Reviews for Belle Prater's Boy


Horn Book Guide Reviews 1996
Gypsy and her cousin Woodrow become close friends after Woodrow's mother disappears. Both sixth-graders feel deserted by their parents -- Gypsy discovers that her father committed suicide -- and need to define themselves apart from these tragedies. White's prose evokes the coal mining region of Virginia and the emotional quality of her characters' transformations. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1996 #5
Gypsy is a sixth grader when her cousin Woodrow comes to live with her grandparents next door. Woodrow shares with Gypsy his fears and secrets surrounding his mother's mysterious disappearance, and the two become close friends. Both young adolescents feel deserted by their parents - Gypsy's adored father committed suicide when she was five - and, needing to define themselves apart from these tragedies, the two encourage each other to take steps toward independence. Gypsy has beautiful hair, kept long in spite of its complicated maintenance because of a promise to Gypsy's father that it would never be cut. Finally, in an act of anger and defiance, Gypsy hacks off all her hair so that others can see "there is a person in here!" In so doing, Gypsy acknowledges that her father was human and flawed, and she begins to accept her loving, patient stepfather. Despite the title, this is Gypsy's story, as she, with Woodrow's help, emerges from her cocoon to recognize both the good and the sorrowful in her world. White's characters are strong - Woodrow is especially endearing with his many eccentricities and vulnerabilities - and her storytelling is rich in detail and emotion. Both the words and the cadence of the prose evoke the coal-mining region of Virginia, which also served as the setting of her previous novels, Sweet Creek Holler and Weeping Willow (both Farrar). m.v.k. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1996 March #2
Returning to the early `50s, western Virginia setting of Sweet Creek Holler and Weeping Willow, White serves up a novel so fresh that readers can practically smell the lilacs and the blossoming fruit trees. Gypsy, the 12-year-old narrator, is all excited when her cousin Woodrow moves in with their grandparents next door-Woodrow's mother, married to a coal miner in a remote holler, has disappeared without a trace, and Gypsy hopes that Woodrow will divulge some new clues. Instead, she gets a best friend, someone who, in spite of unwelcome attention for having crossed eyes and being "Belle Prater's boy," charms everyone in school with his good-natured if mischievous wit. Gypsy cannot understand Woodrow's self-possession in the wake of his mother's desertion, but Woodrow, on the other hand, understands Gypsy's pain at her father's long-ago suicide better than Gypsy does. Pitching her narrative in a genial, mountain-folks twang, White creates vivacious, memorable characters whose openheartedness should not be mistaken for naivete. She gives her protagonists the courage to face tragedy and transcend it-and the ability to pass along that gift to the reader. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 1996 April
Gr 6-9 Belle Prater becomes the stuff of local legend in Coal Station, Virginia, when she disappears, leaving everyone mystified. Because his father drinks, Belle's boy, cross-eyed Woodrow, comes to live with his grandparents on the finest residential street in town; and 12-year-old Gypsy, his cousin who lives next door and narrates the story, is glad to get to know him. Like everyone else, she is curious about his mother; but Woodrow will only tell her a fantastic story about a magical place. Nevertheless, the girl comes to admire her cousin for the way he uses his superior intelligence and pleasant personality to adapt to a more affluent life, fend off rude questions about his mother, and handle the local bully. Gypsy seems to lead an idyllic life, but when a schoolmate puts a face on her recurring nightmare, she collapses in the rush of long-repressed sorrow. White paints a vivid picture of small town Appalachia in the 1950s, from the ostracism of a blind "sin eater" to the preening of social "wannabes." Characterization is superb. Gypsy's evolving understanding of her late father's values and her stepfather's virtues is especially well done. White's message that there is no protection for any of us from pain, only a variety of ways to handle it is delivered with just right dollops of humor and love. What's important, as Gypsy's grandmother puts it, is to let our true selves shine. A delightful read by a real truth teller. Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY School Library Journal Reviews

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