Reviewer: Sharon Brunner
David Swindell’s book “The Wonderful Friendship” sparked revelations about problems people face, how to resolve such problems and how to live a good life. Davie, Ida May and Aunt Mimi had to put on their thinking caps to come up with ways to solve serious problems. Ida May had to figure out how to outrun police and circus people and save a friend of the family. Davie solved the problem of rescuing a bear from a metal trap. While Aunt Mimi came up with a plan on how to save Davie’s property from a greedy lawyer and her two sisters. The main characters in the book were Davie, Bear (actual bear) and Floppy, a rabbit. Old Doc Wilson, a veterinarian, came to the rescue of Davie’s family on multiple occasions. Swindell provided the reader with many life lessons while he brought to life endearing characters and people with questionable motives.
The book took place in a town called Wakefield in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (U.P.). Research indicated the town was located near Lake Superior in the western portion of the U.P. with a population of 1,851 according to the 2010 census and is ten miles from the Wisconsin border. The towns of Ironwood and Marquette were also mentioned. Not sure the time period the book represented. The author lived in Topeka, Kansas. It appeared he had an interest in the U.P. because of where the story was located. Swindell has driven a school bus and realized during that time the problems many children and teens face. He brought to life the problems they face in an informative manner.
Multiple themes were represented in the book: the importance of family and friends; loyalty; honesty; hard work; and staying true to one’s goals. Davie realized he had to respect his grandfather’s goal of keeping the farm in the family. Aunt Mimi had to remind Big Dave, Davie’s cousin, the importance of all jobs which included the cleaning of the barn and how the lack of doing so could cause harm to many people. Davie appeared to be loyal to his mother’s memory and the wonderful things she has done for so many people. Bear demonstrated his loyalty and the importance of Davie’s friendship. Ida May decided to create a cherry production at the risk of the inclement weather of the U.P. Davie, Aunt Mimi and others worked hard to protect the cherry harvest in memory of Ida May’s goals.
This book reminded me of“The Wizard of Oz” . Dorothy became friends with a scarecrow who didn’t have a brain, a tin man without a heart and a cowardly lion. All of these characters were able to communicate with Dorothy. Creatures who should not have been able to communicate with Davie were able to do so. An owl served as a look out and reported things to Bear, Floppy and Davie. Creatures from the forest appeared in the open when Davie needed support. Amy Klco’s book “It Takes a Forest (To Raise a Tree)” portrayed the life of a tree and how the tree communicated with other trees. The book was filled with metaphors concerning how to live a good life.
Swindell addressed loss in the book. I have been hit really hard by the loss of special people in my life and Swindell did a very good job of how we should not fear death. My Aunt Donna had a major problem concerning death until her daughter, my cousin, was in a lot of pain due to the colon cancer she contracted which spread to other organs in her body. My aunt looked up and asked God to release her daughter from her pain. A few minutes later, my cousin died. My aunt had a new feeling about death and realized her daughter was in a better place. I also lost two friends. One died when she was 51 due to stomach cancer and another was in her 30s due to kidney failure. I suffered many mixed feelings as a result of those losses and questioned why it had to happen. “If we learn and grow from our loss, then we become stronger and more capable individuals” (page 178). We need to chip away our own selfishness and pride to bring us to a better place. That entire chapter and what we should learn from chapter 6 helped me realize some very important things about loss.
Other things I liked about the book was Frankie’s, a frog’s, statements to Davie about his life changes while he was entering puberty and why he was experiencing the feelings he was experiencing in chapter nine. Wise frog. I liked how Davie and James worked things out. The points Bear made to Davie about the Creator’s kindness being unused as it related to pollution and the neglect children have been facing were good messages on page 154. The book provided many good messages about ways to live a good life.
I could not figure out the significance of the walls of jewels erected in the town of Wakefield in the Conclusion/Epilogue chapter of the book. A being named Waahoowah presented gifts of jewels to the townsfolk. Was he the same character or a relative of Waakoowha, who was mentioned earlier in the book? The word for living a good life in Anishaanabemowin (Chippewa language) is bimaadiziwin. Living a good life meant treating nature, animals and people with respect at all times and done for its own sake because it was the right thing to do. Not for material reasons. I liked that Davie was given the bow and arrows from Waakoowha. He learned how to hunt and provide for his family. The townsfolk being given vast amounts of jewels did not make sense to me especially when a chapter was devoted to the evils of materialism and greed.
“The Wonderful Friendship” portrayed ways in which to live in two worlds, a world that supported Native American values about nature and wildlife, along with how to live a Christian life. Life-long friendships based on love, respect and loyalty echoed throughout the book. Davie realized workable solutions to the problems he faced with the help of a multitude of people and wildlife. I recommend this book for its wonderful principles about living a good life and because of its messages about loyalty, hard work and staying true to one’s goals while facing adversity.
Book Title: The Wonderful Friendship
Author: David Swindell