WELCOME! Once a month, usually on a Thursday evening, a group of writers, illustrators, teachers and librarians meets in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles to discuss children's books. Usually we talk about one picture book and one middle grade or YA novel. After the meeting, Sandy Schuckett, a retired LAUSD librarian, summarizes our discussion. Here are her reports of our thoughts about the books we have read. We'd love to have your comments too!
Thanks to Nancy Hayashi for our wonderful title art! Our group has been meeting since 2007. It was organized under the auspices of the Children's Literature Council of Southern California (CLCSC).

Thursday, January 19, 2017

THE BEST MAN by Richard Peck and RIFKA TAKES A BOW by Betty Rosenberg Perlov

We had an enjoyable discussion of Richard Peck's The Best Man at our last meeting. The title could be perceived to relate to weddings, which it did, and also to who was literally 'the best man' in 12-year-old Archer's life. Everyone liked at least something about this book, some more than others. A couple of readers thought that the quick run through Archer's life from first grade through fourth in the early chapters was somewhat boring and didn't add much to the story. One person questioned the 'voice' as being too old, but was reminded that 12-year-old Archer was the one telling the story. We all mostly liked the story, and were especially pleased that although one of the plot points dealt with two gay men -- Mr. McLeod, Archer's student-teacher, and his Uncle Paul -- and the acceptance they received in Archer's family and in their community in general were handled in a very matter-of-fact, non-didactic way. We felt it also dealt positively with several other things: children who pick certain adults as their role models; dealing with bullying; a healthy family relationship; the quirks of a boy growing up; the transition from elementary school to middle school; the portrayal and growth of Archer's friend Lynette; and the obvious love between the various family members. . . (and a bit of what we knew as Peck's hatred of computers!) We unanimously agreed that the inclusion of annoying, spoiled, Hilary Calthorpe, the son of a diplomat stationed in Chicago and his upper-class British family were entirely unnecessary, and added nothing to the story except to create an outrageous Halloween costume party and an obvious plot mechanism to get the two men together. A few Richard Peck fans felt that this book didn't match up to the caliber of some of the author's previous work, but we all enjoyed reading it.

We also had a read-aloud of Rifka Takes a Bow by Betty Rosenberg Perlov, which we had wanted to read but couldn't since there were no library copies available. We all loved the story of a little girl whose parents were actors in the Yiddish Theatre in New York in the early 1900s, and how her curiosity landed her on stage in the middle of a play. We learned from the author's notes at the back, who was 93 when the book was published, that this was, in fact, her own story. We were less enamored by the illustrations by Cosei Kawa, which we felt were very elusive, too busy, unrealistic, and didn't fit well with the straightforward text of the story.

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