From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8 Cecelia and Redbud, 11-year-old friends, enjoy spending time with one another in the Fort Worth nature center that backs up to their neighborhood. Cecelia's father has emotionally withdrawn from his daughter since her mother's death; Redbud's mother died three days after his birth and his ex-Marine father has never been able to handle the loss. When his dad gets abusive, the boy stays in a nearby home for young people who cannot live with their parents. The children are happiest when they can escape from their problems in the nature center. Their good mood is shattered when Redbud is struck by a car and Cecelia is consumed with guilt because she feels responsible. He survives, and the incident changes them all. The story is told in free verse in language that is lyrical and easily understood. It explores love for family and friends, courage, grief, guilt, and loss. In the end, it is a story of hope. The cover art is disappointing, but booktalking can alert middle graders to the treasure inside. Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC
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Gr. 5-8. With short lines and an immediate first-person narrative, the free verse in this first novel is that rare combination--an easy read and beautiful poetry. Cecilia, 11, is happy about her friendship with Redbud, the new boy in school, and they have uproarious fun in her beloved Texas woods. Then she discovers that her friend's home has harsh secrets. The detailed nature writing and the existential questions about "Who do you think you are?" seem more appropriate for adults than for the target middle-grade audience. But the spare, rhythmic words bring close the friends' imaginative play outdoors, with details of river, trees, and animal life. In contrast is the anguish inside Redbud's abusive home, where his unemployed father, a Vietnam veteran, uses "discipline" to keep the boy in line. At first Cecilia admits that she finds the father's power fascinating, but by the close of the novel she realizes that his discipline is "just another word for fear," and she has faced her grief about her mother's recent death, as well as the anger, guilt, hurt, and love in her own home. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved