CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 18. . . . May 9, 2003
It Takes Two, a sequel to Two Much Alike, ( CM 7(5), Nov. 3, 2000) is the last novel for young people written by Bernice Thurman Hunter before her death last year. It is set in the mid 1950's, and unfortunately it very dated, not only in its setting but in its content. It tells the story of identical twin girls, Carrie and Connie, both 12 when the book opens. To their surprise, and that of their 17- and 10-year-old brothers, they find that their mother is expecting another child. As it turns out - two children - as the babies also turn out to be twins, a boy and a girl. Carrie and Connie at first feel displaced and resent having to babysit and look after the "baby-twins." However, as the story progresses, Carrie and Connie become extremely fond of the babies and take pride in their large family.
One of the problems of It Takes Two is that everything seems to go unbelievably well. When the twins go to their first dance (having been taught how to dance by their older brother), they immediately dance every number. When their school puts on a play, they are given starring roles and are a smash hit. They believe in getting straight "A's" and apparently achieve them without too much effort. When they go to Toronto for a holiday (their home is in Detroit), they immediately meet two handsome boys who want to take them out. Even in the 1950's, despite nostalgic memories, life was not this easy for adolescents! It certainly isn't that easy today, and the dialogue, lifestyles, and attitudes will not ring true with today's readers.
Hunter has obviously tried to paint a picture of a close, normal family living in a friendly neighbourhood fifty years ago. When the baby-twins arrive, their mother washes endless diapers which the older twins have to hang outside. Today's children may have to be instructed on life before "Pampers." Their mother holds a wedding shower for her best friend's daughter and invites every woman on the street. The twins deliver the invitations by hand. Neighbourhood solidarity is obvious. Their father works in an office and expects his dinner to be ready on time when he arrives home each night. The children all have chores. The most exciting event in high school is a "Levi Queen" contest which Carrie wins easily by buying her levis a size too small. Incidentally, this is one of the very few individual acts carried out by either of the twins. They usually dress alike, speak alike and go everywhere together.
Although the values and attitudes displayed in this book are admirable ones, they are not ones which are overly familiar with today's children. Normal emotions, such as jealousy, anger, resentment, even joy and excitement, are noticeably lacking. The closest we come to lack of family solidarity can be seen in the following excerpt:
Bernice Thurman Hunter was the author of 14 other books for young people, including the "Booky trilogy, Amy's Promise (CM 2(6), Nov. 24, 1995) and Janey's Choice(CM 5(15), March 26, 1999). Those looking for gentler stories for today's middle readers may appreciate the sweeter world of Hunter's latest book, one where children conform to rules, avoid violence and speak respectfully. Teachers may read this book with some regret that times have changed. It cannot, however, be recommended as a hot title for today's young people.
Helen Norrie is a former teacher-librarian who writes a monthly column, "Children's Books," for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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