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*The Lambkins* by Eve Bunting- young readers book review


The Lambkins
by Eve Bunting
Ages 9-12 192 pages HarperTrophy October 2006 Paperback    

Have you ever had to suffer the indignity of being forced to hug and kiss your elderly aunt or granny at a family get-together? You know, the one with the whiskers on her chin, the mole on her nose, the bad breath? The Lambkins by Eve Bunting could be the book for you.

Don’t be fooled by a title which might make you think thoughts of fluffy lambs grazing peacefully in grassy meadows. Imagine in your mind’s eye instead that you’ve been kidnapped, injected with mysterious chemicals that make you eight inches tall, and that you’re being kept in a dollhouse by a crazy woman who makes your nightmares about those aforementioned counseling-inducing experiences of kissing elderly relatives pale in comparison - and that the lady insists on calling you her “lambkins.” Then you will understand that The Lambkins is no book about fluffy young farm animals.

Promising ninth-grade artist Kyle Wilson is cycling home at “eight-thirty on a warm California night when the woman kidnapped me.” He’s coming home from an art class, elated because the Marengo Gallery, which “had a display of students’ work in the window,” has sold one of his paintings for a hundred bucks. He “couldn’t wait to tell Mom as soon as she came home from work.” Unfortunately, for him, he never makes it home that night.

He sees a woman with her trunk lid raised and thinks she is having car trouble. His desire to offer the lady assistance outweighs his common sense so, though he knows “better than to stop for a stranger at night,” he sees a woman about his mother’s age all alone and he does stop. She claims she has a flat tire, telling him “would you believe I can’t get the spare tire and jack out of the trunk? If you could just help me do that...” When Kyle leans over to remove the jack and tire, he feels “a sharp sting that pierced the fabric of my cargo pants.” The last thing he remembers is hearing the red-haired woman telling him to “Just relax” as he’s being crumpled into the dark space inside the trunk.

Beware of strangers! It’s good to always keep that in your minds no matter who you are, kids or adults. Most people are likely good, but, you never can tell when you’ll run across someone of less-than-honorable intentions. Eve Bunting, who has written more than two hundred novels and picture books and won numerous awards, stresses in The Lambkins the importance of this lesson by using fantasy with elements of terror. Besides being presented with a very entertaining tale, young readers absorb the reinforced lesson about the potential dangers of strangers.

When Kyle comes to, he discovers he’s in a house with three other children - LuluBelle, Tanya, and Mac - and a dog named Pippy. Strangely, the house has no windows and no doors. Kyle quickly learns from the other kids that they’ve all been kidnapped by a woman who’s (ironically) called Mrs. Shepherd, or merely “The Shepherd,” who refers to the children as her “little Lambkins.” Tanya informs Kyle that now, he’s “a Lambkin, too.” The rest of the book involves the kids’ relationships with The Shepherd and their attempts to escape.

If you like books that have elements of suspense and terror mixed with irony and humor, you’ll want to add The Lambkins to your collection. It’s a novel that will keep your interest to the very end. John, one of the past Lambkins whom Kyle is replacing, got “The Shepherd” mad at him when he injured her during an escape attempt. Though she regretted it afterwards, in a fit of anger, Mrs. Shepherd swatted John against a wall, instantly killing him. The dangers that Kyle and the other kids face seem very real. They fear that if Mrs. Shepherd catches anybody else trying to escape, she may decide to do away with them all as either being too much trouble or because she fears her secret might get out, and she’ll be found out by the law. Worse, she might just kill them all and start afresh with four new kids. But what can four doll-sized children do in the face of such problems? The Lambkins might remind some older readers somewhat of the old TV series The Land of the Giants. THis excellent tale from the talented Eve Bunting is sure to please readers of all ages.

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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