Sunday, November 4, 2012
ON THE ROAD TO MR. MINEO'S
I did what any self-respecting reader would have done. Even though I am in a total spending (especially book buying) moratorium, I immediately headed over to Tattered Cover, found the book on the shelf, and bought it. Then went home, and didn't do laundry, didn't wash the kitchen floor, didn't clean bathrooms, instead, I just sat down and read. I have to tell you, Barbara O'Connor has another hit. HOW TO STEAL A DOG is still my all-time favorite, but this one is really, really good.
MR. MINEO is the story of a one-legged homing pigeon named Sherman. Sherman is supposed to live in a coop with a flock of homing pigeons (Edna, Frankie, Martha, Samson, Leslie, Taylor, Amy Joe, Christopher and Martin) and their owner, Mr. Mineo, and his fat dog, Ernie. When the story opens, however, Sherman has, literally, flown the coop, and is making appearances all around the town of Meadville, South Carolina.
Throughout the book, a variety of different characters try to capture Sherman. Of course, Mr. Mineo wants Sherman to come home. But the adventurous Stella, and her best friend, the much-less adventurous Gerald, are trying to catch the bird. And there's Stella's older brother, and his friends CJ and Jiggs, middle school bullies. And Mutt Raynard, the town liar. Several adults- Amos and Ethel Roper, an elderly couple who fight all the time, and Luther, who owns the Chinese Take Out, and his friend Edsel. And then there's a little brown dog…
The amazing thing about Mr. Mineo is how Barbara O'Connor knits all of these character's lives together. At the beginning of the book, each chapter is about a separate character or group of characters. Gradually, they come closer together, until bingo, you are at the climax, and everyone's lives connect around Sherman. MR. MINEO is a book I read once for plot, then wanted to start all over again, right away, to read to see how in the heck she managed to put the whole thing together. And like I always do with O'Connor's books, I have already marked a few favorite paragraphs/scenes as mentor texts for kids, to teach them about specificity, and dialogue and character development.
Can I just say, too, even though I'm not sure how it fits with my review, that I love using Barbara O'Connor with struggling readers. The content is complex enough for my intermediate grade and middle school readers. But the book is relatively short-- only 181 pages. And the chapters are short. A struggling reader could easily get through a chapter, without forgetting what it's about. And the writing is really clean and rhythmic and easy to read. The sentences are short. It's totally supportive of kids who have not quite got the hang of the reading thing.
I'm really glad I spent money I wasn't supposed to spend on this book. It's a keeper.