Reviews for Early Winter
Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 December 1999
Gr. 4^-7. Tim feels certain that his grandfather's decline in mental health can be blamed on the fact that he and his mother moved away from his grandparents. On a return visit, he's determined to prove that Granddad can be fine with his help. Although Tim finds his grandfather is the same in many ways, he also sees worrisome changes when he convinces Granddad to run away with him on a camping trip. Clearly Alzheimer's is the primary focus of the novel, but Bauer also develops a delicately layered story about blame and truth. She leads both the reader and Tim to leap to conclusions about the characters that later prove to be false (or at least not the whole story), as Tim learns more about why he has never met his biological father, Granddad's son. Both the jacket painting and the tone are somber, but the story's suspense and its warmly realistic conversations will keep kids reading if they can be enticed to begin. With its humane, complicated characters, this makes a good choice for discussion. ((Reviewed December 1, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2000 Spring
Eleven-year-old Tim, refusing to accept that his grandfather has been affected by Alzheimer's disease, secretly takes him on a fishing trip. His attempt to prove that Granddad is still capable backfires, and the two end up in grave danger. At times, Tim thinks and acts younger than he is, and on other occasions his behavior is unaccountably mature. However, the book presents a realistic portrayal of the early stages of Alzheimer's.Copyright 2000 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 1999 July #1
A leaden, purposeful tale of a child encountering the reality of Alzheimer's. Tim has ferociously denied that anything is wrong with his beloved grandfather, but he quickly learns otherwise on a clandestine fishing trip. Although his grandfather exhibits flashes of his old self, he can't make change at the bait store, forgets to pack fresh water or a net, and experiences sudden, frightening mood changes. Worst of all, he keeps withdrawing into an eerie, silent helplessness, and finally walks off into the night, abandoning Tim and the camper. Bauer leaves out pointed lectures and clinical information about the disease to focus on its emotional impact on the victim and those around him. That focus wavers with the sudden, gratuitous revelation that Tim's long-vanished father was exiled from the family for being a cocaine addict; still, Tim's experience with his grandfather may convince readers with Alzheimer's-stricken relatives that denial serves no purpose, and that the only response may be to surround the victim with loving, responsible family. (Fiction. 10-12) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1999 August #4
The title and recurring theme of Bauer's (Sleep, Little One, Sleep, reviewed above) novel refers to the grim effects of Alzheimer's disease. Ten-year-old Tim idolizes his grandfather, a former veterinarian and outdoorsman who raised him after Tim's father mysteriously disappeared. As his mother, stepfather and grandmother make plans to care for his failing grandfather, Tim angrily denies signs of the man's memory loss and disorientation, and plots to take his grandfather on a nostalgic fishing trip to prove that the man can still function normally. Bauer builds clues regarding the seriousness of the disease to a dramatic crescendo, when Tim must deliver them both to safety. In the process, Tim discovers some unpleasant truths surrounding his father's departure and a bit too neatly confronts his fears and grief, and comes to accept his grandfather as a person instead of a hero. While there are moments of painful honesty (for example, in the closing bedside scene when Tim asks his grandfather if he knows him, the man replies, "I'm afraid I've forgotten... I know you are someone I love"), in other instances Tim's thoughts do not seem plausible. Still, the book offers a realistic depiction of the effects of this incapacitating disease and will likely be helpful to children who are struggling with aging relatives. Ages 9-up. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 1999 October
Gr 4-7-Swiftly moving but somewhat cliched, this novel's chief strengths are its fairly fresh subject matter (a beloved grandfather's "descent" into Alzheimer's), its clear delineations of the trials of the disease, and its sharp depiction of 11-year-old Tim. The relationship between the boy and his grandfather is also clearly drawn-their shared camaraderie and love of fishing. On the other hand, Bauer has structured the plot so seamlessly, with Tim's father's disappearance years earlier as the only element that is not neatly resolved, that the book seems almost designed to be a television movie of the week. We have 1) introduction of problem; 2) Tim's denial of problem; 3) Tim's "crazy" attempt to prove problem does not exist; 4) near-disaster following that attempt; and 5) resolution that tidily acknowledges that problem must be dealt with, but will be dealt with in a positive and loving manner. Young readers, however, are unlikely to be bothered by these literary issues. Though the boy's behavior may occasionally seem too childish for a sixth grader, readers will most likely sympathize with his feelings of betrayal as the other adults discuss plans for dealing with his grandfather, and will cheer his attempts to take matters into his own hands and "save" the old man.-Coop Renner, Moreno Elementary School, El Paso, TX Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.