Sunday, January 5, 2014

REVIEW: Tucker's Countryside

Tucker's Countryside by George Selden is the sequel to A Cricket in Times Square. So, most of you probably haven't heard of it or read it. But you should read it, because it has all the sweetness of the first novel with more realism and more issues that are pertinent to a kid's life, like moral dilemmas. Lots of moral dilemmas.

This time, Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse visit Chester Cricket in his Connecticut home, the Old Meadow. It's not just a visit, though: Chester and his friends are in danger of losing their home to developers. Where have we heard this story before? Oh yeah, Hollywood. But Chester's story came long before Hammy and Vern. While you won't guffaw, you will chuckle and you will hold your breath a few times.

Because of the pastoral setting, Selden's narration is even lovelier; his description of the rainstorm made me wish I was tucked into a porch swing, reading outdoors during a late spring rainstorm. In addition, the setting results in the tension in Tucker's Countryside feeling less contrived. Not only are the animals trying to save their meadow, but so are the kids that play there. Adult assistance doesn't come from expected quarters, though, which makes for excellent discussion. The most uproarious comment during our meeting? Vlad's* opinion that "they should only destroy the meadow if there was a bearpocalypse."

You won't find any teacher-made study guides or discussion questions out there for Tucker's Countryside, so I read with a notepad beside me and jotted down a few questions for each chapter. You'll find my questions below (or by clicking here). A unit could include research and activities on picketing, boycotting, civil disobedience, conservation lands, nature preserves, and natural disasters in addition to discussion about what constitutes a "benign deception." Who gets to decide when human progress is more important than preserving nature? Where do we draw the line between truth and lies? Tucker's Countryside gives kids an opportunity to explore questions that will stay with them as they grow.

*a pseudonym, of course. And don't feel sorry for him. I ran the name past his mom and she loved it.

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