Emily Cheney Neville Doris Orgel - Essay

Doris Orgel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mrs. Neville makes the slum setting [of "Garden of Broken Glass"] palpably real. Her four main characters have plenty of problems: living on the edge of despair with an abusive drunk for a mother, as Brian, the one white boy, does; being fat, and, as 13-year-old Martha fears, pregnant; knowing, as Dwayne and his girlfriend Melvita do, that "without money, you is nothin!" But problems, as Mrs. Neville knows, are only interesting if the characters move and breathe and think and feel.

Martha is philosophical beyond her years, and perhaps, beyond belief. The street talk doesn't always ring true. Now and then the author, whose great strength is seeing people from inside, makes extraneous, sociological-sounding comments. Despite such faults, this is an honest, quite powerful book. I hope lots of kids read it. I can even imagine it making a difference in a few of their lives.

Doris Orgel, "Garden of Broken Glass," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 15, 1975, p. 8.

[Garden of Broken Glass] is a story of wonderful young people, struggling against heavy odds to avoid being mortally scarred by the sharp edges of a racist and uncaring society. (p. 241)

The oppression of poverty and racism is depicted without evoking sentimental pity for the young characters, who have strengths and are lovable, but who are not idealized. The Garden of Broken Glass shows us a spaghetti, Kool-Aid and soda pop world of poverty in which humor, warmth and concern for others are the key to survival and growth. (p. 242)

Human (and Anti-Human) Values in Children's Books: A Content Rating Instrument for Educators and Concerned Parents, prepared by CIBC Racism and Sexism Resource Center for Educators (copyright © by the Council on Interracial Books for Children, Inc.; all rights reserved), The Council on Interracial Books for Children, Inc., 1976.