HUMBUG by Nina Bawden
Kirkus Star


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With miraculous skill, Bawden places yet another set of vibrant characters in a compelling plot seasoned with cold reality, the warmth of enduring relationships, and moral ironies. Cora, eight, and her older brother and sister are to stay with their grandparents for six months while their parents are in Japan. When Granny is hospitalized, Cora is moved next door, where ""Aunt Sunday"" (no relation) has a daughter her age. Pretty Angelica's manner with adults befits her name, but she's actually a cruel, deceitful child whose adoring mother is in terror of her wiles. Fortunately, Sunday's mother, ""Ma Potter,"" a retired headmistress in failing health who is virtually captive in the household, befriends Cora, sharing her books and her philosophy on dealing with posturing and untruths: ""I.G.N.O.R.E."" what can't be helped, especially when it's ""humbug."" Still, when Angelica accuses Cora of stealing a ring and even Grandpa believes her lies, Cora flees in distress and anger. By the time she's brought home, though, Granny is also there and truth once again prevails--except, of course, in the social niceties. Much of the tension here grows out of the characters' complexity. Shown in dozens of revealing glimpses and background details: Cora, brighter than her jealous older sister, has weathered cruel teasing before and often fibs but is fundamentally honest and kind; some of the reasons for Angelica's spite go back two generations and some are self-perpetuating but that doesn't excuse them. A splendid, thought-provoking story.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1992
Page count: 133pp
Publisher: Clarion/Houghton Mifflin