Under the Watsons' Porch
Yearling, 2006 (2004)
Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke
t is a summer that begins as
for twelve-year old Ellie Tremont, yet one in which she finds a special friendship. Ellie's boredom is relieved when fourteen-year old, adopted Tommy Bowers becomes her new neighbor. She is smitten from the first meeting, even though her parents warn that Tommy (a '
') is preceded by his reputation for a trail of minor infractions with the law. Ellie describes her feelings thus - '
This is something else. I feel as if I've swallowed a space capsule and I'm launched in a flash of light, my stomach full of Day-Glo or sequins or something sparkling inside.
ut of twenty-six girls in Ellie's class at Duncan Middle School, sixteen are popular. Ellie and best friend PJ are not among them. They belong to the group dubbed
. Her parents are in the teaching profession and cannot afford luxuries and extras. So Ellie has become a '
', fantasizing to others about trips abroad. Of herself, Ellie says, '
It's as if I'm waiting for something but I don't know what it is and so I can't go after it.
llie's parents and six-year-old brother Milo (a delightful character) are out shopping for her birthday gift - a jean skirt and wallet. She finds it easy to talk with Tommy, up close as well as from their adjacent bedroom windows, sharing her thoughts. What she really wants for her birthday is a sparkly, fake diamond necklace from a '
' (but she didn't ask for it because Mom would think it frivolous). That night Tommy calls Ellie to her window to tell her he left something for her on the porch. She discovers a birthday card and a real diamond necklace. Tommy claims he bought it, and asks her to wear it all the time. Of course, Ellie has to conceal it, except when with Tommy.
t Tommy's suggestion, they open a Saturday day camp for kids under their neighbors' spacious porch attached to the residence of the two elderly Watson sisters. The porch is '
very high, wrapping all the way around three sides of the house
'. They both can walk easily under the porch without ducking, with light filtering through the lattice. Tommy outfits the area with chairs and table, distributing a note with Ellie's name inviting children to the Saturday camp.
he plan is to provide neighborhood children with fun and games, especially the
of planting seeds to grow a '
'. Through this project, Tommy's goal is to have the children become his and Ellie's family. (This desire revealingly comes from Tommy's having had various mothers and foster homes, wanting to belong, and wishing to have the neighborhood children
.) Though trusting, Ellie begins to doubt Tommy as she determines that he has stolen bags of lollipops from a nearby store.
usan Shreve conveys the story through Ellie's fast narrative pace. As in her
Trout and Me
, she portrays a troubled youngster with sensitivity and depth. The story is a lesson of trust in friendship and family, and in coming to terms with what is right and wrong.
Under the Watsons' Porch
is a sometimes humorous, in-depth, entertaining story that lightly feathers and warms the heart, while bringing a smile of understanding and connection to the reader's face.
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