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Road to Tater Hill

Road to Tater Hill

4.6 17
by Edith M. Hemingway

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Annie struggles with grief after the death of her newborn sister.

Annie can always count on spending summers at her grandparents’. This summer should be even better because Mama is going to have a baby soon. Before Daddy leaves for his Air Force assignment, he gives Annie a journal for summer memories. But now Annie is grieving over the death of her


Annie struggles with grief after the death of her newborn sister.

Annie can always count on spending summers at her grandparents’. This summer should be even better because Mama is going to have a baby soon. Before Daddy leaves for his Air Force assignment, he gives Annie a journal for summer memories. But now Annie is grieving over the death of her newborn sister. How can she tell Daddy that ever since the baby died, Mama is slipping away? If Annie wrote those words, Mama might stay that way forever. The only comfort Annie finds is in holding a stone she calls her “rock baby.” Then Annie secretly befriends a mysterious woman who helps Annie accept her loss, while Annie hopes to draw her new friend back into the community. But all that is interrupted when a crisis reveals their unlikely alliance and leads to a surprising turn of events.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sue Poduska
The death of a child touches a wide circle of people. In this book, the author does a wonderful job of exploring the effects of that loss. More than the story of the death of a sister, the book also evokes the emotions involved in many relationships and the far-reaching changes that can take place. Spending the summer in the North Carolina mountains with her grandparents and her mother, eleven-year-old Annie goes from little girl to young adolescent as she learns about grief, friendship, and family. Annie befriends a mysterious mountain woman who has dealt with her own grief. Annie also learns that even a young neighbor boy is not unaffected by her family's loss. Because of their own grief, her mother and grandparents are not always able to provide her with comfort. The readers get a look at American life in the 1960's and much to identify with. This is a very moving and well-told story. Reviewer: Sue Poduska
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Annie, almost 10, and her pregnant mother are spending the summer of 1963 with Annie's grandparents on their North Carolina farm. Then the long-awaited baby is born prematurely and dies the following day. Annie is devastated and doesn't know how to deal with her grief. Her Air Force father is currently stationed in Germany, and her mother sinks into a deep depression and withdraws from the family. Avoiding the house, Annie often explores the nearby woods where she meets an elderly woman who becomes her friend and confidant. Miss Eliza is living in a shack that belongs to an individual who, according to local legend, was sent to prison years earlier for murdering her husband. Before long, Miss Eliza shares the story of her past with Annie, who continues their friendship despite the community's negative attitudes. Gradually, with the help of Miss Eliza and her supportive grandparents, Annie begins to accept her sister's death, but it takes Annie's near-death experience with a swarm of yellow jackets to pull her mother back to reality. The characters and setting are finely drawn and the author has an acute sense of how time seems to pass more slowly for children than adults. The love of family members for one another is heartwarming. A well-written and enjoyable novel.—Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC
Kirkus Reviews
Set in the 1960s in the North Carolina mountains, this heartbreaking offering tells the story of ten-year-old Annie Winters, who has just lost her brand-new baby sister, Mary Kate. What's worse, her mother sinks into a deep depression, and her father is worlds away, stationed in Germany. Annie's grandparents and her friend Bobby are there to support her, but she finds true comfort in a surprising place. In a decrepit old house on Tater Hill lives Miss Eliza, an elderly woman who, Annie later learns, has just completed a 30-year jail sentence for killing her abusive husband. If readers can acclimate quickly enough to the grief pouring off the pages, they will certainly begin to root for Annie's mother to recover, for Eliza to be reintegrated into the community and for Annie to find some happiness and peace. For a great discussion, pair this title with Marilynn Taylor McDowell's Carolina Harmony (2009), which tackles similar themes while conveying an even richer sense of this intriguing time and place. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

For months I had wished and wished the baby would be a girl, a little sister. Maybe I shouldn't have wished so hard. A boy might have lived.

Weren't wishes kind of like prayers? Maybe my wishing really did make things worse. I knew that didn't make sense, but nothing in this whole terrible day made sense.
Grandma closed the front door with a bang, as if announcing the end of a chapter in a book about our lives. "What a day," she said, dropping her purse to the floor. "I'm going to lie down. You should take a nap, too, Annie. None of us got much sleep last night." Grandma headed to her room, not waiting for an answer.

A nap? I was almost eleven. I hadn't taken a nap for as long as I could remember. Besides, how could a nap change the way we all felt? We'd still wake up. It would all still be the same.

"She means well, Annie," Grandpa said. "We're all worn out." He looked like he wanted to say something more. I waited. Grandpa had grown older, just in this one day. His glasses were smudged, and his mouth and shoulders sagged. Gray stubble covered his chin.

"I thought . . ." Grandpa reached out to smooth my hair. "We all thought it would be okay this time." Another pause as he started down the basement stairs to his workshop. "She had red hair, you know. Very much like yours. A downy, reddish cap."

My baby sister had red hair like mine. If only I could have seen her, just once.
The house was silent. I walked from room to room with that heavy, tired feeling you have after you've cried for a long time. I looked out the windows. How could the sun still shine like it was just any normal day? The kitchen clock showed that it was only 2:45. Maybe I'd go down to the Millers'. If the Miller kids didn't know about the baby, I could pretend things were normal.

The walk down the winding dirt road to the Millers' farm seemed longer than ever before. Maybe it was because I usually ran down and didn't even notice passing Loggers Hollow Church with its small fenced-in graveyard. But this time that little graveyard was all I could think about. I won't look, I won't look, I repeated over and over to myself, but it didn't keep the vision of gravestones out of my mind. Soon my little sister would have a gravestone of her own with her short, one-day life carved into it. Born July 13, 1963. Died July 14, 1963. Grandpa had buried her there earlier this morning—all by himself while Grandma and I stayed with Mama at the hospital.
"Aren't we having a funeral?" I had asked.

Grandma was quick to shush me. "We're trying to make it easier for your mama. Less for her to go through," she whispered, while Mama lay in bed with her eyes closed, looking like she was asleep. But I could see tears slipping through the cracks and sliding over Mama's face, soaking the pillow beneath her head. Grandma patted her hand, and I tried squeezing Mama's other hand, but she didn't squeeze back.
Easier? Nothing could make things easier right now—except if I were miles and miles across the ocean in Germany with Daddy, who didn't even know anything was wrong. This was probably something I should write down in the journal Daddy had given me before he left. Something I should tell him about my summer, but I didn't know if I could ever write this feeling down on paper.

After another curve in the road, the Millers' brick farmhouse was in sight, and the yard was spilling over with grandchildren. They lived in their own houses nearby, but today was Sunday. I knew they were all there for the big Sunday dinner old Mrs. Miller always cooked with the help of the four younger Mrs. Millers. If it wasn't raining, they set up long tables in the yard under the shade tree and carried out platters of ham and biscuits, cole slaw, sliced tomatoes, corn on the cob—more food than even all those people could eat. And there would be a fluffy coconut cake that Bobby's mother, the young Mrs. Miller with black hair, liked to bake. After I scraped those tiny flakes of coconut off the frosting, it sure tasted good.

Whichever Mrs. Miller was closest would always set one more plate for me if I was around. I slipped in like I belonged there, just another member of their overflowing family, from crawling babies all the way up to the three older teenagers, who weren't around so much now. The only not-so-good parts were old Mr. Miller spitting his brown tobacco juice on the ground—once right next to my foot—and all the buzzing flies that flew straight from the cows in the meadow to the food on our plates.

By now their Sunday dinner would be over, but it looked like all the kids were playing dodgeball, including Bobby. He was twelve and only a year older than me—kind of like the big brother I never had. His curly black hair, just like his mama's, stood out above the heads of all his cousins and younger brothers and sister. Why couldn't I have all those brothers and sisters? At least a few cousins or . . . just one sister. Someone to have fun with, but also to have around during sad times like this. Someone to share this emptiness.

By the time I reached them, I could tell the kids already knew about the baby by the way they didn't look me straight in the face—even Bobby. The same way I couldn't quite look into Mama's eyes when I first walked into the hospital room that morning. They had stopped playing ball and stood in the driveway, kicking stones around in the dirt.

Finally Caroline, Bobby's nine-year-old cousin, asked, "Did you get to see the baby?"
I shook my head, not trusting my voice.

Meet the Author

Edith M. Hemingway has coauthored two Civil War novels. This is her first solo novel. She lives in Frederick, Maryland.

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Road to Tater Hill 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love it and i think you would too
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We hve this book at my skool but i hve never read it before but its really an awesome book cuz i hve read it now well hope evrybody else enjys this book too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And I only read the SAMPLE!!!!!!!!!!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a very good book. It was sad becasue of the fact that her sister died but in the end she got a new friend and learned to except her sisters loss. Nice read for 12 - 14 years of age.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amy Sullivan More than 1 year ago
I only read the sample but this book is realy good u u should read it all so u should read mocking bird
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
David Fowler More than 1 year ago
I love the happy story that dot weeved into a sad one. I give it 2 thumbs up.
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