by Gloria Houston

Littlejim wants his father's love and respect more than anything.

Littlejim houston is the best student in his rural North Carolina school and a tremendous hekp to his mother and sisters around the family's farm. But that's not good enough for bigjim, Littlejim's father. He wants his son to cut timber, work in the fields, and hunt, just like he does. When

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Littlejim wants his father's love and respect more than anything.

Littlejim houston is the best student in his rural North Carolina school and a tremendous hekp to his mother and sisters around the family's farm. But that's not good enough for bigjim, Littlejim's father. He wants his son to cut timber, work in the fields, and hunt, just like he does. When Littlejim enters an essay contest on "What it means to be an American," he hopes to win. Maybe then Bigjim will approve. Set in appalachia during World War I, this realistic story about family and small-town life introduces a boy young readers will remember for a long time.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Based on the author's family history, this novel set in rural North Carolina during the early 1900s traces a 12-year-old boy's struggle to prove his worth. As a top scholar and excellent writer, Littlejim Houston is admired in his small community by everyone except his rugged, practical-minded father. Littlejim hopes to gain Bigjim's respect by winning a local writing contest. But the assigned topic, ``What it means to be an American,'' remains problematic until Littlejim receives inspiration from an Irish-born friend who works at Uncle Bob's sawmill. Although the protagonist's final triumphs are fairly predictable and themes of patriotism are perhaps overdrawn, the unfolding of the story's events is suspenseful and engaging. Through clear, unembellished prose, Houston ( The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree ) describes day-to-day life on a farm, reveals Littlejim's growth toward manhood and conveys the love that lies beneath his father's gruff exterior. This book succeeds in capturing the spirit of immigrant Americans who overcame obstacles to accomplish their dreams. Ages 8-12. (Nov.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-- Littlejim Houston, 12, lives with his father, Bigjim; his German-born mother; and two younger sisters in rural North Carolina during World War I. Bigjim, a dour Freewill Baptist, is the best lumberman and athlete in the area. Littlejim excels at schoolwork, writing, and carving, activities that his father doesn't understand or appreciate. While Littlejim works hard at the sawmill and on their farm, he cannot please his father. When an essay contest on ``What it means to be an American'' is announced, with the winning entry to be published in the Kansas City Star, Littlejim enters in hopes of at last impressing his father. Houston enriches her story with vivid descriptions of rural life, manners, and values, while Allen's pencil drawings elaborate upon these themes. The people who surround and support Littlejim are lovingly depicted, even as readers understand that Bigjim's respect and love is somehow more important to Littlejim than they are. Like Lowry's Rabble Starkey (Houghton, 1987), this novel concerns itself with growth and the role writing can play in it. Like Hamilton's M. C. Higgins, the Great (Macmillan, 1974) and the Cleavers' Where the Lilies Bloom (Lippincott, 1969), it also increases readers' understanding of the Appalachian region and its people. --Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie

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Product Details

Bright Mountain Books, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A new year had come to the Creek. The pale winter sun only touched its frosty waters during the middle part of each day. Soon after noonday dinner, the long shadows of the twin peaks the Indians had called the Spear Tops brought twilight to the glens and meadows in the narrow valley hidden deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Each morning Littlejim stood on the porch of the log schoolhouse long before the sun had touched the roof shingles, his breath making smoke in the crisp, clear air. He listened as Mr. Osk, his thin, bespectacled teacher, made his weather forecast for the coming day.

"The twelve days of Christmas foretell the weather for the coming year," said his teacher. "Three days of snow. Then one of wind. Two of rain, then one milder with some sun. Now see the sun's rising for today. Looks like a good year. Early spring, good weather for crops. What with our boys off fighting the Kaiser and all, that'll be good news to everyone on the Creek."

"How do you know all these things?" asked Littlejim.

"It's in the almanac," said Mr. Osk. "Right there in the book. Bigjim's sure to have one. He always plants his crops by the signs."

"I'll ask Papa to let me look at his tonight," said the boy.

Littlejim remembered the thin volume, with Barker's Almanac written on the cover, which his father kept hidden behind the big clock on the mantle in the front room. He had watched down the narrow stairwell as Bigjim struggled to read it or the Star by lamplight, following the words with his fingers.Sometimes he had seen Mama stop her mending and offer to read aloud to her tall husband, but his papa always put the book away quickly.

Mr. Osk threw one gartered arm over Littlejim's shoulder and guided the boy into the dimly lighted room which buzzed with the sound of young voices. Littlejim knew that Mr. Osk was actually Mama's cousin, Oskar, but since he was the teacher, Mama had told both Littlejim and Nell in her lilting voice, "You vill call him by a term of respect. He is 'Mr. Osk' to you from now on. " So Mr. Osk he was to every student in the school, including Littlejim and his sister, Nell.

"Pupils. Pupils," Mr. Osk tapped his stick on the top of his desk set on a platform at the front of the room near the black iron stove. It was time for the day of classes to begin.

Soon Littlejim had finished his lessons. He had finished first and used the time to draw. He was trying to draw the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers with all the cities located in the Fertile Cresent from his geography book with the blue cover.

Then he changed his mind. Paper was too precious to waste, and this day Littlejim wanted to draw something very special. He wanted to draw his papa's big Percherons. Scott and Swain were as fine a matched team of horses as the Henson Creek folk had ever seen. Littlejim dreamed of the day he would be full grown, so he could be a logger and have a team just like Scott and Swain. Together he and Bigjim would cut and haul the big logs from up on Double Head to Uncle Bob's sawmill.

Bigjim was the finest logger on the Creek, and Littlejim was very proud of his father. But he knew that Scott and Swam could share part of the credit. Their huge legs and strong broad backs could snake the biggest chestnut logs out of a laurel thicket. Their strength was great enough to pull the pole wagon loaded with lumber from Uncle Bob's sawmill up the steepest hills on the River Road to the railroad station in Spruce Pine. When they were brushed and curried of a Sunday morning, they looked fine enough to pull the box wagon where Bigjim, Mama, Littlejim, Nell and Baby May rode all the way to Papa's church at the foot of the creek.

Littlejim was might nigh as proud of the big gray horses as his papa was. This day he wanted his drawing to be the one Mr. Osk displayed above the chalkboard as the best drawing of the week. That way every pupil in the school would know that his papa, Bigjim Houston, had the finest team ever seen in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

"What you drawing?" asked Ivor Vance, one of the older boys, over his shoulder. Ivor peeked around to see if Mr. Osk had heard him.

I'm drawing Scott and Swain, whispered Littlejim to the taller boy. "I wish I had some fancy colors. I could make them ever so pretty. What are you going to draw?"

I'm going to draw an autymobile," said Ivor. "My uncle says he's going to buy one."

"How you gonna do that?" said Littlejim. "You've never seen one!"

Well, I heard all about it when my daddy went to Spruce Pine to catch the train," boasted Ivor.

"What was it like?" asked Littlejim.

"It was like a wagon or a carriage,, so's my pa says, except no horses were pulling it," said Ivor.

"How can a wagon go without a team to pull it?" puzzled Littlejim.

"I don't know," said Ivor. "But my pa says it went down the road just as pretty as you please. And my uncle says he's going to buy one."

"Well, I want a team like Scott and Swain to pull my wagons when I grow up," said Littlejim. He lifted his paper to puff the erasings off the corner with his breath. He admired his work. Ivor scrunched up his mouth and closed one eye.

"You're mighty good with that pencil," said Ivor. "Mr. Osk is sure to put your picture up today." Then he crumpled his own drawing. He was better at figures, and he knew all the history dates by heart.

Littlejim squirmed. Praise from an older boy was rare, especially from Ivor, who was best at almost every activity at the one-room school. Littlejim tried not to be too proud.

Better not do that," said Littlejim. "Paper's scarce as hen's teeth, what with the war and all, so's my papa says. Use my eraser."

Littlejim. Copyright � by Gloria Houston. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Gloria Houston is the author of numerous books for children, including My Great-Aunt Arizona, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb, which was a Smithsonian Treasure, a Family Channel's Best Book, an IRA Teachers' and Children's Choices book, and an NCTE Best Book, among other honors. She also wrote The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, which was an annual Publishers Weekly Bestseller and was named a Best Book of the Decade by the American Library Association. She currently lives in North Carolina.

Thomas B. Allen is the author of numerous history books, including George Washington, Spymaster and Remember Valley Forge. A frequent contributor to Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, Military History Quarterly, Military History, Naval History, the U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings, and other publications, he lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

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