HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Goodbye, Charley
Author: Jane Buchanan
Jacket Illustrator: Susan Gaber
Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2004
Related website: http://www.fsgkidsbooks.com
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: For ages 8 – 12; I would say 12-16
Rating: **** 4 (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Buchanan, Jane. Goodbye, Charley (published in 2004 by Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York City, NY). It is the summer of 1943, and twelve-year-old Lucille (Celie) Marsh lives in Gloucester on the coast of Massachusetts with her Papa George who works at the newspaper, Ma Liz or Lizzie who is a homemaker, older brother Ben who is seventeen, and younger brother Andy who is six. The war is going on, and in addition to her worries about bombs and submarines, she thinks that it is going to be a lonely summer. Ben works as an air raid warden and spends all his free time with his girlfriend Julie. Andy is busy with his friend Rufus collecting junk for the war effort. Her best friend Rita has just moved away. The only other person her age nearby is an irritating boy Joey Bentley who moves in with his crabby grandmother next door while his dad is away in the military.
When her father brings a monkey home from work one day which she names Charley, Celie finds the comforting companion she has been missing. But more upheaval is in store as her mother takes a job building warships and Ben runs off to join the navy. Can she learn to get along with Joey? Will Ben end up going off to war? And what happens as Charley proves to be too wild for Celie to manage? This somewhat of a tear-jerker novel about relationships is based on the experiences of the author’s mother. In addition to a couple of common euphemisms (heck, gosh), there is the obligatory reference to monkey “pee,” Celie’s mom says “O Lord” as an exclamation several times, and the “d” word appears once. I have never figured out why so many modern writers of what are admittedly “kid’s books” feel it necessary to include a little such language in their stories. It is beyond me.
The Marsh family goes to church, but they skip it for a Father’s Day picnic. Goodbye, Charley not only captures well the fears and insecurities that war brings to youngsters but also gives a historically accurate picture for today’s kids of home life during the World War II era, with rationing, mothers working in factories, collecting scrap metal and used cooking oil for the war effort, and beloved relatives enlisting in the military. Celie does a really good job of showing an extremely bad attitude through most of the book, but she learns some important lessons towards the end and moves from being rather self-centered to more sympathetic. This is not a “happy book.” Any story about war is going to have its elements of sorrow. That’s life. But this one does have a reasonably satisfactory conclusion.