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GENTLE’S HOLLER by Kerry Madden Kirkus Star


by Kerry Madden

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: March 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-670-05998-6
Publisher: Viking

In her debut for young readers, Madden creates a warmhearted, compelling family drama about the Weems, circa early 1960s. They grow up poor in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, move often and settle in Maggie Valley, a “holler” filled with honeysuckle and wildflowers. Told from the keen-eyed point of view of 11-year-old Livy Two, one of nine children (the tenth, Livy One, died at birth), the story is layered with details of their mountain life, their struggles, crises and day-to-day moments of joy: “I get my songwriting from Daddy, who plans on selling a banjo hit any day now, so we can eat regular.” And there’s humor too. Livy Two is a dreamer, a reader, songwriter/guitar player; she has “an itch in [her] bones to visit exotic lands,” and when it comes to her family, especially her three-year-old sister Gentle, who is diagnosed as blind, she’s a resourceful and generous problem-solver. Though some of the plot elements strain credibility, the graceful, spirited and, above all, sensory richness of the writing make this work stand out. (Fiction. 9-12)