cover image Words of Stone

Words of Stone

Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books, $19.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11356-8

In this stirring contemporary novel set in rural Wisconsin, Henkes ( Chrysanthemum ; The Zebra Wall ) paints a poignant picture of two lonely children whose paths cross one summer. First introduced is shy, red-headed Blaze, who has recently lost his mother to cancer. Now living with his grandmother and his artist father, the nine-year-old has trouble admitting his fears to anyone except his imaginary friends--until he meets Joselle, an outspoken, spellbinding girl who is staying on the other side of the hill with her Grandma Floy. Alternately showing the points of view of Blaze and Joselle, the book traces the meshing of two private worlds where ordinary objects--keys, spoons, stones, toy animals--carry special meaning. The fragile kinship that grows between the youngsters is threatened by an act of betrayal, yet, ultimately, deep-seated compassion and understanding help mend broken trusts. This story, offering an exceptionally sensitive and accurate portrayal of isolation, echoes feelings and themes found in Brock Cole's The Goats. Henkes, however, goes further in demonstrating the process of emotional healing--and acceptance of painful truths--that allows fear and loneliness to dissipate. His vivid characterizations and profound symbolism are sure to linger in readers' minds. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)