Stone in the Crick

A young woman wonders how to reconcile her desires with the expectations of her Amish community.
Rebecca Zook, 22, a talented quilt maker in the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is getting past the point of getting married and starting a family; when Rebecca’s mother was her age, she’d already been a wife for four years. A fine candidate is on offer, though—Jacob, who’s steady, hardworking and good with animals, will inherit his father’s 70-acre farm. Still, Rebecca thinks of life with Jacob as being like the stone in her farmyard’s crick, “solid but stationary, withstanding life but never flowing with it.” She tries to explain this restlessness to her mother: “I can’t find the right words for how I’m feeling, exactly. It’s like quilting, kind of. There are these patterns you’re supposed to follow….[B]ut maybe there’s more than one right way to do things. Maybe there’s more than one pattern to a person’s life.” A New York gallery owner is interested in one of Rebecca’s quilted wall hangings, but Rebecca fears committing the sin of pride. Meanwhile, Gregory Pinckney is in search of his birth mother, and he’s come to Lancaster County (with his horse, Bojangles) to find her. The South Carolinian feels strangely at home: “Gregory hadn’t thought much about God in a long time. He’d been too busy. Now here he was on an Amish farm, resting on an Amish quilt, suddenly living among a quiet people with a strong faith. Some power had led him here.” Conflicts arise in the form of an insurance scam that almost kills Bojangles (animal-lover alert: two horses die) and a big decision for the Zook family on whether to sell the farm. Burgess (Play It As It Lies [A Play], 2004, etc.) makes good use of his setting. Rebecca’s Amish culture isn’t just a backdrop; it’s part of her. Her quilts rework images from her family’s daily life, such as the saddles and leather goods made by her father, while still honoring tradition. The gentle love story also respects Rebecca’s values.

A sensitive story about finding oneself in a community.

Pub Date: April 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615887869

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Honey Brook Publishers

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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