Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tween Tuesday (20) - Keeper by Kathi Appelt

Keeper by Kathi Appelt

Tween Tuesday is a weekly meme created by GreenBeanTeenQueen, one of my favorite blogs. Surprise, surprise - it features books aimed at Tweens.


Keeper is a breathtaking, magical novel from National Book Award finalist and Newbery Honoree Kathi Appelt.

To ten-year-old Keeper the moon is her chance to fix all that has gone wrong ... and so much has gone wrong.

But she knows who can make things right again: Maggie Marie, her mermaid mother, who swam away when Keeper was just three. A blue moon calls the mermaids to gather at the sandbar, and that's exactly where Keeper is headed - in a small boat. In the middle of the night, with only her dog, BD (Best Dog), and seagull named Captain. When the riptide pulls at the boat, tugging her away from the shore and deep into the rough waters of the Gulf of mexico, panic sets in and the fairy tales that lured her out there go tumbling into the waves. Maybe the blue moon won't sparkle with mermaids and maybe - Oh, no ... "Maybe" is just to difficult to bear. (courtesy of Goodreads)


I'm not sure what I think about Keeper. The prose is incredibly lyrical, practically poetry. The short sentences made for a fast read. It would be wonderful read out loud. It is told from alternating perspectives of all the characters: Keeper, her aunt Signe, her neighbors Mr. Beauchamp and Dogie, two dogs (BD and Too), a cat (Sinbad), and a seagull (Captain). Appelt does a great job getting in the heads of each character. I particularly liked the animals, even though they felt a bit juvenile. While the reader could hear their thoughts, they still seemed like animals - their thoughts fit those of a dog, cat, or seagull (for the most part, at least). We read about the adults' problems. Dogie is haunted by his time in the war (I'm not sure which one - Vietnam?). Signe is haunted by the burden of raising Keeper and the disappearance of Meggie Marie (Keeper's mother).

Keeper is convinced that her mother Meggie Marie is a mermaid. She's also convinced that crabs can talk. That's what sets off this whole bad day. Dogie brought in crabs for Signe to cook in her famous Blue Moon Gumbo. Keeper is convinced that the crabs called out to her for help, so she sets them free. The day just goes downhill from there - everyone suffers from Keeper's mistakes. Eventually, Keeper escapes in the middle of the night in Dogie's boat rowing over the dangerous waters to the sandbar where she believes her mother, the mermaid, will help her.

As a character, Keeper frustrates me. She is a sweet girl, obviously much loved by the adults around her. She works in Dogie's surf shop polishing to boards, so is at least somewhat responsible. Yet she is convinced that mermaids are real and that her mother is one - so much so that she risks her life to go find Meggie Marie. I just don't know if I believe that a 10 year old could be so immature. Maybe I don't know kids well enough, but that fervent a belief seems more fitting with 6 or 7 year olds, if that.

This book will appeal to kids who like the fanciful writing style of fairy tales. I'm not sure that it actually is a fairy tale, but that's what the writing reminds me of. However, I think the complexity and tone of the story will turn a lot of readers off. Many of the issues in this book seem too mature for most younger readers (early-to-mid-elementary) to understand. And while they might like the rhythm of the story if read aloud to them, I don't know if the plot will hook them. Older readers (middle school/late elementary) will understand and be more interested in the adult plotlines, I think the childish tone of the prose might push them away.

The book has a few illustrations (by August Hall). These are gorgeous and really add to the book's character.

Overall, I feel this book is one that would appeal to the Newbery Committee and adults who enjoy children's novels, but maybe not to kids.

Rating: 3 / 5


  1. Interesting review! I agree about those Newbery books often appealing to adults more than kids. I've got this one for a tour coming up!:)

  2. I have this one on my shelf and need to get it read. It's been hard to jump into because I loved The Underneath so much that I just don't think Kathi Appelt could top it!
    And, no Clementine is not an Type A overachiever--more of a Ramona type kid. She'd wonderful!

  3. I have this one but haven't read it yet. I couldn't resist it. Thanks for the honest review!


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