From the Publisher
“Gypsy, the 12-year-old narrator, is all excited when her cousin Woodrow moves in with their grandparents next door-- Woodrow's mother...has disappeared without a trace, and Gypsy hopes that Woodrow will divulge some new clues. Instead, she gets a best friend...White creates vivacious, memorable characters.” Starred, Publishers Weekly
“An admirable, stirring book.” The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
PW gave a starred review to this Newbery Honor book about the friendship between a sorrowing 12-year-old girl and an unusual boy in 1950s Western Virginia: "so fresh that readers can practically smell the lilacs and the blossoming fruit trees." Ages 10-up. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Ruth White writes of life in the "hollers" of the Appalachians and her novels deliver powerful characters, intriguing plots, and great writing. Belle Prater's Boy begins "Around 5:00 a.m. on a warm Sunday morning in October 1953, my Aunt Belle left her bed and vanished from the face of the earth." The mystery pervades the pages of the book that tell of the relationship of Belle's son, Woodrow and his cousin, the main character, Gypsy. Woodrow has grown up poor and unappealing in physical appearance. His cousin, Gypsy, is noted for her beauty, but wishes she'd be seen for who she really is, not what she looks like. The two are united largely because of their intelligence, wit, and good humor, but also on a deeper level, because both keep unspoken secrets. Gypsy has hidden from herself the horrors of her father's suicide and Woodrow keeps to himself his thoughts about his mother's disappearance. The book creates an air of mystery as Gypsy and Woodrow untangle of the difference between appearance and the genuine. They struggle to find those genuine places within themselves in the context of seeing how their parents have been controlled by facade, rather than truths.
Children's Literature - Rebecca Joseph
In this beautifully written novel, Gypsy tells the story of her sixth grade year when her cousin Woodrow comes to live next door. Woodrow's mother Belle had mysteriously disappeared earlier that year and everyone in this small Virgina town has a theory about what happened to her. Gypsy befriends her cousin and attempts to solve the mystery. The closer she gets to the truth, the more memories of her own father's tragic death surface, forcing her to face the facts about his demise. By coming to terms with her own situation, Gypsy realizes that Woodrow and his mother Belle have developed their own ways of dealing with painful memories; a painful yet liberating realization.
The ALAN Review - Joyce A. Litton
Ruth White has a strong sense of place in her depiction of Appalachian Coal Station, Virginia, in 1954. Her main theme, the loss of a parent, is a somber one, but she leavens it with humor. Twelve-year-old Woodrow Prater tells fanciful stories about his mother's disappearance a year earlier to silence the curious and to comfort himself. His sixth-grade cousin, Gypsy Leemaster, must come to grips with the reality that she has repressed her father's suicide (when she was five years old) and her discovery of the body. To show her anger at her father, she chops off her waist-length hair which had been his pride. Once Gypsy accepts her loss, Woodrow is able to tell her the truth about his mother. This novel should help young adults who are grieving over a parent.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Belle Prater becomes the stuff of local legend in Coal Station, Virginia, when she disappears, leaving everyone mystified. Because his father drinks, Belle's boy, cross-eyed Woodrow, comes to live with his grandparents on the finest residential street in town; and 12-year-old Gypsy, his cousin who lives next door and narrates the story, is glad to get to know him. Like everyone else, she is curious about his mother; but Woodrow will only tell her a fantastic story about a magical place. Nevertheless, the girl comes to admire her cousin for the way he uses his superior intelligence and pleasant personality to adapt to a more affluent life, fend off rude questions about his mother, and handle the local bully. Gypsy seems to lead an idyllic life, but when a schoolmate puts a face on her recurring nightmare, she collapses in the rush of long-repressed sorrow. White paints a vivid picture of small town Appalachia in the 1950s, from the ostracism of a blind "sin eater" to the preening of social "wannabes." Characterization is superb. Gypsy's evolving understanding of her late father's values and her stepfather's virtues is especially well done. White's message-that there is no protection for any of us from pain, only a variety of ways to handle it-is delivered with just right dollops of humor and love. What's important, as Gypsy's grandmother puts it, is to let our true selves shine. A delightful read by a real truth teller.-Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY