From Publishers Weekly
An illiterate child in a mountain community learns to read and write. "Johnston knits this story together with recurring themes, lyrical images and picturesque and convincing dialogue," said PW in a starred review. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 1-3-A story about learning to read and write that doesn't quite work. Amber lives a solitary life high in the mountains. Then one day a man comes with a crew to build a road, bringing along his wife and daughter, Anna. She teaches Amber to read before the road is completed; Amber learns to write on her own so she can keep in touch after Anna's family leaves. The process of mastering these skills, while shown to be a slow one, seems to be one in which, as Anna says, you just, "Set your whole self to the task." Johnston, who has used poetic language to great effect in previous books, seems to be straining to be descriptive here. One brief page of text, for example, is crammed with figurative language, some of which is cliched. She uses expressions that seem to evoke an Appalachian setting, a place where "folks" might "roll clean off" of a road; where people say "hey" to one another. Duncan's large, lush oil paintings unfortunately confuse the issues of time and place. While the frontispiece painting and the details of housing have an Appalachian look, the mountains have the sharp ridges of the Rockies. (The cover painting of the girls on a grassy hillside in front of imposing peaks even evokes strong images of Heidi.) While the setting includes no modern touches, the two children's wardrobes seem to be directly out of the current L.L. Bean catalog. Eve Bunting's The Wednesday Surprise (Clarion, 1989) and Florence Heide's The Day of Ahmed's Secret (Lothrop, 1990) do a better job of telling the literacy story.Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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