cover image Mister and Me

Mister and Me

Kimberly Willis Holt. Putnam Publishing Group, $13.99 (74pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23215-2

Holt (My Louisiana Sky) returns to Louisiana for this touching slice of life in a 1940 mill town. Young Jolene Jasmine Johnson can't change certain things about her world, like having to sit in the rear balcony at the movie theater, and acting polite to ""Miz"" Logan, the mill owner's wife for whom Jolene's mother sews dresses. But the outspoken heroine believes that she can keep things happy at home. That is, until logger Leroy Redfield, a man ""dark as a starless night, tall and thick as a long-leaf pine tree,"" comes courting her widowed mother. Holt handily employs Jolene's first-person narration to focus more on the music of Louis Armstrong, community dances and family life than on societal clashes; the warmth and love in the Johnson household envelops the novel. The author balances Jolene's blatant displays of resentment toward her mother's beau (at one point, she cuts up the expensive fabric he has bought for Jolene's mother) with patience and tolerance from Leroy (""plain Mister"" as Jolene calls him), and he eventually secures his future stepdaughter's trust. Jolene's acceptance of her mother's upcoming marriage comes gradually and convincingly, and her willingness to face the uncertainties of her future may well give courage to readers confronting sea changes of their own. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 7-11. (Sept.)