PREACHER'S BOY by Katherine Paterson


Age Range: 10 - 12
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Paterson (Celia and the Sweet, Sweet Water, 1998, etc.) rings out the 20th century with this ruminative tale of a 10-year-old freethinker, set in a small Vermont town at the very end of the 19th century. Hearing a revivalist preacher’s dark hints of impending doom, Robbie decides to become “a heathen, a Unitarian, or a Democrat, whichever was most fun,” because he “ain’t got the knack for holiness.” As it turns out, he’s not very good at sinning either, bending a few commandments by stealing food for a pair of vagrants, Violet and her abusive, alcoholic pa, Zeb, and feeling a stab of envy over the love his parents lavish on his simple-minded older brother, Elliot. He has a brush with serious evil, nearly drowning a rival who throws his clothes into a pond; the experience leaves him profoundly shocked at himself, and he ultimately earns redemption, in his own eyes, by saving Zeb from a charge of attempted murder. Despite some violence, the tone is generally light; if some situations are contrived, more thoughtful readers will look beyond them to the larger moral questions underlying Robbie’s attitudes and choices. Talky, but nourishing for mind and spirit both. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1999
ISBN: 0-395-83897-5
Page count: 165pp
Publisher: Clarion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999


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