LIFE RIDDLES by Melrose Cooper


Age Range: 9 - 12
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 The author of the splendidly succinct and evocative I Got a Family (1993) moves from verse to fiction to depict another close-knit family, one coping with the stresses of a job loss; Daddy's gone and left Mama and three daughters to a marginal existence, where having ``the electric'' turn off service is a too-familiar event. Still, narrator Janelle's family has strong resources, including one another; Mama creatively stretches the little they have, while Aunt Barbara, a librarian, who lives downstairs, provides moral support and occasional meals (Mama, too, loses her job), and encourages Janelle toward her goal of becoming a writer. The talented sixth-grader actually sells a story for $200 but, realistically, rejection slips follow; still, her dedication to the muse is the book's most effectively developed theme. Plotting is cursory (the parents resolve their differences; Daddy comes home and finds a job; her friends' resentment towards Janelle's preoccupation is dismissively minor), but it provides a forum for well-drawn characters and a lively and consistent voice echoing the rich color and cadence of African-American speech. A wise, appealing book that, in its depiction of good people coping valiantly with poverty, makes an interesting companion to Virginia Euwer Wolff's Make Lemonade (1993). (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8050-2613-4
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1994


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