Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush

( 6 )


Why had he come to her, with his dark secrets from a long-ago past? What was the purpose of their strange, haunting journeys back into her own childhood? Was it to help Dab, her retarded older brother, wracked with mysterious pain who sometimes took more care and love than Tree had to give? Was it for her mother, Vy, who loved them the best she knew how, but wasn't home enough to ease the terrible longing?

Whatever secrets his whispered message held, Tree knew she must follow. ...

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Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush

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Why had he come to her, with his dark secrets from a long-ago past? What was the purpose of their strange, haunting journeys back into her own childhood? Was it to help Dab, her retarded older brother, wracked with mysterious pain who sometimes took more care and love than Tree had to give? Was it for her mother, Vy, who loved them the best she knew how, but wasn't home enough to ease the terrible longing?

Whatever secrets his whispered message held, Tree knew she must follow. She must follow Brother Rush through the magic mirror, and find out the truth. About all of them.

Fourteen-year-old Tree, resentful of her working mother who leaves her in charge of a retarded brother, encounters the ghost of her dead uncle and comes to a deeper understanding of her family's problems.

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Editorial Reviews

Katherine Peterson
Unique...wonderfully human...It fairly reaches off the first page to grab you.
&$151;The New York Times Book Review
Betsy Hearne
Virginia Hamilton has heightened the standards for children's literature as few other authors have.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380651931
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Series: Amistad Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 792,143
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 550L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Virginia Hamilton

Virginia Hamilton's books have won many awards and honors. One of these, the first book ever to win both the John Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, M.C. Higgins, the Great, was also the recipent of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. The Planet of Junior Brown was a Newbery Honor Book in 1971, and four of Virginia Hamilton's other books have been named Notable Children's books by the American Library Association.

Ms. Hamilton is married to Arnold Adoff, who is a distinguished poet and anthologist. They live with their two children in Ohio.


A writer of prodigious gifts, Virginia Hamilton forged a new kind of juvenile fiction by twining African-American and Native American history and folklore with contemporary stories and plotlines.

With Hamilton's first novel, Zeely, the story of a young farm girl who fantasizes that a woman she knows is a Watusi queen, she set the bar high. The book won a American Library Association Notable Children's Book citation. Hamilton rose to her own challenge, and every new book she published enriched American literature to such a degree that in 1995 she was awarded the ALA's Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for lifetime achievement.

Born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and raised in an extended family of farmers and storytellers (her own father was a musician), Hamilton's work was inspired by her childhood experiences, family mythology, and Ohio River Valley homeland. In an article about the importance of libraries in children's lives, she credits her mother and the "story lady" at her childhood public library with opening her mind to the world of books.

Although she spent time in New York City working as a bookkeeper after college, and traveled widely in Africa and Europe, Hamilton spent most of her life in Yellow Springs, anchored by the language, geography, and culture of southern Ohio. In The House of Dies Drear, she arranged her story around the secrets of the Underground Railroad. In M. C. Higgins, the Great, winner of both a John Newbery Medal and a National Book Award, she chronicled the struggles of a family whose land, and life spirit, is threatened by strip mining. Publishers Weekly called the novel "one of those rare books which draws the reader in with the first paragraph and keeps him or her turning the page until the end."

In her series of folk-tale collections, including The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales, In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World, and Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales, Hamilton salvaged and burnished folk tales from cultures across the world for her stories; stories that suffused her fiction with its extraordinary blend of worldly and otherworldly events, enchantment, and modern reality. Virginia Hamilton died on February 19, 2002.

Good To Know

Hamilton's first research trip to a library was to find out more about her family's exotic chickens, which her mother called "rainbow layers," because of the many tints of the eggs they laid.

In 1995, Hamilton became the first children's writer to win a John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur "genius" grant.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      March 12, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Yellow Springs, Ohio
    1. Date of Death:
      February 19, 2002
    2. Place of Death:
      Yellow Springs, Ohio
    1. Education:
      Attended Antioch College, Ohio State University, and the New School for Social Research
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The first time Teresa saw Brother was the way she would think of him ever after. Tree fell head over heels for him. It was love at first sight in a wild beating of her heart that took her breath. But it was a dark Friday three weeks later when it rained, hard and wicked, before she knew Brother Rush was a ghost.

That first time Tree didn't notice that it was odd the way Brother happened to be there. He had been standing on a corner of Race Street the way the dudes will do after school, whether they went to school or not. He was standing cool, waiting for whatever would happen to happen, just the way all the dudes did. Tree had come swinging around the corner of Race Street at Detroit Avenue on her way home. She was holding her books tight to her chest, hiding herself from the dudes. She had begun growing into a woman, which was the reason the dudes had started to catcall to her.

"Hey, little girl, when you going to let me take you out?"

"Sweet Tree, I'll walk you home, bay-buh. Do Dab know you walkin by these shifless clowns alone? Do your brother leave you in the house by you-sef?"

"Shu-man, you know Dab n'goin nowhere, and Tree comin home from schoo."

"I'll brang you home, Teresa, since you gone and grown so fine."

Tree felt so ashamed of them, ashamed they had to go pick on her. One or two of them were quick to understand she wasn't ready for them.

"Stop it, yo'w," they told the others. "She ain cooked good yet." And laughed about it.

Tree knew they weren't bad dudes.

Be never having nothing to do and nowhere to do it, she had thought.

They laughed and joked so much to keep back that fear look -- Tree had seen it -- from showing through the hard glinting of their hungry eyes.

It was when Tree was almost by them and they had stopped their calling after her that she had spied Brother Rush. He had been leaning on a stoop of an apartment building. She didn't have time to think about the fact that he was off by himself, although she made note of it. The other dudes didn't so much ignore him as they seemed to have forgotten about him. They acted like they didn't even know him or hadn't paid attention that he had come to lean there.

Tree saw him at once. It was the way you see something that has been there all of the time, but you never had eyes open wide enough to see. It was like the figure of him jumped right out of space at her. Brother Rush hit her in one never-to-be-forgotten impression.

His suit was good enough for a funeral or a wedding.

Better than a suit for Sunday church or one for Thanksgiving. It was just too dressy for a school concert when you have the main solo. You have been paid thirtyfive bills to sing because you are a home boy, a graduate of the school who has done all right and has come on back as an example for the rest of the dudes. Dudes who will not yet admit that they will never leave Race Street or Detroit Avenue, either, although they know they won't. They do know, now.

The suit was dark and rich looking, pinstripe perfection. The shirt was ivory with a shiny sword design that gave it more class than any shirt Tree had ever seen. The collar was uncrushed around Brother Rush's neck, but not so tight so that it bothered his Adam's apple. His tie was deep wine-dark, and silky. The belt he wore was black and the buckle was silver, and spelled "Jazz" in the prettiest script. That convinced Tree he was a musician, and she decided he was a piano player. Brother's shoes were black patent leather dress shoes with a high gloss, which he wore over gray silk socks.

As far as Tree could tell that first time, Brother Rush's clothes, were picture perfect. She imagined his underwear. He'd have on a snow-white undershirt with short sleeves; soft-cottony shorts. Nothing like her brother Dab's Fruit-of-the-Loom with ratty tears. Brother's underwear would have no worn-through places.

She hadn't realized that it was the message out of Brother's eyes that had caught her, had captured her. It had all happened too fast. She had the impression of unbelievable good looks -- tallness, slimness, those funeral clothes she'd never seen on any dude. Not even the ones into criminality dressed like Brother Rush, the ones who strutted flash-smart and pimp-fine, as her Muh Vy said, upper lip curling.

Tree understood that the way Brother Rush was dressed expressed his style as well as his melancholy. She made fleeting notice that Brother's skin was a pale brown with a good sprinkling of reddish freckles. He had refined features and full lips. His large nose was long, straight, with flared nostrils. His hair had the same reddish tint of the freckles, soft and tightly curled. And he wore suede gloves. She summed up her impression of him as absolutely handsome. His was an appearance of trim, muscular maleness, including his eyes. She deniedthe message that was there in his eyes. It had gone too deeply inside her for her to fathom it at once. Even so, his, eyes had taken her prisoner.

Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush. Copyright © by Virginia Hamilton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 25, 2011

    Virginia Hamilton Review

    My augter read this book and she enjoyed it she says it's very very good and taught her the value of being menatal and/or disabled this book was truly an inspiration to my daughter as well as Virginia Hamilton being an inspiration to my daughter!!!!:):):):):):)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book was okay but not really that great. I had to read it for our Author Study on Virginia Hamilton at school and I really didn't like it that much. It really didn't engage me and I got bored reading it. I must admit that Virginia Hamilton is a good author but, I don't think this is one of her best works.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2005

    i love it

    Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush is the best book I have ever read...my favorite book. I first checked it out in 8th grade(now in 12th) and it has been on my mind ever since. It has been one of the view media center books i have enjoyed. I will definently buy this book soon!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2004

    Amazingly Written Novel!

    Virginia Hamilton's novel Sweet Whispers Brother Rush is the first book I couldn't let go off. Tree's mom has left her in charge to take care of her brother whom is experincing hurtful pains. Tree also find a ghost in a little room in the resembalence of the uncle, Brother Rush. Rush wants to tell a secret to Tree or dab that deals with family problems. It is your time for you to read the book and find out the secret that Rush needs to tell Tree and Dab.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2004


    SWEET WHISPERS, BROTHER RUSH is hauntingly lyrical, atmospheric and an incredible feat of storytelling. Virginia Hamilton has penned a masterpiece.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2003

    Amazingly captivating, I could hardly put it down!!

    This is one of the best books I've ever read! Mrs. Hamilton brings Tree and her family to life in this amazing description of the life of a girl taking care of her troubled older brother, with an odd visitor there to mix things up a bit.

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