Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit, by Sylvia Plath

A few weeks ago we were at the library and I came across a book by Sylvia Plath in the children's section. I had never heard of Sylvia Plath writing books for kids. Out of curiosity, I picked it up. The jacket was bright and colorful with a happy-looking kid and his cat populating the front cover. The jacket blurb said that the book had remained "undiscovered for years within the Plath collection at Indiana University..." and that "Parents and scholars alike will also cherish this glimpse into the mind of a literary genius."

So did Calvin. He wrote about it for his book review column. Here's the review in its entirety.
Max Nix is seven years old and lives in a town called Winkelburg with his huge family. Everybody in Winkelburg has a suit. Every body except Max.

One day, a gigantic box arrives in the mail for the Nix family. Inside the box is a … bright mustard-yellow suit! First Max's father tries it on because it looks about his size. But he is a banker. No banker wears a suit like that! It's too yellow and bright.

With a little bit of stitching from Mama Nix, Max's eldest brother, Paul, tries it on. He says that he'll wear this suit for skiing the next day, but he changes his mind because he thinks his friends will laugh at him as the suit is too yellow.

This goes on and on. Each brother has a reason to not want the suit. Mama Nix has to keep on snipping and cutting at the edges until Max gets the suit. Max is very happy. He has his own suit! He says he will wear the suit "today and tomorrow and the day after that."

Everywhere Max goes and everything Max does, the suit is perfect for it. If the suit gets wet, it dries up immediately. If hay gets stuck to it, it's OK because hay is yellow too. Not a single person in Winkelburg has ever seen such a suit. If Max slides on ice, the suit doesn't tear because the cloth is extra-tough. If rain falls on it, the water slides right off. If anything happens to the suit, it doesn't matter because the suit is conditioned for everything. Max has the perfect suit!

The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit, illustrated by Rotraut Susanne Berner, is vivid and interesting. Sylvia Plath describes each of the brothers' situations in detail. Emil, one of Max's brothers, for example, likes riding the toboggan. But none of the other tobogganers wears such a bright suit. Emil thinks he'll look like a big show-off if he wears it.

It's a feel-good story. You feel happy when Max finally gets his suit. In the beginning, the book starts out with Max desperately wanting a suit, a suit that has uses all year round.

But I have questions about the book. Who sent the Nix family the package with the suit, and why did they? If it was meant for Max, why did they send it in such a big size? I'm inferring that this was a big set up and that the package was originally for Max. His parents probably sent it to themselves, and Paul and all the other brothers were forced to give the suit to Max and Mama Nix did all that cutting and snipping on purpose. I think they wanted it to be a big surprise for Max because he was the only one without a suit and because they loved him.

If you like a lovely, warm story, this is absolutely, one hundred percent, the book for you.

Article first published as Book Review: The It-Doesn't-Matter-Suit by Sylvia Plath on Blogcritics.
The-It-Doesn't-Matter Suit makes for a fantastic first foray into Sylvia Plath's writings. When Calvin gets to read her poetry, how wonderful for him to be able to recall this heart-warming story he'd already read years earlier! She has written other books for children as well, as I've now discovered - Collected Children's Stories and The Bed Book.