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SCOUT by Christine Ford


by Christine Ford

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: March 14th, 2006
ISBN: 0-385-73234-1
Publisher: Delacorte

Her mother lost to cancer, 11-year-old Cecelia, aka “Scout,” withstands a fresh trauma that triggers familial healing in this novel-in-verse. Cecilia befriends Redbud, a neglected boy bouncing between a foster institution and an impoverished home. As the pair bonds, Redbud cautiously reveals his wounded life. Cecelia’s fear-tinged fascination with Redbud’s abusive father prompts her to question her own father’s gentle but emotionally neglectful parenting. Only after Cecelia witnesses the hit-and-run accident that sends Redbud to the hospital does her father wake to his family’s needs. Ford takes on formidable stylistic challenges in this first novel: Rendering a first-person, mainly present-tense narrative as verse might foil a seasoned author. Here, the narrative voice weaves, not entirely seamlessly, between the lyrical and the mundane, incorporating both Cecelia’s flat tone and the deft phrasing of the surer, authorial poet. The inclusion of several of Cecelia’s own poems exacerbates the narrative irresolution: How can the author of typically childish lines also deliver the nuanced, elegantly compressed verse of the novel at large? Nonetheless, Ford shows considerable skill in distilling the messy complexity of grief and emotional renewal in poetry that often sings. (Fiction. 9-12)