A year in the life of a Baltimore boy provides the basis for a formidable portrait of urban American life. Eleven-year-old Sam Webber, usually known as Little Sam, abruptly becomes just plain Samuel when his father disappears without a trace. Hoping he was kidnaped (abandonment is the far more devastating, though likely, explanation), Sam is traumatized further by the move his mother’s forced to make from their pristine middle-class neighborhood to a rough area of town. A closet in their new home becomes the TV room, and Sam watches rain pour in through a leaky kitchen window. Completing the transformation of Sam’s old life to new is his attendance at an unfamiliar school full of bullies, pregnant teens, and, miraculously, Greely. A black janitor at the school, Greely notices Sam’s distress—the constant hyperventilation, the nausea, his obvious fears—and befriends the boy in a way that alters him profoundly. Greely tells Sam about the civil rights movement, tosses a football with him, takes him to the Little Tavern for burgers—in short, becomes a surrogate father. Others slowly fill the shoes Sam’s father left empty: His mother’s new boyfriend Howard, sharing comic books and companionship; and Junie and Ditch, his mother’s employers at the flower shop. In Sam’s second Baltimore, a skinned, gritty version of what he once knew, he comes into his own, no longer afraid of dirty streets or gangs of kids and slowly accepting the loss of his father as he learns to depend more on himself. Although his father never returns, others love and nurture Little Sam, leading to the emergence of a Sam who is less troubled. A warming exploration of fairly routine material, made attractive by newcomer Fuqua’s depiction of city life. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-890862-02-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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Abandoned by their mother, whose mental stability has been crumbling since her husband went west, Lyddie and her brother Charlie manage alone through a Vermont winter. But in the spring of 1844, without consulting them, the mother apprentices Charlie to a miller and hires Lyddie out to a tavern, where she is little better than a slave. Still, Lyddie is strong and indomitable, and the cook is friendly even if the mistress is cold and stern; Lyddie manages well enough until a run-in with the mistress sends her south to work in the mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, thus earning a better wage (in a vain hope of saving the family farm), making friends among the other girls enduring the long hours and dangerous conditions, and expanding her understanding of loyalty, generosity, and injustice (she already knows more than most people ever learn about perseverance). Knowing only her own troubled family, Lyddie is unusually reserved, even for a New Englander, With her usual discernment and consummate skill, Paterson depicts her gradually turning toward the warmth of others' kindnesses—Betsy reads Oliver Twist aloud and suggests the ultimate goal of Oberlin College; Diana teaches Lyddie to cope in the mill, setting an example that Lyddie later follows with an Irish girl who is even more naive than she had been; Quaker neighbors offer help and solace that Lyddie at first rejects out of hand. Deftly plotted and rich in incident, a well-researched picture of the period—and a memorable portrait of an untutored but intelligent young woman making her way against fierce odds.

Pub Date: March 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-525-67338-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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