While this is the second book in the Regarding the.. series as created by the Klise Sisters – this has a stand-alone quality to it, quite similar to their 43 Old Cemetery Road Series – whose Book #2 we also reviewed here. I also felt that similar to Over my Dead Body this book is perfect for our Bimonthly theme on Mystery/Suspense/Whodunit
…since it involves the middle school students of Geyser Creek solving the mystery of the missing famous designer named Florence Waters.
It is also the perfect book to share for Book Talk Tuesday which is being hosted by The Lemme Library. I was not able to find as many teacher resources as I would wish, but I feel that the creative quality and the ingenious layout of the book might be something that librarians and teachers might want to explore with their own students. While there are references made to the first book Regarding the Fountain where the kids had a chance to meet the artsy and highly creative Florence, it was communicated in such a way as to not alienate new readers or make the old ones bored with so much retelling.
Ingenious Craftsmanship of the Klise Sisters. True to form, this book also has the same pastiche format/layout – told entirely through newspaper clippings, correspondences, typewritten letters, poetry, assignments written on blackboard (very oldschool), postcards, and BEAN-MAIL (Brief Educational and/or Administrative Note – very IT-savvy!). For children who are digital natives and quite used to the format of computers with multiple columns, images, ads and the like – this would be a welcome relief from those boring old text. I am also immersing myself in M. Sarah Klise’s ingenious illustrations and the astounding wit of Author Kate Klise – these books are truly a treat!
Faces of Creativity and the Square Stodges that Douse its Flow. What I enjoyed the most in this story is the struggles that are clearly evident between expressing one’s creativity and the boundaries or clearly-discernible box that limits it. This is seen in the push-pull, love-hate relationship of Principal Russ (our square stodge) and the sixth-grade teacher Sam N. (who I am assuming is quite the catch).
While it begins with something as innocuous as Sam N.’s preference for type-written/printed out mails as compared to the BEAN-Mail as mandated by P. Russ – we see a gradual build-up of Sam’s (and his students’) off-the-kilter ideas (for a class trip, the way that classes are handled/managed) constantly being renounced, repudiated, ridiculed by the Principal (who I believe remains well-meaning and with good intentions).
At the heart of the book is a school sink in need of repair, the unbearable stink resulting from the broken sink – and the school’s desire to engage the fabulous Florence Waters’ expertise and invaluable assistance to make this come about. The children also had a blast sharing with Florence some of their insights and ideas as to what would make an ideal sink for the school. Here are some of their lovely suggestions:
The Smart Sink – how ingenious!
However, there is a catch. Florence is missing! Clues found in unopened mails, the rise and fall of the stock market, and an endangered fish named the Sinkiang Blinking Spotted Suckerfish led Sam and his students right smack into Sinkiang China. Not without the protest of the School Principal who is enraged at the thought of an out-of-the-country class trip! How could it be? After all his recommendations of an educational class trip involving Retired Librarians’ Interpretive Dance Troupe’s lively tribute to the Dewey Decimal system to cite just one example – the kids decide to raise 100,000 dollars to find Florence in China? And so a Mexican stand-off ensues with Sam N. tendering his resignation because of “creative differences” – bravo, Sam!
The reader is also able to empathize with the kids and Sam as they struggle to raise funds for their trip, all the while worried sick over what is happening to their friend Florence, and being forced to eat nothing but beans in school by the horrid Senator Sue Ergass.
Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely: Endnotes. This is what comes to my mind as I read about Senator Sue Ergass who actually reminds me a little bit of Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. You have to follow her directives “because I said so!” And yes, she is one corrupt little cookie.
I also enjoyed how there seemed to be parallel stories going on (the financial trade seesawing back-and-forth; the campaigns of Senator MOM (More Opportunities for Missourians) Sue Ergass to save an endangered fish, the plight of a cantankerous old woman named Mrs. Imogene Crabbie, the clogged sink and yes, the abundance of beans – all come together in a multi-layered structure in the end. It challenges the young reader to tease out connections, figure out patterns and unlock the ways through which parallel stories can be merged together in a coherent fashion. I love the fact that the Klise sisters do not underestimate young readers and even challenge them to keep up, discover puns, and laugh at witticisms cleverly inserted here and there. Truly a wonderful book that would keep you on your toes.
Regarding the Sink by Kate Klise and Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise. Gulliver Books, Harcourt, Inc. Orlando Florida. Book borrowed from the community library.