Title: Muggie MaggieMuggie Maggie
Author: Beverly Cleary
Illustrator: Alan Tiegreen
Pages: 70
Reading Level: 8-10
Star Rating: ★★★

Beverly Cleary of Ralph S. Mouse fame returns!

The Story.

Maggie is happy to go to school and learn new things. But she wishes she didn’t have to learn cursive. She complains to her parents about it, and they tell her not to be contrary; just be a good girl and do as she’s told. This only makes Maggie feel more contrary. Why should she have to learn cursive, anyway?

She decides that she ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT EVER learn cursive. Even when her parents fuss and her teacher cajoles, she stands firm. And then, her teacher assigns her to be the classroom messenger. The messages she’s carrying (which she peeks at) are in cursive!

What do they say? Are they about her? Maggie must know!

Discussion.

One thing I appreciate about Ms. Cleary’s writings is that she does not stereotype. In every situation – even the stereotypical ones – she depicts her characters and makes them act exactly as real people would. Maggie herself is a perfect example. There’s nothing so wonderfully original about a little girl not wanting to learn cursive. But in most stories, the child would have been seized by a wild hatred of cursive, would have stormed, would have steamed, and would NOT have relented. But this isn’t how Maggie’s aversion to cursive handwriting occurs.

Maggie announces that she is going to learn cursive in school next week. She expects her parents to be impressed that she is to undertake so difficult a task. Instead, they are amused – after all, it’s funny when a child thinks that a simple task is a difficult one. This nettles Maggie. So she announces that she thinks cursive writing is dumb. Maybe this will get them to encourage her! But instead, they tell her not to be silly, that everybody writes in cursive, and that it’ll be easy. This pushes Maggie to further contrariness. Not only does she think that cursive is dumb, but she WON’T learn it. And so, this becomes her position.

Even as she declares that she hates cursive, Maggie doesn’t know why she’s saying the things she is. She doesn’t mind cursive. It looks rather pretty. But she feels contrary about it. She almost wishes she didn’t feel that way. She wishes she had never started her brave stand in the first place. But she feels that now, everyone expects her to refuse to write in cursive.

In the end, Maggie succumbs. She learns to read cursive. But she never repents for her disobedience.

Maggie flips through the television channels, but doesn’t really watch anything.

Maggie tells a half lie. It makes her feel guilty, but she doesn’t apologize.

Conclusion. The writing is clever, fresh, lifelike, and sweet in its own way. Muggie Maggie could be used as a lesson in “how-Maggie-should-have-behaved”.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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