Autumn Journey: 3

Priscilla Cummings, Author
Priscilla Cummings, Author Dutton Books $14.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-525-65238-0
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Paperback - 118 pages - 978-0-87033-606-5
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The writing is eloquent and the characters believable in Cummings's (Chadwick the Crab) first novel, but the unremitting melancholy produced by the themes of loneliness and loss may be difficult for middle graders to sustain. Fifth-grader Will Newcomb's dad is unemployed and his parents are constantly fighting. Although he adores his grandfather and doesn't mind that his family is forced to live on Grampa's farm, Will must adjust to a new school and keep his fragmented life a secret. Every day his father grows more distant. Even on the first day of school, his dad runs the pickup off the road and sits there crying, and Will feels powerless (""Will wanted to help more than anything else in the world. It's just that he felt sort of lost, too""). His mom's nagging and crying only add to Will's fears. Then when Grampa, Will's one champion in the novel, takes him goose hunting, the old man overexerts himself, has a heart attack and dies. A strained subtheme is interspersed in italics between the chapters about Gray Feather, a Canada Goose, the victim of Will's bullets (Will nurses him back to health from near death and sets him free). These tragic events overwhelm Will, and a reprieve of hope at the book's end comes too late to balance the burden of his sorrow, leaving readers to wonder when the other shoe will fall. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
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