Virginia Hamilton BARBARA H. BASKIN and KAREN H. HARRIS - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Planet of Junior Brown, a] powerful, haunting, troubling book, contrasts sanity and madness, endorsement and rejection of life, commitment to others and absorption with self. Characters are at once individual and deeply symbolic. They are complex and act in ways that are often inconsistent, inimical to their own interests, and totally irrational, yet their behavior is haunting and disquieting and echoes with broader meaning. The treatment of Junior Brown's withdrawal from reality is paradoxical. It is a response to an oppressive, uncaring world, and yet it embodies a surprising innocence. Mrs. Peebs surrounds herself with objects, trying to compensate for a life of losses. Her barely manageable fantasy life substitutes for a totally unmanageable real one. Mrs. Brown is victim and victimizer; her asthma and loneliness (her husband is perpetually due home, but never manages to arrive) trap her and are simultaneously the devices she uses to control her son. Hamilton chronicles the inexorable progress and contagion of emotional stress. Buddy's characterization makes an assertive statement, presenting a caring, loving alternative to social trauma and a metaphor for a hopeful future. A well-constructed plot, superb characterizations, fine, tight, compelling style, and a unique concept are blended in this exceptional story. (pp. 146-47)

Barbara H. Baskin and Karen H. Harris, "A Selected Guide to Intellectually Demanding Books: 'The Planet of Junior Brown'," in their Books for the Gifted Child (reprinted with permission of the R. R. Bowker Company; copyright © 1980 by Xerox Corporation), Bowker, 1980, pp. 146-47.