CLAY by Colby Rodowsky


Age Range: 9 - 13
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A powerful novel explores the toll that abduction by a non-custodial parent takes on one girl's identity. Elsie McPhee's narration quickly cues the reader to the oddness of her life. She lives in an anonymous apartment with her brother Tommy, forbidden by her mother to leave the building or to form relationships with anyone. When Elsie disobeys to play with the new neighbors, her mother yanks the family away to yet another anonymous apartment in yet another town. Flashbacks flesh out the story: Elsie is really L.C. (Linda Clay) McGee, and her parents divorced when they disagreed about the appropriateness of seeking help for her slow, unusually withdrawn little brother. For the past four years, since their mother snatched them from a playground, the little family has been on the move, and Elsie/L.C. has suppressed memory of her earlier life. A crisis in Tommy's health and her growing understanding of their mother's fundamental instability prompt Elsie to seek help and turn her mother in. Rodowsky (Spindrift, 2000) avoids an easy ending, continuing the novel past the children's reunion with their father and tackling the difficulties the girl—she renames herself Clay—faces in returning to her former life and coming to grips with her brother's autism. The novel has many of the characteristics of a movie-of-the-week and secondary characters tend toward one-dimensionality, but strong storytelling and the convincing exploration of Clay's confusion as she confronts her tremendous fear of and simultaneous intense love for her mother save it from triteness. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 13th, 2001
ISBN: 0-374-31338-5
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2001


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