Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby

This book, about a little boy whose parents neglected him in order to pursue their own interests, was a compelling read. It is not a Christian book. The child grew up listening to his parents curse and fight, so his language was filled with the words he heard. He was a tough child who had to more or less make his own life.

His mother's goal was to go to New York where she would hopefully be discovered as a singer, and his father was a farmer who wanted to keep his wife in the backwoods so other men would not see how beautiful she was.The two were either always fighting or making up. Ethan Allan made himself a sort of tent in the yard where he would hide to get away from the continual conflict. As a baby, he could sit on the floor and dodge the flying pieces of furniture as they loudly argued and cursed each other. By the time he was three, he could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or dig from a cereal box when he was hungry.

There are other quirky and colorful characters: Olivia Westerly, who married Ethan Allan's grandfather, Scooter Cobb, the owner of the diner where Ethan's mother worked, and who eventually killed Ethan's dad, Jack Mahoney, the detective who tried to solve the murder, and others.

After the death of his parents, Ethan found an envelope with his grandpa's address on it, and ran away to find him. What he found was the woman who had married his grandfather shortly before his death, a woman who had never wanted children, and so had waited until she was 58 years old to get married.

Olivia, shocked when she met Ethan, tried to get him to clean up his language. The neighbors in Olivia's apartment building are colorful and filled with ingenuity when Ethan Allen showed up there, where kids and animals were not allowed, as they tried to protect Ethan from the committee who could cause Olivia to lose her apartment if they found out about Ethan and his dog.

I liked the way Bette Lee Crosby used each character's particular voice as she moved through the chapters. She wove the story deftly picturing Ethan Allen, scared to death after witnessing his father's murder seeking to a place of safety, something he never had before.

As Olivia and Ethan connect together, butting heads over his language and her trying to fit him into the mold of a regular child, we see a love develop between them. This compelling book keeps the reader engaged long into the night.

The author said, "Ethan Allan was a tough little kid and his language was a part of him and the way he grew up." I've seen children like that during my career as a teacher. If you continue past the first part of the book, with the bad language used by both  Ethan Allan's and his parents, you will enjoy the way the rest of the book comes together. This is an exciting book, as the detective tries to figure out who killed Ethan Allan's parents.

Bette Lee Crosby has written other books without coarse language, and she will be interviewed on my blog later on this year, highlighting these other books.


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