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William S. and the Great Escape by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Zilpha Keatley Snyder is still writing books? I remember reading The Velvet Room, The Egypt Game, and The Headless Cupid when I was a kid of a girl, and despite my youtful appearance and attitude, that was a long time ago. So, I looked at Ms. Snyder’s website to see how old she was and found there this note from the author herself:

As any reader of my books knows, some of them have been around a long time. As a matter of fact, so have I. Actually I’m quite a bit past retirement age. But for several reasons I keep on writing. The first and most important is that I like doing it. I just feel better when I’m involved with a set of characters whose lives I’m trying to unravel and turn into stories because . . .? well, because stories are things that have fascinated me since I was a very young child when, I am told, I wept bitterly when my mother’s nightly reading brought us to the end of a given book. (Heidi, Peter Pan, whatever) Not because it was a sad ending, but because it was done. The story was over.
So I keep on writing.

Isn’t that a delightful explanation from an octogenarian (b.1927)?

Well, all I can say is, more power to her. She hasn’t lost a beat. William S. and the Great Escape is a great story about an abused child during the Great Depression (1938) who loves Shakepeare and acting. In fact, William inserts the “S” in his name to emulate his favorite author, William Shakespeare. And he carries around a copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works, given to him by his English teacher, everywhere he goes. And he acts out the part of Ariel from The Tempest to amuse his little brother and sister. Just great stuff.

Think The Boxcar Children. Or Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt. Maybe a touch of Ballet Shoes or some such similar siblings-helping-each-other kind of book. William S. and his younger sisters, Jancy and Trixie, and the youngest of all of them, four year old Buddy, decide to run away from home because things have become unbearable. The last straw is when the children’s older siblings do something really horrible to Jancy’s pet guinea pig. Can the the children travel over a hundred miles to their aunt’s house without getting caught? What will happen to them when they get there? Will their dad, Big Ed Baggett, come after them? Will their aunt let them stay if they do make it to her house?

I highly recommend this book. The abuse, consisting mostly of beatings and neglect, is bad, but not too graphically described for an audience of children. And the courage and determination displayed by the children plus the fact that the adults in the story do finally come to the rescue make this an inspiring read.

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