CAMP OF THE ANGEL by Aileen Arrington


Age Range: 9 - 12
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An imperiled white cat is the catalyst for an abused girl to find the courage to defy her violent father. “You bruise too easy, girl,” Papa says to Jordan in Arrington’s heart-wrenching debut, blaming her for the purple mark he inflicted upon her face. Papa tells Jordan that she doesn’t have to go to school on Monday, but it’s Jordan’s turn for the coveted position of class helper and she goes anyway. The 11-year-old lies when her injury is spotted by the school authorities, but she and her younger brother, who Papa also beats, give contradictory stories. Jordan knows that the social workers would soon come to her house. Again. And “when they left, then Papa would get mad.” In the course of this spare yet eloquent story in which the author’s deliberate understatement of emotion intensifies its strength, Papa, a mean drunk who works only intermittently, becomes a robber. Arrington describes Jordan’s hazy, child’s-eye grasp of Papa’s criminal activities, and by illuminating her confusion, turns the neat trick of making the reader understand completely. Although Jordan can almost believe that she is somehow at fault for her own beatings, the white cat that she and her brother have been secretly feeding is truly innocent. When Papa deliberately hurts it, Jordan, who can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt, takes action. The story’s hopeful ending defies the odds, but it works, thanks to the author’s meticulous setup—and because the reader wants it so much. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-399-23882-4
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Philomel
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2003


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