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Descripción de editorial
"It's not as if grown-ups will let you be average if you're youngest. If you're not fat, they call you Skinny or Bones. If you're not skinny, they call you Hippo or Tubby."
Henry and Gretchen are the youngest children in two Iowa farm families. Being youngest, they get left out, blamed, ignored, and picked on all the time. At least that's how, being youngest, they tend to see it.
In a summer filled with change, Henry and Gretchen swap stories, become friends, fight with their older brothers and sister, and get to know the odd old couple down the road. Between the old fan's habit of plucking nails out of the ground and the old woman's weird "children" who are kept locked in a room upstairs, they are strange enough. But are they just strange, or could the old folks actually be dangerous?
Jim Heynen's story of one farm summer has fun, humor, some scary moments, and many wonderful insights into what being youngest means.
"Before Henry and Gretchen went their separate ways, they didn't compare the stories they were going to tell at home. They did agree they'd tell something--but not all. They both had learned to hide the best part. They knew that to keep a secret you had to hide it down a blind alley of stories that are only part of what happened. You didn't want to pretend that nothing happened. Too much silence was like honey to a hungry bear, and grown-ups were bound to start pawing around in it. It was best to throw them a few scraps of the truth to keep them away from the real honey of what you did."
Lyrical writing and an original premise spin this novel of friendship to a funky rural stratosphere all its own. Henry and Gretchen are two country kids in Iowa. Both are youngest in their families, misunderstood and as lonely as it is possible to be. When they find each other, they believe it's like a miracle: "They were telling each other something, a little signal flashing between them." One day, they decide to ride their bikes down the driveway of an old couple whom everyone suspects is crazy. There they find adventure and escape from their dreary home lives--but are the old woman and man really as sweet as they seem? Treading the edge of fantasy, the novel (a hybrid with elements of Hansel and Gretel and The Wizard of Oz) swirls with fat lemon meringue pies, geese in the attic and six-legged lambs, a pair of false teeth and a really big tornado. But it never strays from its overall theme of the amazing grace of finding a friend who understands you. Heynen (One Room Schoolhouse) has a consistent and clever ear for dialogue (as in this typical non sequitur exchange between Henry and Gretchen: "This old lady, she's my grandma, she lives in the basement and is supposed to cook for us and stuff. She's mean. I don't like her much. Talk about the pits, Granny's the pits." "I never knew nobody with a dead mother before.") This polished yet quirky novel may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a challenging and ultimately satisfying read. Ages 10-up.