Even a Little is Something: Stories of Nong

Tom Glass, Author, Elena Gerard, Illustrator Linnet Books $19.5 (119p) ISBN 978-0-208-02457-2
Taken by themselves, these stories about Nong, an 11-year-old girl in a poor Thai village, reveal something about her daily life and offer a spark of originality; however, together they do not add up to a collection with lasting resonance. Nong lives with her older sister, Oi, and mother down a dusty village road amid a quirky cast of characters: Mr. Pu sits all day spouting strangely wise pronouncements about Jell-O; Dr. Wichai has a house-full of mangos his patients have given him instead of money; Aunt Oom, the soup lady, has a secret recipe she keeps in a tall red bottle. Yet for all its interesting details about these villagers and Thailand, the book reads like a collection of character sketches that don't add up, raising issues that aren't resolved: for example, Nong and her sister say they forgot their coins so they do not have to pay for food at the grocery store nor for services at the dentist's office. But Glass does not explore Nong and Oi's feelings about their poverty. Similarly, when Nong ""borrows"" a book from a woman whom Oi is working for and Oi gets fired because of it, readers never find out how this affects the pair. Likely the most disturbing example for readers will be the passing references to Nong's dead father (e.g., ""It had come as a surprise to everyone when Nong's father died.... But Nong learned to go down to see Mr. Pu""; and later, when they get a check from her father's insurance fund, ""Well, what should we get?"" says Nong). These unaddressed issues, in spite of the fascinating material, may leave readers feeling disoriented. Ages 10-up. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 12/01/1997
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!