VISITING MISS CAPLES by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel


Age Range: 10 - 12
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What at first appears to be a novel about average middle-schoolers and their tiny traumas reaches more depth as an

intergenerational study of likenesses and differences, standing up for oneself, and righting past wrongs.

The rising action hinges on the advent of a class project in which eighth graders are asked to read to elderly shut-ins. As

can be expected, the reading goes badly at first. Jenna shares with best friend Liv that Miss Caples, the woman she reads to,

won’t speak a word; she just fixes her blue eyes and stares. Diverting, intermittent short chapters marked "Elspeth" provide

a break in the action, offering an alternate point-of-view inside the mind and thoughts of the old woman herself. As the novel

unfolds, Miss Caples’s story is revealed, sparked by a gallery of old photographs on the walls, and the parallels between the

young girl and the elderly woman are effectively drawn. A subplot about the opposition by classmates Alec and Jane to frog

dissection, brings out the best in Jenna and the worst in Liv, painfully alienating the main character from her long-time best

friend. The exigency becomes tantamount to Jenna’s growing, empathic friendship with Miss Caples, as well as critical in her

own route to self-discovery. A few inviting coincidences do more than tie up loose ends in both character’s stories; they grant

hope and healing for young and old. A worthwhile effort inspired by a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8037-2502-7
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2000


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