Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo

Like many of you, we have our favorite Christmas books that we re-read every year, and I also love to find new ones to add to our enjoyment. Last Sunday, I saw Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo, in our church library's Christmas display, and I snatched it up. Ever since we read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane we've been DiCamillo fans.

Great Joy is a picture book, gorgeously illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (who also illustrated Edward Tulane), and the girls and I snuggled on the couch last week to read it together. This is one of those rich and layered stories best enjoyed by older children and adults. This is not to say a young child wouldn't love it; but the themes of homelessness and compassion, so delicately interwoven in the fabric of the narrative, are certain to spark thoughtful discussions between you and your children.

Here are some questions that came to us:
  • What prompts Frances's concern for the organ grinder and his monkey?
  • Why might Frances be especially attuned to their situation?
  • What might be an explanation for Frances's mother's response?
  • Why do you think the organ grinder responded to Frances's invitation as he did?
  • Are all the problems solved at the end of the story? How is this realistic?
  • How would you continue the story?

This simple yet powerful story will stay with me for a very long time.

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