HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Protecting Marie
Author: Kevin Henkes
Cover Illustrator: George Smith
Publisher: Greenwillow Books, republished in 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0613002103 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0613002105 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0061288760 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0061288764 (Paperback)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: For ages 10 and up (one sources says 8-12), but I would say at least 13 and up
Rating: ** 2 stars (POOR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Henkes, Kevin. Protecting Marie (published in 1995 by Greenwillow Books, a division of William Morrow and Company Inc.; republished in 1996 by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Books USA Inc., 375 Hundson St., New York City, NY 10014, a division of The Penguin Group). Twelve-year-old Fanny Swann lives in Madison, WI, with her sixty-year-old father, Henry Swann, a university art professor and rather temperamental painter, and her forty-year-old mother, Ellen Cross, a book designer at the University of Wisconsin Press. All her life, Fanny has wanted a dog of her own. For a short while, she had a black puppy named Nellie, but her father couldn’t paint with all the chaos in his neat, ordered home, so he made Fanny give her away. She has never been able to forgive him for that. After refusing at the last minute to come to the sixtieth birthday party that Ellen and Fanny had planned for him, Henry returns with a new, older dog named Dinner. But can Fanny trust him? Should she not get too attached, in case this one is taken from her as well? But how can she keep from falling in love with the perfect dog?
Kevin Henkes has written some cute books for little children, such as A Weekend with Wendell and Owen. However, his books for older readers have a reputation for being somewhat rough and raw. He won a Newbery Honor Award in 2004 for Olive’s Ocean, about a school girl’s reaction to the death of a classmate. I have never read it, but Kathy Davis of Home School Buzz, a homeschool mom did, and she said, “There is no truly spiritual thought-provoking questions posed; no looking towards God for answers, or wonder of what truly lies beyond one’s physical death. Just a lot of general ‘what if’ questions. The content of this book may be too heavy…and the cast of worldly characters, language, and situations did not exactly offer wholesome reading material.” Protecting Marie seems to tend in that same direction. I find it sad that so many modern authors of children’s literature seem to feel that making their books “realistic” and “relevant” requires portraying nearly all families as dysfunctional to some degree.
While it doesn’t prove anything, I did notice that Fanny’s parents have different last names. One “Kid’s Review” noted, “What I don’t like about the book was that it did have some bad language. I wouldn’t recommend it to small children because of the bad words.” Fanny’s mom seems to like to use the “h” word, and Fanny’s dad frequently says the “d” word which Fanny herself uses once as well. Also, the name of God is found often as an interjection, including by kids. There are several references to drinking wine, beer, and champagne, and even Fanny is allowed to drink the latter at a party. Henkes is a talented writer who can create some very sympathetic characters in interesting settings. However, while there is a nice story in here that comes to a relatively happy ending, this book would appeal primarily to those who live according to a purely secularist worldview. In fact, Mr. Swann makes it very plain that he does NOT believe in God. Those who hold to a Biblical worldview might not find it as interesting.