From the Publisher
Praise for Singing Songs:
“Sometimes creativity blesses twice … [A]n impressive first novel.“
— Publishers Weekly
“A masterful novel…. A literary debut of major proportions.“
— Philadelphia Inquirer
Praise for Gemma:
“...Tilly achieves moments of raw beauty and genuine fierceness while sustaining the intensity of a thriller....“
“Tilly ... successfully captures Gemma’s wounded voice.... A haunting tale.“
— Kirkus Reviews
Tilly, best known for her acting career, enters children's fiction with a poignant although predictable story of three abandoned children finding a new home on a Canadian farm. Narrator Jack (short for Jacqueline) is devastated when the father she idolizes is killed while serving in a Canadian peacekeeping unit in Afghanistan. As bills mount, her deeply shaken mother proves incapable of meeting greater responsibilities, and in an act of desperation, drives the children cross-country to their great-grandmother in Alberta and leaves to start over in the city. It quickly becomes evident that she has no intention of resuming her role in the family, and their grandmother (characterized by Jack as a "mean old bitch") is now their guardian. Jack's unwavering determination to keep up the spirits of her spoiled younger sister and her learning-disabled younger brother will move readers, and her gradual recognition of her mother's self-centeredness and her great-grandmother's love is realistic. But other aspects of the novel, like the symbolic significance of "petting" a porcupine-a trick taught to Jack by her younger brother at the conclusion-feel imposed on the story. Minor characters appear vaguely familiar, reflecting stock personalities. The story has depth, but it's uneven. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Judy DaPolito
When the five members of the Cooper family appear on the first pages of this captivating book, they strike a cheerful balance. Jacqueline is a twelve-year-old tomboy who prefers to be called Jack. Ten-year-old Tessa is a pretty, feminine blond who is spoiled by their mother. Simon is a bright, energetic seven-year-old who builds elaborate Lego constructions without directions. Fran, their mother, is frivolous but loving. Holding them together in the midst of their conflicting personalities is their father, Bob, whose good humor, competence, and love provide stability. Then, Bob is called up by the Canadian Armed Forces to be part of a peacekeeping unit in Afghanistan and is soon killed by friendly fire. Fran sinks into depression, ignores the bills, and abdicates responsibility for the younger children to Jack. When they are about to be thrown out of their house for nonpayment, Fran takes them from Newfoundland to Alberta to visit their ailing great-grandmother, a relative none of the children have heard of before, even though she raised Fran after her parents died. The trip is a nightmare, and their meeting with Great-Grandmother on her run-down farm is not much better. She is not ailing, but she did not know they were coming or that Bob is dead, and she is still furious at Fran for eloping. When Fran runs off again, Gran keeps the children together but insists that they do the chores. As Jack learns to milk the cow and take care of the chickens, she also slowly learns to trust Gran to keep her and her siblings together in spite of the ladies from her church insisting that she is too old and poor to do so. Jack also has to deal with Fran's finding an apartment and probably a lover inthe city and not bothering to see the children for months at a time. School brings other problems, because Simon, though he is clearly very intelligent, cannot learn to read or write, and Jack gets in trouble for breaking the nose of a boy who is bullying him. By the end of the story, Jack has taught Simon to fish, killed a rattlesnake, comforted Tessa, made a school friend, and been convinced that a special education class will help Simon overcome his dyslexia. The superbly chosen sensory details bring the story to life from the very beginning. The characters are quirky, real, engaging, and unsentimental, and while the conclusion promises hope for the future, it does not pretend that all is well. Reviewer: Judy DaPolito
School Library Journal
When Jacqueline Cooper's father is killed in Afghanistan, her mother goes to pieces and takes her three children to live on a farm with a strict great-grandmother they didn't know they had. After she leaves, the 12-year-old makes it her job to keep her family together and safe. What distinguishes this familiar story of super-responsible eldest child and crotchety elderly relative is Jack's appreciation for the world around her. Lyrical first-person passages describe the ocean view from her window in Newfoundland, dust motes in the sunlight, an owl in her grandmother's barn, and the magic of contact with a porcupine in the wild. Reminiscent of Cynthia Voigt's "Tillerman" stories (S & S), this novel has a similarly determined, responsible, but still appealing protagonist and a similarly strong sense of place: in this case, the prairies of Alberta, Canada. In her fierce efforts to make everything OK for her younger brother and sister, Jack becomes almost as prickly as her great-grandmother, and readers will appreciate how her school-slow little brother can help her reveal the softness inside. A very satisfying read.
Kathleen IsaacsCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.