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NEENY COMING, NEENY GOING by Karen English Kirkus Star


by Karen English & illustrated by Synthia Saint James

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8167-3796-7

English's first book employs a seamless blend of American and West African language and custom in a story about the pull of family, set in the 1950s on Daufuskie Island, off the coast of South Carolina. The story is simple--Neeny, who lives with her mother in Charleston, is returning to the island to visit her cousin, the nameless narrator who repeatedly announces the visit to others. When Neeny arrives, what a disappointment! She's no longer interested in activities the girls enjoyed before--early-morning searches for sweetgrass for use in basketmaking, crabbing, or picking berries for Dada's cobbler. On the last night of her visit, however, the island family throws a party and ``Neeny have a good time, I think.'' Neeny has come ``like a visitor who didn't want to visit,'' but the narrator is still sad that she is leaving, so makes a gift to her cousin of a quilt made of family clothing. The shapes and forms of island life appear in minimalist blocks of primary color by Saint James that add pure sparkle to an already affecting, bittersweet text; it will encourage readers to recollect their own family members who have been, come, and gone. (Picture book. 5-9)