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Littlejim Paperback – Large Print, April 30, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Based on the author's family history, this novel set in rural North Carolina during the early 1900s traces a 12-year-old boy's struggle to prove his worth. As a top scholar and excellent writer, Littlejim Houston is admired in his small community by everyone except his rugged, practical-minded father. Littlejim hopes to gain Bigjim's respect by winning a local writing contest. But the assigned topic, "What it means to be an American," remains problematic until Littlejim receives inspiration from an Irish-born friend who works at Uncle Bob's sawmill. Although the protagonist's final triumphs are fairly predictable and themes of patriotism are perhaps overdrawn, the unfolding of the story's events is suspenseful and engaging. Through clear, unembellished prose, Houston ( The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree ) describes day-to-day life on a farm, reveals Littlejim's growth toward manhood and conveys the love that lies beneath his father's gruff exterior. This book succeeds in capturing the spirit of immigrant Americans who overcame obstacles to accomplish their dreams. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
Grade 4-8-- Littlejim Houston, 12, lives with his father, Bigjim; his German-born mother; and two younger sisters in rural North Carolina during World War I. Bigjim, a dour Freewill Baptist, is the best lumberman and athlete in the area. Littlejim excels at schoolwork, writing, and carving, activities that his father doesn't understand or appreciate. While Littlejim works hard at the sawmill and on their farm, he cannot please his father. When an essay contest on "What it means to be an American" is announced, with the winning entry to be published in the Kansas City Star, Littlejim enters in hopes of at last impressing his father. Houston enriches her story with vivid descriptions of rural life, manners, and values, while Allen's pencil drawings elaborate upon these themes. The people who surround and support Littlejim are lovingly depicted, even as readers understand that Bigjim's respect and love is somehow more important to Littlejim than they are. Like Lowry's Rabble Starkey (Houghton, 1987), this novel concerns itself with growth and the role writing can play in it. Like Hamilton's M. C. Higgins, the Great (Macmillan, 1974) and the Cleavers' Where the Lilies Bloom (Lippincott, 1969), it also increases readers' understanding of the Appalachian region and its people. --Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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As a tale about the relationship between a father and his son, "Littlejim" falls horribly flat. It appears that the author wants the reader to view Bigjim as a gruff, practical man who has his good points, but is just much too demanding of his son. In actuality, Bigjim is plain cruel. He doesn't show the slightest bit of sympathy or concern for his son, even when a friend dies a gruesome death right before Littlejim's eyes, or when Littlejim could have been killed by the runaway horses. By the end, the reader doesn't care much if Littlejim ever pleases his father - we just hope he survives the rest of his childhood.
"Littlejim" does give its reader a glimpse into a time when a 12-year-old boy could be expected to both go to school and do the work of an adult while helping his parents with household, farming, and logging chores. This book will help children understand the amount of grueling work our forefathers performed on a daily basis, and the role that even the very young played in a family's survival. However, Littlejim's exploration of what it means to be an American, and his subsequent essay, have no depth. The ideas Littlejim develops are merely over-done cliches about our country. There's no recognition of the America that might be experienced by religious or ethnic minorities, or any other people in 1910's America who don't have the freedom Littlejim romanticizes. While this tunnel-vision is realistic for a young boy in the rural south during that time, the author missed a chance to raise questions in young minds about the paradoxes that exist in our country between our ideals and our reality. Despite its shortcomings, though, "Littlejim" is still a compelling story, and many children will enjoy reading about him and his woes.
What is amazing is that this book's setting is so specific (and enjoyable in that respect) but its subject matter is universal: everyone has to deal with difficult relationships in life. Littlejim shows us how we can deal with them and still hold our head up.