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 5-8-This Newbery Honor winner tells a story by 12-year-old Gypsy. Everyone in Coal Station, Virginia, has a theory about what happened to Belle Prater, but Gypsy wants the facts. When her cousin Woodrow, Aunt Belle's son, moves next door, she has her chance.
When her poor, cross-eyed, hill country cousin, Woodrow, comes to live next door, Gypsy thinks she'll get on the inside track of a family mystery, the disappearance of Woodrow's mother. Gypsy soon learns, however, that Woodrow isn't talking, so she begins concentrating, instead, on his thoughtful nature, puckish charm, and talent for telling grand stories. It's only during odd moments that Gypsy catches a glimpse of Woodrow's real sadness, but to push him to talk about his mother before he's ready might mean Gypsy would have to face up to a painful secret of her own. Several themes neatly dovetail in this unpretentious, moving story set in Appalachia in the 1950s. Humor and insight infuse a solid picture of small-town life as two strongly depicted young characters uncover an important truth some grown-ups never learn.
From the Publisher
"White gives her protagonists the courage to face tragedy and transcend it—and the ability to pass along that gift to the reader." —Publishers Weekly, Starred
"White paints a vivid picture of small-town Appalachia in the 1950s. . . . Characterization is superb."—School Library Journal, Starred
"Ruth White creates a satisfying feeling of community. . . . An admirable, stirring book."—The New York Times Book Review