TAKING CARE OF TERRIFIC by Lois Lowry

TAKING CARE OF TERRIFIC

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A bright but most unlikely caper, set in Boston's Public Gardens where Enid, 14, babysits overprotected little Joshua Cameron. (On their first day out she starts to "love" him.) In the Gardens--where Enid, who hates her real name, becomes Cynthia, and Joshua becomes Tom Terrific--the two meet tall, black Hawk, in his 30s or 40s, who plays the saxophone, and an old bag lady who mumbles that the popsicle man no longer carries her favorite flavor, root beer: ". . . they never asked anybody, really, they just decided that about root beer without consulting anyone, they always do that. . . ." Well, Enid/Cynthia gets the idea that all the bag ladies should picket the popsicle man. Hawk organizes the ladies, and the event is a success. . . which only spurs Enid on to a grander scheme: taking the bag ladies on a midnight ride in a Swan Boat. ("There are 24 seats on each Swan Boat. I pictured 24 bag ladies, erect as royalty, their eyes bright. . . .") Hawk, implausibly, goes along with the scheme; Enid's friend Seth Sandroff (dubbed General Sethsandroff for the occasion) shows up with a bolt cutter for the Swan Boats' cable; Enid brings "Tom," who's in her care that Saturday night (he's always wanted to ride in a Swan Boat); and then the bag ladies appear: "Coming now from behind the bushes, statues, and trees," they gather on the dock "like a congregation standing in a dim cathedral." On the boat, they all sing "Stardust" to Hawk's sax; and when the song ends they are all arrested (without serious consequence, however). From the subsequent newspaper writeups, Enid learns that Hawk is Wilson B. Hartley, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at Harvard; Tom Terrific is heir to a fortune; and "their" bag lady is Julia Simpson Forbes, a millionaire's widow and resident of the Ritz. (The others are real bag ladies.) Lowry writes with verve and awareness, and she makes it clear that this is not to be taken for realism: "There was something about the whole enterprise that was like a fantasy, and that made the fake names seem okay." The trouble is that the fantasy comes off as a silly, sentimental-liberal pipedream that trivializes the realities she wants to transcend.
Pub Date: April 27th, 1983
ISBN: 0395340705
Page count: 182pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1983




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