Remember the Red-Shouldered Hawk

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More About This Book

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Smith ( Return to Bitter Creek ; Voyages ) tackles the thorny subjects of Alzheimer's disease and prejudice in this heavy-handed novel featuring junior-high computer wiz John Viravek. Last summer, Nanna's absentmindedness seemed harmless and amusing, but now she doesn't always recognize her own children and grandchildren. As John struggles to come to terms with his grandmother's affliction, he is further distressed by his best friend Broderick's flagrant displays of bigotry, including those which target John's dark-skinned nephew and friend, Adam. Tensions rise when Adam's family is threatened by the Ku Klux Klan and Nanna--miraculously recalling her own troubled childhood--takes a stand against violence. The book's controversial issues prove more exciting than the author's moralistic narrative and cardboard characters. Nanna's deterioration is treated rather awkwardly, and although John's pacifism is admirable, at times he appears too virtuous and rational for a 12-year-old beset by numerous conflicts. Ultimately, the only figure who undergoes significant change is Broderick, who in the end shows remorse for his racist acts. Ages 10-14. (May)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-John-too, 12, opens with a memorable line: ``On March 19 I began disappearing from my grandmother's mind.'' What follows is a period of adjustment for the Georgia adolescent: to Nanna, who has Alzheimer's disease and has come to live with his family; to his best friend Brod, who has suddenly become a racist; and to a girl's special friendship. Irrepressible Nanna has always been a favorite relative, and he is dismayed at the changes in her. He begins to understand Brod's violence when he witnesses a KKK attack on his half-Hispanic nephew's home, and then sees that Brod has been beaten by his father for objecting to it. In the second subplot, his crush on Annajoy gives way to romance when he discovers that talking to a girl isn't so hard after all. The text is in easy dialogue, with black humor to break up the gloom: Nanna peels onions wearing a snorkel mask, saying she doesn't usually wear the flippers that go with it; she adopts a baby quail, but regularly asks who put it in her room. Major characters are well sketched, especially John-too's tired but loving parents and Brod, although the supporting cast is not as vivid. The red-shouldered hawk provides a unifying image, symbolizing freedom and independence. At book's end, Nanna prompts the bird into flying as her grandson takes a photo, preserving the hawk as it ``...soared into forever.'' A complex and refreshing novel that successfully explores many themes.-Carolyn Noah, Central Mass. Regional Library System, Worcester, MA
Chris Sherman
Smith's sensitive, carefully crafted story explores the problems of a close-knit family simultaneously coping with Alzheimer's disease and prejudice. Twelve-year-old John-too is at first simply dismayed by his grandmother's forgetfulness when she moves in with his family. His initial reaction turns to shock and sorrow, however, when he realizes how quickly his grandmother's illness has progressed. Nanna no longer recognizes him, and her behavior is often unkind, leaving John-too uncertain about how to respond. Nor does John-too know how to react to his best friend, Brod, who has become openly antagonistic to a black classmate and to John-too's dark-skinned cousin Adam, who is half Puerto Rican. Brod's defense of a computer program advocating white violence widens the rift and severely threatens the boys' friendship. When Klan members, including Brod's father, attempt to burn a cross on Adam's front lawn, the family watches in horror as Nanna confronts the culprits. Smith satisfyingly resolves both issues: John-too comes to terms with his grandmother's illness, and he and Brod find common ground. Although Smith's main character is only 12, he faces difficult situations with a maturity and understanding that will appeal to readers older than John-too as well as those the boy's own age.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399224430
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/4/1994
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.54 (w) x 5.72 (h) x 0.79 (d)

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