Johnstone brings to life one of the most endearing characters to come along in some time. Holling Hoodhood is starting seventh grade in 1967. It is a time of change, not just for Holling as he begins his journey into adolescence, but for the world around him as well. The war in Vietnam is raging and the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy hang heavy on the American consciousness by the end of the school year. And for Holling, the world of nascent relationships lies before him, not to mention, baseball, camping and the constant excitement, wonder and terror of being 11 at such a volatile time.
Johnstone's first-person narration perfectly captures Holling's progression from an angst-filled yet innocent boy, to a wiser, self-aware young man. His reading is touching, funny and insightful; he manages to bring the listener back to a time--real or nostalgically re-imagined, at least--when the crack of a bat against a ball in Yankee Stadium or sharing a Coke with a girl at the Woolworth's counter was all any boy could want. This is a lovely, heartfelt novel, read with as much care as the author used to create it. Ages 10-up. (June)[Page 59]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-8-- While the rest of the seventh graders at Camillo Junior High attend Hebrew school or catechism classes on Wednesday afternoons, Holling Hoodhood, a Presbyterian, must stay with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, and perform janitorial chores. The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement form the background for this powerful novel by Gary Schmidt (Clarion, 2007). Holling is pretty sure that Mrs. Baker despises him, and things only get worse when he proves to be inept at the jobs she gives him to do (he releases her two rats when cleaning their cage and gets chalk dust all over the cream puffs that were intended for the wives of American soldiers serving in Vietnam). The teacher announces that in the future they will spend their time together studying Shakespeare. Despite Holling's reservations, Shakespeare turns out to be not so bad after all, and he acquires a whole new vocabulary for cursing from the bard. This comes in handy when he's dealing with the bullies at school; trying to hold his own with his heartless, all business father; or when he must wear a yellow leotard with white feathers on the butt while performing in a Shakespearean production. Eventually, he realizes that Mrs. Baker really is his friend, and that he must be true to himself and his own purpose in life. Actor Joel Johnstone does a marvelous job as narrator, bringing the believable characters to life. A moving, compelling, often humorous novel.--Kathy Miller, Baldwin Junior High School, Baldwin City, KS[Page 62]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.