Thursday, May 20, 2010

ARC Review by Shellie: Keeper by Kathi Appelt

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Mini Synopsys:   This is a children’s and pre-teen book where the main character is Keeper. She is an almost ten year old girl who lives on the beach by the gulf of Mexico in Texas. There are a menagerie of animals in her life - two dogs, a cat, and a seagull, but what is special is that she can hear them talk.

She is well loved and cared for by Signe, her mom by default, their friend Dogie (a healing war veteran turned local surf board rental guy), and an old Russian sailor named Mr. Beauchamp. Keeper is like many young girls of that age, still believing in the magical, which includes ghosts and “merfolk”.

One particularly bad day she gets herself into very hot water, or should I say ocean water, in an attempt to find her “real mother” whom she believes to be a mermaid. We can only imagine what can happen here, as myth and folklore are combined and fantasy seamlessly blends into reality in this sweet and heart wrenching tale.

My Thoughts:   I loved this little book because it is a wonderful introduction to multicultural mermaid lore for a youngster (and in my case, adult). The author includes “merfolk” from different cultures within the story including characters whom are multicultural as well; their ethnicity is not completely defined. Because of these elements and more I believe Keeper will be an excellent teaching tool. It can be used as a spin-off for lessons on water safety, myth/fairytales/folklore and their definitions and differences, some science based lessons on geology and marine biology, as well as the defining of reality and make believe. All are important concepts in a growing mind, and if I remember correctly are included in many state curriculums.

Examining things further with the theme of adult “joint or supervised read”, the book has a number of time shifts where the author goes back and forth between the present and the past giving the story a complexity which some younger readers may struggle with, if not explained by or discussed with an adult. The story also includes  issues around abandonment, as well as the importance of creating family ritual, which a younger reader may not completely understand unless they are discussed. These all can be very good things if the book is moderated.

In addition the book contains illustrations which are simple that will interest a younger reader transitioning into more wordy books. The author also has a way of creating simple yet very deep and meaningful language which cuts to one’s heart and which is lovely for both children and adults. I think that the most special aspect of the story is that it contains several wonderful and key GLBT characters. Lastly, the ending is the type which I prefer, not completely that of a fairytale but with a slight tweak making one think, feel, and remember.

Highly recommended reading for adults who like myth and folklore mixed with realism, and for those who read to and teach children. As for children I would say all but a few will love it. I am rating this a 4 stars. I imagine that this story will be nominated for a variety or children’s book award.

I feel very fortunate to have received this copy of this special book. I believe it has only just been published so should be available for purchase now. For more information on the book, the author, as well as purchasing links see Layers of Thought's preview for Keeper.

This book will be included in a variety of challenges - New Author Challenge, The Speculative Fiction Challenge, The Basics Challenge, The GLBT Challenge, and The Once Upon a Time Challenge.

Thanks for reading Layers of Thought!

6 comments:

Blodeuedd said...

Sounds like a nice book, great review.

Shellie - Layers of Thought said...

Thanks Blodeuedd -
I was beginning to think I would get no responses on this book review. :)

Simcha said...

This sounds like a wonderful children's book. Thanks for the review. I think I'm going to see if I can get a hold of this one.

Shellie - Layers of Thought said...

Simcha -

I think you will enjoy it and will be curious as to what you do think.

Now this copy was tough since it was an ARC. I am thinking I will have to check out the finished version to see the changes they've made.

You know I am curious about your access to books over in Israel?
How are your book stores? do you have to have most stuff shipped to you?
Cheers!

Simcha said...

The English selection in most bookstore is pretty limited and usually it takes a while for new books to be available here. There are plenty of second hand English bookstores but, again, it's mostly older books that are available there. My in-laws are usually willing to buy us children's books which they bring with them when they visit or they send with someone else that is coming to Israel. I often order books for myself from The Book Depository or if I know of someone coming from the US, I will have them bring me books. I never fully appreciated American libraries until I came to Israel. Now the idea of a building full of free books in English sounds just like heaven to me.

Shellie - Layers of Thought said...

Thanks Simcha -
I have a bunch of friends/readers via the blog and many don't live in the US so I wonder where they get their books..

Blodeuedd as well from Finland who commented on this post.

We are very spoiled here in the US. I do believe most of us take so many things for granted to the point of thinking many privileges are an actual right.

:)

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