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Children's Literature Reviews
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Belle Prater's boy
Ruth White.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996.
196 p. ; 22 cm.


When Woodrow's mother suddenly disappears, he moves to his grandparents' home in a small Virginia town where he befriends his cousin and together they find the strength to face the terrible losses and fears in their lives.

Best Books:

Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for PreK-Grade 6, 12th Edition, 1999 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Best Children's Books of the Year, 1996 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Books for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High, Thirteenth Edition, 1997 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Books in the Middle: Outstanding Books, 1996 ; Voice of Youth Advocates; United States
Books to Read Aloud to Children of All Ages, 2003 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Capitol Choices, 1996 ; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
Children's Books, 1996 ; New York Public Library; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Literature Choice List, 1997 ; Children's Literature; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, 1997 ; NCTE Children's Literature Assembly; United States
Notable Children's Books, 1997 ; ALSC American Library Association; United States
Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of the Social Studies, 1996 ; National Council for the Social Studies NCSS; United States
Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books, 1996 ; Cahners; United States
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, March 1996 ; Cahners; United States
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 ; California Department of Education; California
School Library Journal Best Books, 1996 ; Cahners; United States
School Library Journal Book Review Stars, April 1996 ; Cahners; United States
School Library Journal: Best Books for Young Adults, 1996 ; Cahners; United States
Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association, 1997 ; Special Interest Group of the International Reading Association; United States
Teachers' Choices, 1997 ; International Reading Association; United States
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 1997 ; American Library Association; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award, 1997 Winner Young Adult Readers United States
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children's Literature, 1996 Honor Book Fiction United States
John Newbery Medal, 1997 Honor Book United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

California Young Reader Medal, 1999 ; Nominee; Intermediate; California
Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award Reading List, 1998-1999 ; Nominee; Arkansas
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award, 1998 ; Nominee; Vermont
Golden Sower Award, 1999 ; Nominee; Intermediate; Nebraska
Iowa Children's Choice Award, 1998-1999 ; Nominee; Iowa
Maine Student Book Award, 1997-1998 ; Nominee; Maine
Mark Twain Award, 1998-1999 ; Nominee; Missouri
Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award, 1999-2000 ; Nominee; Minnesota
Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award, 2000-2001 ; Nominee; Minnesota
Nutmeg Children's Book Award, 2001 ; Nominee; Connecticut
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, 1999 ; Nominee; Illinois
South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, 2000 ; Nominee; South Carolina
William Allen White Children's Book Award, 1998-1999 ; Master List; Kansas

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Upper Grade
Book Level 4.4
Accelerated Reader Points 5
Accelerated Vocabulary, Literacy Skills

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 760

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 8
Lexile Measure 760


Stephanie Zvirin (Booklist, April 15, 1996 (Vol. 92, No. 16))
When her poor, cross-eyed, hill country cousin, Woodrow, comes to live next door, Gypsy thinks she'll get on the inside track of a family mystery, the disappearance of Woodrow's mother. Gypsy soon learns, however, that Woodrow isn't talking, so she begins concentrating, instead, on his thoughtful nature, puckish charm, and talent for telling grand stories. It's only during odd moments that Gypsy catches a glimpse of Woodrow's real sadness, but to push him to talk about his mother before he's ready might mean Gypsy would have to face up to a painful secret of her own. Several themes neatly dovetail in this unpretentious, moving story set in Appalachia in the 1950s. Humor and insight infuse a solid picture of small-town life as two strongly depicted young characters uncover an important truth some grown-ups never learn. Category: Older Readers. 1996, Farrar, $16. Gr. 5-9.

Rebecca Joseph (Children's Literature)
In this beautifully written novel, Gypsy tells the story of her sixth grade year when her cousin Woodrow comes to live next door. Woodrow's mother Belle had mysteriously disappeared earlier that year and everyone in this small Virgina town has a theory about what happened to her. Gypsy befriends her cousin and attempts to solve the mystery. The closer she gets to the truth, the more memories of her own father's tragic death surface, forcing her to face the facts about his demise. By coming to terms with her own situation, Gypsy realizes that Woodrow and his mother Belle have developed their own ways of dealing with painful memories; a painful yet liberating realization. 1996, Farrar, $16.00. Ages 10 up.

Susie Wilde (Children's Literature)
Ruth White writes of life in the "hollers" of the Appalachians and her novels deliver powerful characters, intriguing plots, and great writing. Belle Prater's Boy begins "Around 5:00 a.m. on a warm Sunday morning in October 1953, my Aunt Belle left her bed and vanished from the face of the earth." The mystery pervades the pages of the book that tell of the relationship of Belle's son, Woodrow and his cousin, the main character, Gypsy. Woodrow has grown up poor and unappealing in physical appearance. His cousin, Gypsy, is noted for her beauty, but wishes she'd be seen for who she really is, not what she looks like. The two are united largely because of their intelligence, wit, and good humor, but also on a deeper level, because both keep unspoken secrets. Gypsy has hidden from herself the horrors of her father's suicide and Woodrow keeps to himself his thoughts about his mother's disappearance. The book creates an air of mystery as Gypsy and Woodrow untangle of the difference between appearance and the genuine. They struggle to find those genuine places within themselves in the context of seeing how their parents have been controlled by facade, rather than truths. 1996, Farrar, $16.00. Ages 12 up.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Returning to the early `50s, western Virginia setting of Sweet Creek Holler and Weeping Willow, White serves up a novel so fresh that readers can practically smell the lilacs and the blossoming fruit trees. Gypsy, the 12-year-old narrator, is all excited when her cousin Woodrow moves in with their grandparents next door-Woodrow's mother, married to a coal miner in a remote holler, has disappeared without a trace, and Gypsy hopes that Woodrow will divulge some new clues. Instead, she gets a best friend, someone who, in spite of unwelcome attention for having crossed eyes and being "Belle Prater's boy," charms everyone in school with his good-natured if mischievous wit. Gypsy cannot understand Woodrow's self-possession in the wake of his mother's desertion, but Woodrow, on the other hand, understands Gypsy's pain at her father's long-ago suicide better than Gypsy does. Pitching her narrative in a genial, mountain-folks twang, White creates vivacious, memorable characters whose openheartedness should not be mistaken for naivete. She gives her protagonists the courage to face tragedy and transcend it-and the ability to pass along that gift to the reader. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Joyce A. Litton (The ALAN Review, Fall 1996 (Vol. 24, No. 1))
Ruth White has a strong sense of place in her depiction of Appalachian Coal Station, Virginia, in 1954. Her main theme, the loss of a parent, is a somber one, but she leavens it with humor. Twelve-year-old Woodrow Prater tells fanciful stories about his mother's disappearance a year earlier to silence the curious and to comfort himself. His sixth-grade cousin, Gypsy Leemaster, must come to grips with the reality that she has repressed her father's suicide (when she was five years old) and her discovery of the body. To show her anger at her father, she chops off her waist-length hair which had been his pride. Once Gypsy accepts her loss, Woodrow is able to tell her the truth about his mother. This novel should help young adults who are grieving over a parent. 1996, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 196 pp., $16.00. Ages 12 up.

Betsy Hearne (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April 1996 (Vol. 49, No. 8))
Gypsy Arbutus Leemaster-nicknamed Beauty-has fairy tale looks complete with long golden curls, while her cousin Woodrow is cross-eyed, gawky, and awkwardly clad in "hillbilly clothes" that were hand-me-downs to begin with. Beyond outer appearances, though, they have a lot in common. Woodrow's mother has disappeared without a trace, and Gypsy's father is dead. Beyond these facts, we discover the cousins' underlying pain just as they discover their deep friendship for each other during the year Woodrow comes to live with his grandparents, right next door to Gypsy. Woodrow knows that his mother deserted the family (she took some of his clothes and money), and Gypsy knows that her father shot himself (she found his body). Despite these dark themes, much of the novel is light in tone, its natural dialogue spiked with the jokes Gypsy loves to tell and the stories Woodrow spins. Both central and secondary characters are vividly realized in a plot that draws on family dynamics for its tension and energy. The 1950s Appalachian community itself acquires plenty of personality here; White knows her setting well enough to poke fun without sacrificing her affection for the small-town atmosphere. She's also supported her characteristically fine style with a sharpened sense of control developed through two previous books, Sweet Creek Holler (BCCB 10/88) and Weeping Willow (6/92). R--Recommended. Reviewed from galleys (c) Copyright 1996, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1996, Farrar, [208p], $16.00. Grades 5-8.

Susan Marie Swanson (The Five Owls, September/October 1996 (Vol. 11, No. 1))
Belle Prater's Boy and Amos Leemaster's Girl" would be an accurate, albeit unwieldy, title for this substantial and engaging account of a year in the life of Woodrow and Gypsy, twelve-year-old cousins. Written in Gypsy's voice, the novel opens with her account of how Woodrow came from an isolated holler down to their grandparent's home following the disappearance of his mother. She deftly sketches out their world for us. By page eleven, we know more than a bit of the geography, economy, and gossip of Coal Station, Virginia, and we've entered a 1950s world where picture windows and electric appliances are luxuries, and a jawbreaker is a special treat. Throughout the novel, fragments of mid-century popular culture--movies, songs, comics, folklore--echo the inner lives of the characters. While Belle Prater's Boy portrays children abandoned by troubled adults, the novel is warm and amusing. Gypsy loves to tell jokes, and Woodrow spins stories wherever he goes. Part of the novel's magic is in the way author Ruth White creates funny set-pieces without ever loosening the threads of her narrative. For example, Gypsy's silly joke about a glass eyeball and a set of false teeth breaks the ice when she welcomes Woodrow to Coal Station, and it is also part of the novel's elaborate web of images linked with eyes, sight, and windows. In part a cautionary tale about the danger of trusting in appearances; this is also a story about the vexing challenges that the suffering of adults poses for children who are forming their own identities. The twelve-year-old cousins develop an intimacy that goes far beyond a conspiracy between two only children, and their relationships within their extended family have real depth and texture. In October 1953, Woodrow's mother, Belle Prater, has vanished, and Gypsy's father, Amos Leemaster, is seven years dead, and yet the two are ever-present. By the time the apples ripen in 1954, the cousins understand more about the complex and unhappy adults who left them behind--and about themselves. 1996, Farrar Straus Giroux, 196 pages, $16.00. Ages 10 up.


Mother and child--Fiction.
Loss (Psychology)--Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.W58446 Be 1996
94043625 [Fic]
0374306680 : $15.00
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