Friday, August 1, 2008


Fleming, Virginia. 1993. BE GOOD TO EDDIE LEE. New York: Putnam & Grosset.
ISBN 0399219935.

Eddie is lonesome and no one pays attention to him because he is different. He only has one friend named Christy who is asked by her mother to be nice to Eddie, but she does not like Eddie following her around all summer. On one hot summer day, JimBud invites Christy to go wading and looking for frog eggs but does not want Eddie to go with them. Christy scolds Eddie and tells him to go home. JimBud wants to start on his journey with Christy; therefore he yells a warning to Eddlie to go home. Finally, Christy realizes that JimBud has made up a story about finding frog eggs because he wants Christy to come with him. Meanwhile, Eddie is the person who finds beautiful lilies and frog eggs for Christy, and teaches her a lesson, “Do not steal the creature from nature.”

This is Ms. Fleming’s first book for children and the story was inspired by her close friendship with a person who has Down syndrome. She honestly portrays the feelings, sensitivities and honesty in children with Down syndrome. The cultural markers in this community are seen through the dispositions of these stubborn, happy and carefree children. The facial features of Eddie in illustrations with a round face and slanted eyes without eye folds are physical characteristics of individuals with Down syndrome. Although both the author and illustrator are not insiders, they present the cultural accuracy and authenticity of this condition.

Even though there are only a few dialects spoken by Eddie, language also plays a very important role in accurately describing the portrait of Eddie through his gestures and physical movement. The descriptions of Eddlie’s sentiment and disposition are physical characteristics of children with Down syndrome, such as Eddie waddles down the steps and grins all the time. The author also authentically depicts what people’s feelings about being with individuals in this community through dialogues among Christy, JimBud and Eddie. For example, Christy says “I will be bothered with him following me around all summer.” People’s general attitudes when they work with children with disabilities are also presented in the text. They treat them like as an animal but not like a human being, to such as extent that Eddie grins and says “I am not a dog.”

This story not only depicts how individuals with Down syndrome cope with other people, but also implies all the human beings are the same. The illustration on the last page shows that Christy has a similar face as Eddie’s when shown in an inverted reflection in water. The most touching part in this story is when Eddlie comforts Christy when she feels upset by saying “that’s okay and I like you anyway.” Eddlie also puts his right hand over his heart saying “it’s what’s here that counts.” I believe that this is the same way that individuals with disabilities want to be treated by “counting” in other people’s hearts.

Publishers Weekly: “This story about a boy with Down's syndrome a rarity for its potential to entertain, educate and encourage deeper consideration for others.”

School Library Journal: "Cooper's artful accompaniment to the text that truly brings out the author's positive message. Be Good to Eddie Lee is welcome for slightly older children, but mostly for the realism it exudes rather than the somewhat contrived story."

Booklist: “This title will undoubtedly be valued for its Down's syndrome theme, but detailed references to the pyracantha bush, the belted kingfisher, and the "beaver-gnawed birches," supported by Cooper's luminous paintings, also recommend it as a nature story.

Information about individuals with Down syndrome:
Individuals with Down syndrome usually have distinctive physical characteristics such as a round face and slanted eyes without eye folds. Other physical characteristics are heart abnormalities, hearing problems and respiratory problems. They vary considerably in the degree of mental retardation associated with the disorder, and few of them can be functional members in society. They are usually happy and carefree but stubborn. Some young adults with Down syndrome can achieve much in both work and independent living through special education.
About the author:
Virginia Fleming was born and raised in a small county near the mountains in North Carolina, and lives in New Jersey now. She writes many poems and stories related to experiences in her childhood. She graduated from Brevard University and was a preschool teacher for more than ten years. She is a professional writer now.

Other books for children with mental illness
1. Berniece Rabe's Where's Chimpy? by Albert Whitman.
2. Our Brother Has Down's Syndrome by Cairo Jasmine.
3. Autism by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
4. Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book by Celeste Shally.
5. I am Utterly Unique: Celebrating the Strengths of Children with
Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism by Elaine Marie Larson.
6. Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism by Laurie Lears.
7. Rules by Cynthia Lord.
8. Andy and His Yellow Frisbee by Mary Thompson.
9. Blue Bottle Mystery: An Asperger’s Adventure by Kathy Hoop Mann.
10.The Boy Who Ate Stars. By Kochka
11.Friend Learn about Tobin by Diane Murrell.
12.Little Rainman by Karen L. Simmons.
13.Buster and Amazing Daisy by Nancy Ogaz.
14.Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.
15.Guidando a Louis by Lectorum.
16.Looking for X by Deborah Ellis.
17.Oliver Onion: The Onion Who Learns to Accept and Be Himself by Diane Murrell.

1 comment:

Mr. Wong said...

Thanks for the book review on Be Good To Eddie Lee. I was researching for the author's background, but little is found about Virginia Fleming. It's wonderful that you provided some information about her.