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Tennyson Hardcover – January 8, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–8—Emery has dumped his two daughters at his family's ghostly, crumbling ancestral plantation home with his peculiar sister and brother-in-law who are most unhappy to host the girls while he searches for his wife, who has left the family. The house itself seems to respond to the needs and fears of the sisters and begins to slowly draw 11-year-old Tennyson into its legacy through dreams of its past grandeurs and sorrows. The story is set during the Great Depression when the South is still reeling from the economic devastation of the Civil War. Tennyson is desperate to find her mother and hatches a scheme to reach her by having articles published in her mother's favorite literary magazine. Blume has an impressive command of the English language, but the story is too contrived. The manuscripts Tennyson sends to the magazine are written on old sheet music, so it's highly unlikely that a distinguished literary magazine would even consider such work. The characters run the gamut of Southern stereotypes, from the cruel white master and the silver-stealing slaves who appear in Tennyson's dreams to the aunt and uncle who are trying to get restitution from the federal government for losses incurred during the Civil War and a faithful retainer who is a descendant of the family's slaves. It's unfortunate that the author's considerable writing talent lacks a stronger plot.
Nancy Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC

From Booklist

The year is 1932. Eleven-year-old Tennyson Fontaine and her younger sister, Hattie, have grown up running wild, but that ends when their mother leaves without warning. While their father searches for her, the siblings stay at the Fontaines’ crumbling ancestral home, Aigredoux, once a wealthy Louisiana plantation. There, Aunt Hattie and Uncle Twigs live in the shadow of the past, holding tight to false hopes of restoring the family fortune. The precocious and sensitive Tennyson begins dreaming of her Civil War ancestors and is swept into their dark history of greed, betrayal, and pride. She begins writing down this history and publishing it in her mother’s favorite literary magazine, but this plan to connect with her missing parent has unexpected consequences. The Fontaine history is complex, evoking horror and sympathy; by contrast, a subplot involving Tennyson’s haughty New York editor feels jarringly cartoonish. Still, many readers will respond to this novel’s Southern gothic sensibility, especially Blume’s beautiful, poetic writing about how the past resonates through the generations. Grades 4-6. --Krista Hutley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; (3rd printing) edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375847030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375847035
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,281,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The year is 1932, and the Depression is running as deep and wide as the Mississippi. Tennyson is eleven, her younger sister Hattie eight, and they have never known nor needed anything outside of their home at Innisfree. They have stories and schooling from their gentle, loving father Emery. Their mother Sadie is a frustrated writer and poet. A wild dog named Jos comes in and out of their house whenever he pleases. It is a happy house.

The girls often play hide-and-seek in the woods, the soles of their feet thick as hide, the sound of their laughter filling the air, but they always come home at dusk. One night, their mother doesn't come home. Just like that, she is gone, having left by choice for parts unknown. Tennyson doesn't know where her mother is, but she knows why: "Because she's like Jos . . . She's wild and she doesn't really belong to us." Tennyson, also a writer, has been aware of her mother's discontent for years, so though her leaving hurts, it comes as no surprise.

So that he may search for his wife, Emery must leave his daughters with his sister Henrietta at a colorless Louisiana house called Aigredoux (pronounced Aag-reh-do). He tells them to pretend that they are actresses in a play, to mind what Aunt Henrietta says, and to be brave. He promises that he will be back soon with their mother. And then he, too, is gone.

Aunt Henrietta has little tolerance for her nieces' dirt-and-tear-streaked faces, appalled by their old clothes and lack of manners. She considers herself to be a lady and her crumbling, faded house a castle.
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Format: Hardcover
Tennyson is a remarkable book. Remarkable in the sense that I don't think I've read any other book like it. The best way I can describe it is by giving you three keywords: Gothic + Southern + Writing. It's sort of a bizarre little book. The writing is very stark and vivid and dark; the characters odd but lovable. Parts of it made me laugh, parts made my heart ache. Sometimes Aigredoux and its occupants seemed ridiculous and absurd, sometimes they were frightening. Oh, how do I say this. It's not the sort of book you can describe. It's like a distant memory that you want to lose yourself in, but at the same time you're afraid that if the characters are hurt in any way, you will be, too. My reaction when finished wasn't a loud, bubbly, "I loved it!!" - more of a quiet, solemn, "I liked that. Yes, I did. Very much."
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Format: Hardcover
In 1932, the Depression weighs heavily across the entire country. But for 11-year-old Tennyson Fontaine and her eight-year-old sister, Hattie, life goes on as normal in their simple shack home near the banks of the Mississippi. They spend their days playing hide-and-seek in the surrounding forests, staying out of their mother's way while she writes her stories and poems, and pass the evenings reading stories and history books with their father. When they're not partaking in these activities, they're swinging on the rope swing hanging in the kitchen.

One time, and one time only, Tennyson makes the mistake of fixing one of her mom's stories; she has the natural writing talents that her mom only dreams of having. But her mom gets jealous and angry when she fixes the story so easily, so she never attempts to help again. One of Tennyson's main responsibilities is trying to keep her mom happy.

However, one evening her mother never returns home. Her father goes out to search for her, but returns empty-handed the following morning. Not knowing what else to do, he packs up his daughters and delivers them into his sister's care while he continues the search. Aunt Henrietta and Uncle Twigs live in the Fontaine family home, an old southern Louisiana plantation house called Aigredoux. Though rich in history, Aigredoux is falling apart and overgrown with vines. Aunt Henrietta and Uncle Twigs seem to be stuck in the past as well, clinging to their rigid southern manners and outdated way of life. From the moment they meet, Aunt Henrietta and Tennyson's personalities painfully collide, and the future appears bleak and lonely.

Then Tennyson has an idea. She will write a story and get it published in her mom's favorite magazine.
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Format: Paperback
This was an interesting story that wonderfully captured two very different time periods. While it is primarily about young sisters, Tennyson and Hattie, struggling with a family separation in 1932, it also interweaves a Civil War tale of the girls' paternal family and their grand Louisiana plantation house. The descriptions are very real and I felt easily drawn into the varying scenes from Mississippi to Louisiana and even New York City. Blume is a wonderfully descriptive author who makes the reader truly feel the mood of each scene as well.

Both I and my 11 year old daughter read this book and enjoyed it. Her comment was that it had a strange ending-as if there should've been more. As an adult, I can say that it is an ending that does offer closure but not in a cut and dry manner. It's more of an emotional closure rather than an end to the story. I felt the moral of the story is Tennyson's realization that while history seeks to repeat itself, we are all empowered by the choices we make, choices that can alter the future for the better. I would recommend it for it's original storyline (Southern Gothic for children)and could be a springboard for discussing the Great Depression and the Civil War. Homeschoolers especially might appreciate the crossover potential between language arts & history/social studies.
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