Synopses & Reviews
As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who “smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain.” In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubons birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.
"Gloriously figurative language...brilliantly evokes both time and place...both beautiful and emotionally honest, both funny and piercingly sad." Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"a powerful tale of friendship and coming-of-age...haunting combination of fact and fiction has a powerful and tragic climax." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
"an evocative novel...with fully developed, memorable characters...fascinating, little-known piece of history...will leave a powerful impression on readers." School Library Journal, Starred
"Schmidt fictionalizes a true event... vividly realized...fully credible...subtly drawn." THE BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN'S BOOKS Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
"historical incident ignites a rich novel...a drama that examines the best and worst of humanity." HORN BOOK Horn Book
"Nothing is at it seems when Trouble arrives in varied and symbolic ways for two families and two communities. Franklin Smith, the arrogant scion of an aristocratic New England family, is accidentally struck while running and subsequently dies. The blame is accepted by a classmate, a Cambodian immigrant from a nearby town. When legal technicalities prevent Chay Chouan from being jailed, the perceived miscarriage of justice reverberates through idyllic Blythbury-by-the-Sea. Franklin's younger brother, Henry, becomes determined to climb Mount Katahdin, a feat that Franklin had coldly suggested might prove Henry had guts. Henry sets out hitchhiking for the mountain with best friend question. Somewhat improbably they are picked up by Chay, who has been expelled by his father and is now driving the truck that killed Franklin. Their symbolic journey predictably includes moments of danger, self-discovery, and reconciliation, fortunately leavened by the humorously ironic Sanborn. Complex structure allows revelations into the character of Chay, child of a violent refugee camp, unwanted product of rape, lover of poetry, and protector of Henry's sister (in a Romeo-and-Juliet twist). Teeming with plot elements, some of which may seem too purposeful, and richly veined with social and psychological crosscurrents, this story may be seen as allegorical in its intent and representation. Nevertheless it contains Schmidt's eloquent language and compelling characters, as well as compassionate examinations of the passage from childhood to adulthood and of the patters of common experience and mark and unite us as humans."--School Library Journal
, starred review
"Henry and his family live the charmed existence of the well-bred, well-heeled New England old-money crowd, exemplified by successful, professional parents, a coastal home that has been in the family for hundreds of years, and bright, athletic children attending posh private academies and always rising to the challenges expected of them. That world shatters when Franklin, Henry's elder brother and role model, is hit by a truck belonging to Chay Chouan, the son of a Cambodian refugee, leaving Franklin with only one arm and indeterminate brain activity. Flurries of violence erupt as Franklin's fellow lacrosse players vent their rage on the Cambodian community, and Henry begins to question whether Franklin was such a good role model after all, given as he was to racially motivated bullying even before the accident. Henry decides that he needs to follow through on a plan that Franklin used to taunt him with, climbing a dangerous mountain as a rite of passage into Franklin's kind of macho manhood. Henry's version of the plan, though, leads to forgiveness as he hitches a ride with Chay of all people, and he learns secrets about his brother, his sister, and Chay that lead him to quesion the kind of person he wants to be. Schmidt creates a rich and credible world peopled with fully developed characters who have a lot of complex reasoning to do, reckoning that involves confronting issues of white privilege and responsibility for racial reconciliation and acceptance. In the midst of the drama, a hurricane uncovers a burned-out slave ship that belonged to Henry's ancestor; its presence, along with an encounter with some Vietnam vets, ups the ante on the white guilt message just in case you weren't paying attention, and thus seems a bit gratuitous. Schmidt's prose, however, is flawless, and Henry's odyssey of growth and understanding is pitch-perfect and deeply satisfying."--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
" 'If you build your house far enough from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.' Such is the credo of the fortunate Smith family of Blythbury-by-the-Sea, a (fictional) WASP-y outpost of Boston. But when Trouble arrives, it just keeps on coming. First, oldest son Franklin lies in a coma after being hit by a car; a young Cambodian immigrant is identified as the driver. Daughter Louisa, hugely distraught, retreats to her bedroom, and fourteen-year-old Henry is left on his own. With the newly adopted Black Dog, whom he's rescued from the sea, Henry sets off to climb Maine's Mt. Katahdin (as he and Franklin had planned to do together) and is joined by unexpected companions. Schmidt embarks on a road trip that limns the growing friendship of three unforgettable boys-Henry; his honest, aggravating best friend Sanborn; and the accused Cambodian boy, Chay Chuan. A host of coincidences strains credulity at times, but also allows for an extraordinary breadth, widening themes and resolving plot lines. Like Chaucer's pilgrims, Henry, Chay, and Louisa all have to find their way to grace. The accident that brings trouble to Henry and his family also brings self-realization and the uncomfortable knowledge that both Henry's idolized brother and the vaunted history of the Smith family are not what they seem. Along with the pivotal role played by the enthusiastic Black Dog, rich secondary characters enhance a 1970s-set story that adds much to the discussion of how tragedy and racism affect individuals, families, and whole communities."--The Horn Book
"Tautly constructed, metaphorically rich, emotionally gripping and seductively told,Schmidt's (The Wednesday Wars) novel opens in the 300-year-old ancestral home of Henry Smith, whose father has raised him to believe that 'if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.' With such an opening, it is inevitable that Trouble does find the aristocratic Smiths: Henry's older brother, Franklin, is critically injured by a truck. A Cambodian refugee named Chay, who attends the same school as Franklin, acknowledges responsibility, but over the course of Chay's trial it occurs, to Henry at least, that it was Franklin who sought Trouble: the racism he directed toward Chay specifically and Cambodian immigrants generally has been so widely shared in the community that no one challenged it. Twin sequences of events plunge the Smiths and Chay into further tragedy, also revealing the ravages of Chay's childhood under the Khmer Rouge. At the same time, a storm exposes a charred slave ship long buried on the Smiths' private beach: it emerges that their house has been close to Trouble all along. For all the fine crafting, the novel takes a disturbingly broad-brush approach to racism. Characters are either thuggish or willfully blind or saintly, easily pegged on a moral scale-and therefore untrue to life."--Publishers Weekly
"One of children's literature's prose masters presents a typically deliberate tale of moral awakening. Henry Smith, younger son of a well-to-do Massachusetts family, finds his secure world rocked to its foundations when his jogging brother is critically injured by a pickup truck driven by a young Cambodian immigrant. His family falls apart. Three things keep Henry, too, from crumbling completely: his hatred for the boy who drove the truck, his love for the stray Black Dog he brings home and his determination to climb Maine's Mt. Katahdin, the mountain his brother teased him he'd never summit. The leisurely development of plot and characters allows the latter full emotional complexity and nuances the former with the layers of relationships that, willy-nilly, bind humanity together. One subplot too many-the wreck of a slaver appears on the Smiths' beach-results in a little too much Significant Musing and a wild coincidence that threatens the credibility of the whole. It's a measure of Schmidt's control in other realms that this still stands as a deeply moving and pleasurable read."--Kirkus Reviews
"This is Schmidt's best novel yet—darker than The Wednesday Wars and written with more restraint, but with the same expert attention to voice, character and big ideas."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Reproductions of Audubon plates introduce each chapter in this stealthily powerful, unexpectedly affirming story of discovering and rescuing ones best self, despite family pressure to do otherwise."—Booklist, starred review
"Readers will miss Doug and his world when theyre done, and will feel richer for having experienced his engaging, tough, and endearing story."—School Library Journal, starred review
"The book is exceptionally well written. Schmidt creates characters that will remain with the reader long after the book is done. Dougs voice is unforgettable as he tries to help and protect his mom. . . .While there is much stacked against him, he is a character filled with hope that the reader cannot help but root for. Push this one on readers; they will not be sorry. . . .Schmidt writes a journal-type story with a sharp attention to detail, patterns in the story line, and an unexpected twist at the end."-VOYA
Praise for THE PAPER COWBOY:
“A winningly authentic, realistic and heartwarming family drama.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Schmidt, whose LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY won both Printz and Newbery Honors, delivers another winner...deeply satisfying." Publishers Weekly, Starred
"Schmidt ... [gets] to the emotional heart of every scene without overstatement ... another virtuoso turn by the author of LIZZIE BRIGHT." Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"Schmidt...makes the implausible believable and the everyday momentous...a gentle, hopeful, moving story." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
"Schmidt rises above the novel's conventions to create memorable and believable characters." Horn Book, Starred
"[An] entertaining and nuanced novel.... There are laugh-out-loud moments that leaven the many poignant ones." School Library Journal
"An accessible, humorous school story, and at the same time, an insightful coming-of-age tale." Bookpage
"Fans of ... LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY may be pleasantly surprised to see Schmidt's lighter, even sillier side." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Praise for THE PAPER COWBOY:
* “A winningly authentic, realistic and heartwarming family drama.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* “A thoughtful story about understanding and compassion, distinguished by complex characters and a supportive, tight-knit community.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
* “A sophisticated, powerful story about a communitys ability to help one another out, and the paper cowboy who helps bring them together.”—Booklist, starred review
* “Tommy's struggle to bring his family together ends up bringing the whole community together. His journey is filled with many lessons for young readers and many historically accurate portrayals of life at that time... the lessons--acceptance of others, coming together to help others, forgiveness, and coping with mental illness--are well worth teaching.”—Examiner.com
* “Levine deftly captures a time period filled with an overarching paranoia and small-town life filled with tensions on many levels.”—School Library Journal
Praise for THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK:
“Creating a book that reads as though written in one effortless breath requires a rare talent… Readers will root for a painfully shy girl to discover the depths of her own courage and find hope in the notion that even in tumultuous times, standing up for the people you love cant be wrong. Satisfying, gratifying, touching, weighty—this authentic piece of work has got soul.” —The New York Times Book Review
“[A] stunning piece of historical fiction.”—School Library Journal, starred review
“[A] riveting, frequently tense portrait of 1958 Little Rock.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[A] quietly powerful page-turner.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Praise for THE BEST BAD LUCK I EVER HAD:
“[An] energetic, seamlessly narrated first novel… Levine handles the setting with grace and nuance.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“This classic story of how unlikely persons can change things for the better should appeal to all readers.”—VOYA, starred review
It only takes a few hours for Turner Buckminster to start hating Phippsburg, Maine. No one in town will let him forget that he's a minister's son, even if he doesn't act like one. But then he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, a smart and sassy girl from a poor nearby island community founded by former slaves. Despite his father's-and the town's-disapproval of their friendship, Turner spends time with Lizzie, and it opens up a whole new world to him, filled with the mystery and wonder of Maine's rocky coast. The two soon discover that the town elders, along with Turner's father, want to force the people to leave Lizzie's island so that Phippsburg can start a lucrative tourist trade there. Turner gets caught up in a spiral of disasters that alter his life-but also lead him to new levels of acceptance and maturity. This sensitively written historical novel, based on the true story of a community's destruction, highlights a unique friendship during a time of change. Author's note.
“Henry Smiths father told him that if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.”
But Trouble comes careening down the road one night in the form of a pickup truck that strikes Henrys older brother, Franklin. In the truck is Chay Chouan, a young Cambodian from Franklins preparatory school, and the accident sparks racial tensions in the school—and in the well-established town where Henrys family has lived for generations. Caught between anger and grief, Henry sets out to do the only thing he can think of: climb Mt. Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine, which he and Franklin were going to climb together. Along with Black Dog, whom Henry has rescued from drowning, and a friend, Henry leaves without his parents knowledge. The journey, both exhilarating and dangerous, turns into an odyssey of discovery about himself, his older sister, Louisa, his ancestry, and why one can never escape from Trouble.
What fills a hand fuller than a skein of gold? By order of the king, two boys, Tousle and Innes, must find the answer to this puzzling riddle within seven days or be killed. A former nursemaid to the queens child tells the boys that the banished queen may have the answer they seek. Danger presents itself at every turn, for the boys are pursued by the Great Barons, who are secretly plotting against the king. Another pursuer, the greedy Kings Grip, reveals a strange story of a little man who once spun straw into gold of incredible beauty for the queen but then disappeared with her firstborn son. Tousle realizes that the man he calls Da is the strange little man and, even more amazing, that he himself may be the lost prince. Or could it be Innes, who although cruelly blinded can hear the music of the dawn?
This skillful blend of fantasy and adventure reveals what might have happened before the queen makes her third and last guess and the story of Rumpelstiltskinas we know itends.
In this stunning novel, Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.
National Book Award Finalist "[A] stealthily powerful, unexpectedly affirming story of discovering and rescuing ones best self."—Booklist, starred review In this companion novel to The Wednesday Wars, Doug struggles to be more than the "skinny thug" that some people think him to be. He finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, who gives him the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.
Though he thinks of himself as a cowboy, Tommy is really a bully. He's always playing cruel jokes on classmates or stealing from the store. But Tommy has a reason: life at home is tough. His abusive mother isn't well; in fact, she may be mentally ill, and his sister, Mary Lou, is in the hospital badly burned from doing a chore it was really Tommy's turn to do. To make amends, Tommy takes over Mary Lou's paper route. But the paper route also becomes the perfect way for Tommy to investigate his neighbors after stumbling across a copy of The Daily Worker
, a communist newspaper.
Tommy is shocked to learn that one of his neighbors could be a communist, and soon fear of a communist in this tight-knit community takes hold of everyone when Tommy uses the paper to frame a storeowner, Mr. McKenzie. As Mr. McKenzie's business slowly falls apart and Mary Lou doesn't seem to get any better, Tommy's mother's abuse gets worse causing Tommy's bullying to spiral out of control.
Poignantly written, Kristin Levine proves herself a master of gripping and affecting historical fiction.
In this Newbery Honor-winning novel, Gary D. Schmidt offers an unforgettable antihero. The Wednesday Wars
is a wonderfully witty and compelling story about a teenage boys mishaps and adventures over the course of the 1967-68 school year in Long Island, New York.
Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesnt like Holling—hes sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.
It is the mid-eighteenth century, and young British subject Anson Granville Staplyton has traveled to Ireland, where his regiment has been sent to keep the king's peace. Anson has waited all his life for the day he would follow his father to serve His Majesty in the Staffordshire Fencibles. But the young drummer's notions of glory are shaken when he witnesses the violent injustices thrust upon the Irish people. Anson is torn even further when he meets an Irish hedge master who secretly teaches children the lilting language and history of their won country-lessons that it is Anson's duty to silence. Torn between family honor and his ever-changing sense of justice, Anson struggles to choose his own way in beautiful yet turbulent Ireland.
About the Author
Kristin Levine received her BA in German from Swarthmore College and an MFA in film from American University. She spent a year in Vienna, Austria, working as an au pair, and has taught screenwriting at American University. Currently, she lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her two daughters. She is the author of the critically acclaimed The Best Luck I Ever Had, The Lions of Little Rock, and The Paper Cowboy.