Monday, June 27, 2011

Sassy Saves the School Play (and the Environment) from Disaster (Sort of)

The Silver Secret (Sassy #3) by Sharon M. Draper (Scholastic Press, 2010, 112pp.)

Sassy’s school puts on a recital about the importance of environmental conservation and keeping the Earth clean. Sassy desperately wants to be on stage, but since she can’t sing or dance, the music teacher puts her in charge of whole production as stage manager. The “silver secret” of the title refers to Sassy’s piccolo, which she is learning to play with a private tutor. Fearful that she won’t be good at this instrument, she initially decides to keep her progress a secret from her friends, but later reveals her talent to much admiration from her classmates. In the end, Sassy saves the day by performing “What a Wonderful World” on her piccolo when one of the soloists originally planned to perform the song gets sick before the big performance. Although environmentalism is mentioned in the story (a list of “How You Can Help” ideas is included), the real narrative focuses on Sassy’s job as stage manager, her piccolo playing, and a brief but pointless side plot where she loses her favorite shoulder-bag (dubbed by all as her “Sassy sack”), only to recover it a chapter later. Sadly, conservation only plays only a minor role in the story. One of the scenes meant to educate the reader the kind of recycled or organic products available on market takes place at the mall in a store that specializes in such items as--but not limited to--water filters, energy-saving lightbulbs, purses made from recycled plastic bottles and organic dog food. One of Sassy’s friends even goes so far as to make a statement about harmful “chemicals and additives” that can be found in non-organic foods (96). Draper fails to adequately explain this line of dialog to the reader, which presents a problem: unless a teacher or parent reads this book with a child and then leads a discussion about the differences between organic and processed foods, how are grade-schoolers even going to know what “additives” are? In regards to the “ideas” list, it leaves much to be desired. Aside from helpful suggestions to use only recyclable products, plant a garden, write letters to your Congressman, etc., it prompts children to “use online resources” to find out more information, but doesn’t even bother to list any kid-friendly sites. The Silver Secret? A nice story for grade-school girls, perhaps, but not especially helpful in the classroom. Recommended for Ages 9-12.

Click on cover for image source.

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