What I Came to Tell You

What I Came to Tell You

4.3 11
by Tommy Hays
     
 

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New in paperback. A critically acclaimed writer publishes his first juvenile novel, a SIBA Fall 2013 Okra Pick, in the spirit of such beloved novels as Newbery Medal-winning Missing May and Because of Winn-Dixie. Warm, evocative writing blends with an emotion-laden narrative that goes to the heart of the reader.

Since his mother died earlier this

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Overview

New in paperback. A critically acclaimed writer publishes his first juvenile novel, a SIBA Fall 2013 Okra Pick, in the spirit of such beloved novels as Newbery Medal-winning Missing May and Because of Winn-Dixie. Warm, evocative writing blends with an emotion-laden narrative that goes to the heart of the reader.

Since his mother died earlier this year, Grover Johnston (named after a character in Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel) has watched his family fall to pieces as his father throws himself into his work rather than dealing with the pain. Left to care for his younger sister, Sudie, Grover finds solace in creating intricate weavings out of the natural materials found in the bamboo forest behind his North Carolina home, a pursuit that his father sees only as a waste of time.

But as tensions mount between father and son, unlikely forces conspire to help the Johnstons find their way. The new tenants in the rental house across the street who have come from deep in the Carolina hills seem so different from the Johnstons, but become increasingly intertwined with them in unexpected ways. Classmates, neighbors, teachers, and coworkers band together, forming a community that can save a family from itself.

Tender, touching, and utterly compelling, What I Came to Tell You, the first middle-grade novel from critically acclaimed Asheville author Tommy Hays, is a story of grief, love, and hard-won redemption.

A 2013 Fall Okra Pick, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

*"Hays is a gifted storyteller, offering up an effective balance of credible emotion, understated wisdom, and gentle humor."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

*"Hays is especially strong at depicting the network of people, old and young, who help Grover and his family move through their grief and, along the way, save his beloved forest."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

You may visit with Tommy Hays on his website, www.tommyhays.com.

Available in both hardcover (ISBN 9781606844435) and electronic (ISBN 9781606844342)book formats

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Twelve-year-old Grover loves making weavings out of leaves and branches he finds in a nearby bamboo forest, but he has other things on his mind, too. Mostly his mother, who was recently killed in a car accident, but also his younger sister, his pretty new neighbor, and his difficult relationship with his father, who works all the time and doesn’t even pretend to appreciate Grover’s art. In his middle-grade debut, adult author and North Carolinian Hays makes good use of the novel’s Asheville setting: Grover’s father runs the strapped-for-cash Thomas Wolfe house, and Asheville comes across as a cosmopolitan place with a small-town feel. Indeed, even as Grover is keeping an eye on his sister and his new neighbors, a lot of people are watching over him. Though the book spans just a few months, it’s packed with incident and complex connections between a range of characters. Hays is especially strong at depicting the network of people, old and young, who help Grover and his family move through their grief and, along the way, save his beloved forest. Ages 10–up. Agent: Neeti Madan, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Though the book spans just a few months, it's packed with incident and complex connections between a range of characters. Hays is especially strong at depicting the network of people, old and young, who help Grover and his family move through their grief and, along the way, save his beloved forest." —Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
Kirkus Reviews
Two lovable, grief-stricken children try to find their footing after their mother's death in a senseless accident. Twelve-year-old Grover and his little sister, Sudie, have already lost their mother, and now their father, director of the Thomas Wolfe house in Asheville, N.C., has practically disappeared as well, throwing himself into his work. Grover and Sudie spend most of their time in the city's Bamboo Forest, where Grover creates intricate weavings from bamboo, leaves and grass. When kids Emma Lee and Clay move in next door from Roan Mountain, Grover and Sudie discover they have the loss of a parent in common; Emma Lee and Clay's father was killed in Iraq. In addition to grief, this ambitious offering explores the meanings and value of art, faith and destiny, and Appalachian mountain culture. In a scene related to the latter, a student throws the slur "hillbilly" in Emma Lee's direction, and a boy named Daniel remarks that " ‘Hillbilly' is kind of like the N-word...except it's talking about mountain people." In some instances, the text veers toward the didactic, but the compelling characters and engaging prose put it squarely in the win column. Readers will be quickly and surely drawn in by quirky siblings Grover and Sudie, rooting for them to find a measure of peace and happiness in the wake of tragedy. (Fiction. 10-14)
School Library Journal
11/01/2013
Gr 5–8—Devastated by the accidental death of his mother, 12-year-old Grover looks to his 10-year-old sister, Sudie; intriguing new neighbors; and his own artistic talents for relief from his anguish. This moving, but often heavy-handed novel describes Grover's journey through rage and pain to a peaceful state of acceptance. His father is a workaholic and his sister also struggles with her grief. Grover, at first withdrawn and sullen, soon falls for the girl next door, just as his father develops feelings for the girl's widowed mother. Set in Asheville, North Carolina, the story has a pleasing Southern flavor, and the author includes details about the city's most famous resident, novelist Thomas Wolfe. Grover's father doesn't appreciate his son's talent for creating pieces of art out of bamboo. However, when the bamboo forest is threatened, Grover's friends and family rally to save his artistic endeavors. A budding romance and an almost-fatal fire move the book along, as do other, quieter events. Grover finds out more about the accident that killed his mother and begins to stop blaming himself. The characters are sympathetic, especially Grover and Sudie, but the happily-ever-after ending stretches credibility, and the story is not especially subtle or unique in its treatment of death and loss. Nonetheless, this well-written novel will appeal to readers with artistic or literary leanings, or those with a fondness for Southern settings.—Miranda Doyle, Lake Oswego School District, OR

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781606844335
Publisher:
Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/24/2013
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
619,438
Product dimensions:
5.84(w) x 8.54(h) x 1.06(d)
Lexile:
770L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Tommy Hays, director of the Great Smokies Writing Program, is a lecturer at the University of North Carolina Asheville. He is the author of several well-reviewed adult books; the most recent, The Pleasure Was Mine, has been selected as a Community Reads in many cities and counties throughout the South. The author lives in Asheville, NC.

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