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After the River the Sun Hardcover – July 9, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5-7–This companion to Eva of the Farm (S & S, 2012) stands on its own. Eckhart Lyon, 13, is struggling with guilt and sorrow after his parents die during a family rafting trip. He has bounced around in foster care in Seattle until now when his estranged Uncle Albert has agreed to take him on a trial basis. His uncle, who is also dealing with feelings of guilt and loss, lives on a farm in the high desert of eastern Washington and refuses to tell Eckhart what the trial entails. Eckhart is a devoted gamer and fan of “The Green Knight” video game. He loves all things Arthurian. When he meets Eva, also 13, in the canyon near their farms, they bond over their shared enthusiasm for legends about brave knights and fair ladies. Together they embark on Eckhart's greatest quest: to right a wrong and find a home. The story is written in free verse, which moves the plot along at a rapid pace. Although Eckhart and his uncle get off to a rocky start, there is never any real doubt that they will reconcile. The number of plot twists and turns keeps readers guessing what will happen next. “The Green Knight” game clearly parallels Eckhart's life and keeps motifs of knights and quests at the forefront. Lovers of gaming and Arthurian legends will thoroughly enjoy this one.–Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SCα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In this companion to Eva of the Farm (2012), 12-year-old orphan Eckhart Lyon comes to live with Uncle Al on a trial basis. Life at Sunrise Orchard is not as he imagined—there’s much less time for video games and reading about King Arthur—but Al needs Eckhart’s help, and Eckhart needs a permanent home. Calhoun’s verse novel addresses themes of unresolved grief (both Eckhart and Al), belonging, and the healing power of nature. Neighbor Eva plays a supportive role, helping Eckhart to face his demons (feeling responsible for his parents’ drownings) and assert himself with his uncle. Genuine and resonant. Grades 4-6. --Kay Weisman
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After the River the Sun is a companion to Dia Calhoun's previous release, the verse novel Eva of the Farm. Readers will recognize Eva immediately as the girl with the silver boots at the bus station. With its easy meter, both reluctant readers and verse novel enthusiasts will speed right through After the River the Sun. Though it is written in third person, the straightforward narrative allows readers right into Eckhart's thoughts.
Music is etched in Eckhart's soul, in his ears, mind, and fingertips: his mother was a violinist, and she began his violin lessons when he was six years old. Now, he doesn't know if he'll ever play again, and seeing her old violin case at his uncle's house makes his heart ache. He initially hides the case because it hurts him too much to look at it and remember what his family used to be.
He slid the case back under the bed
and stood up,
but the song still played in his mind,
the notes shifting into the roar of a river.
Burdened with survivor's guilt, Eckhart buries himself in a video game based on the adventures of Sir Gawain and wishes he, too, could be a knight of the Round Table. He enjoys the game because he allows him to be a hero -- and because if he makes a mistake in the game, he can change it. Characters can get hurt, and he can lose the game, but then he can start the game over again, and everyone is fine, and he can save the day.
Both Eckhart and his uncle are guarded people, and they often only say what they need to say to get through the day, just going through the motions:
A silence fell,
stretching on and on
until it seemed to snarl.
They begin work side-by-side in the dead orchard, clearing stumps and working hard. The task seems overwhelming, but once it becomes a part of Eckhart's daily routine, along with schoolwork, shared meals with his uncle, and conversations with Eva, he grows stronger, both in body and in mind. Memories, challenges, and confessions help him come to terms with what happened that day on the river. After the River the Sun is recommended for ages 10 and up, and would make a great classroom read.