Nine Man Tree

Robert Newton Peck, Author Random House Books for Young Readers $17 (192p) ISBN 978-0-679-89257-1
In 1931, in the Florida backwoods, an illiterate, dirt-poor family suffers under the rule of an abusive father, a drunk named Velmer Tharp. Yoolee, the protagonist, is 11 going on 30. He strives to protect his free-spoken younger sister and his worn-out mother from frequent beatings, but a more fearsome foe rears its head. A neighbor finds part of a hand, and then Yoolee turns up a leg bone. It seems that a gargantuan wild boar is rampaging through the nearby wilderness, killing and eating people. What follows is predictable but well told: several competing hunting expeditions are mounted; Yoolee foolishly sneaks along after one and almost gets killed; the wicked Velmer does get killed in the end; and, in an epilogue, a kindly, wise Native American elder fells the boar after expressing reverence for its power. Peck (A Day No Pigs Would Die) stereotypes this last character, Henry Old Panther, and verges on doing so with a number of others as well, but the Southern dialect is vigorous, even poetic, and the details shine sharp as a knife blade. For example, when Velmer is gored by the hog, his wife sews him up with an ordinary sewing needle: ""Her hands were small, yet they appeared to handle any task in a strong way, as if there was might inside her somewhere, ready to spew out like spite from a cornered coon."" A tale full of bite. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/03/1998
Release date: 08/01/1998
Hardcover - 192 pages - 978-0-679-99257-8
Mass Market Paperbound - 176 pages - 978-0-375-80250-8
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-28588-9
Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-17875-4
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