by Lois Lowry
illustrated by Middy Thomas
Gooney Bird Greene arrives from China and starts attending Watertower Elementary School, a month into the school year.
"I like to be right smack in the middle of everything", she declares. And she seems to get her way.
Gooney Bird is set up to appear interesting because she is different in some way - by the clothes she wears or how she does her red hair, and by how she carries herself with confidence and poise.
What interested me in this book is how Ms. Lowry educates us on the various aspects of story-telling through Gooney Bird's spunky and imaginative narration of episodes from her own life. Chapters 2 through 6 relate the various stories that the class shares, peppered with tidbits about story-telling.
Gooney Bird's amazing ability to spin a yarn, which turns out to be a true story ("I only tell absolutely true stores,"), provides valuable kid-size introduction to story-telling. Like How Gooney Bird Came From China On A Flying Carpet. The title suggests it to be a wild, made-up story, but, turns out Gooney Bird went flying out of the back of her car (by accident, of course) while rolled up in a carpet when her family was moving from China.
"Listen for the word suddenly," Gooney Bird advised."I put one in the story already, but I like to sprinkle in several. Some other suddenlys will be coming soon."
"Working title", "authorial intrusion", "dialogue", "characters"... lots to learn about when telling a story, and this book taught Ana quite a few techniques in a writer's arsenal.
Gooney Bird appears precocious yet polite, seeking the limelight most of the time, even if not with a heightened sense of self-importance, in this book. She is outgoing and self-confident which I have never been and for this I admire her.
Ana did not identify much with Gooney Bird, being the please-let-me-be-invisible type. She liked the dynamics of the classroom, but, noticed how other kids seem to be playing second fiddle to Gooney Bird.
She wondered why Gooney Bird seems to co-teach the class with Mrs. Pidgeon, and why she gets to act so bossy and why Gooney Bird's authoritative story-telling should be more interesting than what others have to say, like the quiet Felicia Ann's for example or, the hand-waving question-machine Barry's.
Not sure if we'll be reading more Gooney Bird Greene soon, but, certainly glad we got to read this one as it is a treat. And it appears Ms. Lowry planned it that way, making each Gooney Bird book a teaching device covering a whole school year. [as related here]
[image source: barnesandnoble.com]