Book Review: We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge


Author: Kaitlyn Greenidge
TitleWe Love You, Charlie Freeman
Publication Info: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2016
Summary/Review:

This book is difficult to describe in a few sentences.  The Freeman family moves from Dorchester to a rural town in Western Massachusetts where they will live in an apartment at the Toneybee Research Institute with a chimpanzee named Charlie.  They are part of an experiment to teach a chimpanzee to communicate and were chosen because the children know how to use sign language.  There are some immediate racial overtones as the Freemans are an African American family constantly being observed by the white research staff at the institute and it is located in a predominately white town adjacent to a predominantly black town.  The book is told from multiple points of view, although the key narrative voice belongs to Charlotte, the older daughter who is the first to feel unease at the institute and at her high school.  There are also flashbacks to 1929 where the story of a woman named Nymphadora, a school teacher and member of a secretive society of African American women, reveals the dark origins of the Toneybee Institute.  This is a distressing book because it documents the unraveling of the Freeman family set against continuing racial prejudice.  It’s upsetting since no character really intends to cause harm by under the circumstances their actions lead to sadness and suffering.

Recommended booksSong of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Bailey’s Cafe by Gloria Naylor, and In Love & Trouble by Alice Walker
Rating: ****

Book Review: Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary


Author: Beverly Cleary
Title: Ramona the Pest
Narrator: Stockard Channing
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2010) – originally published in 1968
Books Read by the Same Author: Ramona and Her Father, Beezus and Ramona
Summary/Review:

In the second book of the Ramona series, Ramona begins kindergarten with much excitement, and while she’s eager to learn to read and write and loves her teacher, trouble follows her everywhere.  Among her problems are being to told to sit in a seat “for the present” and expecting a gift, the temptation to pull the springy curls on her classmates head, declaring herself on Halloween to be “the baddest witch” and managing to frighten herself, and becoming a kindergarten drop out.  Ramona feels ever so true to life with her kid logic and motivations and the book is laugh-out-loud funny.

Rating: ****

Book Review: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary


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Author: Beverly Cleary
Title: Beezus and Ramona 
Narrator: Stockard Channing
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2010) – originally published in 1955
Books Read by the Same Author: Ramona and Her Father
Summary/Review:

This is the first in Cleary’s series of Ramona books.  I listened to it with my daughter at bedtime.  In many ways my four-year old daughter IS Ramona Quimby, creative and mischief and sometimes seems indifferent to the chaos she causes.  So this is a true to life book, and it feels oddly contemporary despite being published in 1955.  Unlike later books, this story is told from the point of view of Beezus who has to deal with a little sister who wants to hear an annoying book about steam shovel, colors in her library book, looks her friend’s dog in the bathroom, invites neighborhood children to a party that no one else in the family knew about, and destroys not one but two of Beezus’ birthday cakes.  Beezus has to deal with the guilt that sometimes she doesn’t love Ramona.  Near the end of the book Beezus mother and Aunt Beatrice reminisce about having a similarly contentious relationship as children but are able to laugh about it as adults, giving Beezus some comfort.  It’s a pretty brilliant book and I’m glad I’m getting to hear it now having missed it as a child.
Favorite Passages:

I am too a Merry Sunshine!

Rating: ****