Sunday, April 18, 2010

BIG Book, little Book

I did it. I made a promise to my fellow Mamas and myself, and I followed through. I'm happy to say, it came back like riding a bicycle and I almost had forgotten how much I love losing myself in a good book. It was getting late in the game, so I didn't have much time to research and choose something very thoughtfully, so I scooped up a title that I had been hearing buzz about among the Mamas and hoped it lived up to the hype. I chose The Help by Kathryn Stockett and I have to say, it did not disappoint.

The story unfolds in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, and while the rest of the country is immersed in the Civil Rights movement, the white women of Jackson seem oblivious to the climate of change outside of their humid, segregated bubble and the black women of Jackson seem either too fearful or too resigned to embrace it themselves. Skeeter Phelan returns from college to her parents' cotton farm to find that her childhood nanny has quietly disappeared, which prompts her to examine not only the relationship her family had with the black woman who practically raised her, but also these same relationships among some of her closest friends and the women in their homes known as "the help."

The story is narrated in three voices, that of Skeeter and those of two black servant women named Minny and Aibileen who also happen to have worked for Skeeter's best childhood friends. The first person narration style gave the book an intimacy that I enjoyed, but also left me feeling slightly conflicted. The author, Kathryn Stockett, is a white woman of Jackson descent herself, and her use of the black colloquial tone, left me wondering whether it was brave or slightly offensive. Regardless, I think she managed to capture their voices and perspectives well and I enjoyed the message that I took from this book, which was not only a racial one, but at it's root seemed to be a celebration of the relationships and bonds developed among women.

I was particularly moved by the moments in the book shared by Aibileen and little Mae Mobly, her most recent of dozens of children that she's raised sinced birth and refers to lovingly as "her babies". Aside from being heart-wrenchingly tender and sweet, it made me appreciative of all those women who choose to spend their lives caring for children, whether their own, or someone else's, and made me even more appreciative of the wonderful women in my life that have helped to raise my boys. In short, Mamas, you should definitely read this book.

image courtesy of Chronicle Books

Now on to the "little" book ... the Little Pea by Amy Krausen Rosenthal is another family favorite. There are books that Max and Hud absolutely loooove and I will read them repeatedly, silly voices and all, because they love it so much, but only because I love them so much. Little Pea is one of those that I willingly read twice because it's short, sweet and totally adorable.

As I've said, I'm a sucker for illustrations and Jen Corace's work really makes this book. What's not to love about a family of happy little peas? Aside from that, it's clever story line involves a little pea who reluctantly eats all of his candy for dinner so he can finally get to his delicious broccoli for desert- an irony not lost on my little men who giggle giddily every time, like it's the first time they've heard this outrageous claim. If you and the little love it, which I know you will, scoop up Little Oink and Little Hoot, two equally charming collaborations from Ms. Rosenthal and Ms. Corace.

Happy Reading & Happy Monday!

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