2 out of 4 stars
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Grandmother Fran’s Accidental Arsonist by Carol Moxham Boot is a children’s chapter book about the Plum family. Del, the father, and Betty, the mother, have been fighting recently, and their children, Mitchell and Maeda, have begun to notice. Grandma Fran agrees to keep the kids at her house for a little while until things at home calm down, but Mitchell is also experiencing issues at school, where he and his classmates face bullying.
This book covers a variety of lessons that would be appropriate for the target audience. The author includes information about racism, family troubles, and other issues that children may face. I appreciated that the author covered these topics in original ways, like when she talked about the contributions of Native Americans being erased from history. However, it often felt like the book’s plot was interrupted so that the author could insert a lesson. Then the story would pick back up after the lesson was over. I would have preferred that the lessons be incorporated naturally as the story progressed and that they be taught by characters within the story rather than by the narrator.
Another issue that interrupted the flow of the plot was the author’s writing style. She writes using strings of sentence fragments. For example, the paragraph that introduces Mitchell’s friend Simon begins with, “And Simon, who was over the top polite, especially when there were any girls around. A little bit more on the quiet side, like Mitchell. But beyond brilliant, at anything scientific or historical.” (Page 23). Although sentence fragments can be used effectively to add emphasis to a phrase, they were overused in this book and made the story feel choppy. I also found a variety of errors in the book that made me believe it was not professionally edited. Finally, there were random instances of the author using first-person narration even though the narrator was never identified as a character within the story.
Overall, I would rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. It contains an interesting story with valuable lessons, but the way in which that story is told forced me to remove two stars. The plot doesn’t flow because it is constantly interrupted by sentence fragments and inserted lessons.
I would recommend this book for children ages seven to nine. It contains an original story with events and lessons that are applicable to many children’s lives today, but it could use a professional editor to fix the errors and help the author create a more cohesive narrative.
Grandmother Fran's Accidental Arsonist
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