From Publishers Weekly
The setting for this nostalgic coming-of-age first novel is the last "polio summer" of 1954, just before the Salk vaccine ended the annual poliomyelitis epidemics. With the Bainbridge, Ala., swimming pools and movie theater closed, and fear and germs in the air, eight-year-old narrator Tabitha "Tab" Goodloe Rutland, her 13-year-old friend Maudie May, and Maudie's two young brothers?who can speak but don't or won't?build a hideout and christen it Fort Polio, the scariest name they can think of. Near a creek and hidden by kudzu (the official flower of Southern literature), the fort affords the perfect vantage point from which to watch the local bootlegger and his seemingly respectable customers. Here they plot to free the neighbor boy whose mother makes him stay inside the house all summer, and ponder the truths they read in Silver Screen. Meanwhile, Tab's mother, considered a northerner because she was born in Tennessee, seeks acceptance in the exclusive Ladies Help League. Devoto's story has its charming moments, but Tab's voice is often cloying, the ending is contrived and much of the narrative has a by-the-numbers quality. Roy Rogers makes a brief appearance at the beginning, then vanishes with his white hat and reassuring promise that justice triumphs, just as Tab begins to realize that it doesn't.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
YA-Life is easy and innocent for 10-year-old Tabitha Rutland, narrator of this novel about one "typical" 1950s summer in Bainbridge, AL. Tab and Maudie build a fort in the kudzu, and watch Mr. Jake sell his bootleg liquor to a range of customers including the mayor. But life in this Southern town is not as easy as it seems. Mama is rejected from the Ladies Help League because she expresses progressive opinions and is a Northerner (from Knoxville, TN). Tab's friend John spends the summer in his basement, being protected (so his mother hopes) from the local polio epidemic. Then there is the unspoken issue of racism. Tab and Maudie play together in their "Fort Polio," and window-shop together for Roy Rogers lunch boxes. But at the movies, Tab sits downstairs, and Maudie joins the other "Colored" folks in the balcony. Time seems to be passing Bainbridge by this summer, but then something happens that will change life in this bastion of traditional Southern culture forever. Like the narrators in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and Olive Burns's Cold Sassy Tree, Tab is both childlike and wise; the story is both humorous and poignant. Devoto provides a highly readable and entertaining novel packed full of rich and delightful dialogue, funny situations and vignettes, and all-to-human insights and drama.
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Becky Ferrall, Stonewall Jackson High School, Manassas, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.