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LITTLE JOE by Sandra Neil Wallace


by Sandra Neil Wallace & illustrated by Mark Elliott

Age Range: 8 - 10

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-375-86097-3
Publisher: Knopf

When a bull calf is born on Christmas Eve, nine-year-old Eli Stegner is awash with love and pride. This calf will be his first to train and show at the fair. Maybe he will win a blue ribbon, just like Pa and Grandpa. Yet the thought that his calf, named Little Joe, will become someone’s Sunday dinner casts a dark shadow on the tenderhearted boy’s hopes. Pa warns, “No use naming something that’s gonna get eaten.” The milestones in Little Joe’s training propel this thoughtful, character-driven story forward. The rhythm and sometimes-harsh realities of farm life are convincingly intertwined with Eli’s growing attachment to Little Joe. His overworked and careworn family offers Eli love, guidance and support, but throughout the months, Eli wonders about Pa’s brusqueness and lack of emotion toward their cows. It is only after Grandpa shares a secret that Eli understands. The ending may well please animal lovers, but it will likely seem unrealistic for those familiar with Eli’s milieu. Plenty of detail on raising livestock authenticates the story, and Elliott’s pencil sketches enhance the text. (Fiction. 8-10)