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Children's Literature Reviews
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Second cousins
Virginia Hamilton.
New York : Blue Sky Press, 1998.
168 p. ; 22 cm.

Annotations:

Sequel to: Cousins.
The friendship of twelve-year-old cousins Cammy and Elodie is threatened when the family reunion includes two other cousins near their age and Elodie is tempted to drop Cammy for a new companion.

Best Books:

Best Children's Books of the Year, 1999 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Massachusetts Children's Book Award, 2001 ; Massachusetts Children's Book Award; Massachusetts

Reading Measurement Programs:


Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 460

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 10
Lexile Measure 460

Reviews:

Hazel Rochman (Booklist, August 1998 (Vol. 94, No. 22))
In this sequel to Hamilton's astonishing novel Cousins (1990), it's a year later, and 12-year-old Cammy and her family are still in anguish over the drowning of her cousin Patty Ann. The story is not as focused this time, partly because there is such a huge cast of characters to keep straight as the extended family gathers for a summertime reunion in Cammy's small Ohio town. At the center of the story is a family secret that has been kept from Cammy all her life: just who exactly is the girl Fractal from Queens, New York, who teaches Cammy how to use a computer and travel through cyberspace? Why is Fractal in Cammy's father's house? Cammy discovers that her loving parents did wrong, are wrong, and are far from the perfect image she has always had of them. At the same time, she sees that the river that drowned her cousin is also a source of renewal and union and connection. The metaphors are sometimes overworked, but the secret will hold readers--the drama between the mean and the nice in everyone. Category: Middle Readers. 1998, Scholastic/Blue Sky, $14.95. Gr. 5-8.

Christopher Moning (Children's Literature)
Twelve-year-old Cammy Coleman has so many relatives it's hard to keep them straight. It works out better to call them all second cousins. And now, second cousins she never even knew she had are gathering in town for the big reunion. It's hard to get excited about anything since the awful accident last year when Cammy and her cousin Elodie witnessed the drowning of another cousin, Patricia Ann. The only calming influence in Cammy's life is Gran Tut, but she's staring off into memories much of the time. Cousins flood into town; Cammy befriends a girl about her age who calls herself Fractal. Fractal teaches Cammy about fractal computer art, graphics, and the internet. But what is it that everyone seems to know about Fractal except Cammy? What is the strange bond they seem to share? In this touching story, a followup to the novel, Cousins, Virginia Hamilton makes visible the invisible thread that weaves families together, and she makes a little less mysterious the "sweet mystery, the way they could be at once close with far relatives." 1998, The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, $14.95. Ages 11 up.

CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 1998)
This follow-up to the earlier Cousins (Philomel, 1990) stands strongly on its own as the author continues to chronicle events in the life of Cammy Coleman. Now 12, Cammy is at the center of an intricate web of family relationships that unfold and are revealed in this lively, multilayered novel. It has been a year since Cammy's cousin Patty Ann drowned in the accident at the river and Cammy and her cousin Elodie have grown as close as sisters, bound by that event, of which they rarely speak, but also by the joys and adventures of childhood. As extended family members gather from around the country for a family reunion, Cammy and Elodie are thrown together with Gigi and Fractal, two of their cousins from New York City. This pairing of city cousins and country cousins leads to shifting relationships that leave Cammy a bit unsettled. First Gigi and Elodie hit if off, leaving Cammy somewhat hurt, and then Fractal (nicknamed for her love of the mathematical phenomenon), a smart, computer savvy teen, takes special interest in Cammy herself. Extensive discussions of current computer technology between Fractal and Cammy may date this novel in years to come, but they won't lessen its powerful emotional undertones. As the increasingly complex plot develops and moves toward the climactic family reunion, Cammy must deal with an unexpected, devastating revelation about her father and her relationship with Fractal at the same time she tries to prepare herself for the reunion itself. It will include a trip to the river, which she hasn't been to since Patty Ann died. It is Gram Tut, who helped Cammy through the trauma of Patty Ann's death, who leads the family to the river, where they enter the flow of memory and pain and healing and joy for all that has happened to generations past and for all who are to come. It is a transcendent experience--for Cammy and for readers of this novel distinguished by Virginia Hamilton's usual fine characterization and rich storytelling voice. CCBC categories: Fiction for Children. 1998, Blue Sky/Scholastic, 168 pages, $14.95. Ages 10-13.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1998)
Affirming the value of existing family ties as she perceptively explores the formation of new ones, Hamilton elaborates on themes from Cousins (1990) with a populous sequel. As the Wright clan gathers for a rare family reunion, 12-year-old Cammy meets Jahnina, an oddly mercurial relative from New York City dubbed "Fractal" because she's seldom without her laptop computer. Unable to keep relationships straight, Cammy decides to think of all the young new arrivals as second cousins--until Jahnina calls Cammy's own father "Daddy" and turns the world upside down. Hamilton masterfully choreographs the dance of acquaintanceship, from tentative first exchanges, through tests and boundary-making, to discoveries of common ground; Cammy ultimately gets more help recovering from her shock from Jahnina than from either of her parents. In a grand, climactic reunion ceremony, presided over by Gram Tut Wright, all finally gather at the river where a cousin had drowned a year ago to lay flowers in the water, and to formally tell their names and places in the family line. Along with the strong story line, readers will be absorbed both by the author's language (alternately slangy and poetic), and by the complex emotional and conversational textures. 1998, Blue Sky/Scholastic, $14.95. © 1998 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Claire Rosser (KLIATT Review, November 1998 (Vol. 32, No. 6))
This will be best for readers familiar with the main characters and their world from Cousins. This story takes place one year after the tragic drowning of Cammy and Elodie's cousin, who died saving Elodie. The girls live in an extended family in a small town in Ohio, much like the one Virginia Hamilton actually lives in. This year, the family is gathering for a reunion, described aptly as 'union, and Cammy and Elodie meet a few new cousins, one of whom especially fascinates Cammy. This girl wears glasses that frequently hide her eyes, she is a bit rude, and she is absorbed in her laptop computer: Cammy calls her Fractal because of her beloved Mandelbrot software. Soon Cammy learns about the Internet and e-mail, and the whole new world of cyberspace. The climax of the story comes when Cammy finds out that Fractal is actually her half-sister, her father's illegitimate daughter, and perhaps the cause of her parents' marital difficulties. Hamilton captures the soft language these girls and their family would share as African Americans in a small town -- as always, Hamilton brings rhythm and poetry to ordinary speech in her own unique way. This may be difficult for some young readers, but there is no doubt it is this skill that sets Hamilton apart and places her with the very best writers of children's literature. (Sequel to Cousins). KLIATT Codes: J--Recommended for junior high school students. 1998, Scholastic/Blue Sky, 168p. 98-12859, $14.95. Ages 13 to 15.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Hamilton fans who have wondered what happened to Cammy Coleman after the death of her cousin Patty Ann will find the answer in this sequel to Cousins, which introduces many new members of the Coleman clan. The author's on-target dialogue and skillfully drawn characterizations compensate for the book's uneven pacing. However, some audience members (especially those unfamiliar with the novel's predecessor) may have trouble sorting out minor characters. Cammy herself feels a bit overwhelmed by the onslaught of Colemans, who arrive in her town for a reunion; she decides to call them all "second cousins." One such relative, Jahnina ("outa New York. Queens"), both fascinates and repels the 12-year-old heroine. Brimming with city smarts, computer know-how and self-confidence, 13-year-old Jahnina offers more than one form of enlightenment, and the scenes between Cammy and her are the high points of the novel. This drama reflects the day-to-day squabbles, disappointments and tensions that plague every household. More pointedly, Hamilton conveys the eternal, unshakable love that binds family members together. Ages 11-up. (Oct.)

Amy Beth Maupin (The ALAN Review, Winter 1999 (Vol. 26, No. 2))
At twelve years old, Cammy Coleman is still trying to cope with her cousin Patty Ann's tragic death. Cammy and her other cousin Elodie witnessed the drowning, and ever since have been the closest of friends. Their friendship is interrupted, however, when the family reunion brings two cousins from New York City to town. With them comes shocking family secrets and a clash of cultures. Cammy, Elodie, Fractal, and Gigi learn not only about each other, but about some of life's most difficult issues. Virginia Hamilton masterfully portrays a world that is both believable and engaging. Her readers will identify with Second Cousins, and they will most certainly learn from them as well. Cammy Coleman and her family were first introduced in Hamilton's Cousins, published in 1990. 1998, The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, 168 pages, $14.95. Ages 10 to 14.

Janice M. Del Negro (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 1998 (Vol. 52, No. 3))
After the tragedy of their cousin Patty Annís drowning (Cousins, BCCB 11/90), Elodie and Cammy have become as close as sisters. It is they who realize that Aunt Effie, Patty Annís mother, is still grief-mad over her daughterís death and still blaming Cammy and Elodie. The upcoming family reunion is a distraction for everyone, however, and with the arrival of ďThe Girls from New York,Ē two streetwise, urban cousins, Cammy is about to learn more about family ties than she anticipated. Cammy is shocked to find out she has a half-sister (the result of an affair her father had while still married to her mother), and her shock is only slightly mitigated by her beginning relationship with her newly discovered sibling Jahnina, aka Fractal. A trip to the river (the site of Patty Annís drowning) and ďa telling,Ē a remembering of family history by Gram Tut, are the beginning of true healing for both Aunt Effie and Cammy. The opening scene sets the tone for this absorbing if disjointed sequel, with Cammyís and Elodieís closeness emphasized by their shared activities and affection. While Hamilton has a sure touch with the dynamics of intense interpersonal and family relationships, there is a lack of cohesion in both the plot and the narrative that undercuts the emotional impact. Gramís conversations with her dead husband drop in and out without context or explanation, Fractalís obsession with the Internet is trendy but peripheral, and the instant healing of Aunt Effie is without resonance. Still, Hamiltonís masterful handling of the physical settings and her ability to create empathetic characters will carry readers through until the neatly wrapped up, if somewhat anticlimactic, conclusion. (Reviewed from galleys) Review Code: Ad -- Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. (c) Copyright 1998, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1998, Blue Sky/Scholastic, 176p, $14.95. Grades 5-8.

Joyce Sparrow (VOYA, February 1999 (Vol. 21, No. 6))
Featuring characters from her earlier novel Cousins (Philomel, 1990/VOYA February 1991), Hamilton continues her multi-generational story showing the powerful force of love that binds an extended family together. A reunion is planned for the family of twelve-year-old Cammy Coleman who lives in the country with her mother, grandmother, brother, and third cousin. Cammy asks many questions about all the relatives who will be visiting, deciding to end the confusion of so many first and third cousins by calling every cousin a second cousin. Cammy's rationalization explodes when she learns that Jahnina Madison (affectionately called Fractal because of her portable computer), the "second cousin" from Queens, New York, is really her half-sister. Before the family secret about their true relationship is revealed, Cammy and Fractal see themselves as country mouse and city mouse; Cammy improves her computer skills with Fractal and in turn Cammy teaches Fractal how to pull the mustard greens that are needed for the picnic meal. One special touch in this story is the emphasis placed on family meals. The adults, including lovable Grandmother Tut, are forever serving mouth-watering lunches and dinners: fresh vegetable soup, baked chicken, platters of ham, cornbread, and chocolate cakes. These meals, together with the family time spent in the kitchen and dining room, give the story a magical touch. The novel ends with Cammy handling the shock and resentment she feels, and agreeing to stay in touch with Fractal by e-mail. With encouragement, middle readers will enjoy this meaningful family story and the computer story line will interest many readers. The initial chapters rely heavily on differentiating between what Cammy is thinking and speaking, but they serve as an excellent introduction to Hamilton's writing technique. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 1998, Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, 176p., $14.95. Ages 11 to 15.

Subjects:

Cousins Fiction.
Friendship Fiction.
Family reunions Fiction.
African Americans Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.H1828 Se 1998
98012859 [Fic]
0590473689
9780590473682
978-0-590-47368-2
9780590473682
View the WorldCat Record for this item.