Friday, July 5, 2013

Review Me Twice - Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

I think I've mentioned this week that I read this book when I was a kid.  And you get a very different perception of it as a kid (IE. There's a puppy.  And you want Marty to keep the puppy.)

As an adult, I realize the reasons this won a Newbery Award.  It manages to teach kids good lessons without being overly condescending.  Marty is a fleshed out, real kid with all sorts of idiosyncrasies.  He's CONSTANTLY rationalizing stuff to himself to make himself feel less guilty.  He also problem solves his way out of his problems.

There's a lot of stuff that's some tough material for kids.  There's blackmail in this book and the entire book is, basically, about Marty wanting to keep a dog that's being beaten.  There's poverty and this sense of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the community, everyone turning a blind eye if it doesn't have to do with them.

I like that, while the ending is happy, it's not unrealistic.  Judd is still kind of really a jerk.  However, we start to see that, maybe, he's not a jerk all the time.  Maybe he might actually be an ok guy sometimes.

It's a really great book for kids and doesn't treat them like delicate flowers (which I'm always in favor of.)

My Bottom Line 4 out of 5

I avoided this book for a long time. I was never asked to read it in school, I skirted around it when it was on lists like the library's Summer Reading Program or the Accelerated Reader options, and I never received it as a gift as a child. Why? There's a kid and a dog on the cover, and that usually means sadness. And as much as I love a sad story, I don't when it involves an animal. I'm one of those people who loves my cat more than I love most people.

But it wasn't that bad. It is a children's book, after all; the animal abuse is discussed, not described.

Beyond that, I like Marty. Not in the sense that I would be friends with him in real life, but that he's a well-fleshed-out character. And the setting is great, too. I don't live in the country myself, but I have close ties to it, and there is one paragraph early in the book that describes southern culture perfectly: Marty's dad has to talk to Judd (Shiloh's owner) about the dog, but in the south, you don't just drive up and start talking about what you're there to talk about. You have to discuss the weather, the price of cattle, your families, whatever, for 10 minutes, and then you can broach the topic at hand. I've seen this in practice all my life, and Naylor perfectly summarized it.

I didn't love the book and I have no nostalgic attachment to it, but it wasn't bad.

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