Gentle's Holler

Published By: Viking Juvenile

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Juvenile Non-Fiction

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Reviewed by Andrea Sisco

Kerry Madden, author of Gentle's Holler, has written a beautiful, humorous and poignant story of a mountain family who knows both poverty and love intimately.

Livy Two Weems is 12-years-old and has a desire that is burning a hole in her heart to see the world beyond the North Carolina hills. But she also knows how important family is in the scheme of life. And so what she wants and what she knows—is told in the songs she writes and plays on her guitar.

I am drawn to and fascinated by Livy Two Weems. Although a child, she is wise, ambitious, kind, loving, smart as a whip and talented. And she has a heart as big as the holler where she lives. It is through Livy's eyes that we see the Weems family and live their struggles.

Livy Two's mama is pregnant again, her harsh grandmother has come to visit after neglecting the family for five years, and her daddy is still hanging on to his dream of selling his banjo songs. There are nine children to feed (the tenth, Livy One, died the day she was born) and Livy Two knows that dreams of selling songs doesn't put food on the table.

When a doctor tells the family that one of the children, Gentle, will always be blind, Livy Two decides there has to be a plan to help her. But other tragedies visit the Weems home, and Livy Two may not be able to be the strong girl her family needs.

There are sad and tragic events that take place in this book but love and hope never take a vacation. The characters are rich, real, complex and the kind you want to meet and ask to stay awhile. I loved all of them and didn't want them to leave. Madden's characters know they are poor, but also know that poverty is a situation and not about who they are. They are wonderful proud people who are doing their best.

In our society of conspicuous consumption, wanting it all, dissatisfaction with the small things, we and our children would do well to read this book and take its message to heart. I can only hope that Madden will give us more of Livy Two and her family. It would be sad to just let them go. Their message is far too important.

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