Monday, April 26, 2010


Title: Skinny

Author: Robert Burch (Illustrated by Don Sibley)

Publisher: The Viking Press

Copyright Date: 1964

Print Date: March 1964

ISBN: 670649996

Pages: 127

Book Description (from around the Internet...Goodreads, JacketFlap, etc.):
An eleven-year-old orphan temporarily working at Miss Bessie's hotel hopes arrangements can be made to enable him to stay there instead of being sent to an orphans' home.


This children's chapter book was a nice read with an enduring protagonist. Skinny is a boy that looks for the positive and hopes for the best — even when things haven't exactly been great for him...he's an orphan and may have to leave this new little family he's made for himself.

Points of interest...(some spoilers included, but I'll try to avoid the main ones)

The timeframe. This was first published in early 1964. The story doesn't give an actual year, so it may be set a bit earlier than the copyright date; I'm not a great judge. But I suspect it is set close to then, so...

The book is old enough that what might have dated it has now made it a bit of history. A time when tipping a kid bellhop a quarter (or even a dime) was too much, pay for a hotel room was taken at the end of the stay, etc.

The characters. I've already given a broad idea of what Skinny is like. Others include Miss bessie, the hotel owner who took him in after his father died until space is found in the orphanage. Skinny would like to stay with Miss Bessie, but she feels she can't unless there's a male role model (i.e. unless she gets married).

Another Skinny really looks up to, and considers a friend, is Roman. (For those who might be offended) Roman is referred to as "the Negro man who worked at the hotel". Miss Bessie "rescued" him too. She bailed him out of a chain gang (which he was in for stabbing his wife) as long as he follows the law. One of the more humorous (I suppose, if you aren't offended instead) parts of the story is due to Roman's influence. Skinny is reciting verses he has memorized for Sunday school...verses about staying away from angry women. You can imagine how well this went over with the teacher.

Other characters provide potential for trouble as well. Skinny befriends one boy his age. Calvin is the son of some carnival workers. He plans to run away (with Skinny, he hopes). And then there is R.F.D., the dog. Skinny has an overnight trip (alone) in order to reunite with R.F.D.

Anyway, beyond the timeframe and characters, I also found myself interested in the literacy aspect. Skinny can't read (this is actually a thread that pulls the story together). His father often kept him out of school to help work the land. He goes goes to great trouble to hide this from some people in the book. While playing games, at Sunday school, etc.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this, I couldn't begin to guess whether today's kid would. ::shrug::


  1. Isn't it interesting how much times have changed?

  2. It's very interesting. And in some ways it's changed quite a bit.

    I just keep thinking, my dad was 2 and my ma 1 when this was first published. =)


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