Bare Hands

Bare Hands

by Bart Moeyaert
     
 

We raced across three small fields we'd never been in before. It was downhill all the way. We were running faster than our legs could carry us. Sometimes we tripped over our own feet. Because we'd never been there, we didn't know the danger spots. —FROM THE BOOK So begins this story of two boys—Ward and Bernie—who trespass on the land of a lonely,

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Overview

We raced across three small fields we'd never been in before. It was downhill all the way. We were running faster than our legs could carry us. Sometimes we tripped over our own feet. Because we'd never been there, we didn't know the danger spots. —FROM THE BOOK So begins this story of two boys—Ward and Bernie—who trespass on the land of a lonely, mistrustful farmer, Betjeman. When Ward accidentally kills Betjeman's duck, the farmer retaliates and what began as a prank rapidly spirals out of control. Bare Hands is a parable of power and impotence, staged against an emotional landscape and climaxing in a phantasmagoric New Year's Eve celebration.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Patrick Hearn
Bare Hands is a powerful story...[it] is not an easy read, but it is a rewarding one.
Riverbank Review
VOYA - Jennifer Hubert
Ward's dog Elmer is dead, and he is not sure who to blame: the farmer Betjeman, who actually killed Elmer; or himself, for committing the act that caused Betjeman to do such a thing. On New Year's Eve of an undetermined year, Ward and his friend Bernie are teasing Betjeman's duck. In the course of their rough play, the duck is accidentally killed. The farmer is furious, and in retaliation, he murders Ward's dog. The situation is aggravated by the fact that Betjeman is courting Ward's single mother, and Ward is jealous of their relationship. As this short novel progresses, Ward struggles to try to understand the meaning behind his own actions and those of Betjeman. By story's end, the reader is unsure whether Ward or Betjeman will be able to, or even want to, forgive each other. Even though the story is told from Ward's point of view, Flemish award-winning author Moeyaert slowly reveals clues to both of these complex personalities. Therefore, it is up to the reader to make up his or her own mind after considering all the evidence. On one side is Betjeman's loneliness and ostracism, and on the other is Ward's fear of losing his mother. This is a thought-provoking book about facing life's consequences and the sometimes blurry lines of blame. Though Ward and Bernie seem to be eleven or twelve years old, the mature situation and evocative writing in this novel is more suited to older teens, and will appeal to their sense of justice and morality. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P J S (Hard to imagine it being better written, Will appeal with pushing, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
If you are interested in books about adolescents with a violent streak and a penchant for one-upmanship, this is your book. Ward and Bernie maul, mangle, and murder Betjeman's pet duck, only to have him retaliate in kind against Ward's little dog Ernie. Set against a backdrop of New Year's Eve, there is nothing to celebrate in this book. While an award winner (Book Lion 1996, and nomination for Golden Pencil), everyone loses in this story, including the tree sacrificed for its printing. First published in the Netherlands, 1995, under the title Blote banden.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6--This disappointing and confusing novel is set in rural Belgium, and the action takes place on one emotionally charged day. Ward does not want his mother to marry Mr. Betjeman. He's mean and scary and has a "plastic hand"--the result of an accident with a skyrocket. Through a series of jumbled memories, readers learn that Ward had behaved badly on Christmas day when the man came for dinner, throwing the entire contents of the table into his lap. But Betjeman, too, behaved poorly; he slapped the boy hard in the face with his plastic hand. On New Year's Eve, a time for forgiving and fresh starts, Ward and a friend wander over to Betjeman's house with Ward's dog, Elmer. Still angry, the boy plays a cruel game of catch with Betjeman's duck, inadvertently killing it. Betjeman sees the boys and a heated chase ensues. Unable to catch Ward, he seizes Elmer and, once again, the menacing plastic hand strikes, this time killing the innocent dog. Though the book deals with the theme of accepting a mother's boyfriend, children will not see past this damaged, angry man who is only shown "swearing," "cursing," and "striking." Ward's pain and fear are much more real than Betjeman's emotions. In the end, readers are left with a dead duck, a dead dog, a plastic hand, and a muddled message.--Barbara Auerbach, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781886910324
Publisher:
Highlights Press
Publication date:
12/01/1998
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
128
Product dimensions:
5.83(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.61(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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