First published in 1972, Suffer the Little Children focuses on Miss Sidley, a no-nonsense teacher, ruling her third-grade class with an iron fist. Whether or not the children played a part in the breakdown of her sanity is open to conjecture.
The author draws a three-dimensional character in Miss Sidley, who starts out harsh and bitter, and ends up mousey and weak. As for Robert, one of her students? Frankly, the kid freaked me out!
King is an expert in character development, but I find some of his endings ambiguous. Suffer the Little Children falls into this category. If, however, his intent is to keep his readers pondering the multiple layers of his fiction, he is successful. My mind is still churning it over, a full day after finishing this short story.
Suffer the Little Children can be – in fact, should be – read in one sitting. There is a brief, profane rant by an addled Miss Sidley, not suited for younger audiences. It certainly makes a case for better screening of those who will teach our children.
Fourteen, in love, and just beginning to assert her independence, Trixie Stone’s normally safe world is about to crash at her feet. In her desperation to win back her boyfriend, she lies to her father and attends a party at her best friend’s house, where things go horribly wrong.
Daniel works from home as a comic book illustrator. His latest project, The Tenth Circle, mirrors Laura’s own work at the local college, where she teaches Dante’s inferno. The connection between Trixie’s parents ends there, however, until that fateful evening when their commitment to the family, and to one another, is put to the test.
The Tenth Circle offers a fast-paced, roller coaster ride that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. I found myself stealing away to devour page after page. As an added bonus, Daniel’s illustrations are included at the end of each chapter: a book within a book. This allows readers a deeper understanding of his character.
While Picoult’s mastery of character development is to be commended, I found it implausible that Daniel, having fallen in love with Laura, could have just flicked off the switch that controlled his dark side and kept it hidden for the next fifteen years. Having said that, though, it does not detract from an expertly woven tale.
Due to subject matter and a minimal use of vulgarity, I would recommend The Tenth Circle for those thirteen and older.