cover image Aunt Minnie McGranahan

Aunt Minnie McGranahan

Mary Skillings Prigger. Clarion Books, $15 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-395-82270-8

Based on debut author Prigger's family history, this tale of an elderly spinster who inherits nine children overflows with energy, affection and humor. The epitome of tidiness, Aunt Minnie has a ""system"" for maintaining order in her neat little world. ""It's lucky she has no children,"" her neighbors cluck. ""Children might interfere with Minnie's system."" But when she receives a telegram informing her that her nine nieces and nephews have been orphaned (""Some of them were triplets. Some of them were twins""), Minnie rises to the occasion with aplomb. True to her nature, she devises a series of systems. For trips to the ""johnny house,"" Minnie counsels, ""Stand in line, wait your turn, and help with buttons""; for hugs, ""The oldest hugged the youngest. The ones in the middle hugged each other. And Aunt Minnie hugged them all."" In a dexterous style, Prigger employs repetitive elements to establish and maintain a spry tempo in clipped, spruce sentences; the brisk diction is a reflection of the main character herself. The black outlines of Lewin's (Snake Alley Band) witty, loose watercolors punctuate the pages in a flurry of scribbles, suggesting the kind of bursting-at-the-seams activity typical of a large family and counteracting any hint of Minnie's rigidity with fluid, personable characterizations. Period detail, from Aunt Minnie's Model T to her woodstove and water pump, adds nostalgic charm to this winning family portrait. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)