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Little Klein

Little Klein

4.3 3
by Anne Ylvisaker

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"A lovely coming-of-age tale filled with humor and pathos and unexpected twists...The characters are quirky, eccentric, and lovable." — Kirkus Reviews

Harold "Little" Klein can’t seem to measure up. Surrounded by the "Bigs," his boisterous gang of older brothers, and the bustling, bighearted Mother Klein, Harold


"A lovely coming-of-age tale filled with humor and pathos and unexpected twists...The characters are quirky, eccentric, and lovable." — Kirkus Reviews

Harold "Little" Klein can’t seem to measure up. Surrounded by the "Bigs," his boisterous gang of older brothers, and the bustling, bighearted Mother Klein, Harold often feels little and left out — until the day a stray dog named LeRoy becomes his inseparable companion. Join a cast of colorful characters in a rural river town circa 1949, where boys wrestle and fish, swipe pies, ride perilous waters on homemade rafts, and sometimes quietly become heroes.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Kris Sauer
Nine-year-old Harold Sylvester George Klein is not only the youngest of the Klein brothers, he is far and away the smallest. In fact, most people don't even know his first name, they just call him "Little Klein." Because he has been small his whole life, fragile in the eyes of his mother and brothers, Little Klein isn't allowed to do much without the close supervision of his family. Resigned to his fate, not much seems likely to change. That is, until the day LeRoy enters Little Klein's life. LeRoy is a neighborhood stray, a dog content to roam on his own, at least until he gets a whiff of Little Klein and his brothers. The dog soon worms his way into the life of the Klein family, setting up a series of adventures for Little Klein and his very big brothers. How LeRoy becomes an accepted part of the family and how Little Klein saves the day in a very big way sets the tone for this book about boys, brothers, and a kid-loving dog. More advanced than a simple chapter book, but without the mature content of a young adult title, this book is sure to appeal to those in-between readers interested in a good story about how a young boy, often overlooked, becomes a hero through his own quick thinking and the love of a good dog. Reviewer: Kris Sauer
Harold Sylvester George Klein, better known as Little Klein, is the youngest of four boys. Unusually small for his age, this wee-bit of a nine-year-old yearns to find a voice and be his own person, but Little Klein is no match for his burly, overprotective brothers-the Bigs-or his coddling mother, Esther. When Little Klein meets LeRoy, a stray dog who adopts Little as "his boy," the two become inseparable. Every summer day becomes an adventure, from simply taking a walk into town to buy stamps to fishing for the legendary Minister, an extraordinary catfish at the river's edge. The duo embarks upon their greatest adventure toward the end of the summer when Harold Klein triumphs by finally finding his voice among the Bigs. This winning boy-meets-dog story will capture its readers' hearts-middle, junior, and senior high school students alike. Ylvisaker's pleasing text is rich with wit and flows seamlessly; her knack for capturing a character's essence is remarkable. Set in a small Midwestern town during the 1940s, this heartwarming tale flawlessly depicts the rhythms of a bygone era. Each little chapter offers a wonderfully engaging adventure. Little Klein's mighty imagination that fills each of his summer days is captivating and timeless. LeRoy's portrayal is superlative, and readers will find him to be irresistible. Reviewer: Domina Daughtrey
Children's Literature
Harold Sylvester Klein has always been much smaller than his older and bigger brothers. That’s why he has the nickname “Little Klein.” The diminutive boy tries his best to stand out, to keep up, to be someone that gets noticed but that is hard to do when you have three boisterous brothers who are in and out of trouble. But when his brothers build a raft and are swept down the wrong fork of the river, Little Klein just may be the biggest hero of all. Ylvisaker’s story is the delightful tale of a boy, his dog and a gang of rowdy brothers whose adventures and misadventures will remind readers of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Set in a small town about fifty years ago where boys hook fish, build tree houses (and doghouses), and steal prize-winning pies (and where the woman who baked the pie is then thrilled with what she takes as a compliment to her cooking ). These boys have no end of fun, and their story is a delight to read silently or--better yet--aloud. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen
School Library Journal

Gr 3-6
Set in a small mid-20th-century town, this novel follows the exploits of nine-year-old Harold Sylvester George Klein, known to everyone as "Little Klein" ("his body seemed to grow at the rate of a blade of grass in the shade"). Harold's father, a traveling salesman, is largely absent, leaving the child's mother overwhelmed with her four sons at home. Mrs. Klein has fretted over her youngest since he was a sickly, frail baby. Meanwhile, the "Bigs"-his brothers Matthew, Mark, and Luke-are strapping, boisterous, and known for their antics. The somewhat episodic chapters follow the boys as they adopt a stray dog, attempt to build a doghouse, fight, fish, and generally cause a ruckus. Readers will appreciate the protagonist's growth from the beginning of the novel when he finds his family's coddling both irritating and reassuring to the end, when he insists on being called "Harold." A gentle read for fans of Eleanor Estes's The Moffats (Harcourt, 2001), John D. Fitzgerald's The Great Brain (Dial, 2000), and Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks (Knopf, 2005).-Adrienne Furness, Webster Public Library, NY

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Little Klein, aka Harold, is definitely the runt of the litter. He has three rather large older brothers known as the Bigs, who, though barely civilized, are totally protective of him. Little at seven is as small as a four-year-old and has a tiny voice that usually goes unheard. He learns to whistle and is so effective that he can call dogs from near and far, attracting a stray that becomes his constant companion. Through adventures and misadventures, Little and his brothers are brought closer together and achieve a measure of maturity. Little is able to assert himself and earns the respect of all. Ylvisaker has crafted a lovely coming-of-age tale filled with humor and pathos and several unexpected twists. The characters are quirky, eccentric and lovable. She employs a rather odd syntax that charms the ear and begs to be read aloud. Instead of a typical boy-and-his-dog story, the author has created something unique and memorable. (Fiction. 8-12)
From the Publisher
"A lyrical reminder that there never was an easy era for being a Little among the Bigs or for a dog trying to herd his humans." — Richard Peck, author of the Newbery Medal-winning A YEAR DOWN YONDER and the Newbery Honor Book A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO — Richard Peck, author of Newbery Medal-winning A YEAR DOWN YONDER and the Newbery Honor Book A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO

"A perfectly engaging read. . . . Little Klein joins Despereaux on my list of favorite unlikely literary champions." — Kirby Larson, author of the Newbery Honor Book HATTIE BIG SKY — Kirby Larson, author of the Newbery Honor Book HATTIE BIG SKY

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.41(h) x 0.85(d)
840L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


The Klein Boys balanced their craft on the back of Mark’s bike and pushed it out of town. LeRoy followed them to the river, where Little Klein launched his brothers into the porcelain water with a shove that left him on shore.

"Wait for me!" he cried as a swirling current caught the raft on its conveyor belt. The Big Kleins were spinning; they were sailing fast.

"No fair!" Little Klein stomped as the raft rounded the bend.

"Wrong way!" he yelled when it turned at the river’s fork. LeRoy nudged Little Klein. He barked and ran up the bank. He turned and barked again.

"Shoot, LeRoy. We get left behind again." Little Klein scrambled through the raspberry bushes after LeRoy. He heard yelling. Little Klein ran faster, trying to follow LeRoy’s barks. Mother was going to be so mad they’d taken Wilson’s Fork. They may have taken off without him, but at least he wouldn’t get in trouble. At the top of the bank he could see the raft again, and his smug heart went limp. The raft was stuck on a rock in the middle of the river, but there were no Kleins on board. LeRoy was already in the water, swimming now as in his dream to the three heads that popped up, a constellation in the river’s thundering sky.

"Help!" screamed Mark.

"Shoot!" called Luke.

"The falls!" cried Matthew as he latched onto the dog.

The falls.

Little Klein ran for the road. He ran and yelled, stumbled and yelled.

"Help! Help! Help!"

By the time he reached the road his voice was no thicker than kite string and the passing car was moving too fast to notice a small boy in the brush. A thicket of brambles caught Little Klein. He yanked one leg then the other, wrestling himself free before stepping onto the tar shoulder. He could see a silhouette across the two-lane, but was it human or animal?

"Help!" he gasped, but the shape did not move. He pursed his lips, but he was out of whistle, too. He shivered like January, teeth rattling, kneecaps quaking. Little Klein put his two index fingers in his mouth, Rich Wedge’s method, and he blew. Nothing. He spat. He stomped. He licked his lips, puckered, and tried again. This time — Oh, Glory Halleluia — his instrument trilled; it trumpeted. The shadow quivered and rose.

Holy Moses, it was Mean Emma Brown. He sucked in his breath. One strip of tar separated him from the boy-squasher. If it weren’t that Little Klein needed the Big Kleins to protect him from Emma Brown in all the futures he hoped to have, he would have backed away. But now she had seen him.

She tramped her big brown boots across both lanes without looking for cars. She laced her big brown fingers together and cracked her bony knuckles. When the bellow of Emma’s "What?" hit Little Klein, his bladder released.

"The falls!" he whimpered.

"I can see that," Emma snorted. "You call me over here for a square of toilet paper?"

Now Little Klein’s eyes released, too. "My brothers!"

Emma looked hard at Little Klein. "Your brothers aren’t . . . they didn’t . . . Wilson’s Fork?"

Little Klein nodded.

"Aw, crap!" said Emma. 'I’d just about caught a dragonfly over there. Crap. Well, step on out."

Little Klein looked at her wide.

"You stand in that lane; I’ll stand in this one," she continued. "Try to look tall."

Little Klein stood on the yellow line, his legs wet and sticky, snot running over the bridge of his quivering lip. He drew a hot raspy breath and raised his shoulders as far as he could.

Little Klein thought about his futures. There was his air hero future. He was a member of Captain Midnight’s Secret Squadron and had in his damp pocket at this moment his Photomatic Code-O-Graph. When Captain Midnight’s eyesight got bad, as it was sure to searching for Ivan Shark in the dark, Little Klein would be ready to take over.

There was his farmer future, where he rode a horse that made him taller than all the other Kleins and where he had a pack of wolves that bared their teeth should Mean Emma Brown even think about stealing corn from his field.

Little Klein slid one eye in Emma’s direction. Soon his brothers would be here to raise their fists at her. His brothers must have climbed out of the river by now. They were probably sneaking up behind Emma, laughing as they plotted their surprise attack.

Then there was his golden future. The future that featured Little Klein as a star boxer, raising his dukes to the likes of Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson. He’d have red silk shorts and brown leather gloves the size of balloons. From town to town he’d ride in his very own pickup truck, with all the banana sandwiches he could eat in a cooler on the seat next to him. There would be photos of Little Klein in the drugstores. Little scrappers would ask for his autograph.

In each of Little Klein’s futures there were Big Kleins. Big Kleins filling the tank of his fighter plane. Big Kleins driving plows through his fields. Big Kleins collecting bets before fights and clearing his path through the cheering crowds. Soon Big Kleins would be grabbing him off this hot pavement and leaving him stranded in a high tree or dangling him over the rushing river from a hanging branch.

The rushing river.

The road was deserted.

After a thousand years a pickup sputtered around the bend, tooted its horn, and coasted onto the shoulder next to Emma. An ancient woman leaned out the window.

"What’s a matter, girl?"

Emma pointed at Little Klein.

"The Klein Boys caught a current."
"Fool boys, in the river after those rains," Nora Nettle scoffed. "Hop in the back."


LITTLE KLEIN by Anne Ylvisaker. Copyright (c) 2007 by Anne Ylvisaker. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Meet the Author

Anne Ylvisaker is the author of DEAR PAPA, named among BOOKLIST’s Top Ten First Novels for Youth. She lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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Little Klein 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If Sterling North¿s Rascal is one of your favorites, then Little Klein will quickly worm its way into your heart. Little Klein is the town designation for the youngest of the Klein brothers. He has a name, but it¿s a name that is far grander than his frail self. His mother constantly worries about him and his health and expects his three older brothers (the Bigs) to look after him. This story focuses on the relationship of a family in a rural town plagued by tornadoes and Little Klein¿s determination to do the right thing. This is a quick read, but is reminiscent of some of the older stories. Students who enjoy nostalgic tales will love this story¿a story which, by the way, would be quite fun as a read aloud to a 5th or 6th grade class.
SiobhanMFallon More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book that brings the reader back to childhood, whether it is a childhood of the 1940s, like Little Klein's, or the 1970s, like myself. Adults look back on those days as a simpler time but Little Klein reminds us that the child sees the enormity of every small action, and every meal and game of catch can be touched with daydreams of heroism and glory. Parents and children alike will enjoy Little Klein's adventures, his strong-willed mother, his rowdy big brothers, his loyal mutt. This book is like a favoirte childhood memory-- something you will savor for a long, long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago