THE FRAGILE FLAG by Jane Langton


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Georgie Hall, the spindly nine-year-old stalwart of The Fledgling, confronts the US president over the "peace Missile"--after visionary promptings (the Minute Men, "Uncle Freddy's beloved Henry Thoreau," the world in flames) from the tattered flag in the Hall's Concord attic. Better than the fantasy is the satire: smarmy President Toby announcing a letter contest for the nation's children to herald his new sequined flag--most of which letters (who needs so many?) go unread into the White House furnace, while Georgie is vainly trying to mail hers on time. Best is the ensuing children's-march-to-Washington: Georgie carrying the flag; siblings Eleanor and Eddie, 14 and 12, along for support; president's grandson Robert Toby, Eleanor's crush, a surprisingly ready recruit; Georgie's bossy friend Frieda soon taking command. Five children, with knapsacks and permission slips, heading for U.S. One . . . and soon to be joined by sixth-grader Cissie, pushing baby brother Carrington in his stroller. (No, he doesn't need diapers; yes, he has a permission slip.) Walking isn't like riding, Eleanor quickly decides; and Route 1 is an all-American Strip--noisy, smelly, littered, and not meant for walking at all. Policemen stop them; bikers harass them. Nights, they search for a soft, off-the-road spot. But newspapers begin to pick up their trail; churches and schools offer food and shelter; "The March Becomes a Crusade." Meanwhile, back at the White House, the state contest-winners, chosen for their innocuously patriotic letters, add on hopes-for-peace. New marchers join the Concord band. White House concern mounts. Tot TV-personality Veronica Glassmore marches briefly--hogging the limelight, spying for the president. And all along president's grandson Robert has been mysteriously disappearing: could he be a traitor? No: he'll usher Georgie into his grandfather, and their joint appeal, on top of "all those thousands of little kids tramping through his head," will win the president over just before the scheduled missile-firing. Kids may add this in with the fantasy; what'll win them over are the scrappy kid-characters, the perils of the open Strip, the story-telling ginger and snap.
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0064403114
Page count: 276pp
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1984


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