Age Range: 10 - 12
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With her usual wry humor and clear-eyed look at the world of children on the brink of adolescence, Gauthier (Club Earth, 1999, etc.) introduces a delightful, iconoclastic heroine and a glimpse of Vermont small-town life in 1966. The narrator, Therese LeClerc, a bright but indifferent student, comes from a French Catholic farming family. When her teacher, Mrs. Ford, is sidelined by a daughter needing care, a substitute teacher with progressive educational ideals confounds the tradition of assigning the "Ethan Allen report" to the student with the highest grade level in the spring. Instead, Therese is randomly chosen—much to the consternation of some of her classmates (notably the class star, Peggy, who is certain this prize was hers). As Therese delivers one oral report after another (Mr. Santangelo keeps reassigning the task until she gets it right) we get a look at Allen as an outrageous hero: irreverent, intelligent, hard-drinking, rarely missing an opportunity to make enemies, and possessed of an admirable and reckless courage. In the smaller milieu of her school and her town (and except for the drinking), Therese is much like her subject. By the novel's end, Therese has proven herself both as a student and a storyteller in the reader's eyes, though Gauthier doesn't entirely rescue her heroine. Mrs. Ford returns to her classroom and denies Therese the B+ promised by Mr. Santangelo; a budding friendship with well-to-do Deborah, the new girl in school, turns out to be a disappointment. But we are left, in this satisfying read, with a rich impression of a likable protagonist—a strong-minded girl with a supportive family and the audacity to be herself—and with a memorable introduction to the architect of the Green Mountain State. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23559-0
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2001


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