With Love From Booky, she survives an encounter with bedbugs and leeches, a period of homesickness mixed with a touch of lovesickness, and a disastrous permanent wave. The third book in the trilogy, As Ever, Booky, contains stories about Booky’s first job, her experiences with rejection letters, and the decisions she makes about her schooling and her money.
During the school year, Booky begins to flaunt her vocabulary and tell stories through oral storytelling, letter writing and diary entries. As Booky continues to write over the years, she receives recognition from a variety of people. Her brother becomes a fan of her writing (thanks to a sneak peek in her diary), the author Lucy Maud Montgomery calls her writing lovely, and the Toronto Telegram awards her a prize for her essay on “The Bravest Man I Know."
An epilogue at the end of this trilogy lets readers know what happened to many of the characters in this book in terms of marriage, family and occupation.
Although Booky was originally published in the 1980s, Booky has appeared in three television movies in the last three years, the most recent in 2009. Readers who enjoy the stories of Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary or the Anne of Green Gables stories should try the “Booky” series. The ways in which people traveled, entertained, learned and worked were very different in comparison to today, but young readers will identify with the emotions expressed and the milestones passed in these stories. Jealousy, anger, happiness and fear are all feelings we know at any age.
The author’s inclusion of black and white photographs and advertisements in this book, and her ability to vividly describe what is was like during the 1930s enable the reader to experience more than just a story. In learning about the past, we gain an appreciation for what we have now, and for the things we have lost. Dates that involve mail trucks, 1932 Chevy Roadsters and early talkies would have been fun, and shopping in stores like the Uptown Nuthouse, hearing sounds like those coming from a Victrola, and seeing people like the Canada Bread Man must have been wonderful occurrences during the day.
Bernice Thurman Hunter (1922 - 2002) was a writer of historical fiction. After writing about Booky, Bernice wrote about Billy (Booky’s brother) in the book Hawk and Stretch. Her other books include The Railroader, Amy’s Promise, and Janey’s Choice. Bernice was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2001.
Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.
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