Six-year-old Ima Bean sets off such a "flood of mishaps" when she tries to help her grandpa that she begins to worry whether she will ever be forgiven.
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Tom Birdseye readily admits that he never aspired to be a writer. As a young man growing up in North Carolina and Kentucky, he was more interested in sports, crawdads, mud balls, forts built in the woods, secret codes, bicycles without fenders, butter pecan ice cream, and snow. Birdseye, however, became published at the age of thirty-five after ten years of teaching, a year of living in Japan, and two unrelated degrees. The author once commented, "Life, it seems, is full of who'd-a-thought-its."
"At times it still amazes me that writing is my profession," Birdseye once said. "It was such a difficult process for me when I was a kid; I can really identify with the reluctant writer in school today." The author recalled how difficult it was for him to complete stories because of his poor grammatical skills. He acknowledges that if it were not for certain people offering him encouragement, he would not have prospered as a writer. Birdseye now carries a small notebook around just in case he comes across any new ideas or characters.
"True, I still labor through my stories," Birdseye once admitted, "wrestling with the spelling beast and the punctuation monster, writing and rewriting, then rewriting some more, until I glean my best, but the process has become one of pleasure instead of pain. I love doing it, and I love sharing it with others. The boy who couldn't imagine himself a writer, now can't imagine himself anything else."When not writing or in classrooms talking with children and teachers about the writing process, I enjoy skiing, rock and mountain climbing, ski mountaineering, backpacking, mountain biking, kayaking, running, playing the string bass, and reading.
Ages 4-8. Suitcase in hand and convinced she must leave home, six-year-old Ima Bean relates the sad tale of all the disasters she has brought upon her family. When she finds her grandpaw's fishing pole abandoned by the creek, she decides to be helpful and reel it in. Unfortunately, she also lands an enormous catfish that breaks the pole. She runs home to search for string to mend it and inadvertently unleashes Hester the mule, who manages to ransack the farm, causing several more calamities. As Ima strides away, she is headed off by her entire family and reminded "you're always family . . . even when you goof!" This raucous tall tale is reminiscent in style of Sid Fleischmann's McBroom tales. Expressive, humorous language ("that front wheel came off that bike and took off on its own like it had a previous engagement") combined with a backwoods setting and dialect will make this a distinctive choice for experienced storytellers; ludicrous situations and a reassuring ending will make it popular with young listeners. Droll, full-color illustrations enhance the fun. Kay Weisman
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