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The River Between Us Hardcover – September 29, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up-This historical novel set at the beginning of the Civil War actually opens in 1916, as 15-year-old Howard Leland Hutchings recounts his trip in a Model T to visit his father's childhood home in Grand Tower, IL. When he and his younger brothers meet the four elderly people who raised their father, the novel shifts to 1861, and the narrator shifts to 15-year-old Tilly Pruitt, the boys' grandmother. When a steamboat from New Orleans brings two mysterious young ladies, Mama offers them room and board, and the Pruitts' lives are forever changed. Fair and beautiful Delphine Duval, with her fancy dresses and high-society ways, fascinates the family. And what of Calinda, the darker-skinned young woman? Could she be Delphine's slave? On the eve of his 16th birthday, Tilly's twin brother, Noah, leaves to join the Union troops at Camp Defiance and Mama, distraught, sends Tilly and Delphine to bring him home. It is here that Tilly learns of Delphine's heritage. She is a quadroon, part of the colored family of a rich white man. Her mother sent her daughters away from New Orleans, hoping Delphine can pass for white. The novel ends with a return to 1916 and Howard's finding out his father's true parentage. In this thoroughly researched novel, Peck masterfully describes the female Civil War experience, the subtle and not-too-subtle ways the country was changing, and the split in loyalty that separated towns and even families. Although the book deals with some weighty themes, it is not without humor. A scene involving strapping on a corset is worthy of Grandma Dowdel herself.
Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-12. At the start of the Civil War two mysterious young women get off a boat in a small town in southern Illinois, and 15-year-old Tilly Pruitt's mother takes them in. Who are they? Is the darker-complexioned woman the other woman's slave? Tilly's twin brother, Noah, falls in love with one of them--rich, stylish, worldly Delphine, who shows Tilly a world of possibilities beyond her home. When Noah runs away to war, Tilly and Delphine go after him, find him in the horror of an army tent hospital, and bring him back; but their world is changed forever. Peck's spare writing has never been more eloquent than in this powerful mystery in which personal secrets drive the plot and reveal the history. True to Tilly's first-person narrative, each sentence is a scrappy, melancholy, wry evocation of character, time, and place, and only the character of Delphine's companion, Calinda, comes close to stereotype. A final historical note and a framing device--a grandson writing 50 years after the story takes place--make the reading even better, the revelations more astonishing. It's a riveting story that shows racism everywhere and young people facing war, not sure what side to be on or why. For companion books, see "Civil War--An Update" in the September 2003 issue of Book Links . Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 740L (What's this?)
  • Series: Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Dial; First Edition edition (September 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803727356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803727359
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,798,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Peck has written over twenty novels, and in the process has become one of America's most highly respected writers for young adults. A versatile writer, he is beloved by middle graders as well as young adults for his mysteries and coming-of-age novels. He now lives in New York City. In addition to writing, he spends a great deal of time traveling around the country attending speaking engagements at conferences, schools and libraries...Mr. Peck has won a number of major awards for the body of his work, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award from School Library Journal, the National Council of Teachers of English/ALAN Award, and the 1991 Medallion from the University of Southern Mississippi. Virtually every publication and association in the field of children s literature has recommended his books, including Mystery Writers of America which twice gave him their Edgar Allan Poe Award. Dial Books for Young Readers is honored to welcome Richard Peck to its list with Lost in Cyberspace and its sequel The Great Interactive Dream Machine...

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Johannes on October 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In The River between Us, Richard Peck has created a novel-long flashback, sandwiched between chapters spoken to us through the eyes of a young man travelling with his father to the town where his dad grew up.
The flashback is the story of the young man?s grandmother, Tilly Pruitt, who lived in the small Mississippi River town of Grand Tower along with her brother Noah, her frail little sister Cass, and their mother. One day, their very normal, hardworking town is turned on end when two mysterious young ladies step off the riverboat. Tilly?s mom, in need of money and sheepishly curious about the girls, invites them to stay at their home, unknowingly inviting them into their lives forever.
As the war comes closer to the river, the townspeople begin whispering about the girls?Delphine, a lovely, well-dressed, refined and precocious young lady from New Orleans and Calinda, Delphine?s mysterious black servant. It is Noah?s decision to join the army and Delphine?s stubbornness that causes Tilly to learn more about her relationship with her mother and her own ability to ?put some starch in her spine.?
There is a great secret at work in this novel, and the reader knows it from the moment Delphine and Calinda enter the lives of the Pruitt family. What emerges is a story about family, friendship, disparity, courage, enchantment, mystery, and war.
Peck?s writing is brilliant in that he is constantly teasing the reader with hints, practically inviting him/her to just go ahead and guess what?s going to happen. This book will remind readers that accidental moments can change the history of entire generations of people.
With this novel, Richard Peck has sealed his place as one of THE best writer's of young adult fiction!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jane Cronkhite on March 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The book opens with a fifteen year old boy, his father and his two five year old brothers traveling to Grand Tower, Illinois. It?s 1916 and the description of traveling by car is impressive; four flat tires in one day, cranking the Ford to get it started.
In Grand Tower, the boy meets his relatives, old Tilly, her husband Dr. Hutchings, Tilly?s twin brother Noah, and his wife Delphine. The story then jumps back in time to 1861. Tilly and Noah live with their mother and young sister Cass in this small town off of the Mississippi River. One evening, a boat stops and drops off a girl with violet eyes and grand skirts and a quiet, dark-skinned girl. The two girls from New Orleans, named Delphine and Calinda, move in with the Pruitt family and immediately change their lives. Tilly learns of the torture of wearing corsets, how Calinda makes pralines, and just how bad tensions between the Yankees and the Secessioners have become in the South. Still, little is known about the two girls. Is Calinda a slave? A servant? Has she been freed? Are they escaping from something?
All questions are put on hold as Noah volunteers to fight for the Union Army. Then Tilly and Delphine become even closer as they travel to Cairo to find Noah and hopefully bring him home in one piece. They learn much about themselves and about each other, and that the bonds of friendship transcend the ideals of war.
Richard Peck has written an extraordinary portrait of life for a Northern and Southern girl during the American Civil War. I never guessed exactly what Delphine?s story was and was surprised by the many twists in the story. I would highly recommend this book to teens interested in historical fiction, especially those interested in learning about war and racial tension in America. This is a tremendous little book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Tilly and her family are awaiting the start of the Civil War, fearing its approach to their small town and observing increasing divisions between north and south in their own world. The arrival in town of a glamorous young lady and her dark servant changes Tilly's world as the war's issues come to roost in her very house. The River Between Us is a masterful, realistic, fictional story of Civil War issues and times.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Karen L. Simonetti on October 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
For all those who "dislike" historical fiction novels, ignore that label for this latest of Peck's writing sojourns.
This story -told in a most convincing, compelling first person-narrative Peck's choice words, plots and characters leave the reader awash in the tumultous times prior and during the Civil War. Fabulously detailed backdrop + seamless integration of themes sweep the reader along in this haunting and memorable story that will not be forgotten.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Black on June 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Peck has followed Mildred Taylor's "The Land" with another expose' of the exploitation of women of color by gentrified white men of the South up to the Civil War. It was a norm and secret that deserves unmasking for American children.
But the book is so much more. Peck takes the reader on an road trip with a father and his sons by touring car in 1916 for a family reunion with elders. It is the elders' story told as teens experiencing Succession and the beginning of the Civil War in a region around the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. With this, Peck also brings in the cultural history of New Orleans. The artifacts and other markers for the time period are totally engrossing. Mystery and surprising revelations abound.
It's a fascinating read by a master writer.
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