BILL by Chap Reaver


Age Range: 10 & up
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 From the late author of Mote (1990) and A Little Bit Dead (1992; both Edgar winners), an endearing story that, despite its compelling climax and some pleasingly melodramatic features, is markedly less violent than its predecessors. Jess, 13, is left in charge of the garden and milking while her dad makes moonshine or binges on safer store-bought booze. Her best friend is Bill, a clever mixed-breed dog whose eloquent mannerisms, as Reaver laconically verbalizes them, are one of his novel's particular charms. Friendly revenuer ``Wrong Man'' (so-called because a hapless moonshiner once made the mistake of selling him his wares) is tracking Dad by fair means and also by trickery that Jess considers foul. He's also reaching out, with some delicacy, to Jess; his offer of a home and a chance to go to school is even more appealing after Jess meets his sensible ``first [and only] wife'' Nell, with whom Jess establishes an immediate bond. Still, she's loyal: She follows her dad's orders, manages in his absence, warns him when he's followed, visits him in prison, and even makes the best of his homecoming--despite the fact that he's blabbed about a treasure she's discovered, an indiscretion that has led to a horrendous encounter in which Bill was desperately wounded. The dog's touching recovery months later may stretch credibility; it's also deeply satisfying, as is Jess's ultimate choice between her no-good father and his pursuer. Laced with wonderfully dry humor and pungent observations, a grand yarn that begs to be shared aloud, and again. (Fiction. 10+)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-31175-3
Page count: 218pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1994