Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Barshaw, Ruth McNally. 2007. Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel.
Ellie McDoodle is an enjoyable read. Ruth McNally Barshaw has created a memorable heroine in Ellie, Eleanor Marie McDougal. She is twelve years old. She loves to draw. She likes to capture her perception of the world in her journals. She uses both text and drawings to communicate to the reader in a unique voice. This book, Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel, captures a week-in-the-life of Ellie as she faces the dauntingly unpleasant task of a family vacation with an aunt, uncle, and a vanful of cousins...not to mention her baby brother. You see, her parents are going to a funeral...and while Ellie's older brother and sister--both in their mid to late teens--are allowed to stay home, her and her baby brother are going to be in the care of her aunt and uncle...on a camping trip. So if you like camping/outdoor adventures, family dramas full of games, spats, and sarcasm, or books with heroines that use art to 'find' themselves....then Ellie McDoodle may just be for you.
I loved so many things about Ellie McDoodle. I loved that the text is full of both facts--outdoorsy/nature type things--and how tos--instructions for how to play games both indoor and outdoor. But more importantly I love how Ellie's voice is captured. She seems so authentic. So real. Yes, she's emotional. Yes, she can be a bit of a pain. She can be happy one minute, mad the next. But that IS what it is like to be twelve. And Ruth McNally Barshaw really gets the family dynamics...how a girl can hate her family one minute, and love them the next. How irritations and frustrations can rage one minute, but then there is always time to be soothed and rational again. The rest of the characters--family members--do seem one-dimensional, but I believe this is because we're seeing them through Ellie's eyes. This is her story. This is her drama. She doesn't know these people, so of course they're going to be depicted rather shallowly and harshly until she does begin to know them.