Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Chig and the Second Spread

Chig and the Second Spread

Gwenyth Swain
For ages 8 to 12
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2003   ISBN: 978-0385900942

For Chig, being small is just about the biggest trial there is. Her real name is Minerva but she has always been called Chig, short for Chigger. It was a name her father gave her, a name given to her with affection because she was such a tiny little baby. Unfortunately, some of the boys in school latch on to her nickname and persecute Chig until she feels as small as small can be. She wishes she were big and tough, and able to show those boys a thing or two. With every passing day her lack of inches becomes more and more of a worry. Chig wonders if she is eating the right things to encourage growth. She asks her teacher and family about her problem. Surely she isn't going stay under five feet for the rest of her life?

Chig gets so caught up in her own problem that she almost misses seeing what is happening to the people around her and to her town. Luckily for them she doesn't. It all begins when Chig realizes that some of the children in her class have only one spread on their sandwiches for lunch. It had always been the norm to have two. Clearly things are getting very bad indeed if the children's parents can only afford one spread. Then she notices that there are more and more men sitting and standing around the stove at the store. There is no work to be had. The Depression that is hurting the rest of the country has come to her little town and the hollows around it. Chig decides that there has to be something that she can do to help the people of Niplak put a second spread on their children's sandwiches.

What follows is an extraordinary, often funny, and quite delightful series of events, which Chig uses to bring about her hopes and dreams for her town. In the process, Chig realizes that there is much more to being big than she ever dreamed, and the people of Niplak discover that they have a truly remarkable person in the midst, a person who has courage and conviction, despite the fact that she is very short of stature.

Gwenyth Swain has written a book packed with charm and loveable characters, and she gives her reader a real picture of what it was like to live through the Great Depression. She gathered stories from family members and other sources, and then put them together in such a way that it is evident to the reader that Gwenyth Swain loved the telling of this marvelous tale. She enjoyed being able to honor those who lived the stories she was told.