Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kids' Summer Reading Reviews - "Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains"

Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains - Laurel Snyder
2nd-4th grade reading level
3 out of 5 stars

Lucy is a common milkmaid with an independent, firey temper. She also happens to be best friends with the prince, who is a bit of a weak-willed pushover. When the king decides it's time for the prince to find a suitable princess (hello?! He's only 12!), spending time with the very unsuitable Lucy is replaced with ruby-polishing and law-memorizing. Lucy suddenly feels angry and alone. She wishes she could talk to her mother about this, but she has been "gone" since Lucy was a tot. Father won't talk about her mother; neighbors sadly shake their heads and say little. In hopes that her mother might still be alive, Lucy goes up the mountain her mother came from to search for her. She doesn't find her mother there, but instead discovers the importance of true friendship amidst a crazy little town that is full of rules (rule-breaking is Lucy's specialty). In the end, we discover that her mother is in fact dead (completely burned up in a lightning strike, not even a gravestone to remember her by) and that the king is willing to bend the laws - justified as a "loophole" - so Lucy and the prince can get married (did I mention they're only 12?!).

OK, this was a fanciful, fun read, but the themes of "rule-bending" and rebellion that goes uncorrected raise a few flags for me. Both Lucy's and the prince's fathers are disconnected from their children's hearts, leaving them the desire to fend for themselves. Finding a spouse at such a young age is just foolishness. The story would've held together without the princess-hunting; the theme of friendship and loyalty are already there and could stand on their own. This is the author's first book - and it felt like a first book while reading it. The plot moves quickly, but the writing is not compelling. It's not bad, just not great. There are a lot of good points to discuss with my kids after reading this - especially how Lucy and the prince would've saved themselves a lot of grief and suffering if they had just talked about what was on their hearts with their fathers in the first place. How rules protect us, and when/if it is ok to go against those rules. I'm not a fan of books that portray overly-independent, rebellious children and disfunctional families, even if it does end "happily ever after."

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