Monday, 17 July 2017

Walking With Miss Millie

Author: Tamara Bundy
Genre: Middle School Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 227
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group)
First Published: July 4, 2017
First Line: "The day we pulled into Rainbow, Mama was pulling out all her tricks to distract us, trying to pretend we hadn't just left every one of our friends ten hours behind."

Book Description from GoodReadsA poignant middle grade debut about the friendship between a white girl and an elderly black woman in the 1960s South.

Alice is angry at having to move to Rainbow, Georgia—a too small, too hot, dried-up place she’s sure will never feel like home. Then she gets put in charge of walking her elderly neighbor’s dog. But Clarence won’t budge without Miss Millie, so Alice and Miss Millie walk him together. Strolling with Miss Millie quickly becomes the highlight of Alice’s day, as she learns about the town’s past and meets a mix of its catty and kind residents. As the two become confidantes, Alice is finally able to express her heartache over her father’s desertion; and when Miss Millie tells her family story, Alice begins to understand the shameful history of Segregation, and recognize the racism they need to fight against. Navigating the neighborhood with Miss Millie gives Alice new perspective, the wisdom to move on from her anger, and even enables her to laugh again.

Tamara Bundy’s beautifully written story reminds readers that there is nothing like friendship to lighten one’s load, and make anyplace a home.


My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: Walking With Miss Millie is a Middle School novel about Alice, a ten-year-old girl who finds herself in a new town with her mom and brother as they uproot their lives and move south to help Alice's ailing grandmother in 1968 small town Georgia. Alice is angry and didn't want to make the move. She misses her absentee father and eagerly awaits the day that he'll finally show up and take them home. Alice finds herself initially forced to take daily walks with her elderly neighbour (and her curmudgeonly dog) but what she didn't expect was the touching and much needed bond that resulted.

At the heart of this book is the poignant relationship between Miss Millie, a 92-year-old African American woman and Alice. They are a unique pair and their bond highlights the importance of friendship, multi-generational influences on our kids and the notion that people are far more alike than they are different.  

Bundy gets into the mindset and vernacular of a ten-year-old girl as she raises several big issues -- abandonment by a parent, forgiveness, loss, friendship, bullying, the effects of Alzheimer's etc. I liked the inclusion of a Deaf secondary character (based on the author's own brother) and how Bundy shows how Deaf people were/are treated and misunderstood by the hearing world. While there are many issues raised, the focus is on racism. Readers will witness how some townspeople treat Millie and understand more about her as she shares stories from her earlier life. These are touching scenes that approach Civil Rights and racism at a Middle School level.

My only criticism is that there may have been too many issues within one wee book. The issues are handled well but the 227 pages weren't enough time to go into much depth in terms of issues or characters. There's a lot going on in this book but parents/teachers can look at it as a starting point for discussions on the various topics raised.

This is a book about the friendship between an unexpected pair who enter each other's lives at the right moment. Alice provides Millie with friendship and Millie is a calming force in Alice's turbulent life. She helps Alice navigate the adversity in her life, shows the importance of kindness and shares some wonderfully quotable tidbits of wisdom to her young neighbour.  


"But maybe the most important thing is for people to just be kind."

Walking With Miss Millie is a touching coming of age story about a friendship that defies age and race and would be a good read for children Grades 4 and up.

Favourite Quotes:
"Poor Grandma. On her bad days, she couldn't remember things. But on her good days, she couldn't forget not remembering." ~ Alice

"I learned it's okay to get mad. It's okay to get sad, but after all that gettin' mad and sad, ya gotta get smart. Ya gotta take a step back, away from all your hurtin', and figure out what ya can change and what ya can't." ~ Miss Millie


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