by Lois Lowry
An eccentrically-dressed and apparently over-imaginative second grade girl, Gooney Bird, comes to a new school and entrances the other students (and teacher) with her surprising, “absolutely true” stories. With her deliberate, exact way of speaking and unusual phrasing, she describes her stories before telling them in ways that make it seem as though they’ll be tall tales – but there is always a humorous, prosaic explanation. For example, “I was in jail when this happened” actually refers to Gooney Bird playing Monopoly and having landed on that square on the board; and getting a reward from “the prince” at “the palace” turns out to mean something quite different, though similar-sounding. The same goes for “driving from China” and “arriving on a flying carpet.”
It’s a humorous, very brief book that also serves as instruction to children on how to formulate interesting stories, as well as to encourage them to believe that everyone has a story to tell. I enjoyed the clever twists of language that revealed what Gooney Bird’s stories were really about, as well as the demonstration of how well “write what you know” can go when served by expressive language. I did not at all like Gooney Bird’s personality, which is smug and self-satisfied, her too-adult speech patterns, or how she is portrayed as more clever and authoritative than the teacher of the class. I think that’s a terrible example for kids who already often think they know more than they do.