A LITTLE DAB OF COLOR by W. Bruce Bell

A LITTLE DAB OF COLOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Perhaps they've been lightly fictionalized, but these are in essence reminiscences of the author's childhood on an Indiana farm, 1915-1919, and though they have a buoyant, boyish charm--and a strong focal character in Grammaw Brown--they have major handicaps as fiction: there's no plot, no significant, ongoing conflict or underlying problem; and the individual episodes are very long--while the dramatic action in each is quite brief. That leaves us with Grammaw, who arrives at the outset in full black mourning (after 20 years' widowhood) and proceeds to scatter ""a little dab of color"" all over the homestead; who takes over the household chores and, most importantly, tries to reform Bruce (age ten-to-14 here) and younger, look-alike, equally devilish brother Hubert. To the extent that various episodes have a point in common, it's that Grammaw's bark is worse than her bite: a long account of pestering an elderly, cranky neighbor ends, for example, with Grammaw's covertly whipping a bag of beans instead of Hubert and Bruce. In other instances, though, she's a natural ally--and the boys' similar affection for cats, to their father's disgust, occasions some astute observations on ""why it should be feminine to love a cat, and masculine to love a dog."" In fact, it's just because Grammaw is so obviously on their side, whatever her mutterings, that the ending doesn't quite come off as a dramatic climax: after threatening for four years to leave each time they misbehave, she actually picks up and goes--then, to their immense relief, returns after just one night at rich Aunt Clara's. Some nicely offhand, very funny illuminations of human nature occur throughout; but the book doesn't cohere, or compel continuous attention, for kids.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1981
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard