Sue Ellen Bridgers Joseph O. Milner - Essay

Joseph O. Milner

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[All Together Now] seems clearly out-of-step with most of the books of our day. The presence of the family, as it extends itself vertically and horizontally, and of the larger community run deep in the account of Casey's summer with her grandparents. In contrast, much of today's children's fiction reports the family as extinct or, if alive, merely meddling. As a part of this difference, Bridgers pays homage to powerful adults and attends to them sufficiently to allow her reader to feel both their silliness and their wisdom. Although she focuses on Casey and her relationship to the quick-spirited, but slow-minded, Dwayne Pickens, Bridgers's omniscient point of view carries her into the minds of folk who are placed all along the chronological path of life. She deftly slips into the thoughts of most of her characters and renders a less rarified, more complete assessment of life than is found in much of children's literature. Multiple interior responses to Dwayne's threatened institutionalization by his prideful brother Alva—to the misfire honeymoon and subsequent estrangement of the middle-aged Pansy and Hazard, to the quiet solidity of the elder Flanagan's relationship, and to the on-and-off courtship of Uncle Taylor and the candy-counter girl Gwyn, make the book less parochial and more real than the typical single-issue, youth ghetto books of our time. Furthermore, although Casey's summer includes a good bit of pain and foolishness, Bridgers persistently affirms life at its core; without being a Pollyanna she departs from the current norm of despair by championing brotherhood and love. (p. 176)

Joseph O. Milner, "The Emergence of Awe in Recent Children's Literature," in Children's Literature: Annual of the Modern Language Association Group on Children's Literature and the Children's Literature Association, Vol. 10, edited by Francelia Butler (copyright © by Children's Literature An International Journal, Inc.), Yale University Press, 1982, pp. 169-77.∗