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OVER THE RIVER by Sharelle Byars Moranville


by Sharelle Byars Moranville

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-8050-7049-4
Publisher: Henry Holt

Complicated family relationships are the heart and strength of this fine debut. It’s two years after the end of WWII, but 11-year-old Willa Mae’s daddy still hasn’t come home from the Navy. Her maternal grandparents have raised her with love and kindness, but they refuse to speak of her daddy or of the mysterious gravestone in the cemetery that reads only, “Baby Clark.” Only rarely will they speak of her mother, who died six years ago and who Willa Mae can barely remember. Then Daddy does return. Willa Mae is delighted, but feels torn between her father and her grandparents, who cannot get over their mutual resentment. All the adults try to do right by Willa Mae; her grandparents do not try to prevent her father from taking her away from them. Her daddy teaches Willa Mae to help him wire houses for electricity; he buys her a beautiful dress for the first day of school; most important, he understands her conflicted heart, and permits her to love people who despise him. An occasional over-abundance of period details and a climactic ending that stretches a little too long are minor faults compared to the subtle emotional moments that make this a story to savor and a writer to watch. (Fiction. 8-12)