Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bookmarks -- Uncle Melvin

Just re‑read a favorite story by Daniel Pinkawater called Uncle Melvin. I say it is a story, but there really is no narrative. The book is a sketch of a mental patient told through the eyes of a child. For me, it is beautiful and heartbreaking.

I know that many who are mentally ill are not as docile or lively or as interesting as Melvin is. But here is a tender portrait of a gentle man with "theories" who talks to birds and wears a bowler hat to keep his ideas in until he's through with them.

Pinkwater's book tells us as much about Melvin's family as it does Melvin. Melvin is allowed to help the family care for the child, and is given space to work the garden or fix things in the basement. The boy's father his son. "I have never thought of Melvin as crazy. In many ways he is the least crazy person I know. He has his ideas ‑‑ that's all."

Pinkwater's illustrations are full of color and don't overwhelm the story. The pictures hint at being impressionistic, but are never fuzzy where details are needed.

For me, this is a sweet story. Yes, a story in that it tells a great deal about readers, building into our imaginations, and leaving us to fill in what is needed.

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