cover image Fig Pudding

Fig Pudding

Ralph Fletcher. Clarion Books, $15 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-395-71125-5

Twelve-year-old Cliff, the eldest of the six Abernathy children, looks back on a year that feels like ``five years crammed into one. With plenty of stuff I want to remember forever. And stuff I wish I could forget.'' In a style reminiscent of Cheaper by the Dozen, this warm story (unobtrusively set in what seems to be the '70s) neatly blends the humor and frustrations of growing up in a large family headed by two sanguine parents. Each chapter, while centering around a particular child, subtly weaves together household events, large and small. In the first vignette, the youngest child is hospitalized just before Christmas and asks only for a ``yidda yadda'' from Santa; the family eventually interprets the demand as a ``little ladder'' and everyone works all night to build one. The episodes smoothly move forward to the family's ultimate crisis: Brad, the gentlest of the children, is killed while riding his bicycle. With remarkable restraint and understatement, Fletcher (I Am Wings: Poems About Love) conveys the bewilderment and grief as each of the Abernathys reacts to this loss. A hopeful ending implies that Brad's memory will live on in the family's exchanges. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)