Paul Fleischman. Mind’s Eye. Laurel Leaf, 2001. ISBN 978-0440229018 112 pp. $
Courtney, age 16 and paralyzed from a riding accident, is dragged into a fantasy game by Elva, her nearly blind elderly roommate at a convalescent home. Elva believes that Courtney’s life is far from over and encourages her to cultivate her mind, now that her body has failed her. The two embark on an imaginary tour of Italy in the early 1900s with Elva’s now deceased husband joining them. The former teacher gladly takes on a role as mentor. Courtney plays along reluctantly at first. Her bitterness leads her to imagine the beauty and symmetry of Italy falling into ruins in various scenarios. Ultimately, she learns a great deal, as does the reader. Fleischman uses Elva to quote classic poetry, plays and novels.
The entire story is told through dialogue. The format is an excellent device for Fleischman’s keen ear for speech as well as his exquisite sensory detail for 1910 Italy. The language of the book is lovely, from Elva’s rapturous description of the architecture of the Parthenon to Courtney’s learned Italian phrases.The characters felt a bit flat though. Courtney is a typical teen, stereotyped as pretty popular & tv-lovin’ with superficial friends and interests. Elva was frustrating with her allusions and desire to better Courtney’s mind.
The design aspect of the book is particularly noteworthy. A map of Italy is superimposed on the first page of each new chapter. It enlarges as the play progresses, acting as a metaphor for Courtney’s mental growth and increasing focus on Italy. An appendix of quotes (with source notes!) would have made a nice addition.
This will be an excellent book for students studying Italy or the Renaissance, with curriculum connections in a variety of subjects. Perhaps a reading aloud or performance would bring the characters to life.