Monday, December 29, 2014

Multi-Racial Read #19: Just an Overnight Guest- And a Giveaway!

Congratulations to Linda Phillips who won Kathy Erskine's book Seeing Red.
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It's been awhile since I've reviewed a multi-racial book and Just an Overnight Guest by Eleanora Tate fits the bill--but from a different perspective than the other books I've reviewed as background for writing Half-Truths.

The only thing wrong with nine-year-old Margie Carson's life in the small town of Nutbrush, Mo. is that her trucker father isn't home to spend enough time with their family. 

That is, until Mrs. Carson decides that 4-year-old Ethel needs to stay in their "gray-shingled one-story house [which] fit only Daddy and Momma and Alberta and me--there was no place in it for Ethel." (p. 29).  

Margie's reasoning goes like this: 

"If Ethel were clean and nice and regular white, or clean and nice and regular Black--or just plain nice--folks would say, 'Ain't it sweet about Miz Carson keeping Miz Mary's girl.' They sure wouldn't say that the way she is now!" (p.27) 

While Margie puzzles over how her mother and Ethel's mother know one another, 13-year-old Alberta gives hints that Margie just can't quite figure out. But that's only part of Margie's problem. From the moment that her mother drops her off--allegedly just for the weekend--Ethel is a handful: 

"They came into the kitchen and right away Ethel started jumping around. Same ole dirty face. Same dirty hands. Dirty red shirt and too big sandals that flopped when she walked. She climbed unto a kitchen chair, jerking at the tablecloth, and one of Momma's best plates shattered on the floor." (p. 29)

Margie's anger knows no bounds as she faces the humiliation of Ethel wetting the bed Margie is forced to share with her, Ethel calling Mrs. Carson "my Momma," and her own friends' scorn. 

But when Ethel tells Margie that her "toys" are her mother's empty beer bottles and bottle caps, Margie begins to understand the life that Ethel has lived. Although a wise neighbor advises Margie that she's not the baby anymore, it takes several major growing-up moments before Margie makes room in her heart for Ethel. 
"I wondered what it would be like in my life to have a real younger sister. Course, she wouldn't be anything like Ethel. A regular sister would be all Black and not trashy. Her parents would be Momma and Daddy. Not Miz Mary and somebody. Who in the world was Ethel's father after all? The way they went around whispering, they had to know! It finally hit me that everyone knew how he was but me! I had a right to know, too. After all, his kid was in my bed." (p. 110-111)
I won't spoil the ending but suffice it to say, readers will empathize with Margie's struggles and appreciate the decision she makes in the end. 

First published in 1980 by Dial, Just an Overnight Guest was made into a television movie in 1983; here is a clip from that production:


Although the book is recommended for ages 9-12, because of the nature of the story I personally would suggest a slightly older reader. (Caveat: I'm a very conservative reader and Eleanora told me that 8-year-olds have read this book and liked it!) Like the Boy in the Striped Pajamas that also features a young protagonist, I think the content of the book requires a more mature reader. The characterization, character's voices, and historical accuracy are spot on and lend themselves to a good read-aloud in an upper elementary or middle school classroom.

The sequel to Just an Overnight Guest is Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School which was original published by Bantam/Skylark Books in 1992.  

To enter to win my gently-used autographed copy of Just an Overnight Guest, please leave me a comment (and your email address if I don't have it) by 8 AM January 1. Who will be my first giveaway winner in 2015?



21 comments:

Sandra Warren said...

Thanks for posting your review and the movie clip. Unfortunately, as human beings we tend to lump people into categories without consideration for problems within. This story sounds like one that will enlighten as well as entertain.

Just An Overnight Guest sounds like an interesting read.

Gail Hurlburt said...

Carol...If I am the chosen winner, my Maryland granddaughter will receive another book! JUST AN OVERNIGHT GUEST sounds like a good read. Thanks for the give-away!

Gail Hurlburt
dghurlburt@northstate.net

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Sandra and Gail. Your names start the list!

Connie said...

I am a recently retired librarian and l am surprised that I am not familiar with this book. Your review has made me very interested.
Thank you and Happy New Year!
Connie
cps1950 at gmail dot com

Carol Baldwin said...

Happy to add your name to the list, Connie!

sheri levy said...

Once again, Carol, you've grabbed my attention. This sounds like something I'd love to read. Thanks for finding and sharing such interesting stories.
I will share your post!!
Sheri

Ellen said...

This sounds like a great book. I am in a large book group and haven't heard anyone mention it yet. Maybe I'll get to be the one to introduce the group to a great read!

Carol Baldwin said...

I hope so, Ellen. Make sure you leave me your email address- in case you win!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sheri, for leaving a comment and sharing on FB!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Since I'm a recent winner no need to add my name, but I will add this to my "to read" list as it is another intriguing story that I learn about, thanks to your great reviews!

Linda A. said...

Carol,
Congratulations to Linda Phillips on her recent win.

I would love to read Just an Overnight Guest by Eleanora Tate. I want to see the movie too. Got me hooked!

Thanks for all the contests.

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in, LInda A! Thanks.

Rosi said...

This sounds like a charming book. I think I would like to share it with my grandchildren, so please add my name to the drawing. Happy New Year!

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in, Rosi. It is a great present for a grandchild!

Kara Stewart said...

I'm intrigued and would very much like to read this book!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comment, Kara. I'll enter your name!

Jennifer Larson said...

Sounds like an interesting read! Love the addition of the video clip.

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in, Jennifer. Thanks!

Carol Baldwin said...

Ellen- send me your address! You won the book and I have no contact info for you!

Kathy B said...

Carol, thank you for introducing me to another interesting book to add to my reading list.

Carol Baldwin said...

You are more than welcome, Kathy! thanks for stopping by.