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The Face at the Window Hardcover – September 9, 1997
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From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4?A picture book about peer pressure and understanding the handicapped. The setting is Jamaica and all conversation is in dialect that is sometimes heavy. Dora is teased and shamed by two older classmates until she follows their lead. She throws a stone and knocks a mango out of a tree in the yard of a mentally ill woman who sees her through her window. The youngsters scare Dora by telling her that, "Any time Miss Nella show her face at her window, something terrible goin' to happen." The friends believe the woman is a witch who can change children into two-headed chickens and rides a three-legged horse. When heavy rains come, Dora is sure she has caused a disaster. She finally confesses her fears to her parents, and they explain that Miss Nella has a sickness in her mind and that she is feared because, "Some people afraid of what they don't understand." Dora visits Miss Nella with her parents to apologize and decides to befriend her. Saport's illustrations of dark pastels support the mood of fears, voodoo, and threatening weather. Oranges, blues, browns, and greens depict the Caribbean people and landscapes. Hanson's story shows universal emotions in children?change the setting and the dialect and it could happen in any small town or suburb in the U.S.?Betty Teague, Blythe Academy of Languages, Greenville, SC
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Ages 6-8. Although this picture book set in Jamaica has a longer text than most and includes some dialect, many children will relate to the story. Dora is frightened walking to school past Miss Nella's house because the old woman seems to see things that aren't there and has "such strange and scary ways." According to school-yard rumor, she changes children into two-headed chickens. Goaded by her two older companions, Dora joins them in throwing rocks at the mangoes on Miss Nella's tree, but her rock hits the door. When her parents learn how terrified Dora is, they take her to meet Miss Nella and help her understand that their neighbor is mentally ill but will not harm her. Created with pastels, the warm, often dark colors of the impressionistic illustrations help convey the story's narrative and emotional content. Teachers will find this an interesting stepping-stone to discussions of mental illness. Carolyn Phelan