Synopses & Reviews
What Clem wants for his thirteenth birthday is a dog. What he gets is a miner's cap. It's the 1920s in Leadanna, Missouri, and money is tight in the Harding household. So, Clem, a gifted student and talented writer, must leave school and join Pap in the lead mines, spending his days digging in the suffocating dark beneath the crushing weight of the earth.
While searching for another way to help support his family — Grampy's suffering from miner's consumption and little sister Esther with epilepsy — Clem meets Lindy, the daughter of a local moonshiner, whose face bears a scar from a terrible accident. The two become friends, but soon a series of disasters strike, including a devastating tornado.
Clem's friendship with Lindy and the devotion of a remarkable stray dog help him to reconcile his dreams with the reality of family responsibility and face some hard decisions about his future.
This beautifully written coming-of-age novel shines with true characters, a vivid setting, and heart-felt relationships.
"Long, the author of several early readers, reaches out to older children in this dignified and supple middle-grade story. In 1920s Leadanna, Mo., bookish 13-year-old Clem Harding is yanked out of school to work in the local lead mines. Clem dreads the prospect of sharing the depressing fate of his grandfather, who continues to suffer from mining-related illnesses: 'There was nothing about the mine that would ever change Clem's first impression: it was a busy little hell straight out of the Bible.' While Clem fantasizes about escaping the mine, his reality is stark: his family is poor, and his younger sister's epilepsy is a constant worry. Circumstances begin to appear less bleak when he adopts a stray dog and befriends an optimistic outsider named Lindy who sells moonshine with her dangerous father. Long writes with modest restraint, never drifting into sentimentality or overpowering the story with historical details, while remaining squarely centered in the story's time and place. The novel sings with graceful recurring motifs, true emotions, and devastating observations about the beauty that can be found in the darkest hours. Ages 8 12. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Susan Hill Long is the author of Whistle in the Dark, a middle-grade historical novel.
Susan has also written books for beginning readers under the name Susan Hill, including Black Beauty and the Thunderstorm and Black Beauty: Stolen! (illustrated by Bill Farnsworth) which were named Best Books by Bank Street College of Education; Peter Pan: Lost and Found, and The Wind in the Willows: A Fine Welcome (both illustrated by Michael Hague).
She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters.