Egg & Spoon
If Gantos and Preus are in the running for using the fewest words possible to excellent effect, nobody filled in Gregory Maguire on that contest. However, for the right reader, his EGG & SPOON dishes out delectable word after word after word after word after word, for a classic-feeling adventure/fairytale/coming-of-age story as fancy as the Faberge egg at its center.
I wrote the starred Horn Book review for this title, so I won’t repeat myself here, but will pick out that one major criticism that I think is undeniable: the “paternalist intrusive narrator.” Maguire writes himself into a corner on this…but I think it’s a corner he could have escaped, he just didn’t want to. I appreciate the elaborate narrative that he’s constructed by using a minor adult character, who enters the action quite late in the story, as the narrator. The first page and first chapter that he constructs for the narrator’s introduction of himself are masterful: intrigue, excitement, setting and mood and voice unscroll magnificently before our eyes with each word he lays down. Towards the end of the story however, this voice becomes more obviously the author’s own, commenting too heavily on all the metaphors about childhood and blah blah blah that we already noticed. And the last line. Ugh.
However…this title is still easily in my top 10. A crucial consideration for me is audience. Despite the publisher’s and most reviewers insistence that this is a book for 12 and up, I (and many Goodreads reviewers) feel strongly the ideal audience is 10-11, and I can see it going younger for those strong young readers. There are two emotional threads going on this this book: one is thoroughly adult, and one is thoroughly pre-adolescent. I don’t see much appeal in the narrative for true teenagers at all. And my hope is that the younger readers may just not notice the adult interference that rankles me. There’s plenty else going on.
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About Nina Lindsay
Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at email@example.com
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