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Devil's Den Hardcover – April, 1998
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6AA trip to the battlefield called "Devil's Den" at Gettysburg becomes the catalyst for seventh-grader Joey's unresolved emotions about the father he's never met. When Ben, who has been married to Joey's mother for over five years, announces his plans to adopt the boy, Joey responds with anger and initiates a search for his biological father. Working his way through a web of misconceptions and misrepresentations, he uses his family's phone bills to track the man down in Oklahoma. One conversation reveals his birth father's lack of interest in Joey or in any of the "little girls" he's left with their mothers in former relationships. Interwoven are subplots involving Joey's search for information about a Civil War Orange Blossom soldier from his New York state community and his friendship with Mike, who believes in aliens. Joey relates his story in casual, immediate language. However, the telling is cluttered with unconnected details, such as souvenir shopping in Gettysburg, that detract from the book's momentum. Characterization is uneven, with Joey most clearly revealed, but none of the adults thoughtfully explicated. Most troubling is that despite Joey's description of their happy household, his mother had never discussed his stepfather's intentions with him. The resolution, Joey's recognition of Ben as his father, is nonetheless satisfying. This title will appeal to readers interested in the Civil War as well as those drawn to contemporary problem novels.ACarolyn Noah, Central Mass. Regional Library System, Worcester, MA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 4^-7. Joey is happy with his mom and loving stepdad, Ben. They are a family, and they have fun together. Their latest project is to "adopt" a Civil War veteran who fought at Gettysburg, and they care for his neglected grave in the cemetery near their home in Orange County, New York. Yet Joey longs for his "real dad," who left before Joey was born--everything will work out if they can just get together--and the boy furiously opposes Ben's plan to legally adopt him. Then Joey's distant father makes clear that he wants nothing to do with his son, and Joey turns his hurt and fury on those who love him. The two strands of the story seem artificially patched together, but history buffs will enjoy the story of the lonely Civil War soldier, and many readers will be caught up in Joey's first-person narrative of his search for a father, which is also a search for himself. If only Ben weren't always the dream dad, so incredibly perfect, wise, gentle, loving, funny, understanding, etc. Hazel Rochman
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