Thursday, July 22, 2010

Middle-Grade Review: William S. and the Great Escape

I’ve been hearing about middle-grade author Zilpha Keatley Snyder – winner of several Newberry Honor awards – for many years but had never had the chance to read any of her books.  My 15-year old son, Jamie, read her novel William S. and the Great Escape on our recent vacation and recommended it, so I gave it a try this week.  It’s a very well written and enjoyable novel.

The title character is 12-year old William who lives with his nine brothers and sisters in a ramshackle house in California during the Depression.  William is a good student who loves acting and Shakespeare, but he’s stuck in the Baggett family (his mother died years ago).  The older Baggetts, including his father, are all loud, lazy, and violent, and William has spent years planning to run away as soon as he is old enough:

Actually, he’d started thinking about running away almost seven years ago.  That was when he’d started going to school and began to learn, among other things, that not everybody behaved like Baggetts.  And not very long after that he began putting every penny he could get his hands on into what he thought of as his Getaway Fund.  Well, not quite every penny.  He did spend a dime, now and then, on a Saturday matinee at the Roxie Theater.  Watching how your favorite movie actors could make you believe they were all those different people was one thing he’d never been able to do without.

When William’s younger sister’s guinea pig, Sweetie Pie, gets flushed down the toilet by some of the older (and meaner) Baggetts, she insists they need to leave right away and bring the two littlest Baggetts with them.  That’s when their adventures begin.

It’s a sweet story, punctuated with mild suspense and humor, that will appeal to a wide range of middle-grade readers.  William and his two little sisters and brother will steal your heart.  You’ll be rooting for them to make their escape and find a better life!

214 pages, Atheneum Books (Simon & Schuster)


1 comment:

Andrea said...

I've heard good things about this book. I'm glad you liked it!