Ms. Yingling's Reviews > The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica  Lawson
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Becky and her family have moved to St. Petersburg, Missouri, to start over following the death of her brother Jon from an undetermined wasting disease. Her father, a judge, is very concerned with the Pritchard brothers, criminals who are terrorizing their area, but also worries that Becky is getting into all sorts of trouble. And she is. Having made a pact with her brother, she is determined to have all of the adventures that Jon can't have, and wears his clothes in order to feel close to him. She starts her new school, where she makes immediate friends with Amy Lawrence and immediate enemies with Tom Sawyer, whom she thinks is a tattle tale. Local boys have a bet to see who can steal something from the local witch, Widow Douglas, and Becky is ready to jump into the fray. There is a very cruel and frustrated teacher in her school, Mr. Dobbins, who was deemed incompetent to be the town dentist, and isn't proving to be very good at teaching either. A young riverboat captain, Sam Clemens, is hanging around town waiting for his boat to be repaired, and he gives Becky some advice on breaking into the Widow Douglas' house. She and Amy concoct a plan, but things get serious when the widow is accused of grave robbing based on circumstantial evidence. After meeting the widow, the girls are even more determined to clear her name, and Becky also hopes that her mother can overcome her grief and start to care about her daughter and her activities.

Strengths: This was a very well-crafted book, with fun lines like a house that looks like "a museum of badly crocheted doilies" (pg. 24). This is a fun spin on Twain's work, bringing new life to old characters and changing things up a bit. The mystery of the Pritchard brothers is a good one, and the inclusion of Twain as a character rounds things out nicely.

Weaknesses: While this is an excellent choice for most libraries, I have two very strong personal objections to it. The first is that we had a teacher several years ago who required an advanced class to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I have never seen students have such a miserable time with a book. My younger daughter was among them, and she had such a hatred for the book that I can't see the original being enjoyed by too many middle grade students. The second is the way that Jon's death is dealt with by the characters. I understand that Ms. Lawson's brother-in-law, Jon, died before she started to write this book, and certainly the death of a parent and spouse is the most devastating to deal with, but I wanted to shake Becky's mother. It is not acceptable for a parent to spend so much time grieving over a dead child that a surviving child is ignored. Becky, too, spent entirely too much time pining for her brother, and this does not seem to be historically accurate. In 1860, death of young people for various reasons would have been much more commonplace. Also, it got kind of weird when Becky was completely okay with the death of a kitten, so much so that she intended to use the body for one of her exploits and even told Amy to just pick any maggots that formed off of the body.

People die. The survivors need to come to terms with it and move on. Becky clearly was crying for help, and the fact that her mother was ignoring her is not a constructive coping mechanism middle grade students need to see in literature.
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Reading Progress

February 26, 2014 – Shelved
February 26, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
July 10, 2014 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Joan (new)

Joan Remember back then boys were valued more than girls. If it was the only boy, the family has just died out. I'm not excusing her behavior, just mentioning something that might rationalize some of it. Remember this is also the era of Queen Victoria of England who wore mourning for the rest of her life for her husband.

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