The Great Unexpected
By Sharon Creech, published 2012
“We didn’t think we were tragic…All any of us wanted was for somebody to care about us, and if we couldn’t have that, then at least somebody who wouldn’t be too mean and who would feed us from time to time.”
Each time I read another children’s book by Sharon Creech, I am surprised. I never know what kind of children will be the main characters, nor what their outcome will be. In this particular children’s book, I’m not sure in the end I ever found out all the questions that book raised. Creech has let us enter a dream world in this book, where the children’s reality merges with the reality of spirit, and it’s hard to tell one from the other in the end. That’s not to say this is a spooky or mystical book. It’s just that the question of “what is real” becomes a thread throughout it.
In addition, the book has a fairytale ending, where everyone’s lives improve dramatically for the better. It’s such a contrast to the impoverished conditions at the beginning of the book, that you have to think, where did that come from? What point is Creech making about all this?
Finally, this children’s book requires an alert reader, as Creech moves between two stories, two continents, that eventually meet each other. Some folks don’t like that style. I don’t mind.
In the end, this children’s book provokes discussion. Since she is a terrific writer, it is worth the effort to read the story from start to finish, then, have a conversation with your child. What did you get out of it? I’m pretty sure everyone will come to their own conclusions. That’s even better than have a pat ending, isn’t it? This is not a story you love or hate, but one that gets your thought process flowing about what it means to craft a children’s book. You be the judge as to whether it worked or not.