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Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister, written by Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrated by Suzanne Beaky. Flashlight Press, 2011. $16.95 ages 5 and up

"When Mr. and Mrs. Buckmeister dashed home from work late one night, they noticed that Ernestine looked pale. "Maybe she needs some face painting lessons," said Mr. Buckmeister. Nanny O'Dear just said, "Oh, dear."

I suspect we have all felt, at one time or another, as both Ernestine and Nanny O'Dear felt at that pivotal moment. Ernestine lives in a house of over-achievers where her father's catch phrase is "live life to the fullest", and where her mother zips out the door each day suggesting that she "make every moment count”. Poor Ernestine!

In direct contrast to the life that Ralph Fletcher and his siblings lived, making most moments their own and learning about what had importance to them,  Ernestine's life is one lesson followed by the next. Every day....something new to be learned, and always on the advice of her parents. Even Nanny O'Dear has some trouble keeping all those lessons straight. I love the illustrations showing her yodeling in yoga class (OOPS!) and playing the tuba during water ballet (double OOPS!) and karate kicking the many skeins of yarn in her knitting lesson (should I say triple?!). It's just too much.

She longs to spend time with her neighbor:

"On her way to lessons each day,
Ernestine slowed down long enough
to watch Hugo play in his yard.

He flip flopped on his trampoline,
giddy-upped like a cowboy,
and bounced his ball."

Full of yearning to be like Hugo, Ernestine is dragged to the next lesson. When she finally gets a small taste of freedom and the joy that Hugo enjoys, Ernestine schedules 'something new!' Being in control for one long, glorious afternnoon adds a new dimension to her life, and the way she wants to live it.

Without being preachy, and packed with humorous artwork that puts things in real perspective, this is a story that may give parents and children pause to consider what is truly important in life. Then, it just takes time and effort to make it happen!

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