Ciara's Reviews > Cécile's Gift

Cécile's Gift by Denise Lewis Patrick
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's review
Jan 29, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: american-girl, kids-books, read-in-2012

boy, am i ever relieved that this is the last book in this series. i am not wild about these characters.

this one is all about how some folks in new orleans decided to organize a benefit for the local orphanages, which are housing more children than ever since the yellow fever epidemic. everyone is excited & wants to contribute. mme oceane has been invited to sing a song & cecile suggests that marie-grace sing a duet with mme oceane, as marie-grace has such a pretty voice. armand wants to paint backdrops, mrs. rey is going to contribute some pies or something, & of course cecile wants to help out as well. but how? a children's choir is performing, but cecile is pretty self-aware about the fact that she doesn't have a great voice. all she really wants to do is a recitation. she loves to recite.

um. i know it was a different time & everything, maybe recitations by nine-year-olds were the height of world-class entertainment in 1853, but this sounds totally, totally boring to me.

cecile works with someone down at the theatre to choose the perfect recitation. she wants to read something that will really speak to the children in the orphanages--something that captures the fear they felt losing their parents, but also the hope they have for the future. she finds a poem about a thunderstorm & thinks it checks all the boxes. she works her ass off memorizing it & learning how to recite it with just the right emotion. then she screens it for an audience of one: a little girl who is temporarily staying at the orphanage after her brother (her only family) collapsed in the street from yellow fever. (incidentally, i really wonder how realistic it is for people to be repeatedly described as just keeling the fuck over one day from the fever, while they're out living their every day lives. if i wake up one day with even a whisper of a sniffle, i dive right back into bed & stay there until i feel 100% better. you won't catch me keeling over with yellow fever in the cracker aisle at the local grocery store!) the little girl does not get the thunderstorm poem. cecile is crushed.

marie-grace suggests that cecile write her own poem. because if there's one thing that's even worse than listening to a ten-year-old recite some abstract poem about a thunderstorm, it's listening to a ten-year-old recite a poem she wrote herself. that cloud of dust you see is me booking it for the nearest exit.

cecile is non-plussed. she thinks her talent is in recitation (HOW IS THAT A TALENT?), not writing. but she gives it a whirl & is surprised when the words start flowing. she has no trouble writing a lovely (to her) poem that perfectly captures her assumptions about how the orphans must feel. because this entire series of books is basically about how a couple of privileged, relatively spoiled little girls save the less-fortunate with their amazing powers of empathy. *puke*

the book even includes cecile's poem in full. it's not good. i know it was written by the author of the book & not cecile, & maybe she made it purposefully kind of rotten so it would seem more like a young girl wrote it, but...suffice to say, not everyone can or should write poetry. cecile decides that her gift is her ability to put the orphans' feelings into words. because god forbid that poor children be allowed to speak for themselves, amirite?
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 19, 2012 – Finished Reading
January 29, 2012 – Shelved
January 29, 2012 – Shelved as: american-girl
January 29, 2012 – Shelved as: kids-books
January 29, 2012 – Shelved as: read-in-2012

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