Having spent nearly a decade now as a librarian, I have been confounded by the two Fleischman authors sitting side by side on my fiction shelves, Paul (son) and Sid (father). Although I am constantly recommending both, I often get the two mixed up. It's awkward to point out their dual spot and not know whether to say, "He's the guy who wrote The Whipping Boy," or "Remember that poetry book about bugs I booktalked in January? That's him!"
So I decided to answer the question once and for all. I checked out a whole passel of books by each from our fantastically stocked public library and am working my way slowly through them.
Paul Fleischman's prose is lush and nobbly. I don't think it would be possible to read the book aloud without being, or at least affecting the voice of, an elderly white-haired man. He has a great knack for clever imagery and metaphor: "A vast sickle of wind swept through the air, mowing down the crop of smoke rising from the chimney tops and attempting to harvest the long-limbed, stalklike figure of Mr. Snype himself." Tasty. The black-and-white illustrations complement the stories well.
I dislike plot summaries or spoilers in my reviews, but I'll just say that these four stories are all set in the same (fictional?) town, set at the turn of the 19th century, and tie together nicely. I'll be interested to see if he uses the town again in any of his other books. They are morality tales about honesty, and have a nice dark quality I imagine many of my older readers will enjoy in a few years. Sadly, as it seems is the case with most of P. Fleischman's other novels, I think it's too advanced for most elementary students. A quick read, this was an effective diversion from my sniffles and stuffy head.
Personages: 7 - characters are not well developed, as these are short stories, but pack a punch
Labels: middle grade, teen