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by Jane Leslie Conly

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: May 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8050-6065-0
Publisher: Henry Holt

Twelve-year-old Dawn spends an anxious summer with rural Virginia relatives in this tale of secrets and secret places set in the 1950s. Down from DC while her mother recuperates from joint replacement, Dawn practices her curve ball against the barn, follows the exploits of her hero, fellow pitcher Camilo Pascual, and hangs out with Charlotte Williams, a deacon's peppery daughter, and quiet Delbert, from the “colored camp.” The three have a private, weed-hidden spot they have dubbed Planet Kid. There are clouds in these sunny childhood skies, however—Charlotte hints that her father is not one to spare the rod, but the bruises and welts that Dawn begins to notice on Charlotte's mother and other family members point toward a harsher truth. Dawn's suspicions are confirmed when she sees Mr. Williams knock one of his sons down, and later finds the boy, beaten senseless, hidden away from his father in a concealed barn room. It's an open secret, but as everyone but Dawn understands, the impoverished Williamses are caught between a rock and a hard place; when Dawn breaks her promise to Charlotte not to tell, even her gentle Great Aunt changes the subject. At summer's end Dawn determinedly sells her prized baseball card collection, sending the money to Mrs. Williams as an incentive to move out with the children—a faint hope, as even her loving parents warn. There are no easy solutions here; but with her baseball prowess and deep-rooted compassion, Dawn makes an admirable protagonist, backed by a diverse, sometimes entertainingly, quirky supporting cast. (Fiction. 11-13)