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Autumn Journey

Autumn Journey

by Priscilla Cummings, Doron Ben-Ami (Illustrator)

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
When Will's father loses his job, the family moves from Baltimore to his grandfather's Pennsylvania farm. Dad can't find work, Mom is tense, baby sister won't talk-things look pretty bleak. Then Will goes out hunting with his grandfather. His ambivalence about the expedition turns to despair as his grandfather has to be rushed to hospital, and a wounded goose hurtles unbidden into Will's life. How the young protagonist learns to find meaning in further unfolding events is the crux of this heartwarming middle grade novel. Cummings turns deft prose to the task of examining the trials and growth of a contemporary family caught in an economic maelstrom not of their doing. Portions of text from the goose's point of view distract slightly from an otherwise compelling story.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8The story of a family in transition as seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy, this first novel displays true strength of character and respect for both family and the natural world. Will's father has been out of work for a year, and now that his family has lost their Baltimore home, they have moved to Grampa's farm in Pennsylvania. Will is resentful about the change and confused by his father's angry and erratic behavior as he searches desperately for a job. Struggling to find a bond with his dad, Will lobbies to go goose hunting with him, but when the man refuses, Grampa steps in to teach the boy about guns and ethical hunting. When disaster strikes, Will grows quickly, struggling to cope with loss and to make reparations for mistakes made. Cummings uses Gray Feather, a young goose making his first migration, as a metaphor for Will, who is contending with his own tough journey into adulthood. Gray Feather's realistic but anthropomorphic experiences are interspersed with Will's story until the two collide dramatically; then the stories become one and the point of view is all Will's until the conclusion. This technique is very effective as image, character, and tension build to form a rich family story. Difficult issues like gun control, hunting, unemployment, and death are dealt with in an honest and even-handed manner, creating lots of potential for thoughtful dialogue. The cover shows a younger Will than the character who inhabits the book so it may require some marketing for middle-school readers.Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL
Kirkus Reviews
A lyrical tale of a family pushed to the edge: In separate stories that eventually converge, a young Canada goose is wounded by a young boy, Will, who is trying to cope with the disintegration of his family.

After Will's father loses his job as a longshoreman in Baltimore, the family loses its home as well, and moves in with Will's grandfather on his farm in Pennsylvania. Work is still scarce, money even scarcer; Will's parents fight constantly, and his father's anger and bitterness makes home a place to avoid. Then Grampa has a heart attack, and Will's father disappears. But this is less a tale of unmitigated woe than a beautifully told, uplifting story about the power and strength of family. In her first novel, Cummings adds a ruthlessly realistic look at a family under pressure to a structure and theme reminiscent of R. Wright Campbell's Where Pigeons Go to Die (1978). The story of the goose, which Will ultimately nurses back to health, resonates emotionally with his grandfather's illness and death, and with the rending and healing of his family. The prose shows the ease and confidence of an old pro, and gives off the power of someone who understands well the human heart.

Product Details

Cornell Maritime Press, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Priscilla Cummings lives in Annapolis, Maryland.

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