Thursday, April 01, 2004

Grammar is a Gentle, Sweet Song -- Erik Orsenna

I don't know where to put this book. It's a good book--clever and witty and intelligent and intellectual and literary. It celebrates words and language and all the things we librarians hold dear. It's marketed as a kids' book because it reads like a fable, but I really don't think it is a kids' book. It takes an appreciation that middle schoolers just won't have. Grown-ups will enjoy it. English majors, librarians, teachers. Middle schoolers, I don't think so.

Two kids, 10 year old Jeanne and 14 year old Thomas are shipwrecked and wash up on a strange, magical island. Words have lives of their own--they have tribes. Nouns and articles are always together, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, all have their own tribes. Occasionally a noun and adjective will marry, but nouns are fickle and will want a new description before the ceremony is even over. Jeanne and Thomas have lost their words because of the violent hurricane that swept them out to sea. They rediscover their voices with the help of the strange island dwellers and magical word-beings.

Translated from the French, there are a couple of words and phrases that made my eyes pop out. In addition to an implied remedy for impotence, there's a store that sells insults. One of the insults is a doozie-- c-u-n-t watcher. Now, I can deal with the "shithead" that follows, but the c-word is pretty big. That's professional insult territory, and I don't think it belongs in a book for kids or middle schoolers. That alone is enough to make me not consider it for Top Shelf. I think the audience is definitely an older reader, one who can appreciate the complexities of language.

Just Finished Reading: Grammar is a Gentle, Sweet Song -- Erik Orsenna
Reading: A Different Kind of Beauty--Sylvia McNicoll
On My Nightstand: Truth About Forever--Sarah Dessen

Previous or Next

No comments:

Blog Archive