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Janet Munsil. Illustrated by Scot Ritchie.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 1984.
unpaged, paper, $4.95.
ISBN 0-920236-63-4. paperbound boards, $10.95. ISBN 0-920236-66-9. CIP.

Subject Heading:

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7

Reviewed by Patricia Fry.

Volume 12 Number 4
1984 July

The author, high-school student Janet Munsil, portrays a child's view of a family visit in Dinner at Auntie Rose's, but the lack of levity to lighten this dreary get together makes for a poor story. I was as anxious to be done with the book as the protagonist is to wave goodbye to her relatives.

Page after page, the reader hears why a six-year-old girl hates going for dinner at Auntie Rose's house. Her mother, never pictured, is ever present as the constantly badgering "don't do this and don't do that" voice. Her cousin Jeremy disgusts her, and she cannot stand the way Auntie Rose cooks (particularly the brussels sprouts) or the way she smells (like cockroach killer). Uncle George comes across as a man with questionable behaviour, forever finding excuses to compliment her underpants and set her on his lap. Nobody enjoys the dinner visit, and most youngsters will not enjoy reading about it either.

The book is a very negative portrayal of family life. Adults and children never cross the age barrier to take pleasure in each other's company. The children cannot even manage to have fun together. The only smile in the book occurs when the six-year-old protagonist puts on her phony "sincere smile" to cover her true feelings about the visit. After all those pages detailing how hateful her relatives are, the book ends with this non sequitur: "But I love my family just the same". Who, I wondered, makes up the family she loves?

The illustrations are appealing, and artist Scot Ritchie manages to portray many changing moods on the six-year-old's face. Her phony smile is terrific (and is reproduced on the cover). Full-page watercolours are interspersed with black-and-white sketches and with several small watercolours spread across a double page. His interpretation of the text is delightfully whimsical and provides a much-needed touch of humour.

Patricia Fry, Toronto, ON.
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