4 out of 4 stars
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Peach Fuzz by Jose Potter is a fascinating Spanglish children’s book that is equal parts entertaining and educative. The story follows Pilip, a 12-year-old boy who is tired of working a meaningless job at a gold mining business owned by the dreadful Mr. Sweeney. Mr. Sweeney’s sister, Ms. Sweeny, is an equally obnoxious woman who runs a peach farm. Having been shown kindness by an older boy who used to work at the mine, Pilip decides to pay it forward by taking the new boy, Eugene, under his wing and showing him the ropes. A theft at Ms. Sweeney’s peach farm has far-reaching consequences, with Pilip caught right in the middle. Does Pilip have what it takes to solve the mystery of the theft? Will Mr. and Ms. Sweeny pay for their devious ways? Also, what’s the deal with the talking mouse?
The themes of friendship, kind consideration, determination, and learning were highpoints for me in this book. Pilip was never too embarrassed to admit to his ignorance of some of the things Eugene spoke about – despite Eugene being significantly younger. Eugene was a patient teacher, and Pilip was a dutiful pupil. I think that the way Potter portrayed Pilip and Eugene’s interaction makes it so any kid reading the book, understands that learning can be fun, and knowledge can be gained from where you least expect.
I also appreciate how the author subtly inserted bits of useful facts and values meant to educate the reader throughout the story. Things to be learned include interesting new words and their meaning - i.e. Lackadaisical; the four seasons of the year, how to solve a simple math problem, how to be imaginative, how to be considerate of others, the simple acts of kindness and generosity, just to name a few. I was impressed to see that the Millennium Prize Problems was mentioned, including the only problem that has been solved till date by the Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman.
However, there were a few minor issues with the book. First, the illustrations looked a lot like a child’s drawings. It is possible that this was the author’s intention, seeing as it is a children’s book. Nevertheless, at least on one occasion, what the illustration was supposed to represent was unclear. Also, in the scene where the talking mouse was first introduced, it spoke Spanish - which was not translated for the reader. I could pick up on some of the things the mouse was saying, but for the most part, I was in the dark.
The issues aside, the story flowed well, and the characters were unique, well-developed, and memorable. The plot went a little off track on more than one occasion, but not enough to detract from the overall quality of the story. The book appeared professionally edited with very little grammatical errors. I would recommend this book to elementary school kids, and I have no doubt in my mind that they will come away from the experience feeling enlightened and entertained. I rate Peach Fuzz 4 out of 4 stars.
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