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Eli the Good Hardcover – September 22, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 5–8—Eli, 10, spends the summer of 1976 riding bikes with his friend Edie, reading Anne Frank's diary, talking with his Aunt Nell, and watching his Vietnam-vet father experience flashbacks. He observes his mother trying to ride out various storms: 16-year-old Josie's rebellious attitude; the anger between her husband and his sister, Nell (who protested the war); and the flashes of violence and despair that wrack her spouse. Eli is curious, thoughtful, and not above eavesdropping or snooping through personal letters to find out things that his family would prefer to keep private. He learns that Nell came home with cancer; that he and Josie do not share a biological father; and how his father felt after killing a man in the war. Nell nicknames him Eli the Good, and he is. He is a decent kid, just trying to understand his family and the world around him. He makes mistakes, but he learns from them, and simply wants the best for those he loves. House writes beautifully, with a gentle tone. He lays out Eli's world in exquisite detail. A Bicentennial celebration, along with mentions of pop songs and clothing styles, sets the stage, but never takes over the narrative. The story flows along as steadily as a stream, carrying readers and Eli to the end of summer and beyond, into a coda where he is an adult. Eli is good company and children will enjoy accompanying him on his journey.—Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The story flows along as steadily as a stream, carrying readers and Eli to the end of summer and beyond, into a coda where he is an adult. Eli is good company and children will enjoy accompanying him on his journey.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
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Also, not only were my very best, most fiercely loyal friends all from Breathitt County, KY, but I identified with Mr. House's love of nature, especially the trees. My own favorite tree was on top of the ridge on my grandpa's farm, and had a grapevine swing. My husband and I have such a love of trees that we built our house 38 years ago right in the middle of 5 acres of woods. Later, we bought 30 acres of land which abut our original property. We gave our daughter and her husband 9 acres of land on which they built their house and home occupation, and have saved another 9 acres for our son and his family, for when they are ready to build. We have our organic veggie and flower garden (award-winning heirloom tomatoes, etc.) and Native BlueOrchard Bees on about one Half Acre. Then, in 2007, the KY Dept. of Forestry helped us start a 4-acre Stewardship Forest of hardwood trees, mostly 5 types of Oaks, with added Wild Plums, Kentucky Coffee Trees, Red Buds, Wild Cherries. Every year since then we have planted a few shade trees such as Red and Sugar Maples, and nut-bearing trees including Black and English Walnuts, as well as some Hawthorne Trees, these all from The Arbor Day Foundation.
My husband and I can also identify with everything written about The Vietnam War here (I read this book aloud to him, which I often have with deep, soulful books. I read him my First Edition copy of The Lovely Bones, which I thought just might end up killing us both, but that's another story). I was a Freshman in college when President Kennedy was killed. This event, along with such things as The Freedom Riders being killed, kids our age being taunted, having firehoses turned on them, or worse, having dogs set upon them for nothing other than wanting to sit at the front of the bus, or be free to attend school alongside the White children were already raising our consciousness. Then there were the assassinations of MLK and Robert Kennedy. Our entire country was reeling. When Vietnam really started heating up, it was so difficult to understand why we were even there, and who was our enemy. My husband and I married during his Freshman year of dental school. By the time he graduated in 1969, we had come to believe that the war was a huge mistake, and we should never have gotten involved. But, needing to do the honorable thing, he allowed himself to be "allocated" into the Navy, where he served for two years taking care of the dental needs first of the kids (yes, I said kids) who were getting ready to ship out to Vietnam; then, after having been given his own clinic, taking care of the ones returning from the war with their hellish stories of just how it had been.
Silas House gives such a loving account of both (all?) sides of this sad and very complicated part of our history, as well as the ways the events of 9-11 impacted us so deeply individually and collectively. He also accurately conveys how deeply loving, yet fraught family relations can be in Eastern Kentucky. You will end up believing Silas House Is Eli the Good.
Read this book!