From the Publisher
“Real and poignant.” Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“Beautiful and gripping . . . The victory of the human spirit shines through Defiance like the sun.” Suzanne Fisher Staples, Newbery Honor–winning author of Shabanu
“Emotionally satisfying. Hobbs, a gifted writer, does a quietly effective job of dramatizing the life-affirming power of both poetry and a cross-generational friendship.” Booklist
“The wit and wisdom of poetry give this potentially sentimental plot depth and a welcome acidity. Hobb's dry humor is deliciously evident in Pearl's ironic take on things.” The Horn Book
“A poetic tale of empowerment with gentle touches of humor.” School Library Journal
“This simple, touching story offers great characterization.” Voice of Youth Advocates
“This gripping story will send fans searching for this author's previous books.” SIGNAL Journal
“A heartwarming story of self-discovery.” A YALSA Teen YA Galley Reader
While vacationing in the country, eleven-year-old Toby, a cancer patient, learns some important lessons about living and dying from an elderly poet and her cow. Toby wants to do normal things on his vacation: he wants to hike and race his bike down the hill and learn to fish out on the lake. He tries to keep the new lump on his side a secret from his parents. He does not want to return to the children's hospital and the painful cancer treatments. His parents want him to be careful and rest. Toby spends time with Pearl, a spunky old woman, on a near-by farm. She helps him discover the beauty of poetry. He learns to love the cow, Blossom, as much as Pearl does. This love and encouragement helps him uncover the meaning of life. He is able finally to go on his way in life with treatment and a career, becoming a medical researcher. The book could serve as a resource for children and young people who need to know that there are others like them. Skillful librarians, teachers, and parents who need this kind of material will get it into the right hands. 2005, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Strauss Giroux, Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-After finally finishing his painful cancer treatment, Toby Steiner, 11, is spending the summer in a rented cabin with his overprotective mother and weekender dad. Determined not to go back into therapy, he hides from his parents the lump he's discovered on his side. Exploring the countryside on an old bike, he encounters a skinny old cow and its owner, an almost-blind woman whose motto, "Whoever steals my freedom takes my life," represents her own defiance over attempts to usurp her independence. Embittered by life, Pearl Rhodes Richardson, 94, is a celebrated poet who has vowed never to write again. She and Toby develop a friendship and find common ground in their resistance to their families' interference in their lives. He helps with chores and reads poetry to her, and the two care for the failing cow whose inevitable death becomes a metaphor for what must be accepted and for what it is not yet time. Defiance turns to decision as each one helps the other face a difficult but hopeful future. An afterword, set several years later, provides a triumphant conclusion for both Toby's and Pearl's stories. Spare, graceful writing, with just enough detail to bring the characters and setting to life, skillfully paces the action and keeps the focus on Toby's conflicted feelings, ultimately celebrating the source of strength he and Pearl become to one another. A quiet, yet resonant story.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Toby Steiner, age 11, doesn't want to go back to the cancer hospital. He doesn't want to "puke up his guts" or "make . . . friends with kids who disappeared." So he's not going to tell anyone about the hard marble-sized lump that just reappeared in his side. Instead, while on a country vacation, he's going to ride a bike, view the heavens through his telescope and enjoy being a regular kid. What happens in this stirring evocative tale is that Toby strikes up an unlikely acquaintanceship with an elderly lady who lives nearby, a once famous poet who has been "losing her vision" both physically and metaphorically. Hobbs manages to wring genuine emotion from the reader despite a somewhat pat ending. The feisty, life-affirming, lesson-teaching elder is a familiar character in children's literature, but Hobbs breathes new life into the situation, giving the character some problems of her own and making the intersection of these two souls both real and poignant. (Fiction. 10+)
Read an Excerpt
On the third morning after they’d settled into the cabin, Toby had felt it again. It was in the same spot on his right side, a slippery marble. He’d jumped out of bed and hurried into his clothes, covering it up.
His mom had been standing at the little kitchen sink sipping her coffee. There were purple shadows under her eyes. “Sleep all right, honey?”
She looked out the window. “It’s going to be hot today. Did you pack your trunks?”
“My trunks?” Was he hearing right? The lake was off-limits, wasn’t it?
“I thought you could help me for a while in the garden,” she said. “Then we could . . . Oh, I don’t know . . .” Her smile was lopsided, as if she was out of practice. “Run through the sprinkler to cool off! Or are you too old for that?”
“I’m eleven, Mom,” he said. “Jeez!” Run through the sprinkler? Was she nuts? And anyway, he did have his trunks. He just couldn’t wear them. Or she would see. Her eagle eyes would go straight to the marble and he would be back at Children’s Hospital in no time flat. She would call an ambulance. Or get a helicopter. Only he wasn’t going to do all that again. He wasn’t going to puke up his guts over and over while his mother held his head. He wasn’t going to miss school and lose what few friends he had left. He wasn’t going to make new friends with kids who disappeared. It would be the biggest lie he’d ever told, and he would tell it over and over again whenever she asked him how he was, no matter how bad it made him feel.
“Fine,” he’d tell her. “I’m fine.”