Keeper by Kathi Appelt - book review

Publisher’s Synopsis: To ten-year-old Keeper, this moon is her chance to fix all that has gone wrong…and so much has gone wrong. But she knows who can make things right again: Meggie Marie, her mermaid mother who swam away when Keeper was just three. A blue moon calls the mermaids to gather at the sandbar, and that’s exactly where she is headed — in a small boat, in the middle of the night, with only her dog, BD (Best Dog), and a seagull named Captain.
When the riptide pulls at the boat, tugging her away from the shore and deep into the rough waters of the Gulf of Mexico, panic sets in, and the fairy tales that lured her out there go tumbling into the waves. Maybe the blue moon isn’t magic and maybe the sandbar won’t sparkle with mermaids and maybe — Oh, no…”Maybe” is just too difficult to bear. Kathi Appelt follows up to her New York Times bestseller, The Underneath, with a tale that will pull right at your very core — stronger than moon currents — capturing the crash and echo of the waves and the dark magic of the ocean.

So many wonderful and interesting things are happening in Keeper by Kathi Appelt, I’m not sure where to begin…

On genre mixing: In my reading world outside of children’s literature, I LOVE magical realism. If I had to choose only one genre for the rest of my life (blasphemy!), magical realism would be it. Yet, children’s literature doesn’t seem as willing to blur the lines between genres. Perhaps children’s authors think their young audience too immature to handle the fuzziness. I’m sure glad Kathi Applet doesn’t feel that way. Keeper is great title for discussing genre traits.

On the theme of love and family: Another thing I adored about Keeper was the nontraditional love story & family themes. I suppose it will end up on some banned book list for Mr. Beauchamp’s boyhood hand holding, which is horrible because the theme of love couldn’t be any sweeter than waiting on your first love to return. And Keeper’s family story, an abandoned baby, a runaway girl and a war-ravaged man of a different race, makes me want to pull out a large sheet of paper to discuss what makes a family with a room full of students!

Allusions to Mr. Carroll, salty sea tales & mermaid mythology:  If you really want to get crazy pull out that old college copy of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock as the epigraph begins there! But there are also allusions to Alice in Wonderland (nonsense verse) and all sorts of mermaid lore to find.

On non-linear storytelling: Keeper is a great book to use when examining point of view, sequencing and character traits. Each character is well developed and has his/her own point of view narration. The individual glimpses into the past would form an interesting sequence map wheel.

On writing for children: There are good writers with good stories and there are stories that hold children's brief attention whether they conjure grand thoughts or lofty ideals. Kathi Appelt is a good writer with a beautiful story. In Keeper, she mixes genres, points of view and lyrical styling to create another nomination worthy title. However, to most ten-year-old readers, the story must advance at a fast pace to match their limited cognitive focus. Thus, the quiet beauty of Keeper may limit some students when choosing Keeper as an independent read. I’m afraid this is one of those titles that adults like to tell kids to love, but that most (see that qualifier there!) children will find tedious.

Recommended for class read-aloud & discussion and for the advanced reader who likes magically realistic stories of nontraditional families.
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Genre: Magical Realism
Age: 9 -12
Pages: 416
Themes: Non-traditional Families, Love, Friendship
Thank You to Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing for my advanced copy 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: May 2010
ISBN: 978-1416950608

Great Reading Group Guide: HERE!

Take a peek at the story: HERE!

Here's the book trailer:

Ms. Appelt snagged three heavy-duty award nods for her novel The Underneath, though I must admit to not having read it yet. You can learn more about her on the Simon & Schuster site or on her website.

Although I didn't mention them, the illustrations add to the quiet beauty of this story. The artist is August Hall. You can read more about him HERE.
© 2007-2010 Cheryl Vanatti for
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