Homer Price, by Robert McCloskey, c. 1943, 160 p., middle-grade fiction
I don't usually review books that are 70 years old, but as I was comparing my own book to it, I realized that few kids today may know about Homer. A check of the library records for our county confirm that, while the book is available in most of the branches, it only goes out about once a year. And that's a shame, because not only are the stories delightful and fun (as well as slightly absurd. . . if you have read The Ninja Librarian, you see where I'm coming from. . . ) but they are illustrated in the same style as his classic picture books (Make Way for Ducklings, One Morning in Maine, etc.), which means they are worthwhile just for the pictures.
Each of the six chapters is a free-standing story of some event in the life of Homer Price and his little town of Centerburg. In the first, Homer deals with a foursome of robbers by a creative trick and with a little help from his friends. As in each successive chapter, the set-up is engaging, and the story ends with a twist that shows some real creative problem-solving on Homer's part.
[I hadn't read the book for years until I picked it up last month, looking for something soothing. I was surprised to find the degree to which McCloskey's approach paralleled my own in the NL. Clearly early childhood influences are strong!]
In each story, underlying the elements of silliness and adventure that appeal to the children, there is a certain amount of social commentary that can appeal to the adult reader, particularly with reference to modern "progress." If only McCloskey had known!
The six chapters are:
The Case of the Sensational Scent
The Case of the Cosmic Comic
Nothing New Under the Sun (Hardly)
Wheels of Progress
If you or your children haven't read this, get a copy now! While you're at it, pick up the sequel, Centerburg Tales.
Five stars. I can't think what I'd improve.