BUILDING BLOCKS by Cynthia Voight
Kirkus Star


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Like A Solitary Blue, this is the story of a boy and his father--but, to bring them together, Voight daringly and riskily takes the boy back into his father's childhood. Why had his independent and spirited mother ever wanted to marry his unambitious, uninteresting father, 12-year-old Brann Connell wonders? Why didn't he ever tell her to shut up? Now they are at odds about Kevin Connell's inheritance of his uncle's Pennsylvania farm--which Brann's mother Diane wants him to sell so she can go to law school (it's 1974). To escape the fighting, Brann goes down to his draftsman-father's workroom, and crawls into the fortress Kevin had built with his old oak blocks; when he awakens, the floor is wood not cement, and he is in ten-year-old Kevin's bedroom. Just as Brann knows him, Kevin is timid, fearful. In the extraordinary day they spend together--Brann posing as a newcomer to town--he also sees Kevin's honesty and courage. The family's life is a horror. Kevin's father is a crude, callous bully; his overburdened mother hardly sees or cares; his siblings are nasty, quarrelsome brats; his grandparents are senile. All responsibility, and all blame, fall on Kevin, the oldest. Brann, sympathetic yet frustrated, prods Kevin. He does get Kevin to take him to the forbidden caves along the Ohio River--and gets lost. Kevin ventures in to find him, and they are lost together. ""I wish my father was here,"" thinks Brann, and laughs. Pooling talents, they make their way out. Another off-limits jaunt, to a vacant mansion's swimming pool, brings other thoughts, other longings--for ""space and sky."" And then Brann learns about the farm--hears Kevin denied his longed-for summer visit, hears his uncle refuse to back up Kevin's one effort to stand up for himself. (Why doesn't he run away? He's needed.) The pieces are in place for Brann's return-as he'd figured out, through the fortress. There'll be a compromise, of Brann's devising, about the farm. He'll notice, too significantly, that the Ohio River is cleaner. And it needn't have been said that ""You didn't really know somebody unless you knew him when he was a kid."" But in the vividness of the relationships, in the intensity of the feelings, the book takes strong hold.

Pub Date: March 9th, 1984
Publisher: Atheneum