21 May 2009

Lucy the Good

by Marianne Musgrove. Illustrated by Cheryl Orsini

Random House. Australian, Young Readers. Paperback rrp $14.95

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Adults make mistakes too. Acknowledging them and saying sorry is an ageless expectation. In this delightful story of misunderstandings and things not always being what they seem, Lucy learns, and teaches, some important lessons.

Lucy starts out being good but something always goes wrong. In school she is always in Time Out. Things seem to start every time with Jacinta who wants to be the centre of attention so she makes Lucy look bad.

Tante Bep is arriving from Holland. Lucy is excited for she is determined to make a good impression and bond closely with her aunt. But at the airport, one thing leads to another and she ends up on the baggage belt. She is saved from the black hole just in time by Tante Bep.

Tante Bep is not impressed with Lucy’s behaviour. Nor later on when she accuses Lucy of being greedy because she won’t give her brother an egg, and won’t listen to the reason why. In fact, Tante Bep disapproves of many things that go on in Lucy’s household. She comments on the dust she sees everywhere, on the windows that aren’t sparkly enough, even the type of Dutch cheese they have for breakfast. She even becomes outraged when she learns that Lucy’s father is a house husband.

To reign in Lucy’s naughtiness, Tante Bep tells her about Sinterklaas and Black Piet who puts naughty children in his sack and sends them to Spain. Lucy is constantly reminded of what awaits her.

Lucy isn’t bad. She wants to prove them all wrong. After a series of experiments, she finally knows what to do. Dad has told her how to check for bad eggs by putting them in water. She would test herself in the same way down at the creek.

This well-constructed book is aimed at readers aged 7+. It teaches children that they shouldn’t be afraid to speak to the people who love them, about their feelings. It addresses age barriers, and peeks into Dutch folklore, culture, and habits, with a glossary of Dutch words and a recipe for Speculaas (Dutch biscuits).

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