Genre: Children’s Fiction (Middle Grade)
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Quote: “The smile lit up her whole face, and it hit Fred that Phoebe, not Babette, might be the snake’s woodchuck ‘with a nice smile.’ It gave him an odd feeling, this smile of hers, a feeling he’d never had in the greenhouse. In fact, the smile affected him much the way Babette’s whistling had the mink. So in spite of his poor opinion of children, and the fact that the one on the stump was singlehandedly making more noise than a flock of crows, he told Phoebe that all three [woodchucks] looked like fine specimens.”
Fred is a woodchuck who likes things just right in his own particular fashion. But he begins to rethink some of his views and ways of life when he meets Phoebe, the woodchuck “with a nice smile.” Things turn crazy when the two find a loud, unkempt, ill-mannered human child in the woods, who is subsequently named Margaret.
I thought I had a general idea of what this book would be about but it was far from anything I imagined. Margaret’s character aside, the things that happen in Mean Margaret are what you’d find in a young adult story. It was one cliché after another in such frank terms but it was all masked by the majority of the characters being animals and the fact that middle graders are the intended audience. As an adult reading this, there is an appeal and humor to it. But I definitely see the charm of Mean Margaret and how it could have ended up a National Book Award Finalist – it’s a fantastic novel.
Mean Margaret was entertaining. The characters were appealing and the action moved along swiftly so that there never was a dull moment. I didn’t mind so much that humans played just as big a role as the animals but again I wish there was less back-story about Margaret’s family. Their pages seemed too secondary. I found it interesting that every character played a major role and had an equal amount of page time. I’ve always been taught never to have too many characters in the spotlight that would clutter the story and divvy up the focus too much.
Though predictable at times, Mean Margaret is cleverly written, well-paced, beautifully illustrated, and delightfully entertaining. It’s an easy, quick read and under 200 pages.