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4.0 1
by Theresa Nelson

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Slim's father, a charismatic actor named Mack, is dying of AIDS. Slim and
Mack's companion, Larry, help care for Mack. Soon Slim joins a support group
for family members who live with people who have AIDS. There she meets Isaiah,
who believes their parents can be cured by the Miracle Man in the "Hungry
Valley" north of Los Angeles. Slim believes


Slim's father, a charismatic actor named Mack, is dying of AIDS. Slim and
Mack's companion, Larry, help care for Mack. Soon Slim joins a support group
for family members who live with people who have AIDS. There she meets Isaiah,
who believes their parents can be cured by the Miracle Man in the "Hungry
Valley" north of Los Angeles. Slim believes only what she sees: that her
father and others are dying and no one is trying to stop it. But Isaiah's
faith in miracles rubs off on Slim, and with their family and friends they
journey into the mountains to find their own moment of magic.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Twelve-year-old Slim and 11-year-old Isaiah have the same problem: both have a parent with AIDS. Isaiah believes that they could be cured by the Miracle Man in the ``Hungry Valley'' north of Los Angeles. Slim, on the other hand, doubts that there is any way to save her kind-hearted actor father, Mack. Through Slim's honest and sometimes sassy first-person narration, Nelson (The Beggars' Ride) tenderly portrays a daughter's confusion and anger at her parent's decline. The story is paced in such a way as to allow the reader to share in, rather than be bombarded by, heart-breaking moments: Slim wishes Larry, her father's lover, were sick instead of Mack, and is then overwhelmed with remorse; Slim conceals her father's illness from her mother, who is remarried and lives in another state, for fear of being forced to leave his side. Nelson captures less dramatic episodes with equal poignancy, describing, for example, Mack's generous spirit toward the man who beats him out for an important acting role, in part because Mack looks sick, or Mack's efforts to eat the meals Larry devotedly prepares. An eventual pilgrimage to the Hungry Valley does not defeat the disease, but does yields surprising-and convincing-affirmations of life itself. Ages 11-14. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Twelve-year-old Slim's father, Mack, is dying of AIDS, which seems incongruous for a man who brings life into a room just by walking into it. When he reluctantly joins a group of contemporaries who have relatives dying of the disease, she meets Isaiah, 11, whose optimism makes her sad and hopeful at the same time. Slim's first-person narrative concentrates on herself, her father, and Larry, his lover and devoted companion, and their relationship with Isaiah and his loving mother. Nelson uses all her tools skillfully. The violent swings of weather and natural phenomena of the Los Angeles area- hard rains, brilliant sun, an earthquake with its unsettling aftershocks-reflect Slim's roller-coaster emotions. Major and minor characters are real people and never case studies. And the author's use of language expresses both the action and underlying feelings while remaining true to the voice of the narrator. The gripping story, which includes a healthy dose of humor, ends gently with Mack's death. This special book should find a wide audience.-Amy Kellman, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Mary Harris Veeder
"Slim" McGranahan has chosen to live with her father, a Hollywood TV actor, a decision that means she also lives with Larry, her father's long-time companion, and with AIDS. Sent by her dad to a support group for children who live with persons who have AIDS, Slim meets Isaiah, whose mother battles the condition and worries about the health of her unborn child. As much about a parent's dying as it is about gay themes, the story tracks Slim's rippling emotions, following them from hope to anger. Nelson has a good understanding of adolescence, and she ably expresses how universal teen concerns also envelop the adults who find themselves in these extraordinary circumstances.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.19(w) x 6.89(h) x 0.53(d)
Age Range:
11 Years

Read an Excerpt

The reason we need one, a miracle, I mean, is that my dad and Isaiah's mom are both sick. Bad sick. That's why we got to know each other at all, which we wouldn't have otherwise. See, I'm twelve and Isaiah is only eleven, even though sometimes he acts like he's about ninety, and we go to different schools and all. But a few months ago our folks started sending us to this youth group that their church organized for kids who are living with PWAs, and that's how we met.

PWAs means Persons With AIDS.

The first day I go to the group--this is back last January, in the middle of all that weird rainy weather--it's coming down like crazy. So I splash my way through the parking lot over to the room where we're meeting. Then I go inside, and this lady named Ms. Crofford hands out these brand new spiral notebooks.

She says we're supposed to write in them for ten minutes.

"Write whatever comes into your head," she tells us.

"You don't have to show it to anybody unless you want to."

Well, she seems pretty nice, and she looks fairly intelligent with that frizzy-curly-salt-and-pepper hair and those smiley gray eyes like you see on some teachers, but frankly what she's saying doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I mean, I'm not all that anxious to have her reading my innermost thoughts, but otherwise how's she going to analyze me or whatever?

"Just write what you're feeling right now," she says.

So I write:

Nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing.

That takes up about a minute and a half.

And then she says, "This is a good way to express your emotions, negative aswell as positive."

A funny-looking kid with glasses raises his hand when she says that.

"Yes, Isaiah?" she says, and I'm thinking, Isaiah? Like the basketball star? Give me a break. Because this kid is maybe four foot ten, at most.

"Can we cuss then?" he asks her.

"Cuss away," she says, "if that's how you're feeling."

Well, hell, I figure.

Hell hell hell hell hell hell hell hell hell hell hell hell hell

Okay, now what?

Eight minutes to go.

The rain is coming down harder than ever, streaming down the windows and crashing on the roof. It doesn't know how to rain regular in L.A.; it has to be some big Hollywood production. I mean, seven years of not enough, and now there's way too much. It's all they ever talk about on the news. They're blaming it on some mysterious ocean current out in the Pacific: El Ni±o, they call it--that's "The Child" in Spanish--because it's supposed to start flowing around Christmastime down near South America. Only this year there's something wrong with El Ni±o, nobody knows what exactly. And now that old water baby is moaning and crying and sticking its wet nose way up here in the City of Angels, where it's making all kinds of mischief: flash floods and mud slides and a mess like you wouldn't believe, houses slipping right off their foundations, for crying out loud. Nothing but--

Rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain.

Seven minutes to go.

"Maybe you'd like to write about why you're here," Ms. Crofford is saying now. I have a feeling she's talking to me, even though she doesn't look right at me; she's too tricky for that. So I start scribbling real fast:

I'm here because my dad asked me to come. He thinks I worry too much or something and Larry Casey told him maybe I ought to be more with kids my age. But Larry doesn't know everything. I'd rather be with my dad any day, plus so far this group seems like a waste of time. Like sitting here writing in a notebook is going to make some kind of a difference for pete's sake. Like any of this matters.

I look up and Ms. Crofford is over on the other side of the room, patting a chubby little blond girl on the back. The girl has the hiccups. I guess I could just sit here now, but for some reason I keep scribbling:

I'll tell you what matters. What matters is my dad is dying and nobody is going to do anything about it. They're just going to let him die and then pretend there wasn't anything they could do. It's just one more guy with AIDS and face it he was gay--they might as well let those people kill themselves off anyhow.

My pen is going all by itself now, it's hot in my hand.

And Larry says the doctors are doing all they can. Ha. Doesn't he read the newspapers? Doesn't he ever turn on a television? Nothing but rain rain rain rain rain rain rain--

"All right, you can stop now," Ms. Crofford says, but it takes me a minute to make sense of what she's saying because the blood is pumping in my ears and my throat has this big clod in it and my eyebrows are starting to sweat. So then she has us stand up and stretch and make a circle, joining hands. There are six of us in this middleschool group, and you can tell nobody is too crazy about the idea of holding hands with some stranger, especially with all these germs in their families. But nobody has the nerve to say no, so we do what she asks. And then Ms. Crofford leads us in this prayer, or not a prayer exactly, because she doesn't mention God or anybody, but I don't know what else you'd call it:

"May we open our eyes in friendship,
May we lend our ears in love.
Hand in hand and heart to heart,
Let's be the best we can be."

I guess it could have been worse. For a minute there I was afraid it was going to rhyme.

All the other kids look about the same amount embarrassed as I feel. We let go hands just as quick as it seems polite and try not to make a big deal of wiping them off on our jeans. Then Ms. Crofford has us all sit down again, and we start introducing ourselves.

Besides me (my name is Margery Grace McGranahan, but everybody calls me Slim), there's the baby-faced blond, whose name turns out to be Lorraine (she still lets out a big hiccup every now and again), a tall wispy-mustached guy named Roberto (probably smokes Marlboros and plays out-of-tune guitar), a short bur-headed jock type named Duke (No way, I bet he made it up during that sissy prayer thing), and a bosomy brunette named Suzannah ("Oh, Susanna" you can practically hear the boys singing).

And then there's Isaiah.

We are none of us, with the possible exception of Suzannah, going to win any prizes for pulchritude, as my dad would say, but Isaiah is definitely the weirdest-looking kid I have ever seen. Instead of hair, there is a black knit stocking cap covering his head, pulled so low it hides his eyebrows. Black as a crow's wing that hat is; up against it his skin is too pale, like the skin of a criminal who has been shut up in jail for a long time, away from the sun and fresh air. His chin and cheekbones are like a criminal's, too: they jut out in three sharp points that give his face a sly, triangular look--like a cat's, I'm thinking, or a cat burglar's.

But his eyes are weirdest of all. Two huge blackish brown circles that would be plenty big by themselves but are magnified to double their normal size by a pair of thicklensed, black-rimmed glasses. "Coke-bottle lenses," the kids at school probably tease him; I bet they call him Four Eyes, too.

Come to think of it, that really is the way his eyes look: two times two, I mean. Saucer eyes, like the dogs' eyes in that awful fairy tale about the tinderbox that's always scared me more than all the others put together, don't ask me why. Eyes that are twice as big as they ought to be. Eyes that look too deep and see too much, stuff they don't have any business seeing.

So what are you looking at me for, bub? I think at him.

And he shoots me this little half smile that prickles my spine. Like he's heard, for crying out loud.

That's Isaiah, giving me the willies, and I've only known him twenty-two minutes.

The rest of this first meeting is pretty tame. Ms. Crofford says she doesn't want us to feel pressured to talk any more than we want to before we're ready.

"Would anybody like to say anything?" she asks, but nobody does. So then she takes us through this peculiar game she calls a "visualization exercise," where we have to close our eyes and breathe deep and imagine ourselves walking down a road and seeing a house and some kind of water and a bear coming for us. And then there's this wall we have to get past somehow, because we want to get to the other side. Turns out it's where we've been going the whole time even if we didn't know it. Well, I don't really see the point, but anyhow my house is sliding off a mud hill, and my water is nothing but rain, and the bear chases me all the way to that wall. But this is the frustrating part: the wall is made of mud, too, so I never do find out what's on the other side. I just keep slipping back and slipping back, and the bear is getting closer, when--thank the Lord--Ms. Crofford says we can go.

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Earthshine 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A young girl Margery McGranahan, also known as Slim, has a father, Mack, who is dying of AIDS. Mack has a companion, Larry, who helps take care of Mack. But Slim¿s problems are too much for her and her father sends her to join a support group for family members who live with people who have AIDS. Here she meets Isaiah, whose father has already died of the disease and whose pregnant mother is now sick and worried about her unborn child. Isaiah believes the Miracle Man in the ¿Hungry Valley¿ north of Los Angeles can cure her mother. Slim doesn¿t believe in miracles, she only knows that her father is dying and no one is attempting to prevent it. But Isaiah's soon starts to rub off on Slim and she starts to believe that her father can be saved. This book is as much about mortality as it is about homosexuality. We are taken through the emotions that Slim has while her father is dying. Through it all, Slim is still left with hope for the future.