From Publishers Weekly
Johnstone brings to life one of the most endearing characters to come along in some time. Holling Hoodhood is starting seventh grade in 1967. It is a time of change, not just for Holling as he begins his journey into adolescence, but for the world around him as well. The war in Vietnam is raging and the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy hang heavy on the American consciousness by the end of the school year. And for Holling, the world of nascent relationships lies before him, not to mention, baseball, camping and the constant excitement, wonder and terror of being 11 at such a volatile time.Johnstone's first-person narration perfectly captures Holling's progression from an angst-filled yet innocent boy, to a wiser, self-aware young man. His reading is touching, funny and insightful; he manages to bring the listener back to a time—real or nostalgically re-imagined, at least—when the crack of a bat against a ball in Yankee Stadium or sharing a Coke with a girl at the Woolworth's counter was all any boy could want. This is a lovely, heartfelt novel, read with as much care as the author used to create it. Ages 10-up. (June)
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*Starred Review* On Wednesday afternoons, while his Catholic and Jewish schoolmates attend religious instruction, Holling Hoodhood, the only Presbyterian in his seventh grade, is alone in the classroom with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, who Holling is convinced hates his guts. He feels more certain after Mrs. Baker assigns Shakespeare's plays for Holling to discuss during their shared afternoons. Each month in Holling's tumultuous seventh-grade year is a chapter in this quietly powerful coming-of-age novel set in suburban Long Island during the late '60s. The slow start may deter some readers, and Mrs. Baker is too good to be true: she arranges a meeting between Holling and the New York Yankees, brokers a deal to save a student's father's architectural firm, and, after revealing her past as an Olympic runner, coaches Holling to the varsity cross-country team. However, Schmidt, whose Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2005) was named both a Printz and a Newbery Honor Book, makes the implausible believable and the everyday momentous. Seamlessly, he knits together the story's themes: the cultural uproar of the '60s, the internal uproar of early adolescence, and the timeless wisdom of Shakespeare's words. Holling's unwavering, distinctive voice offers a gentle, hopeful, moving story of a boy who, with the right help, learns to stretch beyond the limitations of his family, his violent times, and his fear, as he leaps into his future with his eyes and his heart wide open. Engberg, Gillian
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