When Runt's mother dies, he’s sent to live with his older sister Helen, whom he hasn’t seen in years, not since she ran away. Avoiding the dreary trailer he now shares with Helen and her creepy boyfriend Cole, Runt spends his days rambling around his new town, especially the local cemetery. There he meets Mitch, a precocious boy in a wheelchair who’s battling cancer. The two lonely boys become fast friends, but as their friendship deepens, each faces a powerful crisis. As Runt and Mitch struggle with the harsh ...
When Runt's mother dies, he’s sent to live with his older sister Helen, whom he hasn’t seen in years, not since she ran away. Avoiding the dreary trailer he now shares with Helen and her creepy boyfriend Cole, Runt spends his days rambling around his new town, especially the local cemetery. There he meets Mitch, a precocious boy in a wheelchair who’s battling cancer. The two lonely boys become fast friends, but as their friendship deepens, each faces a powerful crisis. As Runt and Mitch struggle with the harsh realities of poverty, abuse, and illness, each looks to the other for comfort and courage. Then, Helen’s problems complicate things even further. Can Runt help them both, and himself, too? The empathy, insight, and finely drawn characters seen in V. M. Caldwell’s first two novels are in full view in this moving story of a young boy’s attempts to create a better life for himself and those around him.
YA novelist Caldwell (The Ocean Within) makes her adult debut with 12-year-old protagonist Robert Remick (nicknamed Runt by his long-dead father), an orphan trying to negotiate poverty and neglect. Upon his mother's death, Runt's family breaks up: three sisters are taken in by various aunts (two younger sisters are dead), and Runt goes to live in a trailer with his 19-year-old sister, Helen, and her boyfriend, Cole, a cartoonish, tyrannical figure. Some of the story centers on Runt's piecing together of what it is Cole actually does, and some on neighbor Mitch, a wheelchair-bound prankster who's fighting cancer. Mitch breaks through Runt's reticence, helping him cope with his past while inspiring him to reach out to others, through the Web and otherwise. Aside from Cole, the characterizations are strong, with Runt's inarticulate numbness early in the book coming through most clearly, but the book's emotional bandwidth doesn't stray far from YA territory. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
- Beth Karpas
When Runt's mother dies, the twelve-year-old finds himself living in a trailer with his favorite sister, Helen, and her unsavory boyfriend, Cole. Happy to be back with Helen, whom he had not seen in six years, but miserable and scared to be alone with Cole in the trailer, Runt goes exploring in a cemetery. There Mitch, a strange, pale boy in a wheelchair, befriends him. This story is about family, friendship, and how sometimes, if one lives through the difficult stuff, even the saddest tale can have a happy ending. Mitch has cancer, and although his story is predictably sad, it leads to a happy ending of sorts for Runt. This reviewer has not been able to put her finger on it, but something is missing from this book. Maybe it is in the characters-the adults feel a bit one-dimensional, Mitch is almost too cheery, and how exactly did Runt end up with Helen without any social services involvement? Perhaps it is the predictability-Mitch is the stereotypical, brave kid with cancer who will not survive but will spread as much happiness, bravery, and friendship as he can before he goes. And because readers still need a happy ending, here it is. The book is a quick read and will bring up important issues including cancer, physical abuse, neglect, and death. It might be a good class or small group discussion book for fifth through seventh graders, but it is probably not suitable for a booktalk.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Rejected by his aunts who take in three of his sisters following their mother's death, 13-year-old Robert Remick, nicknamed Runt, is offered a home by his estranged older sister, Helen, who lives in a trailer with her sinister boyfriend, Cole. His family's poverty and despair had kept Runt an outsider and now he refuses to attend school in the new place, instead spending his days exploring the town and collecting empty cans for pocket money. Drawn to the serenity of a nearby cemetery, he meets wheelchair-bound Mitch Curran, a spirited, intelligent boy who is determined to befriend him despite his resistance. It is quickly apparent that Mitch is in the final stages of cancer, refusing further treatment, and the boys open up to one another's pain. Robert visits Mitch almost daily until his death, and his friendship and support are rewarded with the Currans' kindness to him. Runt's father's abandonment, his mother's religious rigidity, the deaths of his two baby sisters, and Cole's verbal and physical abuse weigh down this bleak story, but the conclusion, if somewhat implausible, is hopeful. The writing is sometimes self-conscious, but characterization is good and readers will respond to the plight of two desperate boys and the people who make a difference in their lives.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.