Rave Reviews Log: Realistic Fiction

February 29, 2008


By Jacqueline Woodson
Newbery Honor 2008
Rating: 4 1/4 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

Set in the 1970's, this quiet story tells the tale of Frannie and the new boy in her 6th grade classroom. Frannie's town, divided by the highway, is clearly split into black and white neighborhoods, and Frannie and her deaf older brother, Sean, spend time wondering what life is like on the other side. Then the "Jesus Boy" starts school with Frannie. He is white, with long curling hair, and looks much like some artist's rendition of Jesus. He stands out like a sore thumb. But when the class bully, Trevor, tries to intimidate Jesus Boy, he holds his ground and remains calm. Could this boy really be a new incarnation of Jesus? Able to turn the other cheek? Speculation runs high about his origins, and Frannie wonders about him, too. But she also has other worries, like her brother Sean fitting into a normal hearing world, and her mother's late in life pregnancy. All of these pieces tie together into an Emily Dickinson poem their teacher reads them: "Hope is the thing with feathers/that perches in the soul,/And sings the tune--without the words,/And never stops at all." As Frannie puzzles out the nature of hope and feathers, she begins to see beyond the outward appearances and to the heart of the people around her. A short pearl of a novel that will make readers wonder, and that is worth diving to the depths for.


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