ARILLA SUN DOWN by Virginia Hamilton
Kirkus Star


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Instead of one towering image like M. C. Higgins atop his gleaming pole, Arilla Sun Down is made up of a series of arresting scenes that are almost surreal in their visual intensity. And commanding them, as resplendent a show-off as ever M. C. dreamed of being, is twelve-year-old Arilla's big brother Jack Sun Run Adams, whom she sees as "up high," "golden," and a clear and ever-present threat to her place in the sun. There is the early childhood adventure, remembered with fragmented present-tense immediacy, when Sun appears at the top of a hill at midnight to lasso Arilla (Moon) and their Dad, who are about to go over a cliff on a sled. There is, later, the Fourth-of-July picnic when Sun on his rearing horse lassos three dudes who have spoken disrespectfully of his interracial--black and "Amerind"--family. There is the forbidden midnight skate at the roller rink, and the frantic scramble by Arilla, Sun and Sun's girlfriend to escape discovery. And then there is that bizarre accident when a sudden ice storm sends migrating ducks falling from the sky, one onto Sun's head. His slipping horse falls on top of him, and Arilla proves her mettle on the difficult ride for help. Arilla, fighting for her own position in a family that seems to belong nowhere, is both saddened and released by her brother's fall; she learns that their parents see him as a posturing dreamer with identity problems of his own. There are reinforcing threads--Arilla's early rapport with an old Indian; her father's periodic need to return to his native village and his identity as Great Wolf. The resulting mesh gives the common theme of adolescent self-discovery a dazzling, uncommon impact.
Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1976
ISBN: 0590053809
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Greenwillow
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1976


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