CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 18 . . . . May 11, 2001
The minute I stepped into the schoolyard, the nightmare began.The humiliation of having to wear a mismatched, ill-fitting outfit is the last straw for Maddie. She and her friends devise a plan to shrink her outdated clothes into hand-me-downs for her younger siblings. That plan backfires, leaving a plea for help from Gran, who "always dressed in the coolest fashions" as her only hope. But Gran arrives "wearing a dress of dull brown..." announcing plans to marry old "Mr. William Goad...as wrinkled and shrivelled as a mummy." Maddie tries to cast a spell on "The Toad" so that he'll forget the marriage idea. Instead, Mr. Goad dies. Maddie realizes that appearances aren't always the most important thing when she learns Gran's actions were based on a desire to make a friend's last days happier.
Young readers will immediately relate to Maddie's clothing crisis: "I have absolutely nothing to wear to school." They will chuckle at her efforts to rectify the problem: acting too sick to go to school, attempts to shame her unsympathetic mom into taking her shopping, trying to shrink all her clothes in hot water.
The introduction of Gran's upcoming marriage, deemed unsuitable by Maddie, temporarily derails the suspense by shifting the focus of the plot and may confuse readers. Also less satisfying, as it relies on coincidence (Mr. Goad's timely demise), is the scene in which Maddie sticks pins in a doll to cast the spell. With its suggestion of witchcraft at work, it paints a less appealing picture of Maddie. However, she does show genuine remorse for her mistakes and offers sympathy and understanding to Gran. In the end, it's Gran who solves the problem much as Maddie suggested she could back in the third chapter.
The large print and short chapters of this translation from French are appropriate for readers age 8-11. It is written in first person, present tense with some vocabulary (antiquity, infallible, askance) that might be challenging. Illustrations by Marie-Louise Gay animate the characters.
Gillian Richardson, who lives in BC, is a former teacher-librarian and a published children's writer of fiction and nonfiction.
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