HANK’S STORY by Jane Buchanan


Age Range: 8 - 12
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Setting her story in 1923, Buchanan (Gratefully Yours, 1997, etc.) once again explores the plight of a parentless youngster sent by "orphan train" to rural Nebraska. Written simply but with great eloquence, Buchanan's third-person narrative captures the physical hardship and grim isolation of her protagonist's life. Twelve-year-old Hank lost his parents when he was only eight. He and his older brother Peter move in with the Olsons, a pair of mean-spirited farmers. Unable to bear the beatings by the cruel and usually drunk Mr. Olson, Peter runs away leaving his gentle, animal-loving brother defenseless and desperately lonely. Besides the grueling farm chores and his punitive foster parents, Hank must bear the daily cruelty from the kids at school, who laugh at his plight. In one of the novel's many heart-wrenching, gripping moments, Hank wonders why "children thought it was funny that he was an orphan, that his mother and father had died." An unlikely friendship with the town crazy lady/witch, a gentle soul named Molly, who rescues, then nurses, injured animals, reminds Hank that there is kindness in the world. When he finally attacks the school bully, Molly tells him that "that fighting never solved anything" and that if he uses his fists to solve problems, he could become a person like Mr. Olson. Hank eventually frees himself and comes to believe that the brutal man had power over him in part because he allowed it, hardly the circumstance for the majority of children who live with a violent alcoholic, but affecting nonetheless. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 10th, 2001
ISBN: 0-374-32836-6
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2001


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