Reviews for First Boy
Booklist Reviews 2005 September #2
Gr. 7-10. Schmidt's historical novel, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2004), was both a Printz and a Newbery Honor Book. Here the author tells a contemporary story rooted in the New Hampshire countryside, blending political farce with a poignant account of one boy's search for home. When Grandpa dies, Cooper, 14, is alone on the dairy farm where his grandparents had raised him. He wants to stay, and helped by his kind neighbors, he manages to get to school and do the daily chores. But who is setting fires in his barn? Why are big, black sedans cruising in the small town? Why does the local senator want the boy on his campaign trail? Who were Cooper's parents, and why did they abandon him? The family secrets are decidedly contrived, but the political machinations are fun. Best of all, though, are the realistic portrayal of a young teen alone, the unsentimental details of his work, the lyrical sense of the place he loves, and, above all, the meaning of family. ((Reviewed September 15, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2006 Spring
Political intrigue comes to rural New Hampshire in this quiet thriller. When young dairyman Cooper Jewett's grandfather dies, leaving him orphaned, the strain of balancing school and farm quickly threatens to overwhelm him. A smooth-talking presidential candidate offers him a way out, which sets off a chain of events that escalates into violence and terror. Readers will root for this appealing protagonist. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2005 #5
Political intrigue finds its way to rural New Hampshire in this quiet thriller. Cooper Jewett is a dairyman through and through, so secure in his place in the world that never knowing his parents only niggles at him slightly. When his grandfather dies suddenly, leaving him truly orphaned, life changes for the high school freshman. Despite help from neighbors and sheer will, the strain of balancing school and farm quickly threatens to overwhelm him. When a smooth-talking presidential candidate offers him a way out -- which he refuses -- it sets off a chain of events that escalates into violence and terror. Schmidt is at his best when evoking the beauty of the New Hampshire farm, the relationships within the community, and the role of both of them in forging Cooper's determination to hang on in the face of both blandishments and threats. The rhythms of the farm govern both Cooper's life and the progress of the narrative, grounding it in earthy reality. Cooper is an entirely appealing protagonist; as it becomes clear that his parents' identity is central to both the presidential election and the terrible things happening to him, readers will be rooting for him all the way. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2005 September #1
Sinister black sedans clash with rolling farmland as D.C. invades rural New Hampshire in Schmidt's latest foray into dirty politics. Fourteen-year-old Cooper Jewett is a dairyman through and through, so when Grandpa, his last remaining relative, dies, he stoically vows to "make do." Little does he know that his challenges will soon exceed fighting loneliness, keeping up in school and running the farm solo-indeed, that life as he knows it will be jeopardized when the cold, calculating Senator Wickham decides to use the orphaned Cooper as a tool in his bid for the presidential nomination. (Grandpa always said Wickham "should hold a pile of manure in each hand while he talked so people could plainly see what was coming out of his mouth.") Cooper, once "clutched by the stillness of his house," is soon catapulted into a full-blown action adventure complete with dangerous thugs, stolen cars and narrow escapes. In this suspenseful, surprisingly over-the-top novel, Cooper finds out who he is and what he's made of through a dizzying series of unlikely events that show him, ultimately, that love conquers all. (Fiction. 12+) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Reviews 2005 October
Gr 5-8 -While not as richly layered as Schmidt's Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Clarion, 2004), this novel touches on similar themes. When Cooper Jewett's beloved grandfather, whose endearment for the 14-year-old is, "You're my first boy," dies suddenly, the teen finds himself completely alone. He's never even seen a picture of his parents. Cooper is determined to stay on the New Hampshire dairy farm that he loves, although school, cross-country practice, and endless chores make that decision nearly impossible. The Big Men in black sedans who begin to follow him, ransacking the farm and setting fire to a barn, set off a series of events that ends with him being kidnapped and meeting the president. Senator Wickham, a candidate for the Democratic nomination, wishing to smear the incumbent, uncovers a scandal and believes that the President and the First Gentleman (yes, that's right: a woman president and a nice touch) are the boy's parents. However, since the president refuses to take a DNA test, readers are never certain whether or not Cooper is indeed the First Boy. He just wants to be home with his friends who love him and, in the end, he is able to stay. Cooper's grief, solitude, and loneliness are poignantly and realistically drawn, and secondary characters add humor to this fast-paced tale. At times, but not nearly as often as in Lizzie Bright , the writing reaches the lyricism so compelling in that novel. Like Turner in that book, Cooper learns how memories keep loved ones alive.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME [Page 173]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2006 April
Fourteen-year-old Cooper Jewett is lonely and exhausted. Since the death of his grandfather, Cooper has been running the Jewett dairy farm alone, with just a bit of help from a few of his rural New Hampshire neighbors. As if going to school and managing a household and farm were not enough, Cooper finds himself drawn into a political intrigue when a mysterious black limousine begins following him through town and along quiet country roads. Disturbing acts of vandalism occur on the farm, and tension mounts until Cooper is finally compelled to meet the famous couple who just might be his biological parents, as well as their opponent, a powerful, corrupt U.S. senator who hopes that Cooper will be his ticket to the highest office in the land. The novel is well paced, building gradually from a low-key opening and the introduction of an ordinary-seeming protagonist, toward a suspenseful conclusion in which Cooper's moral strength and his solidarity with friends and neighbors is severely tested Schmidt is the author of many young adult biographies and novels, including Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Clarion, 2004/VOYA August 2004), awarded both Newbery and Printz honors for 2005. Here in a contemporary setting in which a woman is the U.S. president, he places the traditional values of plain country folk in stark contrast with the worldly ambitions of politicians and their cronies. It is a timely novel of coming-of-age into a society increasingly divided along cultural lines.-Walter Hogan 4Q 3P M J Copyright 2006 Voya Reviews.