Friday, May 13, 2011

Reading Through History: Judy Scuppernong by Brenda Seabrooke (1990)

Judy Scuppernong is a short book of poetry about one summer in Fitzgerald, Georgia in the early 1950s. Judy Scupholm is the exciting, outgoing newcomer who entertains and enlightens Deanna, Lala, and Stacey. The poems are subtle, hinting at some secret sadness in Judy's life that isn't fully revealed until the very end of the story. The girls visit the greenhouse in Judy's backyard again and again (they never go in the house), but it takes the entire summer for them to realize the reason it's slowly filling up with shards of glass.

This is a really beautifully written book. The language is spare and concise, and really evokes the emotions experienced by all the girls. Here are two examples:

From "This and That" (pages 26-27):
Judy calls blue jeans
dungarees and rolls them
up to her knees.
We read the funny papers
and funny books but
Judy reads the comics.
She brings ice out
to the backyard and says
she got it out of the refrigerator,
which we know is a Frigidaire.
She volunteers that her mother
calls us youngsters. But
we know that we
are children.

From "Birthday Party" (page 44):
Pinafores and playsuits
in ice-cream colors,
party games on the lawn
under watchful mother eyes.
Judy came in shorts
bearing a large box
wrapped in red
creased Christmas paper
tied with a frayed red bow,
a big shiny apple
amidst the pale pinks
and blues of the other presents.

I love the way each word and image appeals to the five senses.

Unfortunately, this book is almost doubly dated. It was published as historical fiction in 1990, so the references to things like powder mitts are obviously used intentionally to evoke the time period. But on top of that, the pencil illustrations by Ted Lewin, which are really well done, seem old fashioned compared to the style of illustration used in books being published now, and the cover of my edition, which came from my library, looks like an ad in a woman's magazine rather than a children's book.

Judy Scuppernong is out of print at present, but I think it would still appeal to a contemporary audience if it was repackaged a little bit to suit current trends. I suspect mine is not the only library that has retained a copy on its shelves, and it's worth giving, as the 1990 School Library Journal review suggests, to "certain special readers."

1 comment:

  1. Never heard of this one before. I'm intrigued! Thanks for featuring it :).