Words of Stone

Words of Stone

4.2 7
by Kevin Henkes

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Blaze Werla is having a routine summer. He spends his days alone, wandering around the hill next door, and his nights awake, avoiding the dreams that haunt him. Then a message appears on the side of the hill and Blaze's predictable summer suddenly takes a turn toward the mysterious. By the time he meets outgoing Joselle Stark, Blaze finds himself in entirely new


Blaze Werla is having a routine summer. He spends his days alone, wandering around the hill next door, and his nights awake, avoiding the dreams that haunt him. Then a message appears on the side of the hill and Blaze's predictable summer suddenly takes a turn toward the mysterious. By the time he meets outgoing Joselle Stark, Blaze finds himself in entirely new territory, where the unexpected seems almost normal.

Editorial Reviews

ALA Booklist
“What readers will love about this book is the friendship between these two very different loners.”
Times Educational Supplement
“A challenging and skillful book.”
Chicago Tribune Books
“If you know Henkes only as a writer/illustrator for younger children, this book will be a pleasant surprise.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this stirring contemporary novel set in rural Wisconsin, Henkes ( Chrysanthemum ; The Zebra Wall ) paints a poignant picture of two lonely children whose paths cross one summer. First introduced is shy, red-headed Blaze, who has recently lost his mother to cancer. Now living with his grandmother and his artist father, the nine-year-old has trouble admitting his fears to anyone except his imaginary friends--until he meets Joselle, an outspoken, spellbinding girl who is staying on the other side of the hill with her Grandma Floy. Alternately showing the points of view of Blaze and Joselle, the book traces the meshing of two private worlds where ordinary objects--keys, spoons, stones, toy animals--carry special meaning. The fragile kinship that grows between the youngsters is threatened by an act of betrayal, yet, ultimately, deep-seated compassion and understanding help mend broken trusts. This story, offering an exceptionally sensitive and accurate portrayal of isolation, echoes feelings and themes found in Brock Cole's The Goats. Henkes, however, goes further in demonstrating the process of emotional healing--and acceptance of painful truths--that allows fear and loneliness to dissipate. His vivid characterizations and profound symbolism are sure to linger in readers' minds. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
Publishers Weekly
"In this stirring contemporary novel, Henkes paints a poignant picture of two lonely children whose paths cross one summer," according to PW's boxed review. Ages 8-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-- Joselle ``sets out to complicate the life of Blaze Werla'' the summer she stays with her grandmother. She chooses him, a neighbor whom she hasn't met, because the details of his life intrigue her. Hard-eyed at ten, Joselle refers to her mother as ``the Beautiful Vicki,'' lies compulsively, and is an irresponsible playmate. The boy, fearful and still suffering from the death of his mother several years before, is an easy target. What begins with malicious playfulness does complicate lives, as the two children, both needy, become fast friends. Emotional doors begin to open. Joselle's early hurtful words, written in stones on Blaze's hill, are also inscribed on her legs in ballpoint tattoos that eventually give her away, revealing the pivot on which the two will finally balance their friendship. Subplots provide texture. Joselle's mother, supposedly on an extended getaway with her boyfriend, turns out never to have left home; Blaze's father is courting a woman whom the boy grudgingly comes to welcome; and Blaze resolves many of his fears to begin painting a long-empty canvas. The main plot is simple and clear, giving an immediate sense that Henkes's craftsmanship is artless. Rich characterization, dramatic subplots, and striking visual images belie that impression. The author's respect for the complexity of young people's lives is apparent in this outstanding novel, which will find an enthusiastic readership among fans of Betsy Byars and Susan Shreve. --Carolyn Noah, Central Mass. Regional Lib . System, Worcester, MA
Time Magazines Educational Supplement
"A challenging and skillful book."

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Ages 8 and up
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.32(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Blaze Werla buried Ortman before breakfast. It was the fifth of July, and already the day was white hot. Blaze peeled off his T-shirt and tossed it on the hard ground. He shoveled quickly and furtively, making a small, neat hole the size of a basketball. When the digging was through, Blaze knelt, and using both arms and cupped hands, filled the hole back up, covering Ortman forever. There was something fierce about the manner in which Blaze worked — the determined line of his mouth, the tension that rippled across his back. Dirt stuck to Blaze's sweaty body like bread crumbs; his damp red hair clung to his forehead in ringlets. Blaze slapped the ground flat with the palms of his hands,making a thudding sound and remembering all the other burials, glancing at the nearby stones that marked them.

Burials. There had been four others before Ortman. (Not counting his mother's.) The small graves formed a partial ring around the huge black locust tree on the hill near the highway behind Blaze's house. First there had been Benny. Then Ajax. Next Ken. Then Harold. And now Ortman. Blaze wondered what he would do once the circle was complete. Where would he bury then? He was ten years old. Would he still need to do this when he was twelve? Fifteen? He hoped not. He was tired of being afraid.

Blaze stood and stamped the dirt over Ortman one last time. He picked up the stone he had chosen earlier that morning and held it for a few seconds, as if it were a large egg containing precious life. He had chosen the stone, because of its markings: pale mossy blotches that lookedlike bull's-eyes. Blaze set the stone down firmly in place. "Goodbye, Ortman," he whispered. Blaze backed up, scratched the scars on his ankles with either foot, ran his dirty hand through his hair, and stared at the grave site until the crescent of stones blurred before him, becoming a broken pearl bracelet around the arm of a tree it bound.

On the way down the hill toward home, Blaze was already creating someone new in his mind to take Ortan's place. Someone who would be big. Someone who would be tall. Someone who would be fearless. Someone who would be everything Blaze was not.

Blaze was slight, with small feet and hands. He thought his fingers resembled birthday candles, especially compared to his father's ample, knuckly ones. At school, Blaze was the shortest student in his class. His identity with many kids from other grades hinged solely upon his size and his red hair. His hair was so distinctive, in fact, that passersby often turned their heads to take notice. His clear blue eyes had a similar effect on people. Freckles peppered Blaze's cheeks and the bridge of his nose. His eyelashes were full and as transparent as fishing line. And — he was fearful.

Blaze swatted at the leafy, waist-high weeds that surrounded him and thought, I am a contradiction — my name is Blaze and I'm afraid of fire. And fire was only the beginning of a long list of things that made Blaze's head prickle just thinking of them.

Fire. Large dogs. Wasps. The dark.

And then there were the other things. The more important things. The really frightening ones. Nightmares. The Ferris wheel at the fairgrounds. The Fourth of July.

Blaze fixed his attention on the drooping slate roof of his house in the near distance. "Come on...Simon, " he said over his shoulder into the warm breeze. "Let's go eat."

"Morning, Blaze," Nova called pleasantly when she heard the screen door open and gently close.

"Morning, Grandma," Blaze said, entering the kitchen. He walked to the sink and began washing his hands methodically with liquid dish soap, making a thick lather that worked its way up his arms. Ortman's dead, he said matter-of-factly in his head, watching a tiny pinkish blue bubble rise from his hands. Now I've got Simon.

Blaze didn't believe in imaginary friends the way he truly had when he was younger. He didn't set places for them at the table or make himself as small as possible in bed to leave room for them. He didn't talk to them out loud when anyone might hear. But every July he formed a new one. It was habit as much as anything else.

In a way, he compared it to Nova's practice of saying "Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit" for good luck on the first day of each month. It had to be her first words spoken or else it didn't work. Nova was far from superstitious, and yet, if she forgot to say it, she seemed annoyed with herself all morning.

Blaze also compared it to the relationship his father had with God. Although he had told Blaze many times that he didn't really know what he believed, Glenn said that he prayed every now and then. He talked to God when no one else was around.

Glenn had his version of God. Nova had "Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit." And Blaze had Simon.

"Well, what can I get you for breakfast?" Nova asked mildly.

Blaze had been looking out the window toward the hill. He turned and faced his grandmother. "Scrambled eggs, please," he said. And Nova hummed while she made them. At the stove, with her back to Blaze, Nova's wispy moth-colored hair looked just like a dandelion right before you make a wish and blow it. But nothing else about Nova was wispy. She was generous in both size and spirit.

Meet the Author

Kevin Henkes has been praised both as a writer and as an illustrator. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon; Caldecott Honors for Owen and Waiting; two Newbery Honors—one for Olive’s Ocean and one for The Year of Billy Miller—and Geisel Honors for Penny and Her Marble and for Waiting. His other books include Old Bear, A Good Day, Chrysanthemum, and the beloved Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Kevin Henkes lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin.


Brief Biography

Madison, Wisconsin
Date of Birth:
November 27, 1960
Place of Birth:
Racine, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Words of Stone 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We had to read this book in 6th grade and all I rember about it is it was some crazy kid with imaginary friends meets some weird girl who is loud and freaks the crazy kid out.Then there is the eyelid thing and the tatoos,i personally thought it was super weird
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was good. It shows kids the life of an abandoned t\child and two kids friendships.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is soooooooooo good. About Friendship and compation! READ IT, U WILL LOOOOOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Words of Stone is a great book for younger youth. It shows how friendship can overcome anything.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the 'Words Of Stone' the main characters are two 10-year olds, Blaze and Joselle. When Blaze and Joselle meet they get to be good friends. Joselle's mom ran off with her boyfriend Rick. She left Joselle with her grandma. She told Joselle that she would be visiting the Pacific Ocean but was really home the whole time. Joselle was the one to write the words of stone. She wrote the words with the stones that Blaze marked his imaginary friends graves with when they die. I would rate this book five stars. I loved it! It told me that it was good to be friends with boys and girls. I hope you read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book 'Words of Stone' is wonderful. I reccommend it to kids 8 and older. It is about a 10 year old boy named Blaze. His mom had died when he was 5 years old. He meets a girl named Joselle and they become best friends. I like this book because it has to do with friendship and in some parts it makes you happy and in some parts it makes you sad so it makes you have all different feelings. I rate this book a 9 1/2. I think you should read this book. It's great!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Blaze is horrified when he sees that someone has written something with stone on the hill- side, right outside his bedroom window. Blaze knows it had to have been someone trying to make him feel bad. Times are hard for Blaze. His father has a girlfriend, which Blaze dislikes. But Blaze meets a young girl named Joselle, and the two become friends. But a terrible secret makes Blaze deny Joselle. Does friendship last forever? A powerful story from a master.