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Book Review of "The Chairs Are Jealous", by J. Denise Kulick


J. Denise Kulick, author of The Chairs Are Jealous, pulls the reader's leg and tickles his funny bone in this fun fantasy. Set in 1958, near New York City, the novel's plot follows the adventures of Marian Fennell.  Marian is an introverted textile conservator in a large university. She and her extroverted sister were orphaned when young and were reared by Aunt Ruthie who plays a pivotal part in the plot.

After leaving a terrifying phone call to Marian, Ruthie vanishes. Despite warnings, Marian rushes to Ruthie's home to look for clues.  What she discovers is a hilarious and unimaginable scene that resembles a Disney cartoon movie. Confronted with mind-boggling destruction, she finds that animated furniture has taken over Ruth's house. On the ceiling, "strands of cooked spaghetti hung like yellowish fringe from a tomato sauced circle overhead."

Marian's uncle Phil, Ruthie's brother-in-law, laughs off the chaos caused by a set of squabbling dining chairs, the John Hepplewhites. Cleaning up the mess, Marian discovers an elaborate Persian rug that can talk and morph into a shadowy young lady, Tazzi. Marian is given the job of babysitting the chairs and Tazzi to make sure they don't leave the house. The neighbors or, more importantly, the police should not know of their presence. How do you explain to the police such happening as rugs and chairs that talk?  There are many conflicts as Marian tries to discover what has happened to her aunt. While staying in Ruthie's home, she is attacked by mysterious intruders who came to steal Tazzi but is rescued by the chairs.

Marian is convinced that she is helpless, clueless, and has no power. To find Ruthie, she must force herself out of her safety zone and venture out on her own to develop her strength… "moxie." She must make her own decisions, fall down, and when that happens, get up and keep trying.

Determined to rescue Ruthie, Marian teams up with Tazzi, who admits that she is a flying carpet that has lost her ability to fly. Or has she? If the reader has ever stubbed a toe on a chair leg or tripped over the edge of a rug, he will not question that furniture just might be able to react as Kulick's have. The author's graphic visualization of place and actions are imaginative and permit the reader to mentally "see" the action and personality of the animated furniture.

When the time comes for Tazzi to save a baby, can she reclaim her unique abilities and protect the baby from harm? Can Marian get the Hepplewhites to behave and help with finding Aunt Ruthie?

Marian and Aunt Ruthie are both experts in the conservation of rare, valuable textiles. The vocabulary relating to tapestries, rugs, and other woven treasures may be unfamiliar to the reader, but the vocabulary usage in context will widen the readers' knowledge of this specialized art form.

The mysterious craziness makes this fantasy an amusing and entertaining read that will be long remembered by young as well as mature readers.



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