Homer Price

by Robert McCloskey

Paperback, 1971


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Puffin Books (1976), Edition: Reprint, 149 pages


Six episodes in the life of Homer Price including one in which he and his pet skunk capture four bandits and another about a donut machine on the rampage.

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LibraryThing member delzey
here's this place called Centerburg which has always appeared just off the map from our collective unconsciousness. It's a past where the town fathers and other leading citizens gather at the barber shop while they let their children mind the diner and bring petty criminals to justice at the end of
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a gun. It's where ten year old boys could take the family cart and mare into town on their own, or tame a skunk for a pet with just a little milk, an innocent place where the idea of factory-produced homes is welcomed progress and a contest to see which old codger owns the largest ball of string is prime entertainment for a week. And in the center of it all, whether witness or participant, is Homer Price.

As one of Robert McCloskey's forages outside the realm of the picture book (Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal), Homer Price takes the form of fanciful memoir, the kind of stories written of a young man's retelling of his Ohio home town. Naturally Centerburg doesn't exist, but plenty of Midwest towns like it did exist in the early part of the twentieth century and the book breathes a homespun charm not unlike a Frank Capra movie or a Thornton Wilder play.

Reading this in the late 1960's there was still a sense that these small towns still existed, not yet gobbled up by big cities. I had no doubts that just outside of my home town of Los Angeles there were dozens of these Centerburgs dotting the landscaped edges of the desert and foothills of the Sierra's. More exciting was the prospect that out there, somewhere, a man was in need of a ten year old boy like me to mind the diner while the donut machine ran amok pumping out thousands of the golden cake rings begging to be eaten. That a boy could tame a wild animal made perfect sense to me as I had once tried to convince my parents how (but not why) I could keep a pet squirrel in the closet under the stairs. Never mind that: we lived in a city and rarely saw squirrels; that the closet had no light in it; that the only nuts I was able to gather (in anticipation) were from eucalyptus trees. All that mattered to me was if Homer Price could do it, so could I.

The collection of stories in Homer Price are homespun and sly at times, with only one real dud in the bunch. McCloskey's attempt to modernize The Pied Piper of Hamlin almost threatens to destroy everything leading up to it, but in the final story he regains sure footing and brings together every major character from previous stories into a grand finale.

Rereading it recently I can't help but wonder about the black people of Centerburg, only hinted at in these stories. They appear twice -- when a poor boy finds a diamond bracelet in a donut (and is rewarded with the princely sum of $100) and in the town celebration when the Baptist choir sings out a sort of folk-blues commentary on the town's history. It's both an accurate and sad reflection of the times that towns like Centerburg existed with poor minority communities that lived on the outskirts and peripheries. I wouldn't doom this book to the type of drubbing that Twain's boyhood tales receive but it would be nice to get an inner city version of Homer Price to balance things out. Perhaps a Harlem-set version of the 30's and 40's that celebrated the same spirit of boyhood adventure minus any sort of overt social message or literary revisionism.
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LibraryThing member tripleblessings
A funny children's story collection first published in 1943, set in small town America. I loved this one as a kid, especially the story about the doughnut machine. Appealing line illustrations. A great read-aloud for kids aged 5 to 7.
LibraryThing member the_abbeys
This is about six humorous but smart stories in the life of Homer Price. A wonderful read-aloud to my 1st grader who loves the book so much he desperately tried to read it on his own one time. If you want light-hearted reading and pleasure, this one is for you and your child.
LibraryThing member stevetempo
Wonderful stuff! I remember reading this one on a family vacation. I remember thinking how I could build the donut machine.
LibraryThing member MerryMary
How can I explain the smile on my face and the delight in my heart when I remember this book? A true classic for us 1950s children. The doughnut machine, the ball-of-string contest, the pageant with the "edible fungus growing in the wilderness." I can't pick a favorite. Highest recommendation.
LibraryThing member prkcs
Six episodes in the life of Homer Price including one in which he and his pet skunk capture four bandits and another about a donut machine on the rampage.
LibraryThing member tgraettinger
A classic collection of stories that wrap you up like a warm blanket. Includes "The Doughnuts", "Mystery Yarn" (about the string collections and the laps around the horse track), "Nothing New under the Sun (Hardly)" (a pied-piper-like tale), and "Wheels of Progress" (about look-alike suburbia)
LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
I don't remember loving this as a child, but then, I probably thought it was too much of a boys' book.  The irony is, that it isn't really even so much a kids' book.  So much subversion and symbolism!  The donut adventure, reminiscent of Sorcerer's Apprentice.  The battle of the string balls,
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to determine the lady's affections... that the lady herself entered into.  The drawing of the little Black boy, sharing the lunch counter with the rest of the diners.  The very name of Uncle Ulysses.  The riff on the Pied Piper.  Etc.  I'm definitely going to read the sequel asap....
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LibraryThing member NadineC.Keels
How can a boy and his pet skunk be any match for a four-man team of robbers that comes to the town of Centerburg? It's one thing to read about the mighty Super-Duper in 10¢ superhero comics, but what's it like to meet the Super-Duper in person? And what do you do when an automatic doughnut machine
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just won't stop making doughnuts? Young Homer may have something to say about all of this and more in Homer Price by author Robert McCloskey.

I like to revisit some books I enjoyed back in my childhood to see (or remember) what it was about them that "got" me. While reading about Homer's adventures again after all these years didn't give me the same wonder and level of pleasure that I still feel when I read about Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby, I had fun going back through these old-fashioned tales.

This read is intentionally outrageous in places while remaining comfortable and entertaining. I had to smile at the book's nod to the modern American woman—the references to her place in business and public life and the right for her to make up her own mind in romantic matters. And the dilemma concerning the Street Sign Putter Uppers Union got an eyebrow-raise from me even as I chuckled.

The book has a little stuff related to people of color that, while presented in a positive spirit, wouldn't exactly fly today. But I won't pick all of that apart, since some of it's due to American history that can't be erased, and in this middle grade read that's silly overall, the town's brown members aren't singled out to be "the silly ones" or negative figures. Even as I did some inward cringing, it all gave me something worth remembering about kid lit from three quarters of a century ago.

While I can't say this book would be on my list of recommendations for children today, I'll be going on to read more about Homer Price and the Centerburg folks, to remember more.
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LibraryThing member EstherFilbrun
When I happened across a mention of this book recently, I realized I hadn’t read it yet—oops! Thankfully, a friend had a copy, and we all enjoyed this book as a read-aloud. My brothers loved it just as much as I did. It’s crazy, it’s fun, it’s a tall tale, and yet the people in the
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stories are pretty realistic. We all have our favorite stories from this book, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we decide we want to read it together again at some stage. If you’re looking for clean, humorous children’s stories, this is an excellent choice! (Also neat: This book was first published in 1943, and still has the same appeal today it had then—I think that’s pretty special!)
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Physical description

7.96 x 0.41 inches


0140309276 / 9780140309270




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