I love analyzing books -- I always have. I think during the semester I had a hard time completing my seven books for the annotated bibliography is because I'd sit there and analyze (which I learned people don't do). Most of the kids in my class are education majors; I am a writing major, so analyzing a text to a bloody, violent death is what I'm trained to do (especially since I want to write). So, I started my bib two weeks early (sorry Mahmoud, but you should expect it by now that childrens' lit takes up the fiber of my being and well, I need this a lot more than Arabic... I need this class to graduate) and analyzed some of the texts. I fell in love with this book: The Unfinished Portrait of Jessica by Richard Peck. It's on the list of modern fiction, but you could tell it was for the 11-14 year old crowd. I am going to post my analysis (Dr. Pflieger, if my blog shows up on the plagiarism radar, it's me Jessica and you can look at my profile):
Peck, Richard. Unfinished Portrait of Jessica. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group: 1991.
Reeling from her father’s leaving, Jessica barricades herself into her room in spite of her mother, who kicked out her father. As Jessica mopes in her room, she thinks of her “father, this grown-up playmate” (8) for he was as the jacket describes him “a photographer who wears a flight jacket” unlike the other fathers who wear Brook Brothers or Joseph A. Banks suits. Jessica is named after a portrait that once hung “over the fireplace mantel, my grandmother’s picture had hung in a pool of light. It was always called the “Unfinished portrait of Jessica” (9). Later on, we learn that Jessica’s mother never wanted to name her daughter Jessica because as grandpa Lucius told Jessica, “you’ll never be pretty. Be glad of that. You have a chance at something better. I wish I’d be here when you are older” (115) and then Lucius compares Jessica to her name sake, “she was a beauty, as you know. She was a beautiful young woman and we didn’t meet until later” (117). This could be interpreted as Jessica’s own beauty isn’t finished as she is only 14 and has all her life to age and develop a beauty all her own—which could be in success, money or whatever her heart desires. However, her mother states when she gets back in banter back and forth after Jessica tells her mother about Margo and her mother knew Mr. Ferris had met someone with her own agenda. Jessica is shocked she knows, mother points to the mantel and states, “He had a mother rather like that—the original Jessica. You were named for her over my objections. I believe [she was beautiful] at one time. When I knew her, she was an old battle-ax. She’d been married years and years before Scott was born, and so he was the miracle son to her, and she spoiled him and ruined him. She wasn’t too happy to see me on her turf” (126). This could be analyzed as Jessica is nowhere near to the original Jessica because their personalities are the polar opposite in most ways, however, they both loved Scott dearly and hated to see him go. Jessica could have been named in hopes that she would carry the strength of the female Ferris’ or in spite of Jessica’s mom since she was not welcomed into the Ferris family. Thus, the unfinished portrait could be that Lucius never captured the whole of the original Jessica’s life and the ugliness behind her life (her shallowness) and could be why Lucius told 14-year-old Jessica that she might not be pretty, but she will never turn out shallow like the original Jessica.
Quote: “Then there was somewhere else. Some “no place” (89). This describes Jessica’s relationship with her father, he was often absent on photography trips and this trip to Mexico was no different. Jessica hangs out with Brooke and her boyfriend. Brooke is Margo’s daughter—both teens are a substitute for her father, like in the beginning there was another lady at the playground when she was younger. Margo takes care of Jessica when she is sick, not her father, leading Jessica to realize that her father cares about his work more than her and her mother is right: his mother Jessica ruined him and made him irresponsible.