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Rubber Houses Hardcover – January 3, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up—Kit is a junior in high school when her younger brother is diagnosed with cancer. Despite the difference in their ages, they are kindred spirits who share a love of baseball. When Buddy loses his battle against the disease, Kit is devastated. Suddenly her family no longer functions as a whole. Instead they are like "…islands/too distant to matter." The teen must find a way to own her grief in order to mourn Buddy while at the same time joyfully celebrate the characteristics and quirks that constituted his presence in her life. Written in economical and accessible verse, this novel follows the pattern of the baseball season. Despite major holes in the characterization of Kit and Buddy, this slim work speaks volumes about the grieving process. Yeomans has very precisely selected her words to convey the fear and the grief that Kit feels. As with baseball, even though it seems that Buddy's death has brought everything to a halt, winter does end, and spring training will begin again. This novel will fit nicely alongside Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust (Scholastic, 1997) and Nikki Grimes's Dark Sons (Hyperion, 2005).—Heather M. Campbell, Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Sixteen-year-old Kit's normal, happy life is over when her younger brother is diagnosed with leukemia. A feisty eight-year-old kid who loves baseball, Buddy is Kit's good friend and soul mate, one she is robbed of when he dies. Yeomans weaves the baseball metaphor throughout free-verse poems to trace Buddy's decline to the poignant conclusion, "I'm calling the game." Yet the baseball year--and the book--is only half over. Kit and her parents struggle through postseason bereavement to spring training and develop a way of living without Buddy. The interesting plot structure works surprisingly well with both the topic and the narrative style. It also enhances the realistic portrayal of a family, grief stricken and out of balance, struggling to come back after a losing season. Frances Bradburn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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This is a beautiful story of sibling love, tragedy, and recovery. I will recommend it highly to everyone I know.
Kit is forced to grow up in many ways that most teenagers never have to, adults at that matter too. Instead of being a "normal" teenager, Kit is driving to the hospital, staying at a Ronald McDonald home out of state, and in a way taking care of her parents while not taking care of herself.
I personally felt very connected to this novel - loosing a mother to cancer a few years ago I believed everything Kit went through, as I went through the same emotions. The numbness, the anger, the confusion, and of course the pain. Even the hope that comes with time, that life does goes on and that you can be happy again.
The change in Kit occurs one "un-normal" day in the shower - she notices the grout peeling and starts to peel the remaining away. I personally saw this as a representation of Kit's old self (before Buddy's death) being peeled away and then later replaced by a new self (new grout).
Yeomans does an amazing job translating the pain and grief anyone feels when they loose a loved one, in particular a close family member. A unique aspect to this YA Verse Novel is Yeomans' way of bringing in Baseball and Math into the Novel and Kit's and Buddy's relationship. This is most notably seen in the way Yeomans "chapters" her novel by Baseball year and seasons. This is a perfect book for anyone looking for understanding and even an outlet. You will be surprised how affecting and moving such a innocent seeming novel appears to be.
Rubber Houses is written in free verse, in Kit's first person voice. The format doesn't support detailed character or plot development, but it has other rewards: its spare outlines invite the reader to interpret the details. Why does Kit dress in clothing her mother used to hate? How does her preoccupation with road maps and trip routes make her feel closer to Buddy? Why does she slip away from home and return to the hospital room where Buddy died, months later? These events are largely left to the reader to decipher, and I would expect them to be well within the experience and grasp of a mid-teen reader.
Reflecting the fact that Buddy and Kit were baseball-mad, author Ellen Yeomans has based the book's structure on the baseball year. Buddy is diagnosed during the season warm-up, dies during the regular season. Kit is numb with grief during Postseason. Hot Stove is the off-season when trades are made and things are in turmoil. Spring Training brings the hard work, the starting over. Many of the poems have baseball-themed names: Opening Day, Roster Change, Triple A, Curve Ball. The recurring baseball metaphor adds much to the book for a baseball fan.
This is at least a two-hanky book but the story ends on a note of hope, strength and recovery. The reader of any age is invited to fill in the outlines of Kit's loss and re-entry. A very rewarding book, highly recommended.
Linda Bulger, 2008
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"Rubber Houses," by Ellen Yeomans, is a heart-melting story told in a unique and captivating way.Read more