TADPOLE by Ruth White


Age Range: 10 - 12
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“Them loud-mouthed Collins girls,” Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, and narrator Carolina, receive a responsibility makeover in this sweetly slight coming-of-age story set in rural Kentucky in 1955. The agent of change is their cousin Tadpole, a dreamy and musical orphan who has fled his cruel uncle for the loving welcome, if not safety, of his aunt and cousins. The four girls have lived alone with their mother ever since their father left them years ago; their mother, a well-meaning but weak-willed woman, has let them run wild and selfish. Under Tadpole’s influence, the girls learn to help out around the house and to support their mother; additionally, Carolina, the youngest and most-overlooked of the four, discovers a talent for music. Everything happens almost by surprise in this agreeably slow story: Tad goes back and forth between the Collinses and his uncle, finally running away for good; the family goes to a picnic; a widower begins sparking the girls’ mother; Carolina and Tad sing in a talent contest; but White (Memories of Summer, 2001, etc.) creates such vivid and pleasing characters that the reader is happy to bide a while despite an overt lack of action. The progress of the girls from happy-go-lucky and irresponsible to a more focused concentration on the good of the family is fairly obvious and programmatic, but once again is accomplished with such amiability that it’s easy to swallow. Their mother’s corresponding journey from pushover to woman with a spine is touchingly presented through Carolina’s eyes, with a little help from Tadpole. Written in a vivid drawl, this optimistic confection is all Southern sweetness. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 11th, 2003
ISBN: 0-374-31002-5
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2003


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