Mischief and laughter in Donald Davis’s new book
Move over Norman Rockwell. The painter’s love affair with Americana has inhabited the soul of another artist, this time storyteller Donald Davis. Tales from a Free-Range Childhood has all the attention to detail and gentle humor that used to grace the covers of The Saturday Evening Post.
Donald Davis has been one of the stars of the storytelling world for more than thirty years. Those who’ve had the good fortune of hearing him live will hear the easy pace, the uncanny sense of timing, and the underlay of warmth that are part of his performances. Readers coming to his stories without the benefit of oral delivery will still catch the fun and the acceptance of human frailty that weave through his childhood memories.
Tales from a Free-Range Childhood
is full of vivid details from a childhood spent in a loving family. Something of Davis’s training as a minister comes through the stories, which invariably include the gem of a life lesson. Actions have consequences, but parental punishments show more acceptance of children’s foibles than angry reactions.
The world of Davis’s childhood will be familiar to those who grew up in the first post-World War II generation. In the age of smart phones and e-readers, we can still remember the first television sets, ducktail hair cuts, the Pontiac Chieftain, and the first truly terrifying movie of our lives, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Even children growing up in an electronic age will relate to the mischievous young Donald’s shearing his younger brother’s curls, persuading him to stomp in cow pies, or scheming to get rid of a babysitter. And anyone who’s experienced or witnessed the sting of isolation will shed a tear reading about Willie Freedle’s empty Valentine’s box and her fourth-grade teacher’s creative response.
Tales from a Free-Range Childhood is like healing balm. Woven through the laughter is an optimism too often in short supply. Davis’s stories stir the memory pot and fulfill the goal he sets for them: “My hope is always that they will serve as memory dusters for readers, and that readers will end up telling stories of their own about which they would not have thought without reading these.”