Julia W(oolfolk) Cunningham Judith Crist - Essay

Judith Crist

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Dorp Dead] is the story of a boy who discovers himself, who basically comes to grips with that most contemporary of problems, the isolation of the individual. It is told within the near-classic framework of the story of the orphan who survives and escapes maltreatment to find love, but it is told in frank, literate terms in the lingo of today's youngsters. And it has, as an additional dimension, a touch of the Gothic tale, a tinge of terror and a shade of romanticism, as it evolves as a fast-moving, first-person, present-tense adventure story that never descends to the sensational….

"Dorp Dead" is Gilly's final message to those who would build cages for the young—Gilly is a bad speller, with his non-conformity extending to the sequence of letters…. But however Gilly spells, he speaks for his contemporaries in their terms.

And this is the distinction that Miss Cunningham brings to a field that this season brims with excitement in the area of non-fiction but brings little in the way of either imagination or even simple literary, let alone literate, adventure to a particular age group of children who, having learned to cope with books, should proceed to revel in them. Here is one author who has recognized the sophistication of young readers geared to an age of television and films—and shows that a book can be as hip and as exciting and far more memorable. (p. 5)

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(The entire section is 436 words.)