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DADDY SAYS by Ntozake Shange

DADDY SAYS

By Ntozake Shange

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-689-83081-5
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Shange’s second effort for children deals with longing, memory, and ambition; unfortunately, the quality of writing is not up to the expected brilliance of the author of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Lucie-Marie, 12, and Annie Sharon, 14, live on a ranch in East Texas with their father, Tie-Down, a rancher and rodeo rider; their mother, also a rodeo rider, was killed in a rodeo accident long ago but is still sorely missed. As Tie-Down begins to spend time with a new girlfriend, the girls become jealous for their father’s attention—on their own behalf and in defense of their mother’s memory. Both girls are skilled riders, but Annie Sharon pushes the limits of safety—to connect with and emulate her mother, to get her father’s attention, and for love of the sport. However, many of the big emotional issues are confusing: for example, does Tie-Down ignore the girls only now that he has a new girlfriend, or has he always been distant? The answer is inconsistent, which detracts from the potential emotional realism and understandable pain of either scenario. A constantly shifting narrative viewpoint dilutes individual depth and richness of character and the writing as a whole is stiff and awkward. While this could be enjoyed by rodeo and horse fans—roping, bronco busting, and barrel racing are described in detail—and fills a niche by portraying African-American girls in a western context, actively riding rodeo, as literature, it fails to score. (Fiction. 8-12)