Part of Me: Stories of a Louisiana Family

Overview

My dream of becoming a writer is like a fallen leaf swept up by the wind—dancing inches from my reach, teasing, never letting me touch it. But somehow I hope that my life will have meaning one day.

The story begins in 1939 with Rose, who takes a job driving a bookmobile when she moves with her family from rural Texas to the Louisiana bayou. Two decades later, Merle Henry, Rose’s son, is more passionate about trapping mink than reading, although there is a place in his heart for ...

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Overview

My dream of becoming a writer is like a fallen leaf swept up by the wind—dancing inches from my reach, teasing, never letting me touch it. But somehow I hope that my life will have meaning one day.

The story begins in 1939 with Rose, who takes a job driving a bookmobile when she moves with her family from rural Texas to the Louisiana bayou. Two decades later, Merle Henry, Rose’s son, is more passionate about trapping mink than reading, although there is a place in his heart for Old Yeller. In 1973, Merle Henry’s daughter, Annabeth, feels torn between reading fairy tales and a crush on her own real-life knight in shining armor. And in the present day, Annabeth’s son, Kyle, finds himself in a bind: he hates reading, but the only summer job he can get is at the library. Touching, lyrical, and always intriguing, this family’s story reveals how a love of books creates a powerful bond that spans generations.

 

Part of Me is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* “[An] atmospheric novel. . . . Economical, evocative prose reflects the leisurely pace of Southern living and movingly conveys family tensions, family love, and the power of stories to bring generations together.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“[An] affectionate multigenerational portrait. . . . Homespun dialogue and descriptive language . . . add to the narrative’s comfortable charm. A thoughtful study of how everyday life may have twists and turns but can still take us where we want to go.”—The Horn Book

“Holt sketches a broad range of characters with verve and sensitivity.”—Booklist

“Lyrical . . . Holt once again excels at creating character and an evocative sense of place.”—School Library Journal

“[A] lyrical, touching saga.”—Voice of Youth Advocates

“There is drama, humor, rebellion, despair—but understated for the most part, quietly moving the reader.”—KLIATT

Publishers Weekly
Holt's (My Louisiana Sky) atmospheric novel traces five generations of a Louisiana family. Spanning the years 1939-2004, the book encapsulates the struggles, sorrows, infatuations and triumphs of various family members as they enter adolescence. Readers first meet 14-year-old Rose, who lies about her age to become the bookmobile driver for the new Terrebone Parish Library. Working hard to help her family make ends meet, she never realizes her dream of going to college but remains an avid reader and writer. She passes down her love of books to some but not all of her children and grandchildren. Rose's son Merle Henry would rather trap than read; her granddaughter, Annabeth, wishes she were more popular; and her great-grandson, Kyle, works at the library like his grandmother did, but doesn't have much use for books until he discovers Harry Potter. The author subtly weaves in historic influences such as the Dust Bowl, the Vietnam War and the Watergate hearings. Rose resurfaces briefly as a loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, and once again takes center stage in the final pages of the novel when, at age 79, she becomes a published author. Economical, evocative prose reflects the leisurely pace of Southern living and movingly conveys family tensions, family love, and the power of stories to bring generations together. Ages 10-15. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
Holt is an acclaimed writer, and her novels My Louisiana Sky, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, and Keeper of the Night are probably known to most librarians working with YAs. This is a departure in format, telling the story of four generations in one Louisiana family by dividing the whole into parts. The story begins with the voice of Rose, 14 years old in 1939. She really doesn't have a choice when her mother asks her to leave school to get a job helping to support the family--Rose drives the bookmobile through the bayou communities, lying about her age so she can get her license. She can't continue school, but she does love books, and she loves to write. At the end of Part of Me, it's 2004 and Rose, almost 80 years old, goes on the circuit again through the bayou communities, this time on her own book tour. In between these two "book-ends" about Rose are stories of the generations of her family who share her life and love of books: her son Merle Henry in l957; Merle's daughter Annabeth in l973; Annabeth's son Kyle in 2004. Each segment is immediate, with verbal sketches that reveal the themes in the family's life, references to the wider world, to books that are loved; the sections tell of adolescents struggling to find their own voices. There is drama, humor, rebellion, despair--but understated for the most part, quietly moving the reader. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, Henry Holt, 208p., $16.95.. Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 7-9-This lyrical novel is actually a collection of vignettes that spans five generations of a family living in the Louisiana bayous. Beginning with Rose as a young girl who, in 1939, must drop out of school in order to help her mother put food on the table, the stories follow pivotal moments-an injured dog, learning to dance, a summer job-in the lives of her descendants. What connects the chapters is the presence of books, whether on a bookmobile or on a library shelf, or even the writing of one's own story. Holt once again excels at creating character and an evocative sense of place.-Melissa Moore, Union University Library, Jackson, TN Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In 1939, Rose McGee's Papa leaves, and Momma moves the family from Amarillo, Texas to the Louisiana bayou where she grew up. When they arrive, Momma forces Rose to lie about her age to get a job driving the bookmobile. Rose would rather go to school, but the family needs the money. Seventeen years later, Rose's son Merle Henry prefers trapping, but sees the use in some books. In the '70s, his daughter Annabeth grows from reading fairytales to classics, and in 2004 her son Kyle takes a job at the library and discovers that he doesn't hate reading. As lovely as it may be, Holt's collection of stories connected by ties familial and literary doesn't have the time to flesh out most of its characters. Rose, who begins by telling her story, never comes back to life even as her dream of writing a book of her own comes to fruition in the final pages. None of the other characters are allowed to tell their own stories, and they come away feeling like place-holders on the family tree. Still, for its sense of family history, this is worth a spot in large collections, especially, of course, in Louisiana. (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312581459
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 9/29/2009
  • Edition description: STRIPPABLE
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,384,664
  • Age range: 10 - 15 Years
  • Lexile: 770L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Kimberly Willis Holt is the author of the many award-winning novels for young adults and children, including The Water Seeker, My Louisiana Sky, Keeper of the Night, and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, winner of a National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She is also the author of the bestselling Piper Reed series of chapter books, and picture books including Waiting for Gregory and Skinny Brown Dog. Holt was born in Pensacola, Florida, and lived all over the U.S. and the world—from Paris to Norfolk to Guam to New Orleans. She long dreamed of being a writer, but first worked as a radio news director, marketed a water park, and was an interior decorator, among other jobs. She lives in West Texas with her family.

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