From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 6 Up–C'mon back to rural Indiana in 1904 and join 15-year-old Russell, whose summer ends with the unexpected death of old Miss Myrt Arbuckle. Russell and his younger brother are thrilled because just maybe the school board will decide to stop its foolishness and tear down the one-room schoolhouse. Surely it doesn't pay to hire a new teacher for the six students who attend. But to his utter horror, one is hired and it's none other than his extremely bossy older sister, even though she still has a year left of high school herself. Tansy takes to teaching with vigor and manages to circumvent all of the high jinx and calamities that threaten to undermine her authority, such as an accidental fire in the privy and a puff adder in her desk drawer. Peck expertly evokes humor and colloquial speech and mores with such sentences as "The water wasn't crotch-deep on a dwarf at that point," and "She had a snout on her long enough to drink water down a crawdad hole." Even readers who are blasé about current technological advances will be as excited as Russell is when he sees the steel Case Agitator threshing machine down from Wisconsin on its once-yearly exhibit, or the Overland Automobile Company's Bullet No. 2 racing car that can travel a mile in an unheard-of 43 seconds. Another gem from Peck–and a fabulous lead-in to titles such as Olive Burns's Cold Sassy Tree
(Houghton, 1984).–Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY
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*Starred Review* Gr. 5-8. Peck's droll humor, so familiar to fans of A Long Way from Chicago
(1999) and A Year down Yonder
(2000), lights up his latest book set in the rural Midwest. Russell Culver's narration transports readers back to 1904, when he was 15 years old and still in eighth grade at Hominy Ridge School, "an out-of-date, unimproved, one-room country schoolhouse in the backwoodsiest corner of Indiana." Living on a farm with his father, big sister, Tansy, and little brother, Lloyd, he dreams of hopping a freight train for the Dakotas. When the local teacher dies, Russell's sister takes over her position. This alarming development calls for action and even retaliation, but Russell finds Tansy more than a match for his mischief, pranks, and ill-considered plans. Peck is in his element here. The narrator's adult voice comes through as in his recollection of walking to school: "It was only about a mile, and uphill both ways, as the road to school always was back then." In every other way, though, Russell seems no great distance in time from his experiences in the story, so vivid is the telling of every event, conversation, and emotion. Best of all, the dry wit and unpretentious tone make the story's events comical, its characters memorable, and its conclusion unexpectedly moving. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved