Virginia Fleming's Be Good to Eddie Lee
illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
This is a beautiful and rather sophisticated children's book.
has more words than the typical picture book. The children appear a bit
older. And the author trusts the reader to properly interpret her
Fleming's viewpoint character, Christy, lives in America's Deep South. It's appears to be a lazy summer day. Christy looks (and acts) like someone just starting to have an interest in boys.
Of course, Eddie Lee is not the kind of boy she's likely to develop an interest in. His attention irritates her. But her mother admonishes her to be good to Eddie Lee.
He's lonesome. And yes, he's different, but "God made him that way." Christy's mom assures her that God doesn't make mistakes. Christy isn't so sure.
JimBud lives near by, and something (biology perhaps) seems to draw Christy and him to each other. He proposes to go "wadin'" with Christy with a promise to show her some frog eggs.
As they pass Eddie Lee's house, the Down's Syndrome boy calls out greetings. He wants to tag along. JimBud admonishes Christy not to talk to "that dummy."
Christy is caught between competing forces.
Her mom wants her to be nice. JimBud wants her to be dismissive. And Christy herself wants to be with JimBud and not with Eddie Lee.
She tells him to go home, though she can see his hurt. It's not hard to see that this could be the first step down a slippery slope to bullying.
JimBud and Christy proceed to the swamp. JimBud quickly and easily defaults on his promise of frog eggs when they aren't readily apparent.
Suddenly, they start hearing sounds from the tall grass. Both children grow scared...
It's Eddie Lee. JimBud screams at him (while lying to Christy that he wasn't scared). Review continues.
Well, I'm giving it all away! Suffice it to say that JimBud proves himself a fickle friend, while Eddie Lee proves that he can deliver on frog egg promises and other wonders.
Christy seems to learn an important
lesson about character. Appreciating Eddie Lee's eagerness to please,
she gives of herself by actually enjoying her time with him...precisely
the gift Eddie Lee clearly desires most.
Floyd Cooper's rich paintings cover every inch of every page. His greatest contributions to Fleming's text are in his capturing of the physicality and emotions of the three children.
When Christy rests a hand on Eddie Lee's shoulder, or allows him to take her hand to take her to a pond with frog eggs, you'll be touched.
With Be Good, Virginia Fleming shows there's a big difference between being a friend and just being with someone, and...
...that friends can come in shapes and sizes you didn't expect.
In a world where superficiality seems to reign and children "grow up" sooner and sooner in ways that seem disturbingly insubstantial, Be Good to Eddie Lee shows another way.
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