Sunday, March 27, 2011

Graven Images by Paul Fleischman

Graven Images by Paul Fleischman consists of three short stories.  Each story revolves around a graven image; a wooden boy, a copper saint, and a marble statue.  This book was the recipient of the Newberry Honor, a Notable Children’s Book Award, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year Award. 
The Binnacle Boy was a suspenseful story. The Orion arrives at its homeport in New Bethany, Maine with an entire crew mysteriously dead and there wasn’t any evidence of a struggle.  The only boy left on the ship is the “Binnacle Boy,” the life sized carving of a sailor boy holding the iron binnacle.  The people of the town decide to mount the binnacle boy before the town hall as a memorial to the Orion’s crew.  Over time, the people from the town began sharing their secrets with him, knowing his lips would forever be sealed.  The story takes a turn when a deaf girl, Tekoa, is asked to read the lips of the people sharing their secrets.
St. Crispin’s Follower was a comical story.  The story takes place in Charleston, South Carolina and involves a shoemaker’s apprentice, Nicholas.  Nicholas is often daydreaming and thinking about love, while the Master of the shop continually redirects his attention to his work.  “Let your thoughts never stray from shoes, Nicholas.  And your dreams as well, lad-always upon leather!”   The Master of the shop continues to tell Nicholas that the weathervane, St. Crispin, is always watching over him.  Even though it is pointing in a direction all together different from the other weathervanes.  Nicholas begins to believe in this thought and believes that the weathervane will guide him to love.  This story has a completely different tone, although, it still has twists and turns that are unexpected.
The Man of Influence dealt with the supernatural.  Zorelli is a stone carver by trade and he makes monuments from granite.  He has been without work for awhile and he despises the thought of going back to work with his father and brothers.  “If no commission came his way today he’d be forced to return to work at the quarry, toiling once again beside his loutish father and his foul-smelling brothers.”  As Zorelli and his cat go for a walk one evening, Zorelli is approached by a ghost.  The ghost asks Zorelli to carve a life size statue of him.  Zorelli agrees because he thinks the man is associated with elite people.  Zorelli learns of many surprising events that may have occurred through this ghost.  He begins to question himself and many of the elite people in his community. 
What impressed me the most is Fleischman’s writing style. There were times when I began to read aloud because the words were like poetry. “She pursed her lips, lowered her eyes, and looked out upon her flower garden.  It was nearly Independence Day- tansy was thriving, pinks were in bloom, marigolds were budding on schedule.”  He is able to develop a character quickly and use language that just takes you back in time.  “Good day to you, Miss Frye," chirped Miss Bunch.  Without asking, she plopped herself down on a chair, a trespass that drew a stare from her hostess.  Affirming for sovereign powers, Miss Frye regally motioned the others to be seated.”
After reading Weslandia and Seedfolks, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Graven Images.  Needless to say, I continue to be amazed by his originality and versatility.  Graven Images provides text that is rich in figurative language.  The stories dealt with moral and psychological issues that were suspenseful with ironic twists in the plot. 


  1. I see what you mean about his "almost" poetic verse. It did seem that his language was going in that direction.

  2. I too continue to be amazed by Fleischman's versatality as an author. He was able to include so much detail in these short suspensful stories. I look forward to reading more stories by Fleischman to see his many other sides!