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Ginger Pye (Young Classic) Paperback – September 1, 2000
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About the Author
Arthur Howard is the illustrator of Cynthia Rylant's Mr. Putter and Tabby series, as well as two books he has both written and illustrated
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Oh, and the lack of editing is atrocious! For example, while Rachel is sitting at the reservoir watching the boys swim, she reflects back to a time the previous May when she had seen a sparrow trying to retrieve some tissue paper to use in its nest. The author takes three pages to describe this memory in painstaking detail! I had to remind my second-grader that this was just a memory, or flashback, and that it wasn't even happening currently in the story. The flashback went on and on so long that you nearly forgot it wasn't currently a part of the main storyline!
I gave the book two stars instead of one, because it's a mediocre story for a young child. My second-grader is an advanced reader and brought it home. Still, I was concerned that she would just plow through it and read the words but get lost in the meandering story and large vocabulary words. So I started reading it to her. I explained the larger words and sometimes even edited as I read aloud for clarity and conciseness. As a parent, I actually found it rather painful to read aloud. Overall, had it been written today, there is no way this book would have won the Newbery Award. I guess when your competition was the Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys, then maybe it seemed like a good book in its day. Still, I think I've read some old Bobbsey Twins books that were more engaging and better written than this book.
Why? "Because the dog in the title was away for almost all of the book." "Yeah, how can you have a book called Ginger Pye with no Ginger Pye in it?" It is a tale where a small, cute, intelligent puppy is kidnapped at the start, and is absent from the book until the final chapter. It was written in the 50's and has a sort of boring flavor to it. The book meanders... "What's meander mean?" asks Michael. I explain. He says, "It's moving, but it's not getting anywhere." And I think that sums up this book quite nicely.
Better than this book, according to my boys, were... Watership Down, Mrs. Frisby and Rats of NIMH, House at Pooh Corner, The Cricket in Times Square, Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte's Web. All of these, coincidentally, star animals that do not get kidnapped for the duration of their story. Matthew's top 3 were Pooh, NIMH, and Cricket, while Michael liked Watership, NIMH, and Pooh... Michael also recommends The Thief Lord, saying, "It may not have animals in it, but it's great. It's got a lot of mystery to it."
"I think that's about it," says Michael. "We're done," says Matthew.
That very day his tall friend, Sam Doody, offers Jerry a dollar to dust the pews in the church building for him since Sam has to go to town to buy a new suit. With this dollar, Jerry is able to buy the puppy, which the Pyes name Ginger. Ginger is a very smart dog. One day he escapes from the Pyes' yard, tracks Jerry to school, and even climbs the fire escape to find Jerry's classroom. However, for several days, Jerry and Rachel see a mysterious yellow hat following them, around their yard, and in various places where they happen to be. Then on Thanksgiving Day, when Ginger is let out into the fenced in back yard, he disappears. Someone had to steal him. The Pyes and all their friends search for their dog through Christmas, New Year's, Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Easter, and even to Jerry's birthday which is May 29. Will they ever find Ginger Pye?
When I finished the first chapter of this book, I knew that I was going to like it, and it did not disappoint me. Ginger Pye won the John Newbery Medal in 1952 and is the kind of book for which the award was made, as opposed to the pathetic drivel which passes for "award-winning" young people's literature today. It is a pleasant story that any youngster who has ever loved a pet will appreciate. Some people may not care for the way the author sometimes chases "rabbit trails," but to me this just makes the account seem homey and chatty. There is a sequel, Pinky Pie. Additionally, Eleanor Estes has written four books about the Moffats, who also live in Cranbury and are friends of the Pyes. These are The Moffats, The Middle Moffat, Rufus M., the latter two of which won Newbery honors, and The Moffat Museum, as well as a short novel entitled The Hundred Dresses which was also a Newbery Honor book. The Horn Book called Ginger Pye "An outstanding book," and I heartily agree.