HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Author: Robert Burch
Illustrator: Don Sibley
Publisher: University of Georgia Press, republished in 1990
ISBN-13: 978-0670649990 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0670649996 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 9780820312231 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0820312231 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(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: Ages 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Burch, Robert. Skinny (published in 1964 by The Viking Press Inc., 625 Madison Ave., New York City, NY 10022). Skinny is an eleven-year-old boy, “going on twelve,” who lives in a small town in rural Georgia, probably sometime during the 1950s. His mother died so long ago he can barely remember her. Then his father passed away recently, so he’s an orphan. Right now, there’s not enough room at the orphanage for him, so he’s been staying and working at the hotel owned by Miss Bessie. Even though he’d gone to school two or three weeks every year, he never learned how to read and write because there was always cotton to pick so his pa pulled him out, and besides Pa didn’t believe much in education anyway. If Miss Bessie were married, the county people might let her adopt Skinny, so he hopes some kind of arrangements can be made to enable him to stay with her instead of being sent to the orphans’ home.
Skinny enjoys doing chores at the hotel and spending time with Miss Bessie; Roman, a former member of the chain gang whom Miss Bessie rescued to work for her; Peachy, the cook; R.F.D, his rat terrier; and the hotel guests, especially Frank J. “Daddy” Rabbit, one of the bridge construction crew who becomes fond of Miss Bessie and talks about marriage. Also, Skinny makes friends with Calvin, the son of carnival workers, and the two boys make plans to run away. Will they do it? Will Daddy Rabbit and Miss Bessie get married? What will happen to Skinny? Where will he go? Skinny is a somewhat slow-moving but pleasant story about rural life in the South during the middle twentieth century. The conclusion is somewhat bittersweet and everything doesn’t end neatly wrapped up with a bow, but it is ultimately satisfying.
There is one scene where Skinny is at a carnival and goes in to see the gypsy fortuneteller. However, no bad language occurs, not even any euphemisms. Concerning the author, who was born in Fayette County, GA, the back page notes, “Mr. Burch shares with other fine writers the ability to capture vividly the true-to-life sound of regional speech. Although Skinny’s language would never serve as a model for correct grammar, it conveys to young readers the ‘sound’ of rural Georgia. The genuine ring of colloquial speech is the mark of a skilled writer’s ear for language.” I thought that this was a very enjoyable read, alternating between funny and poignant. My copy was a Young America Book Club edition that I picked up in a used book store, but the book has been republished by the University of Georgia Press.