Thursday, December 4, 2008

Little Klein

Ylvisaker, Anne. 2008. Little Klein. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.

Little Klein is a slow, peaceful trip through rural America, circa 1949. Little Klein is the youngest and smallest of three brothers. Considered frail by his sturdy and practical mother, he is looked after (but never down upon) by his rough-and-tumble brothers (the Bigs). In this simple, dirt road town, Little Klein is the only one too frail to go barefoot in the summer. The addition of the stray dog, LeRoy, to the Klein family, adds joy and purpose to the Kleins' lives and Leroy's.

Written in what author Kirby Larson describes as "gossip-over-the-back-fence style," Little Klein meanders easily through the thoughts of the Kleins and their dog. The easy-going style makes the reader wistful for times he never knew,

"As the grown-ups went inside for iced tea, Little Klein, with LeRoy on his heels, raced to the garage for a trowel. He dug a hole in the discussed spot before Mother Klein could change her mind. He slipped into the kitchen, grabbed three forks, and stuck them in the ground around the hole, then tied string around the forks, marking the territory. He made a label, CORN, and sat waiting for his brothers, LeRoy at his side."

Of course, there is danger and adventure in the lives of all little boys, and Little Klein is no exception, but this is not an edge-of-your-seat adventure, but rather, the adventure of a bygone summer in a bygone era.

"Where were his boys? LeRoy tried to go to sleep, but the air was so empty of boy smell. He sniffed at the garbage can, but it was no good. He needed his boys. LeRoy rose up on his sturdy legs and picked his way to the alley and slouched slowly out of town."

There is no monumental historical message in this book, just simple and timeless themes - love between a boy and his dog (or in this case, between a dog and his boys, both the Bigs and the Little), the bonds of family, and the realization that in times of great need, we are all possible of performing great deeds.

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