Friday, June 25, 2004

Review 2

Another review from Jeff Needle from the Association of Mormon Letters


Reviewed by Jeffrey Needle

The subtitle of the book gives you an idea of what's coming -- "A funny
thing happened on the way to growing up." Growing up indeed.

The main character of this amusing story is Matthew Buckley. The
author's name is Matthew Buckley. Hmmmm, you think there's a
connection? Could this be autobiographical? It's never made quite
clear that the events described in this book actually happened to
Buckley. Frankly, I hope they did. The story's just too good to be
made up. (The author's note indicates that Matthew the author grew up
with eleven siblings, including one girl, different from the Matthew
character in the book.)

Matthew is one of seven boys in the Buckley family. They live in Utah
on what ought to be a farm, but isn't. Growing vegetables isn't a
talent any of them seems to have. Mom and Dad are good parents, but
they have their hands full with this bunch of rowdies. Every day seems
to be filled with feeding, changing, washing, and conflict resolution.
Mom's a real champ.
Dad, on the other hand, comes across as a rather nerdy type -- he's a
scientist with NASA, has a plastic pocket protector and everything else
that just shouts "square." He tells jokes that no one laughs at but
himself. But he's a loving father, and a good provider for his family.

One summer Dad makes a grand announcement -- the children have been
wanting actual animals to care for, other than their old dog. Dad
decides to erect a coop of sorts and obtains several dozen chickens and
two goats. And so the nightmare begins.

Ever try telling a goat to do something it didn't want to do? Ever try
reaching under a chicken to get its eggs? And have you ever chased a
chicken around the yard until you could catch it and return it to its
If so, then you'll identify with the travails of these brothers.

The children, and indeed the parents, learn there's more to keeping up
with livestock than they had originally thought. In chapter after
chapter, the interaction among the kids, and between the kids and the
animals, is just hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud!

Having grown up in New York City, I had no basis for identifying with
these kids. But I did grow up with two brothers, and I know how
difficult it was for our parents to keep us under control. I simply
can't imagine what it would be like to raise seven boys!

Some of the comments from the boys seem a bit bizarre -- they appear to
be inordinately interested in things adults find, well, yucky. From
what I can learn from my neighbors, this is very realistic.

From the outset, Buckley carries the story very well, taking us through
the last days of the school year, summer vacation and the annual visit
to grandma's house in California (another hilarious episode), and
finally the adoption of the chickens and the mules. And sprinkled
throughout are bits of folksy wisdom, all leading to a marvelous

This is great summer reading, something that can be shared with the
What a wonderful read. This is light, easy reading, intended mainly to
amuse, and secondarily to instruct. I really enjoyed this book, and
hope that Buckley will continue writing.

Jeff Needle
Association for Mormon Letters

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