THE PENNYWHISTLE TREE by Doris Buchanan Smith


Age Range: 10 - 14
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 An author noted for her subtly perceptive stories about youngsters under stress (A Taste of Blackberries, 1973) recounts a bittersweet encounter between a gifted, well-loved young musician and a needy boy who lives for a brief time next door. When Sanders George and his family of six younger siblings move in, they jolt Jonathon Douglas, his parents, and his longtime friends out of a comfortable complacency. The little Georges swarm over the Douglases' yard, climb the tree where Jonathon's group hangs out, and look in windows; apparently they are also destructive of their toys, since they have none. Sanders gets off to a bad start by lobbing a brick at another boy's bike, first in a series of acrimonious exchanges. Jonathon is outraged- -the newcomers invade his space and threaten to destroy the concentration he treasures for his music. But, gradually, he begins to sense the humanity behind Sanders's facade: the new baby in Sanders's family is stillborn, a grief the Douglas family has also known; Sanders proves to have a true gift for music; he's obviously bright but can't read, and asks Jonathon for help. Then, just as tentative gestures could blossom into friendship, the Georges suddenly move away. This quiet story centers on its well-realized characters, especially Jonathon--who comes to understand the barriers (including a father who sells everything his children come to possess) that Sanders will have to overcome in order to realize his potential, and who gains a more mature appreciation of his own parents. Thoughtful and compelling. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1991
ISBN: 0-399-21840-8
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1991


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